The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) held a side event on cyberspace and international peace and security on October 5, 2016 during 71st Session of the General Assembly First Committee. Three expert presenters discussed the important details of cybersecurity in the modern world and how Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) are increasingly influential on economic, scientific, social, and political developments. They were: Mr. Karsten Geier, the chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security; Camino Kavanagh, a senior advisor and consultant on cyber issues; and Daniel Stauffacher, the founder and president of the ICT4Peace Foundation. Kerstin Vignard, who leads UNIDIR’s work on cyber issues.
Karsten Geier started the presentation by explaining the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security. Building on four previous GGEs which began in 2004, this year’s group is focusing on existing and potential threats to international security in the use of ICTs. Their analysis and discussions focus on international law, further expansion and clarification of norms as well as expectations concerning responsible state behavior in cyberspace.
The second expert, Camino Kavanagh, focused on the linkages between the work in the First Committee and development, human rights, and counter-terrorism. She explained that a divide exists between development and internet governance in relation to international security. Human rights concerns have emerged from international cyber security concerns. Pointing out that the potential of misuse of cyberspace and noting that ease with which terrorist groups have been able to propagate, radicalize and recruit supporters, raise funds, and incite hatred and violence, Ms. Kavanagh remarked that some states have engaged in mass surveillance and censorship. Controlling the cyber sphere can undoubtedly infringe on internet users’ freedom of speech and expression. . For its part, it was recognized that the United Nations System is working to solve these three issues by shaping and implementation norms, confidence, and capacity building measures.
The last expert to speak was the founder and president of the ICT for Peace Foundation, Daniel Stauffacher. He provided an overview of the different international organizations that are working on cybersecurity issues, including the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (CFCE), the Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre (GCSCC), the Organization of American States, and the African Union Commission. Confidence building, international assistance, and capacity building were stressed as the main issues to be discussed and decided upon.
Drafted by Kathryn Smart