Cybersecurity digest (January 2020)

2 Feb 2020

This extract is taken from the January 2020 issue of The digest, GPD’s newsletter. Sign up here.


A few important updates on cyber norms as we head into 2020.

The big story, of course, is the new resolution on a UN convention on cybercrime (A/RES/74/247). This was adopted by the General Assembly (UNGA) in December—albeit later than anticipated, and with less support than its previous iterations. Following timeworn geopolitical dynamics, the resolution was backed by states with a ”sovereigntist” view of cyberspace, and opposed by those with a more liberal, internationalist perspective.

Now that the resolution has passed, the UNGA will set up an ad-hoc intergovernmental working group to draft the convention on cybercrime. As we highlighted in a joint civil society letter ahead of the resolution vote, we’re concerned that it could lead to restrictions on freedom of expression and privacy.

So far, all we know about the drafting process is that the first meeting will take place in New York, and this meeting will decide the modalities. It’s currently unclear what (if any) opportunities for non-government stakeholder engagement will exist. Alongside other NGOs, we’ll be keeping a close eye on what happens. Stay tuned for updates…

Moving over to the UN First Committee, the big focus at GPD is on the upcoming February Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) session in New York.

What do we know about the session? First, it will build on the agenda and discussions from the previous OEWG meeting in September 2019—summarised here by the Chair, along with some guiding questions for participants. We also know that the outcomes of the December multistakeholder intersessional (which we attended along with other NGOs) will be presented by the OEWG Chair, Jurg Lauber—but it’s not yet clear whether we’ll get a look beforehand.

A very short accreditation window was open to “all interested stakeholders”. Important caveat for those who applied: this doesn’t guarantee entry. It’s possible that, as with the September 2019 session, all non-ECOSOC NGOs could again be barred from participating. For those who can’t make it, the meeting will be streamed on UN WebTV.

Finally, a few updates on the parallel process at the First Committee: the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE).

  • Two important GGE documents are now available online on the Office of Disarmament Affairs website: a summary of the informal consultations with non member-states on 5-6 December 2019; and a summary of the consultations which took place with regional organisations in June-October 2019.
  • While very little about the GGE process is communicated openly, sources inside tell us that—despite continuing tension—there’s growing consensus that a positive approach is needed; and there’s increasing impetus to get out a consensus report which complements OEWG discussions. Interestingly, the public summaries of the GGE which are available suggest that some GGE states are advocating for more formal engagement with regional organisations. Potentially useful leverage for NGOs pushing for multistakeholder consultations…



  • GPD has responded to the Australian government’s public consultation on best practice implementation of the GGE norms. Our response focuses on the need for links between human rights and norms, as well as the importance and value of civil society engagement. Read it here.
  • GPD was recently in Belize to support the launch of their first national cybersecurity strategy—and we’re glad to see a strong commitment in the text to inclusive and human rights based approaches to cyber policy development and implementation. Explore the local media coverage here and here. GPD also participated in a three-day cyber capacity building workshop in December, organised by the US Government and co-hosted by Jamaica.