Trust and Security digest (June 2021)

8 Jun 2021

This extract is taken from the June 2021 issue of The digest, GPD’s newsletter. Sign up here.


Cyber discussions at the UN: progress update

Negotiations on modalities for the new Open ended Working Group (OEWG) at the UNGA First Committee are ongoing, with member states still deciding what non-governmental stakeholder engagement will look like, what thematic sub-groups will be set up, and how they will operate. 

Some countries, namely Russia and China, are advocating for the thematic sub-groups to meet in parallel. Others argue this would make meaningful engagement difficult, by limiting the number of groups states can join. We’ve heard that the plan is to ensure agreement is reached on these questions in the next few months, ahead of the busy UN General Assembly session which begins in September, and the first substantive OEWG meeting, currently scheduled for December.

Elsewhere at the UN, June saw the Security Council’s first ever meeting on international peace and security in cyberspace. There, member states expressed broad consensus on the increasing threat of malicious incidents in cyberspace, with many mentioning attacks on critical infrastructure, disinformation (particularly with regards to anti-vaccination campaigns), cybercrime, and low levels of capacity to deal with these threats. A number of states, including Kenya, India, Tunisia, and Niger, made reference to “cyber-terrorism”—a contentious and loosely defined term which raises a number of concerns from a human rights perspective. Most states emphasised the centrality of the UN Charter, including the need for the peaceful settlement of disputes, and many cited their commitment to the agreed framework for responsible state behaviour, and an open, free, stable and secure internet. It was also welcome to hear states calling for respecting human rights in cyberspace, and acknowledging the key role played by non-governmental stakeholders in these discussions. You can watch a recording here.

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