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Regional Harmonisation of Cyber Legislation in the Arab Region


Most developed countries, as well as some developing countries, have modernized their legal and regulatory framework to meet legal requirements that were brought forth by the adoption of new information technologies. Many countries in the Arab World, however, are still in the early development and/or enactment stages of cyber legislation. In order to narrow this legislative divide and to minimise the illicit and illegal use of cyberspace in the region, Arab countries need to follow a course of action which includes the formulation of cyberspace laws and the adoption of related organisational and management directives.

With the above in mind, ESCWA initiated during 2007 its involvement in the field of cyber legislation with a study entitled “Models for Cyber Legislation in ESCWA Member Countries” . The study reviewed the status of regional and international cyber laws and used examples of legislative principles to illustrate the benefits and challenges of enacting more comprehensive and more regionally integrated cyber legislations. The study was complemented with a template which acts as a tool for the evaluation and development of national cyber legislations. During 2008, ESCWA used the aforementioned template to evaluate and compare the status of cyber legislations in 2 EMCs (Syria and Bahrain). At the end of the same year, ESCWA organized a workshop on “Cyber Legislation and its Implementation in the ESCWA Region” , which mainly recommended the application of the template in EMCs, the preparation of an analytical study reflecting the regional status of cyberspace laws, developing and adopting cyber law directives and the regional harmonisation of cyber legislation.

ESCWA continued its efforts with a project entitled “Regional Harmonisation of Cyber Legislation to Promote the Knowledge Society in the Arab World” . The project aims at enhancing regional integration and strengthening the capacity of member countries to build a strong and sustainable ICT sector through the development of appropriate legal and regulatory structures. Within the framework of this project, ESCWA developed four reports that updated the status of cyber legislation at the sub-regional level. The evaluated sub-regions were the Gulf (two reports), North Africa and the Levant (one report each). The reports used as a basis the previously mentioned cyber legislation template and covered various areas of cyber law namely personal data protection, e-communication, e-signature and e-transactions, e-commerce and consumer protection, intellectual property rights and cyber crime.

ESCWA is currently in the process of developing a set of directives that are intended to assist countries across the region in the achievement of cyber law harmonisation. The directives include model laws that may easily be adapted and implemented at the national level. They will also regulate aspects related to the usage of cyber space, ICT applications and e-services.