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Cybersecurity Capacity Building and Donor Coordination in the Western Balkans

7 May, 2021



As the interwoven threats and opportunities of cybersecurity and digital development grow more complex, and geopolitical tensions rise, both donors and recipients should look towards a more holistic understanding of capacity building in the Western Balkans, while embracing an approach which enables meaningful international engagement on the peace and security of cyberspace.                                                                                        

Continued interest and investment in cybersecurity capacity building in the region clearly indicates that the Western Balkans remain strategically important for a number of international actors. Systematic coordination-by-design methodologies and best practices among donors that utilise whole-of-society and multi-stakeholder approaches can improve the legitimacy, ownership and sustainability of outcomes in the context of persistent challenges to human capacity, political will, and resource scarcity. Furthermore, to better define the roles of different capacity building actors, help identify opportunities for strategic partnerships, and clarify donor-recipient relationships, donors should seek to strengthen the links between policy objectives and strategies for capacity building interventions. 

This discussion paper explores how cyber capacity building actors and initiatives in the Western Balkans could be better coordinated, while considering the barriers to reaching cyber maturity in the region. Firstly, the paper offers a brief overview of projects, donors, and implementing organisations active in the Western Balkans, based on desk research and a series of interviews with relevant stakeholders. Secondly, the paper explores best practices on coordination through the framework implemented by Operational Guidance for the EU’s International Cooperation on Cyber Capacity Building. Based on the above findings, practical insights and recommendations are proposed, with an eye towards enhancing future cybersecurity capacity building investment.