Economic and Social Council Opens General Segment of 2010 Session

16 July 2010
ECOSOC/6444

Economic and Social Council Opens General Segment of 2010 Session

16 July 2010
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6444
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

2010 Substantive Session

37th & 38th Meetings (AM & PM)

Economic and Social Council Opens General Segment of 2010 Session

 

Council Briefed on Cybersecurity, Also Discusses Plans

For Upcoming 2011 Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries

In a world virtually ruled by new technologies and with millions of people obsessed with instant access to information through mobile networks and the Internet, cybersecurity must be placed high on the United Nations agenda, warned Economic and Social Council Vice-President Somduth Soborun of Mauritius. 

The Council opened its annual general segment today with a briefing on the challenges of cybersecurity, as well as the threats posed and opportunities provided by ever-expanding use of the Internet.  The briefing also examined the cross-border nature of cyber attacks, providing a picture of what policies were being put in place to promote frameworks for international cooperation, particularly through justice and police systems.  Countries were urged to take a proactive role in international initiatives, especially in the exchange of information and best practices, training and research. 

Noting that cyberspace was now an integrated part of all human activity, Council Vice-President Soborun warned that the failure of information networks would lead to wide-spread civil unrest within days.  “We are more vulnerable than we realize, which is why cybersecurity needs to be placed high on our agenda”, he stressed.

Panellist Gary Fowlie, Representative and Head of the International Telecommunication Union Office (ITU) to the United Nations, said cyber attacks using malicious software such as viruses and worms had increased at an alarming rate between 2008 and 2009.  Most of those attacks were aimed at the financial sector, and were hosted on financial sector computers. 

Global systems had been compromised, he said, and therefore it was time to “coordinate effort to protect the benefits the information society has created”.  The United Nations must “deliver as one” on the issue, but the world body must also find more effective ways to work with the private sector as global, multi-stakeholder solutions were needed to combat cybercrime.

Given clear links between cybercrime and organized crime — particularly related to child pornography, identity theft and denial-of-service attacks — traditional as well as law enforcement cooperation was an important goal to reach, said Gillian Murray, Focal Point for Cybercrime of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  Cybercrime, being transitional in nature, often relied on governance failure.  Without adequate criminalization, law enforcement agencies could not carry out investigations or identify those who risked security, she added.

In other business today, the Council held general discussions throughout its morning and afternoons sessions on the various reports of the Secretary-General that were before it.

Introducing the report on implementing the Programme of Action, Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, noted the economic situation of least developed countries was “mixed”. 

Only 11 of the 49 United Nations-identified least developed countries had exceeded the 7 per cent target for gross domestic product (GDP) growth set by the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries.  Conversely, there had been a steep decline in GDP in the Pacific countries, from 7.4 per cent in 2007 to 3.5 per cent in 2008.  Poverty remained an epidemic, manufacturing remained weak and job creation was urgently needed, he added. 

In light of those issues, preparations for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries were well under way.  Two regional preparatory meetings for the Conference had been convened in the Asia-Pacific and Africa, and efforts were being undertaken to ensure broad participation of parliaments, civil society and the private sector.

The Conference — to be held next year in Istanbul, Turkey — would be a major undertaking for the United Nations system and the international community.  Given its importance, adequate financial resources were necessary to ensure its success, he stressed.  Several consultations with donor countries, emerging donors and international organizations had been held; however, the response thus far had been “muted.”

India, Turkey and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were the exception, he said, commending them for their contributions and urging others to also contribute to the Trust Fund for the Least Developed Countries.

The Council also took note of the annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executive Board for Coordination for 2009/2010 (document E/2010/69), and the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination on its fifth session (document 65/16, Supp.No.16).

Also, the representative of Yemen, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution on tobacco use and maternal and child health (document E/2010/L.14).

Participating in the general debate on the Brussels Programme of Action were the representatives of Yemen (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), China, Nepal (on behalf of the least developed countries), Turkey, Morocco, India, Brazil, Republic of Korea, and Solomon Islands.

Speaking on the issue of tobacco control were the representatives of the Russian Federation and Morocco.

Taking the floor on cybersecurity and Internet governance issues were the representatives of Yemen (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Iraq, Belarus, China, Republic of Korea, Brazil, Iran, Russian Federation, Canada, Egypt, and the United States.

A representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also spoke on those issues.

The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 19 July, to begin its consideration of African countries emerging from conflict.

Background

The Economic and Social Council met today to begin its General Segment and was expected to open its general debate and to hold a related briefing on “cybersecurity:  emerging threats and challenges”.  During the segment, which will run through 22 July, the Council will review the reports of its subsidiary bodies and of other United Nations entities working in the economic and social fields.  The subsidiary bodies include the Council’s functional commissions, regional commissions, expert and ad hoc bodies.

The segment will feature a series of events, including a 19 July joint meeting of the Council and the Peacebuilding Commission on the theme of “Millennium Development Goals and Conflict”, which will analyse how countries in or emerging from conflict could be supported to achieve the Goals.  A panel on small island developing States will also be held on 20 July.

Introduction of Report

CHEICK SIDI DIARRA, Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (document A/65/80-E/2010/77). 

He informed the Council that preparations for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, to be held next year in Istanbul, Turkey, were well under way, and based on a bottom-up approach, were starting from the country level.  Two regional preparatory meetings for the Conference had been convened in the Asia-Pacific and Africa, and efforts were being undertaken to ensure broad participation of parliaments, civil society and the private sector.

The Conference would be a major undertaking for the United Nations system and the international community.  Given its importance, adequate financial resources were necessary to ensure its success, he stressed.  Several consultations with donor countries, emerging donors and international organizations had been held; however, the response thus far had been “muted.”  India, Turkey and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were the exception, he said, commending them for their contributions and urging others to also contribute to the Trust Fund for the Least Developed Countries.

Turning to the economic situation in the least developed countries, he noted “mixed performance”.  Only 11 of the 49 United Nations-identified least developed countries had exceeded the 7 per cent target for gross domestic product (GDP) growth set by the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action.  Ten of those had been were in Africa.  There had been a steep decline in GDP in the Pacific countries, from 7.4 per cent in 2007 to 3.5 per cent in 2008.  Poverty remained an epidemic, with more than half the population of least developed countries still suffering from hunger. Moreover, manufacturing remained weak and job creation was a key focus. 

Many of the countries originally listed as least developed in 2001 were still considered as such, with the exception of Cape Verde, he said.  In that regard, the report made several recommendations for a future development agenda.  Highlighting three, he stressed that least developed countries should be supported in implementing and monitoring the Brussels Programme with reliable data.  Investment in gender equality should be scaled up and national budgets must be gender responsive.  Lastly, least developed countries needed the policy space to institute counter-cyclical measures in times of need, in a wide range of areas including fiscal, trade and macroeconomic policies.

General Debate

AWSAN AL-AUD (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the Group was deeply concerned at the “uneven and insufficient” progress in implementing the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries.  Progress varied with respect to alleviating poverty, combating hunger, achieving gender equality and reducing maternal mortality, and global crises had undermined development in the least developed countries.  With that in mind, he said the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, could be effectively achieved in those countries through the timely fulfilment of development partners’ commitments. 

The Secretary-General’s report highlighted the important role agriculture played within least developed countries, serving as the largest sector of employment and contributor to the economy.  There were, however, many challenges to improving the agriculture sector.  His delegation was deeply concerned with the agriculture subsidies implemented by developed countries, which had created an unequal playing field.  Considering that, he called for the early conclusion of the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations and for the creation of a non-distorted, non-discriminatory and equitable marketplace.  Furthermore, he stressed the need for enhanced productive capacity within the least developed countries — particularly in the agriculture sector — and for greater investment in physical infrastructure and technological development. 

THOMAS LAMBERT (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said his delegation’s development assistance package had kept a strong focus on the least developed countries, with an increase of aid leaving open the prospect of reaching its collective commitment in line with the Brussels action plan.  The European Union was continuously improving aid coordination and had pursued efforts to restore debt sustainability.

Regarding trade, he said that since the 2001 Brussels conference, the European Union had delivered on commitments to implement full duty-free, quota-free access for all imports from least developed countries.  It was important for all developed countries to deliver on their own commitments taken in Hong Kong in 2005, especially given that South-South trade had grown and now represented half of least developed country exports.  However, he said, market access alone was not sufficient, and measures were needed to upgrade and increase productive capacity.

Recent economic growth in the least developed countries should not overshadow the fact that poverty was still a daily reality for most citizens of these countries.  Their special must be taken into account, he said, stressing that progress must be made along a number of complementary tracks to achieve sustainable improvements.  Aid was not a cure-all, but it could and must play a crucial role as a catalyst that could leverage other forms of support to those countries, such as investment, trade and technology exchange.  Aid should be used to reduce dependence, however, and each recipient country should devise its own strategy.  The European Union was ready to take part and to support that process.

WANG MIN (China) said the international community should seize the opportunity presented by the General Assembly’s upcoming summit to review the status of the Millennium Development Goals to strengthen development cooperation partnerships.  In addition, support should be stepped up for the least developed countries, as that held the key to achieving the Goals.  While the Brussels Programme of Action had contributed positively towards that end, the international community should think beyond aid when addressing support by emphasizing capacity-building and implementing a coordinated package solution, including trade, investment and assistance.

China suggested that the international community could strengthen its efforts by, among other things, increasing development assistance, deepening cooperation partnerships and creating a favourable development environment that should pay special attention to the needs and plight of the least developed countries.  In addition, she recommended strengthening capacity-building, quoting a Chinese saying:  “to teach one to fish is better than to give him a fish”.  The size, staff and resources of the United Nations Office of the High Representative should be increased.  For its part, China had increased support for the least developed countries, and would continue to expand trade preferences to help them achieve the Millennium Goals on time.

GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, said the Brussels Programme of Action embodied the principle of shared responsibility for those countries’ development.  However, implementation had produced mixed results, given that a large and growing number of people lived in dehumanizing poverty and hunger.  In view of the enormous challenges, including the economic crisis, widespread poverty and extreme vulnerability to external shocks, the issue was not only the rate of development but the livelihoods and very future of the poor people in different parts of the world.  A stronger international support mechanism was needed to back up national efforts with a scaled-up global partnership.

It was now clear that the least developed countries would miss most of the Brussels and Millennium Goal targets, he said, adding:  “It would be a pity if the international community fails to deliver on its promises to liberate millions of people from poverty.”  International partnership for development went well beyond official development assistance (ODA) and the least developed countries’ principal demand was that aid should be aligned with structural vulnerabilities and pressing needs, going where it was needed most with a balanced approach to the development of infrastructure, economic and social sectors.

A predictable, enhanced and sustainable flow of aid was required for the least developed countries to address their basic development needs, aside from needs stemming from severe climate change challenges, which required fast-track delivery of additional resources from the climate fund.  He called on the international community to ensure that that those countries had a strong representative and a voice in the allocation of resources.  The debt relief programme should be carried out alongside the provision of development assistance.  It was critically important to ensure that recent gains made under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative and the Multilateral Dept Relief Initiative were not eroded.

Turning to trade, he said the least developed countries had not fully benefited from concessionary opportunities offered by some developed countries due to supply side constraints, prevalence of non-tariff barriers, including stringent rules of origin and subsidies.  They still faced significant obstacles, and the effective market access ratios for their products were far below the coverage of those products.

He said that promises made by rich nations to grant unrestricted market access to exports from the least developed countries as part of World Trade Organization negotiations would be rendered practically worthless unless they covered all products.  Further, it was essential that preferential rules of origin applicable to least developed countries were simplified and streamlined.  Maintaining an open, rule-based and equitable and development-friendly international trade system during the global economic crisis remained crucial. A package of aid for trade was a must, as was an enhanced level of funding to ensure the effectiveness of the Enhanced Integrated Framework, he said.

With the upcoming Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Development Countries, he said global commitments needed to be consolidated and a new action agenda with a clear accountability and monitoring framework needed to be defined.  “We looked forward to a strong new partnership in human and economic development, in infrastructure and productive capacity development and stronger scaled up and robust international support measures in, among other things, ODA, trade and foreign direct investment,” he said.  The Conference should ensure that the twenty-first century would be more humane, inclusive and responsible, and responsive to the needs of all people, especially the marginalized and deprived.

FAZLI ÇORMAN (Turkey), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said increased ODA and debt relief initiatives by development partners had helped least developed countries towards their development goals.  Despite that progress, most of those countries had been unable to achieve necessary increases in their human and productive capacities for sustained growth.  While signs of a global economic recovery were clear, the negative impacts of the financial and economic crisis on the least developed countries would continue in the long-term, he noted. 

The international community, therefore, needed to advance a long-term approach by working on renewed commitments with clear, focused and sound policies to address challenges.  Such efforts would require enhanced international cooperation in economic policymaking and strengthened development partnerships.  Assisting the least developed countries should be seen as both an act of solidarity and part of a renewed development agenda, which would contribute to global economic growth, welfare and stability.

Considering the way forward, he stressed that the international community’s efforts should be aimed at least developed country-specific policies in order to build resilience against external shocks.  In that regard, improvements in productive capacities were crucial.  “We need to work together to establish a strong, sustainable and balanced framework for development for the least developed countries,” he said, adding that ODA must be complemented by trade and private capital flows, and underscoring the need for increased national ownership.  

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said least developed countries had “shown real will” and made significant progress in the social and human development sectors.  Those countries, however, still faced several challenges, and it was thus vital that the international community take specific measures to help them attain their development goals.  It must also fulfil its ODA commitments, and States should contribute .15 to .2 per cent of their (GDP) to that end.  That aid, he said, should be aligned with national strategies and avoid conditions.

Fluctuating commodity prices had made the economies of least developed countries more vulnerable to shocks.  Diversifying those economies through improving productive capacity was one of the best ways to achieve sustainable growth, he noted.  The international community must also help least developed countries invest in agriculture and achieve food security, given that their share of international trade was quote low.  In an act of solidarity, Morocco had initiated several partnerships with African least developed countries in the areas of agriculture, education, transportation, and telecommunications, among others. In addition, he had provided them with duty-free and quota-free access to its market. 

RANDHIR KUMAR JAISWAL (India) said that for an equitable, balanced and sustainable global growth, it was a must that development and progress be shared among countries.  India supported the efforts of the least developed countries to make them institutionally strong and economically resilient to overcome their myriad challenges and structural deficiencies.

Given their vulnerabilities, the least developed countries had been pushed down the ladder of progress, especially due to recent external shocks.  In view of the Istanbul conference next year, a meaningful framework could be built on issues including promoting agricultural development, food security, and universal access to essential services, he said.

Playing its part through South-South cooperation, India had shared development experience, financial and technological resources and expertise with the least developed countries, and was deeply engaged in such initiatives as the Techno-Economic Approach for Africa-Indian Movement, or “TEAM-9,” the Pan-African e-network, and aid for trade.  India had also extended duty-free tariff preference to all least developed countries beginning in 2008, and remained committed to strengthening its development partnership with those countries.

FABIO MOREIRA CARBONELL FARIAS (Brazil) said the least developed countries would face the negative affects of the global financial and economic crisis.  In his own country’s experience, social protection policies and measures were critical components of national and international responses to the shockwaves that had swept the shores of developing countries. The international community should support policies geared towards the creation of income and employment, stepping up social protection measures, such as school feeding programmes and “cash-for-work.” 

Increasing agricultural productivity, alongside duty-free and quota-free access to produce for the least developed countries, were steps in the right direction, he continued.  Bringing the Doha Round of World Trade Organization talks to a fair conclusion would be crucial to helping such countries meet their development objectives.  The possibility of least developed countries adopting counter-cyclical fiscal measures was assessed within the context of their limited domestic revenues, tight national budgets and high social spending, and fiscal and monetary prudence was recommended.

He said that focus must be given to creating and enhancing national capacities of developing countries, especially the least developed.  The Conference to be held in Istanbul represented an opportunity to assess, among other things, South-South cooperation initiatives and consider the role of the United Nations in supporting national Governments emerging from risk situations.  He hoped the conference would trigger a commitment to the creation of a more pro-development international system.

KIM CHANG MO (Republic of Korea) said his delegation was concerned with the least developed countries’ limited progress on poverty reduction.  Strengthening human capacities — which could lead to jobs creation and poverty reduction — must therefore be a priority in those countries.  The Republic of Korea was committed to capacity-building in development projects, and placed frequent emphasis on technology.  Furthermore, it supported several programmes which built information and communication technologies capacities for women. 

The Republic of Korea supported strategies which aimed to enhance the role of trade in development, he continued, adding that his country had also worked to assist developing countries in their trade capacity by increasing aid for trade measures, as well as trade-related technical cooperation.  Reducing vulnerability and protecting the environment in least developed countries was especially important given recent global crises.  Green growth could tackle challenges posed by those crises; therefore, his country supported efforts to promote a “green new deal for least developed countries”. 

HELEN BECK (Solomon Islands), aligning with the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China and the least developed countries, said more international assistance was needed to compliment national efforts.  The impact of multiple global crises had further threatened least developed country efforts to meet the Millennium Goals, as they all faced challenges including high unemployment, poverty, and high mortality rates, among others.  The international community had taken various measures aimed at reducing those impacts; however, she urged development partners to fulfil their existing commitments under the Brussels Programme. 

Better terms of trade were needed to help least developed countries cope with high food import prices, she said.  Trading partners must make efforts to assist in achieving those terms and increasing the countries’ trade share.  With regard to country graduation, she called for a review of the graduation index, one which would take into account the seriousness of vulnerabilities to attain long-term sustainable development for least developed countries.  Due to issues such as geographical location, her country lacked the capacity to deal with external shocks, and was highly dependent on contributed resources to pay for its fuel imports.  In that regard, she called for access to technology, knowledge and financial resources. 

Introduction of Reports

DOUGLAS BETTCHER, Director of the Tobacco Free Initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced the Report of the Secretary-General on the Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Task Force on Tobacco Control (document A/65/80-E/2010/55).

The report focused on the Task Force’s work, including the implementation of the WHO framework tobacco control treaty, which contained a multisectoral approach with supply and demand side measures.  It required parties to set up plans, programmes and strategies.  The report also covered the areas of gender, reproductive health and child survival, indigenous peoples, the tobacco industry and corporate social responsibility. 

It also elaborated on the environmental impact of cigarette butts.  Pursuant to Assembly resolution 63/8, the Secretary-General had put in place a comprehensive strategy for smoke-free United Nations premises that informed staff, delegations and visitors to United Nations offices of the complete smoking ban, he said.  This year’s theme for the Council’s high-level segment on gender equality and women’s empowerment had been very relevant for tobacco control.  Controlling the epidemic of tobacco among women was an important part of any comprehensive tobacco control strategy, he said.

Introducing the note of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on genetic privacy and non-discrimination (document E/2010/82), CHRISTINE ALFSEN, Director UNESCO’s New York Office, reiterated her agency’s interest in genetic privacy and non-discrimination. 

UNESCO Member States had adopted three declarations:  the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights (1997); the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data (2003); and the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005).  Those declarations, she said, constituted the only framework approved and recognized by United Nations Member States on genetics.  The Inter-Agency Committee on Bioethics — an ad hoc mechanism established in Paris, France, in 2003 — aimed to improve the coordination of activities carried out by various organizations in the field of bioethics. 

To respond to Council decision 2008/233, UNESCO had held consultations with Member States on relevant developments in the field of genetic privacy and non-discrimination, with the goal of establishing an inter-agency coordination mechanism.  It had also produced a questionnaire which aimed to identify existing national legislation to protect genetic privacy and non-discrimination and possible other non-legislative mechanisms in place to address the issues.  Such issues, which were multidisciplinary and multisectoral in nature, required partnerships among other United Nations agencies, she added.

General Discussion

DIMITRY BIRICHEVSKIY ( Russian Federation) said the scope of the work of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) was self-evident, including enhancing system-wide coherence in the United Nations’ work.  However, he pointed out that Member States did not have sufficient information about the decision the Board had approved last April, nor on the Global Pulse Initiative.  He called on the Board to regularly publish on the United Nations website relevant reports on the actions taken and progress achieved.

He called for improvements for consideration of the Board’s reports.  Discussions among the Member States should occur, which notably had not happened in previous meetings.  The Russian Federation noted the report on tobacco control in the context of preparations for the September summit on the Millennium Goals and the impact of tobacco use on children and women.  Efforts should be intensified to implement measures on that issue.  Regarding the issues of genetic privacy and non-discrimination, he requested an analysis conducted by the inter-agency committee.

LATIFA BELAKHEL ( Morocco) said the 2008 report on tobacco included passages on the culture of tobacco use, women’s use of tobacco and health implications.  For its part, Morocco had started in 1998 a programme to fight against tobacco and to promote healthy lifestyles.  Its programme also sought to provide information to the public as well as assistance to smokers to stop using tobacco.  It had also established smoke-free areas, including in health institutions and schools, which were a part of efforts to reduce the scourge of tobacco use.

Tobacco was costly from a socio-economic view, she continued, and added that there should be other options so tobacco growers could change crops.  Efforts being carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization in that regard were essential.  Morocco’s important steps would be insignificant without multisectoral approaches.  She suggested that technical and economic support be given to anti-tobacco efforts, taxes should be increased, national-level programmes should be expanded, and information and communication efforts should be strengthened.

Introduction of Draft

The representative of Yemen, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, introduced the draft text on tobacco use and maternal and child health (document E/2010/L.14).  He said the resolution was very important as it called for Member States to include tobacco controls in their national policies.  It also called upon the relevant United Nations funds and programmes to work together to reduce tobacco usage by women, “in particular among women of reproductive age, and the men living with them.” 

Briefing on Cybersecurity

The Council next held a briefing, entitled “Cybersecurity:  threats and challenges”, which included presentations from Gary Fowlie, Representative and Head of the International Telecommunication Union Office (ITU) to the United Nations; Gillian Murray, Focal Point for Cybercrime of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and Mongi Hamdi, Head of Science, Technology and ICT Branch, Technology and Logistics Division of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Council Vice-President Somduth Soborun (Mauritius) said cyberspace was now an integrated part of all human activity, and the most powerful tool of communication existing today.  The Council provided an excellent forum to bring together stakeholders to discuss policy measures needed to confront the increasingly transnational nature of cyber threats.  If networks were to fail, or be brought down on a massive scale, in any country of the world, there would be civil unrest within days.  “We are more vulnerable than we realize, which is why cybersecurity needs to be placed high on our agenda,” he said.

Leading off the briefing, Mr. FOWLIE said the world was “absolutely dependent” on information networks.  A lack of access to information through television, radio, email, the Internet, and phone networks would undoubtedly cause global panic.  While there were no signs of a complete “cyberwar”, there had been daily attempts to attack sovereign and commercial assets in many places worldwide. 

Attacks using malicious software, also known as “malware”, had increased at an alarming rated between 2008 and 2009.  That software, in the form of viruses and worms, was mostly aimed at the financial sector, and was hosted on financial sector computers.  Such attacks gave proof that global systems had been compromised, he said. 

Given that cybersecurity was a matter of economic interest and global security, it must be addressed from at least five different perspectives:  technical and procedural measures; legal measures; organizational structures — both within Governments and the private sector; capacity-building; and international cooperation.  He noted that ITU offered a cybersecurity resource package, a toolkit to assist in the establishment of harmonized cybercrime legislation. 

Multi-stakeholder, global solutions were needed to combat cybercrime.  The United Nations must “deliver as one” on the issue, but the world body must also find more effective ways to work with the private sector.  ITU had nearly 700 private sector partners who could become involved, and the United Nations Chief Executive Board was also engaged in the process. 

“It’s time to coordinate efforts to protect the benefits the information society has created,” he said.  As the world could no longer rely on ad hoc solutions or on waiting to strengthen defences after a cyberattack, the need for a coordinated response had drawn global attention.  He pointed out that The Economist had published an issue with “Cyberwar” as a cover story, which had validated the universal belief that “the unknown is scary until you turn the lights on”.

For those who had the will, means and time, infiltrating networks was very easy.  Therefore, he said it was up to the international community, including the United Nations, to turn the threat into sustainable “cyberpeace.”  Information technology communications had the power to bring the world together and create knowledge through enabling global communication.  Moreover, they were a proven catalyst for economic and social development.  In that regard, the Internet was one of the most powerful tools the United Nations could use to create sustainable peace, security and development.

Mr. HAMDI said with the recent improved access to information and communication technologies, the Internet represented an important tool while the most dramatic improvements were related to mobile phone and mobile-based applications.  In Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and other countries, mobiles enabled companies and individuals to make person-to-person payments, money transfers and pre-paid purchases without a bank account.  The “digital cash” or electronic money system, using the mobile phone platform, was likely to become a dominant online payment mechanism.  However, measures needed to be adopted to protect users from fraud, he said. 

Developing countries needed to adopt legal frameworks to unleash the Internet and mobile-based platform’s full potential.  He said that since 2002, UNCTAD had run a programme aimed at building the capacity of policymakers and legal practitioners.  It was also aimed at assisting Governments in preparing and implementing cyberlaws.  UNCTAD had also organized training workshops using distance learning and face-to-face training on e-commerce legal issues, carried out comparative reviews of existing legislation, and published studies on the regional harmonization of cyber-laws in Latin America and Central America.  The agency had also carried out new studies on Africa and Asia, which were scheduled for publication next year, he said.

UNCTAD also helped beneficiary countries and regional institutions prepare legal frameworks, he continued.  Review and preparation of cyberlaws were based on international best practice and model laws.  He went on to say that developing countries involved in UNCTAD’s activities reported challenges including the lack of a cybersecurity culture, as well as the lack of national and regional frameworks on cybersecurity; information on security policy; expertise and capacities; and of effective enforcement mechanisms.  Other challenges related to costs of maintaining the infrastructure, a lack of common security standards, law enforcement, collection of evidence and coordination among the different enforcement authorities.

For its part, UNCTAD, he said, was providing cybersecurity training within the framework of its Network of Centres of Excellence for African specialists at the National Cybersecurity Agency in Tunis.  So far, about 30 specialists from 20 African countries had been trained at that Agency and further training was planned in 2010.  The growing use of mobile phones also raised new questions, which meant that in the future, not only e-commerce but “m-commerce” — “mobile commerce” — would be issues in UNCTAD’s work.

Next, Ms. MURRAY, providing an overview of the criminal law aspects of cybercrime, said cybersecurity was a term used to define a broad range of topics.  The solutions discussed to address the issue, therefore, were equally diverse, ranging from technical solutions to legal measures to the education of users.  Legislation, particularly criminal law, played an important role when prevention strategies failed, she noted. 

States would refer to the means of criminal law to enable the investigation of threats.  However, without adequate criminalization, law enforcement agencies could not carry out investigations or identify those who risked security, she said.  An ongoing debate on the necessity of criminalization clearly showed the diverse challenges faced by countries all over the world, including the increase in usage of encryption technology and the involvement of organized crime. 

Such challenges were also relevant for developing countries, as the number of Internet users within them had surpassed the number of users in developed countries in 2005.  In that regard, it was clear that legal measures had become an issue in almost every part of the world, she said.  UNODC — in line with the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, the Council, the Crime Commission, and Crime Congress — had been invited to explore the feasibility of providing assistance to address computer-related crime.  Those efforts would be carried out in partnership with other similarly focused organizations. 

Under the Organized Crime Convention, her Office would work to foster international cooperation in the combat against cybercrime.  Given clear links between cybercrime and organized crime — particularly related to child pornography, identify theft and denial-of-service attacks — traditional as well as law enforcement cooperation was an important goal to reach.  Noting those links with deep concern, she said cybercrime, being transitional in nature, often relied on governance failure. 

In March 2010, the Assembly had adopted resolution 64/211 on the creation of a global culture of cybersecurity, taking stock of national efforts to protect it.  The Twelfth Crime Congress held in Salvador, Brazil, in April 2010, had recommended that UNODC continue to cooperate with relevant organizations to provide technical assistance and capacity-building.  It had also recommended the consideration of an action plan for capacity-building developed at the international level.

Turning to why her Office was capable of addressing cybersecurity, she said it was the only global intergovernmental body working in crime prevention and criminal justice and had a mandate to implement the Organized Crime Convention.  It also had comparative advantages such as specialized technical competence, operational capacity, and long-term expertise in crime prevention, criminal justice and the rule of law. 

Moreover, UNODC held a unique position through its ability to promote international cooperation, its specific focus on the developing world, its role as an “honest-broker” with a multilateral platform and its extensive network of field offices.  It aimed to build on and adapt to what currently existed, and involve experts and institutions which had already developed tools and training to combat cybercrime.  UNODC could ensure partnerships with other stakeholders such as INTERPOL, Europol, the European Commission, United Nations Member States, and members of the private sector, she added.

In the discussion that followed, the representative of Bangladesh asked how the panellists were forging partnerships with national entities — especially in developing countries — in their efforts make those societies digital.

In response, Mr. FOWLIE said cybersecurity was an important issue that was dealt with through national bodies and he encouraged national entities to get involved with this area. 

Ms. MURRAY said there was not so much done on cybercrime, but the network of field offices, with 23 in developing countries, would be partners to work with. 

For his part, Mr. HAMDI highlighted a programme aimed to help Governments put in place cyberlaws, with a total of more than 20 developing countries benefiting from its activities.  Training had also been provided to specialists in Africa through ANSI.

The Philippines’ representative asked that since most of the expertise could be found in the private sector, how the panellists tapped into the resources of that sector?  He then asked for details about an international partnership in Malaysia against cyber threats.

Answering, Mr. FOWLIE agreed that a great deal of expertise existed in the private sector.  The ITU worked with that sector to agree on standards in cell phones, connectivity and other areas.  Now, about 90 per cent of those issues had to deal with cybersecurity and the private sector was very involved.  ITU was engaging the sector through summits and venues.  He also said that the ITU Impact Centre was focused on Asia to raise awareness about cybersecurity.  The challenge was creating trust between the private sector and Governments.  The private sector was willing to give over the information, but creating trust was difficult.

Ms. MURRAY said that in a practical sense, she carried out a training lab in Brazil for investigating cybercrimes.  There was a lot of room to work with the private sector.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime was involved in creating guidelines for Internet providers, which could also be worked on.

France’s representative said it was important to avoid a feeling hopeless about the cybercrimes.  He agreed with Ms. Murray’s descriptions of cybersecurity and its different levels.  Prevention mechanisms, for instance, to protect transactions, were good, but Governments were as much a part of trust-building as of helping to find remedies.  Bolstering cooperation of police forces around the world was important to provide a rapid response to attacks.

Data privacy and freedoms needed to be remembered.  In that sector, cooperation between the private sector, Government, civil society and international organizations was important.  One of the main outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society was the creation of the Internet Governance Forum, which provided an opportunity to bring together all these stakeholders, he said.

Canada’s representative asked for information or comments on the Centres for Excellence, as well as for the locations of those that were most active.

Mr. FOWLIE said the growth of the information and communications technology industry would require different efforts in different countries.  It was a multi-stakeholder issue.  Governance, the private sector and content providers were coming together now more than ever before.

Ms. MURRAY said working together was critically important.  Prevention was an area that should be taken forward.  Education and schools could be involved.  All the players in the developing countries should be involved.  They should all be brought to the same table to work together.

Mr. HAMDI said the problem was there were 200 certified response teams, but few in developing countries.  One of the main challenges was for Governments to set up centres, which were the most effective ways to protect against cybercrimes.

Introduction of Reports

Jomo Kwame, Assistant-Secretary-General for Economic Development for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on enhanced cooperation on public policy issues pertaining to the internet (document E/2009/92) and on continuation of the Internet Governance Forum (A/65/78-E/2010/68). 

Speaking on behalf of Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, he said the report on enhanced cooperation contained an overview of progress and suggestions from 10 institutions.  The Commission on Science and Technology for Development had reviewed the matter of enhanced cooperation in the context of the follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society during its thirteenth session in May 2010.

Discussions within the Commission showed that differing views persisted with regard to how enhanced cooperation could be achieved.  Some believed that international deliberations would best enable Governments to carry out their responsibilities in public policy-making on an equal footing.  However, others believed that dialogue among Member States, the private sector, civil society and international organizations would be most effective. 

Critical Internet resources were usually taken to mean addressing systems, domain name systems, root servers, and routing tables that together handled the flow of communications traffic, he recalled.  Given that, the main issues were security, continuity, stability, coordination, control, and democratic governance of internet resources.  He said the Commission on Science and Technology for Development had recommended that open and inclusive consultations towards the implementation of enhanced cooperation be held before the end of 2010.  It had also asked that a report on the outcome be submitted to the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly through the Council. 

The report on the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum noted that the Forum’s main function was to discuss public policy issues relating to key elements of Internet governance.  Created in 2006, the Forum had been given a five-year lifespan.  The Secretary-General had examined the Forum’s merits and shortcomings, taking into account the views of its many participants, and recommended that the Assembly consider extending its mandate for another five years.

However, the report also underlined several needed improvements, citing the low participation of various stakeholders as the Forum’s “fundamental weakness”.  The Secretary-General invited the Council and the Assembly to reflect on how to improve the format, functions and operations of the Forum, with a view to enhancing inclusiveness, transparency, effectiveness and cost-efficiency while ensuring balanced stakeholder representation and participation.

Next, Mr. HAMDI introduced the Secretary-General’s report on progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society.  He said that today 90 per cent of the world’s population lived within cell phone range.  The digital gap was slowly closing, with Africa and the Middle East experiencing the fastest growth in cell phone coverage.  However, developing countries consisted of less than 15 per cent of all Internet users.  The broadband divide continued to widen and warranted more attention.  The digital divide was becoming a broadband divide.

Cybersecurity was another area that required more attention, he said.  A number of national and regional activities to adopt cyberlaws were under way.  However, much more needed to be done, he said, noting that the report stated that intensified and concerted efforts were required to ensure developing countries benefited from information and communication technologies.

EDUCARDO BLINDER, Director of the Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT), introduced the Secretary-General’s Report on International Cooperation in the Field of Informatics (document A/65/80-E/2010/48).  The Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Informatics had striven to build a bridge between the evolving needs of Member States and innovative technologies at the Secretariat.  Wireless internet connectivity in public areas and conference rooms had transitioned smoothly.

OICT continued its efforts to see “Candiweb” used to its full potential as a website that supported the election process for the United Nations organs.  The Member States portal DeleGATE was launched and the United Nations Official Document System (ODS) had been enhanced, he said.  A wide range of online training was now available, some in French and Spanish, with over 2,500 members of the diplomatic community receiving training in 2009.

General Debate on Cybersecurity and Information Issues

AWSAN AL-AUD (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that with 1.6 billion Internet users worldwide, policy and governance issues were becoming increasingly important.  He hoped that a full and effective implementation of the Geneva and Tunis phases of the World Summit on the Information Society would benefit developing countries.  He also stressed that the information society should be seen as an important phase and requirement for achieving development goals by bridging both the digital and development divides.

Enhanced cooperation and better use of the Internet Governance Forum should be pursued through two distinct processes and should be initiated as quickly as possible.  He highlighted the Secretary-General’s recommendations for the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum and noted some concerns, including that the United Nations should be the entity to consider and decided on improvements or reform of that Forum.

In light of the importance of the issue of Internet governance, the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum was best addressed in the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly regardless of any discussion of the issue in any other forums.  He said that discussions about the future of the Forum should focus, among other things, on how to resolve significant public policy issues such as the unilateral control of critical internet resources and measures in enhancing access to the Internet. The “G-77” believed that the setting up of a mechanism for enhanced cooperation with a reformed Internet Governance Forum would effectively promote the global Internet governance process and facilitate the achievement of the Millennium Goals.

CHRISTOPHE DE BASSOMPIERRE (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the recommendation of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development that the Council adopt the draft resolution on assessing the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society. 

He said the Commission acted in accordance with its mandate to assist the Council on follow-up, and the European Union commended its work.  Proposals contained in the draft resolution were important for ensuring further progress in the implementation of the outcomes of the Information summit, and were consistent with the note by the Secretary-General on the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum.

HAMID AL BAYATI (Iraq) said information and communications technologies had an important role in development, including in the fight against poverty, illiteracy and gender discrimination.  All international agencies should use such technologies, rather than such tools being in the hands of just a few countries.  Technology use should be people-centred and based on sharing information.  He said that Governments, particularly in developing countries, should harness such technologies if they wished to attain the internationally agreed development goals.

Iraq was one of the first Arab countries to adopt information and communications technology-related policies in 1970, when it had established specialized centres, including regarding data, census and electricity, that had enabled ministries to put information technology to good use.  He said that in order to be able to implement such technology for development, Iraq had taken various steps, including setting up a department for science and technology.  Despite the challenges Iraqis had to face, including the destruction of the information infrastructure, assistance had helped.

SERGEI SERGEEV (Belarus) said establishing international partnership programmes could be one of the steps to improve the spread of information and communications technologies.  Noting that bridging the digital divide between countries and regions would be difficult, he said Belarus was working hard to develop its science and technology capacities, including information and communications technology development.  To strengthen international cooperation, Belarus and ITU had held a summit that discussed issues such as building an information society, developing broadband access and tackling legislative issues.  Developing digital television was a priority.  Participants discussed the issue of trust in cyberspace.  Belarus was counting on the United Nations, stakeholders and other donors to implement the documents that came out of Geneva and Tunis.

CHEN YIN (China) commended the United Nations’ work in the field of science and technology.  Concerning the Commission on Science and Technology’s report of its thirteenth session, China urged all parties to implement the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society and establish a mechanism of enhanced cooperation within the United Nations framework as quickly as possible.  He said that China understood that the Internet Governance Forum provided the opportunity for each party to express its views on governance, but there was no need to extend that Forum if it was not reformed appropriately.

He went on to say that several aspects for reform include that the future of the Internet Governance Forum should focus on how to solve the issue of unilateral control of critical Internet resources, that the representation of voices of developing countries should be increased within the Forum, and that financing should be incorporated into the regular United Nations budget.  Given that the Forum was unable to solve the problem of the unilateral control of the critical Internet resources, China proposed that the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly set up a working group to discuss and propose solutions.

KIM CHANG MO (Republic of Korea) said addressing internet governance was vitally important.  While his country was pleased with the progress information communications technology had made in accelerating development progress, it was concerned by a lack of progress which could lead to suitable growth.  Internet access and broadband connectivity were urgently needed in developing countries in order to “bridge the digital divide”.

FÁBIO MOREIRA CARBONELL FARIAS (Brazil) said despite the expansion in the use of information and communications technology, much remained to be achieved.  In order to harness the full potential of such technology in broader development efforts, the United Nations system must be entitled to play the pivotal role it was mandated to perform by the World Summit on the Information Society.  Attention should be focused on measures aimed at enhancing the participation of the United Nations in improving global Internet governance and in overcoming the digital divide by addressing the lack of effective financial mechanisms to support the development of information and communications technology.

Adequate treatment of the cyberspace as a public good should be a major objective, he said.  Policies must be discussed and implemented to ensure that Member States could equally benefit from the new potentialities of instant networking.  As the review period approached, and the Internet Governance Forum outcomes became more significant, it was time to reflect on its future.  The Forum could be made more effective, independent and transparent through the strengthening of its Secretariat, including through the allocation of resources from the regular budget of the United Nations.  The building of a multi-lateral, transparent and democratic regime for global Internet governance, with the participation of all, should be given priority in the United Nations agenda.

Furthermore, a new way to address governance issues was needed.  The Internet Governance Forum, therefore, could be strengthened to that end.  He called for an extension of that panel’s mandate, noting the importance of facilitating broad-based participation.  It was equally necessary to close the information and communications technology gap, he said.  Allowing the gap to remain or widen only reinforced social divides and made it harder for vulnerable groups such as those in rural areas to escape poverty. 

AHMAD RAJABI (Iran) said the World Summit on the Information Society outcome documents recognized the need to ensure enhanced cooperation in the future to enable Governments, on equal footing, to carry out their roles and responsibilities in international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet.  The Internet Governance Forum and enhanced cooperation were two separate, distinct and parallel but complementary mechanisms that could not replace each other.

Selective implementation of the Tunis compromise on Internet governance was unfortunate, he said.  It was necessary to commence the mechanism of enhanced cooperation itself and further elaboration of the issue should clearly contain guidance on the questions of how and when the United Nations Secretary-General should do that.  Finally, he said the extension of the Forum’s mandate depended on the reform of its working methods, and Iran concurred that such reforms were elements of a single package.

MARINA SIROTKINA (Russian Federation) underscored the need to improve the United Nations information system to guarantee its optimal use and enhance States’ ability to access it quickly.  Her country recognized the sovereign right of States to administer the internet the national level, and commended the International Technologies Union’s work to develop information and communications technologies.

KEITH MORRILL (Canada) said governance and capacity-building were critical areas.  The recent discussions at the May meeting of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development produced a balanced report that Canada endorsed.

CHRISTINE ALFSEN, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said she looked forward to playing an important role in the extended period for the Internet Governance Forum.  UNESCO’s rich mandate encompassing education, the sciences, culture and communication and information was a useful humanistic soundboard for the Internet Governance Forum’s activities.  That Forum had offered a great opportunity to the international community to discuss all these issues.  UNESCO strongly supported that the Forum should continue as a platform for an international multi-stakeholder debate where Governments, the private sector, civil society, intergovernmental organizations and academia participated on an equal footing.

YASSER HASSAN ( Egypt) said the report on the Internet Governance Forum was welcomed, and he hoped today’s discussion would be helpful ahead of the upcoming Assembly debate on the issue.  It was important that the Forum remain a platform for open, multi-stakeholder dialogue.  There was, indeed, a need to improve upon the Forum’s work and structure, he said.  However, those improvements must be further discussed in an open and inclusive manner with all relevant stakeholders.

Of those improvements, those of a procedural nature included the modalities of work through multi-stakeholder consultations and financing though the regular budget.  On the substantive side, critical Internet resources and Internet governance for development also needed to be considered.  There was also room to enhance the links between the outcome of the Forum’s work and the work of other international institutions dealing with internet governance; however, it must be done within an institutional framework.

COURTNEY NEMEROFF ( United States) said technology was a powerful poverty alleviation tool, and more than half of the over 40 Government-to-Government science and technology agreements were with developing countries.  The Obama Administration had given new prominence to science to address global issues of common concern, she added.

When considering its position on the renewal of the Internet Governance Forum, it seemed a majority of participants spoke in favour of the continuation of the forum beyond its five-year mandate.  The Forum’s establishment was one of the key outputs of the World Summit on the Information Society and had proven to be a valuable venue for information sharing and international dialogue on topics critical to global economic, social and political development.

The flexible structures used at the Internet Governance Forum had evolved into dynamic mechanisms that facilitate information exchange and best practices among and between stakeholders.  She hoped cross-cutting themes of development and capacity-building would find renewed emphasis in future Forum’s.  The United States supported the continuation of that forum beyond the five-year mandate.  She also commended the Secretariat and current and past multi-stakeholder advisory group members for their tireless efforts in supporting the continued positive evolution of the Forum and in guiding it towards its present status as a major international venue for the discussion of Internet-related public policy issues.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.