Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security

The issue of information security has been on the UN agenda since the Russian Federation in 1998 first introduced a draft resolution in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly. It was adopted without a vote (A/RES/53/70)

Since that time there have been annual reports by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly with the views of UN Member States on the issue:

In addition there have been four Groups of Governmental Experts (GGEs) that have examined the existing and potential threats from the cyber-sphere and possible cooperative measures to address them. See UNODA Factsheet  for a summary of the three earlier reports:

GGE IN 2014/2015

On 27 December 2013, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted resolution 68/243  in which it took note of the outcome of the 2012/2013 GGE and requested the Secretary-General to establish a new GGE that would report to the General Assembly in 2015.

The new GGE, with 20 experts, held four meetings between July 2014 and June 2015. Experts from the following Member States participated in the GGE: Belarus, Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Ghana, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Spain, United Kingdom and United States of America. Mr. Carlos Luís Dantas Coutinho Perez (Brazil) chaired the Group.

The Group agreed on a substantive consensus report in June 2015 (A/70/174) on norms, rules or principles of the responsible behaviour of States in the cyber-sphere as well as confidence building measures, international cooperation and capacity building which could have wider application to all States. It also addresses how International Law applies to the use of information and communications technologies and also makes recommendations for future work.

Its findings include:

  • In their use of ICTs, States must observe, among other principles of
    international law, State sovereignty, the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, and non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States.
  • Existing obligations under international law are applicable to State use of ICTs and States must comply with their obligations to respect and
    protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • States must not use proxies to commit internationally wrongful acts using ICTs, and should seek to ensure that their territory is not used by non-State actors to commit such acts.
  • The UN should play a leading role in promoting dialogue on the security of ICTs in their use by States, and in developing common understandings on the application of international law and norms, rules and principles for responsible State behaviour.

In his foreword to the report, The Secretary-General notes:

“Few technologies have been as powerful as information and communications technologies (ICTs) in reshaping economies, societies and international relations. Cyberspace touches every aspect of our lives. The benefits are enormous, but these do not come without risk. Making cyberspace stable and secure can only be achieved through international cooperation, and the foundation of this cooperation must be international law and the principles of the UN Charter……Our efforts in this realm must uphold the global commitment to foster an open, safe and peaceful Internet. In that spirit, I commend this Report to the General Assembly and to a wide global audience as a crucial contribution to the vital effort to secure the ICT environment.”

NEW GGE IN 2016/2017

On 23 December 2015, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted resolution 70/237 which welcomed the outcome of the 2014/2015 GGE and requested the Secretary-General to establish a new GGE that would report to the General Assembly in 2017.

In accordance with its mandate, the Group had a comprehensive, in-depth exchange of views on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security. Furthermore, the Group took into account the reports of previous Groups of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security as well as contributions and proposals made available by members of the Group.

Several draft substantive reports were considered by the Group, including on the last day of the final formal meeting, on the following issues: existing and emerging threats; capacity-building; confidence-building; recommendations on the implementation of norms, rules and principles for the responsible behaviour of States; application of international law to the use of information and communications technologies; and conclusions and recommendations for future work. No consensus was reached on a final report.