|The UN First Committee’s Open ended Working Group (OEWG) has just published the final draft of its upcoming report on responsible state behaviour.
It follows the publication in February of a Zero Draft, which GPD responded to here. Our feedback on that draft—drawing closely on insights from a recent informal multistakeholder dialogue we co-organised—recommended that the report do more to:
- Centre the impacts on human rights from state activities in cyberspace;
- Affirm the importance of including all stakeholders in discussions around cyber norms.
At a civil society briefing held just after the release of the Zero Draft, we were told that ongoing disagreements within the OEWG meant that—for the final draft—the Chair was thinking of moving the “discussion-related sections” (which in fact constituted the bulk of the report) into a separate annex or report, or even cutting them altogether. We were concerned by this possible outcome, since these sections include most of the report’s references to stakeholder engagement, and are most reflective of the input and framing shared by non-governmental organisations over the course of the discussions.
Now the final draft is here (it was released on 1 March), it seems that a compromise has been struck. This new version maintains some of the discussion-related sections, refashioned as “introductory remarks”, as well as the recommendations sections. Text that has been removed has been pasted at the end of the report for discussion at the third meeting (8-12 March), and will either be incorporated then or completely removed.
GPD is still reviewing the final draft, and will provide a fuller response soon. It’s clear that much will depend on what happens at the upcoming March meeting. Whether civil society will even be able to attend is currently unconfirmed, but we’re hopeful: previous substantive meetings have made at least partial provision for non-governmental input, and not doing so would be a huge step backward for the process. Regardless, we should have plenty of intel and updates to share in next month’s Digest—stay posted…
- Across the OEWG discussions, one (uncharacteristic) area of agreement has been that states need greater guidance on implementing existing agreed cyber norms—with a dedicated “non-paper” developed to discuss this. A while back, GPD, along with other civil society organisations, submitted joint feedback and recommendations on this non-paper, and in February were pleased to see much of it reflected and incorporated in the latest version—which now includes stronger reference to engaging non-governmental stakeholders in implementation, and to the importance of considering human rights in the implementation of cyber norms.
- Despite the enforced leave of the recently appointed Tech Envoy pending a sexual harassment investigation, the Envoy’s Office is continuing its work. According to a briefing held with some civil society actors this month, it plans to focus on supporting implementation of the Secretary General’s Roadmap on digital cooperation, and will be relying on stakeholders to continue to implement the Roadmap via the existing Roundtables.
- One of the outcomes of the Roadmap so far has been its recommendation to set up a new higher level multistakeholder advisory body (MHLB), as a bridge between discussions at deliberative bodies like the IGF and decision-making bodies at the UN and elsewhere. A questionnaire on the proposed MHLB has just launched: input here.