The United Nations deals with the issue of ICTs in the context of international security since the adoption of its first resolution on the issue in 1998. Since then five Groups of Governmental Experts (GGEs), consisting of 15 to 25 States, have developed an international framework of responsible State behavior consisting of norms of responsible behavior, agreements related to the applicability of international law to States use of ICTs, confidence-building measures and capacity building. In 2018, the General Assembly adopted two resolutions providing a mandate for a sixth GGE and for the first time an Open-ended Working Group (OEWG), with the aim of further developing this international framework.
The OEWG, chaired by Ambassador Jürg Lauber, allowed for the first time all 193 UN Member States to engage directly on the issue of ICTs in the context of international security. Its mandate is similar to that of the GGE, with the main difference that it also foresees discussions on the establishment of a regular institutional dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations. This format also for the first time foresaw the opportunity for representatives from the private sector, academia and civil society to contribute to discussions on cybersecurity at the UN-level.
After the postponement of the third and final substantive session due to the COVID-19 pandemic from July 2020 to March 2021, the Group produced a final report, submitted by consensus to the General Assembly, with a number of recommendations to ensure that the growing use of new digital technologies does not undermine peace and global security. The Group also produced a Chair’s Summary reflecting the discussions of the OEWG in an inclusive and transparent manner.
The recommendations underline the respect of International law in the use of ICTs, highlight the importance of norms implemented by countries on a voluntary basis, encourages Confidence-building measures (CBMs), put a strong emphasize on the need for capacity building, and foster dialogue under UN auspices.
The OEWG is a success, as it represents the first consensus at the UN-level on cybersecurity issues in six years, the first opportunity for all 193 Member States to contribute their perspective, reaffirming the acquis and going beyond, and the first time civil society was included in such discussions at the UN-level.