Cyber Warfare, Unchecked, Could Topple Entire Edifice of International Security, Says Speaker in First Committee at Conclusion of Thematic Debate Segment

GA/DIS/3512
28 October 2014
Sixty-ninth session, 19th Meeting (PM)

Cyber Warfare, Unchecked, Could Topple Entire Edifice of International Security, Says Speaker in First Committee at Conclusion of Thematic Debate Segment

The growing prospect of cyber warfare needed to be addressed urgently before such weapons broke down the entire edifice of international security, heard the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) as it considered other disarmament measures, before concluding its thematic debate.

Touching on the more pernicious uses of information and communications technologies, the representative of Pakistan said that technological innovations had been used in recent years for indiscriminate surveillance and as a means of waging cyber-attacks.  In view of those dangerous developments, it was essential to regulate their production and use “sooner rather than later”.

The representative of Indonesia, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, agreed that information and communications technology could be used for purposes that were inconsistent with maintaining international stability and security.  The prevention of political and military confrontation in that field was particularly urgent, said the representative of the Russian Federation.

At the same time, progress in science and technology was a critical factor for economic and social development, said the representative of India, noting that developing countries were particularly dependent on access to scientific advances and new technologies for development and global trade.

Indeed, cyberspace had unlocked enormous gains in wealth and welfare even in a more connected society, said the representative of Netherlands.  However, in order to continue to benefit from the Internet as a driver for development and innovation, all must ensure that safer ways to do business were developed.

Global security would inevitably have an impact on the international economy, said the representative of Singapore, adding that States should use their interconnectedness to facilitate communication and promote understanding in order to build strategic trust.

Strengthening regional and international networks on science and technology in the context of international security, said the representative of Zambia, could also assist in improving transparency, confidence building, promoting verification and deterring future conflicts. 

The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the transfer of knowledge and technology should be part and parcel of any multilateral initiatives related to the security of information and communications technology.  That was important to increase countries’ capacity to trace the source of threats.

An institutional debate was necessary to establish global standards, identify best practices, and create a regulatory system, said the representative of Spain, urging the United Nations to take the lead on a model in which the State cooperated closely with the private sector.

Forging broad international agreement on the “rules of the road” would be a long term endeavour, warned the representative of Australia.  Further consideration must be given to how international law applied in cyber space.  Specific transparency and confidence-building measures should be identified, elaborated, and agreed upon between States as a matter of urgency.

During the meeting, draft resolutions were tabled on the promotion of multilateralism in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation (L.39); the observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of disarmament and arms control agreements (L.41); the relationship between disarmament and development (L.42); the effects on the use of armaments containing depleted uranium (L.43); women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, (L.47); compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments (L.45); development in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security (L.26); and Mongolia’s international security and nuclear-weapon-free status (L.49).

Also speaking in the debate were representatives of Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Suriname (on behalf of the Union of South American Nations), Japan, United States, Mexico, Cuba, China, Mongolia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The committee will meet at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 29 October, to begin its consideration of all draft resolutions and decisions.

Thematic Debate — Information Security

KAMAPRADIPTA ISNOMA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that despite progress in information technology and telecommunications, the Movement was concerned that those technologies could be used for purposes that were inconsistent with maintaining international stability and security.  In that regard, it called upon States to further promote the consideration of existing and potential threats in the field of information security, and possible strategies to address them.  He also called for the intensification of efforts to safeguard cyberspace from becoming “an arena of conflict”, ensuring instead peaceful uses that would contribute to social and economic development.  Against that background, the Movement would table a draft resolution on the promotion of multilateralism in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation (L.39).  It would also table an updated resolution on the observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of disarmament and arms control agreements (L.41).

The Movement, he said, would once again table a draft resolution on the relationship between disarmament and development (L.42).  In that context, he expressed concern at the increasing global military expenditure, which could otherwise be used for development.  Taking into account the potentially harmful effects to human health and the environment resulting from the use of weapons and munitions containing depleted uranium, the Movement would also table a draft on the effects on the use of armaments containing depleted uranium (L.43).

AMR FATHI ALJOWAILY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that in using information technology, Member States must abide by commitments to settle disputes in a peaceful manner in consonance of Article III of the United Nations Charter.  The threat or use of force also included that against the infrastructure of national information and communications technologies, be they material or digital.  More efforts should be deployed to implement confidence-building measures to check early tensions and deal with gaps in technology among Member States.  That was especially important given the increasing interaction among States via those mediums, making them vulnerable to their negative uses.

He said the transfer of knowledge and technology should be part and parcel of any multilateral initiatives related to the security of information and communications technology.  It was important to increase countries’ capacity to face any incidents and trace the source of threats.  The Arab Group stood ready to contribute to deliberations at the United Nations, which was the only multilateral international forum through which to reach consensus on the matter.  Efforts must be directed towards the protection of cyberspace to ensure it did not become an arena for an arms race and conflicts.

SHORNA-KAY RICHARDS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), highlighted the issue of women and disarmament, stating that her region faced “insurmountable challenges” as it related to armed violence.  While mostly men were the victims of gun crimes, it was women who were often left to become the sole bread-winners for families and risked falling into poverty.  Decisions on disarmament must consider the effects on both men and women.  CARICOM’s resolution this year on women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, “L.47”, had been updated to reflect significant developments, including the provision on gender-based violence in the Arms Trade Treaty.  Another key update was recognition of the need to strengthen data collection to better understand the impact of armed violence, in particular, of small arms and light weapons, on women and girls.  Despite some progress, more was needed to entrench the gender perspective in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation policies and programmes. “L.47” was an opportunity to solidify consideration of that issue.

KITTY SWEEB (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), said that in order to address issues in her region, Heads of State and Government had decided to accelerate the development of projects for cyber-defence and safer interconnection of fibre optic networks in those countries. The aim was to make telecommunications more secure, strengthen the development of regional technologies, and promote digital inclusion.  Aware of the development of offensive capacities in cyberspace as part of military doctrines, UNASUR member States shared a growing concern about the vulnerability of critical infrastructure and possible conflict escalations prompted by cyber-attacks.  The Union favoured strengthening global norms and principles in the context of international security, while preserving the free flow of information and the right to privacy.  The Union was ready to engage in a constructive debate via the Group of Governmental Experts, highlighting the importance of respect for the sovereignty of nations, the right to privacy, the inviolability of official communications and the need to safeguard the peaceful nature of cyberspace.

SIDDHARTHA NATH (India), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, introduced draft decision “L.13”, which proposed the inclusion of the item “Role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament” in the agenda of the next General Assembly session.  Progress in science and technology was a critical factor for economic and social development, and developing countries were particularly dependent on access to scientific developments and new technologies for development and trade purposes.  As such, international cooperation in peaceful uses of science and technology should be promoted through all relevant means.  The issue should be followed closely as there might be negative impacts on security, environment and disarmament, particularly in connection with proliferation concerns.  It was imperative that international transfers of dual-use goods and technologies and high technology with military applications were effectively regulated, bearing in mind the legitimate defence requirements of all States, he said.

TOSHIO SANO (Japan) said that promoting nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation education underpinned all efforts for achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.  To overcome the challenges, the role of civil society and the younger generation was essential.  Based on its own distinct historical background, Japan had a special mission to convey what actually happened in August 1945.  Every year since 1983, Japan had contributed to the United Nations Disarmament Fellowship Program and had invited young diplomats and Government officials to Japan.  To date, 811 fellows from around the world had visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and this year, 25 fellows had witnessed the first-hand realities of the devastation brought by the atomic bombings.  It was an eye-opening experience for the fellows, and he hoped visitors to those two cities would strive for nuclear disarmament in their respective Governments and organizations.

Also in 1983, he noted, Japan had installed a permanent exhibition on the atomic bombings, at the United Nations in New York and in 2011 in Geneva.  Those had contributed significantly to a greater public awareness of the consequences of nuclear weapons, as well as what was currently being done to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Once reconstruction of United Nations Headquarters was completed next month, Japan looked forward to those exhibitions once again being allocated the appropriate space to improve the display’s quality.

CHRISTOPHER BUCK (United States) introduced the draft resolution “L.45” entitled “Compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments”, noting it enjoyed the co-sponsorship of 73 Member States.  The draft reinforced the principle that compliance was a central element of the international security architecture and a requirement for continued progress towards disarmament.  This year’s text updated and slightly revised that of General Assembly resolution 66/49 of 2011.  Like its predecessors, the draft acknowledged the international community’s widespread recognition of the impact of non-compliance challenges on international peace and stability.  The resolution was focused on holding States accountable for failing to comply with existing non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and other commitments they had freely undertaken.  Without confidence in compliance, the authority and benefits of existing agreements were undermined, making the world a more dangerous place.  The United States had “no illusions” that advancing compliance would be easy.  That progress would be slow and setbacks would occur.

Claudia Garcia (Mexico) said that education and promotion of the values, actions and objectives of disarmament were vital in order to build a world free of nuclear weapons, as well as a culture of peace.  In that context, the country was pleased to introduce “L.53” on the study of disarmament and non–proliferation education, which would have no budgetary implications.  The General Assembly had previously requested that the Secretary-General prepare a study on education and training on disarmament and non-proliferation, and in March 2001, the group worked with Government experts from a number of countries to do so.  Working with the James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies, and a number of other institutes, Mexico had held the first “summer school” on disarmament matters for young diplomats.  Participants had discussed technologies and policies related to nuclear weapons, as well as multilateral processes which had led to nuclear disarmament treaties.  The course would be held on an annual basis, and she hoped other countries would send experts and speakers.  Other similar courses should be provided to enable future diplomats to be champions of disarmament.

IVIAN DEL SOL (Cuba), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed her country’s support for four draft resolutions tabled under the “other disarmament measures” cluster, including the resolution on the effects of the use of armaments and munitions containing depleted uranium; observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of agreements on disarmament; the promotion of multilateralism in disarmament and non-proliferation; and the relationship between disarmament and development.  She highlighted the uncertainties of the long-term effects of uranium and the need to continue research to determine its effects on health and the environment.  On the disarmament agreement, she said the Chemical Weapons Convention was the sole international instrument for the destruction of those weapons.  She also highlighted the importance of strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention through a verification protocol.  Also vital was achieving collective agreements through multilateral negotiations.  Concerning the relationship between disarmament and development, she emphasized that those were “two of the main challenges facing mankind”, and pointed to the $1.5 trillion in military spending, which could be diverted to development.  Cuba would be co-sponsoring that draft resolution.

XIAO YUE (China) said cyber-attacks and militarization of cyberspace could diminish international security and mutual trust, and emphasized the need for a balanced and timely development of the Internet worldwide.  In making joint efforts to build a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace, the international community needed to adhere to the principles of peace, sovereignty, co-governance and universal benefit.  The United Nations should play its role as the main channel of establishing an order for cyberspace.  The Group of Governmental Experts on Information Security provided an important platform to enhance mutual understanding and explore international norms and rules.  In 2011, China had submitted to the General Assembly a draft international code of conduct on information security, together with Russia and other countries, and was ready to work with all parties on improving the text.

SAHEBZADA A. KHAN (Pakistan), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the fast pace of technological innovation was changing the way international law could and should govern their development, deployment and use.  The way some of the new and emerging technologies were used had an impact on and implications for international peace and security.  Such threats were even more urgent and real because those new weapons reduced or eliminated the danger of human casualties for the user States, and, therefore, increased the propensity for their use.  That reality was underscored by the increasing and indiscriminate use of new weapons, such as armed drones.  Their use, especially against civilians, violated international and international humanitarian and human rights law and the Charter.  The United Nations Human Rights Council, jurists and human rights groups had all opposed armed drones targeting civilians through “signature strike” and had termed their use as tantamount to extrajudicial killings, since no due process was followed.  Moreover, the proliferation of drone technology over time would make their use more dangerous and widespread.  Even more challenging would be the task of preventing and deterring non-State actors and terrorists from developing, deploying and using drones against people or even States.

Another destabilizing development was the advent of lethal autonomous weapons systems, or “LAWS,” he said.  Those posed serious legal and moral questions and had implications for the legality of war, as they could potentially change its very nature.  Similarly, the growing prospect of cyber warfare must be addressed urgently before such weapons broke down the entire edifice of international security.  In recent years, the use of information and communications technology had been used, not only for indiscriminate surveillance in violation of the international legal regime, including the right to privacy, freedom of expression and information, but also as a means of waging cyber-attacks.  In view of those dangerous technological developments, it was essential to regulate their production and use “sooner rather than later”.

HENK COR VAN DER KWAST (Netherlands) said that cyberspace unlocked enormous gains in wealth and welfare in an even more connected society.  In order to continue to benefit from the Internet as a driver for development and innovation, all must ensure that safer ways to do business were formulated to ensure that people were protected from threats to exercise their freedom online.  Also important was to promote international stability and security in the cyber domain.  He welcomed the many bilateral, regional and multilateral initiatives that were contributing to increased transparency, confidence and stability, adding that it was only by working together globally that the century’s most crucial piece of societal infrastructure would remain secure, free and open.  For that reason, the Netherlands would host the Global Conference on Cyberspace 2015, bringing all relevant stakeholders from various backgrounds together to discuss those challenges in a comprehensive manner.

JOHN QUINN (Australia) said that the Internet constituted critical global infrastructure on which the broad international community depended.  While the Internet had empowered hundreds of millions of people around the globe to access all types of opportunities, it had posed some novel and complex challenges with which governments, businesses and civil society were grappling.  Forging broad international agreement on the “rules of the road” would be a long-term endeavour.  Further consideration must be given to how international law applied in cyberspace, and Australia was fully committed to contributing to that work.  There were a myriad of actors in cyberspace and thus, the risks of friction between States were very high.  As a matter of urgency, specific transparency and confidence-building measures should be identified, elaborated, and agreed upon between States.  Developing such measures in the cyber domain would have a positive impact on regional and international security, and his country was committed to working within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum and other partners to advance that important agenda.

LYDIA LAU (Singapore) said the international community faced slow progress in the disarmament agenda.  The close link between disarmament and security meant that First Committee discussions were often sensitive and contentious.  Nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States continued to disagree over the relative emphases on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.  It was, however, encouraging to see the strong political commitment to the Arms Trade Treaty process.

While many had noted that next year would mark the seventieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was surprising that the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War was featured less prominently.  As Mark Twain once said, “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme”.  There were indeed unsettling similarities between 1914 and 2014.  What stood out was the “toxic nationalism” that continued to draw in external Powers to protect both their interests and, to a lesser extent, their “clients”.  The interconnectedness of the world in 1914 did not stop with the outbreak of the First World War, and that same interconnectedness today heightened the gravity of the situation.

Global security would inevitably have an impact on the international economy, she said, urging States to use their interconnectedness to facilitate communication and promote understanding, in order to build strategic trust.  The international community should make a conscientious effort to keep the disarmament conversation going.  With the progressively transnational nature of security threats, it was ever more imperative to look beyond national boundaries.

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation) said the development of information and communications technology had brought substantial changes to the international security agenda.  The use of those technologies for purposes that were inconsistent with the objectives of maintaining international peace, security and stability had increased.  At the same time, the information space was more frequently being used to undermine national sovereignty and interfere in the internal affairs of States.  As such, he said, the prevention of political and military confrontation in the field of information and communication technologies was particularly urgent.  International cooperation should be strengthened in response to the challenges and threats to international information security, and the United Nations should continue to play a leading role in those discussions.

He went on to introduce the draft resolution “Development in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security”, “L.26”, which was based on the annual text discussed by the First Committee since 1998 and adopted by consensus for several consecutive years. This year’s draft contained mainly technical amendments to its predecessor.  In addition, it welcomed, in its operative portion, the start of the new Group of Governmental Experts, emphasizing the significance of convening it and the interest of all countries in the successful conclusion of its work.  Moreover, the number of co-sponsors of the draft had increased, which underscored the international community’s awareness of the importance of the issues and demonstrated the serious intention of States to continue the discussions within the United Nations.  He called upon all Member States to support the draft resolution through co-sponsorship and thanked the States that had already done so.

J. ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia) introduced “L.49” on Mongolia’s international security and nuclear-weapon-free status.  The draft was a result of consultations with interested delegations and co-sponsors, and was based on previous resolutions on the item, adopted without a vote.  Geopolitically, Mongolia bordered on two nuclear-weapon States.  That widely recognized and unique case needed an equally unique approach.  Mongolia had adopted legislation clearly defining its status at the national level, which was welcomed by the international community.  In 2010, the five nuclear-weapon States had signed a joint declaration pledging to respect Mongolia’s status and not to contribute to any act that would violate it.  The resolution requested the Secretary-General and relevant United Nations bodies to continue to provide assistance to Mongolia in strengthening its external security and nuclear-weapon-free status, and he hoped it would be adopted without a vote.

ERICK MWENA (Zambia), aligning with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that science and technology could play a role in international security and disarmament by developing technologies to monitor compliance by States with their disarmament obligations.  His country attached great importance to the need to formulate a high-level network and information security policy among States.  Strengthening the regional and international network on science and technology in the context of international security could assist in improving transparency, confidence-building, verification and deterring future conflicts. 

All States should give mutual legal assistance and law enforcement for that sector.  It was important for the global community to cooperate, ensuring that scientific and technological advancement were tailored to benefit and not destroy mankind.  

JULIO HERRAIZ ESPANA (Spain) said dependence on the wide-ranging benefits of information and communications technology also exposed the world to risks and threats that were unthinkable only a few years ago.  States must take responsibility to equip themselves with the skills and resources needed to manage and respond to cyber-attacks.  Striking a balance between security and liberty contributed to international peace and security.  The transnational nature of the attacks made cooperation essential, he said, appealing to Member States to facilitate information exchange.  An institutional debate was necessary to establish global standards, identify best practices, and create a regulatory system, he said, urging the United Nations to take the lead.  Spain counted on a model in which the State assumed a regulating and coordinating role in close cooperation with the private sector.

CHARLENE ROOPNARINE (Trinidad and Tobago), associating with CARICOM, introduced the draft resolution entitled “Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control” (L.47).  Built on its predecessor, the draft resolution reflected recent progress made in the area of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, and highlighted specific commitments States were requested to undertake in a leadership role in that regard.  Referencing resolution 68/33, she noted that important changes had been made to bring the resolution in line with what had transpired over the last two years, including language relating to women’s participation in preventing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  Additionally, the draft resolution, for the first time, encouraged Member States to strengthen data collection disaggregated by sex and age, in order to better understand the impact of armed violence on women and girls.  She recommended that the First Committee address the issue on a biannual basis, as that would provide Member States with appropriate time to report on the resolution’s implementation. As before, she sought consensus adoption of the text.

For information media. Not an official record.