Egypt’s Representative Asks Chairs of Two Groups if It Was Time to Move into Action-Oriented Formats for Tackling Cybersecurity
Addressing threats to the global non‑proliferation regime, from halting a mounting wave of cyberattacks worldwide to totally eliminating atomic bombs, requires collective will, briefers told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today during a virtual informal interactive dialogue that highlighted recent cybersecurity developments alongside the Latin America and Caribbean regions’ contributions to a nuclear‑weapon‑free world.
Representing a non‑proliferation milestone, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now poised to enter into force, said Flávio Roberto Bonzanini, Secretary‑General of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. Highlighting this landmark development on the path towards the total elimination of atomic bombs, he said Honduras and Jamaica’s recent ratification brought the number of States parties to the 50 required for the legally binding instrument to enter into force. For its part, the region’s nuclear‑weapon‑free zone represents a model that can be replicated elsewhere, as these areas can enhance peace and security while possessing the political capital needed to strengthen non-proliferation norms.
However, threats to the non‑proliferation regime remain, he said, pointing to the erosion of such disarmament mechanisms as the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty). “This could be the first time when no legal constraints exist between the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenals,” he said, as the instrument is set to expire in February and must be extended.
Turning to cyberthreats to international peace and security, the Chairs of two Committee‑approved groups provided updates of their activities. Cyberattacks are growing more frequent and severe, said Guilherme de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), Chair of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security. Noting that these attacks are also directly impacting international peace and security, he said there was broad agreement in the 25‑member group on the importance of the existing voluntary norms, with experts now exploring ways to develop additional guidance and further common understanding on those norms and their implementation.
Members continued to share their perspectives on how international law applies to the use of information and communications technology by States, he said. Reaffirming the importance of transparency and cooperation in fostering trust and stability in cyberspace, experts are advancing ideas on the practical implementation of existing confidence‑building measures. As the work of the group is evolutionary, he said he will continue to seek the views of the wider United Nations membership and key stakeholders for their expertise on security of information and communications technology.
Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), Chair of the United Nations Open‑Ended Working Group on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security, said informal intersessional consultations in 2019 had seen high participation among interested Member States and more than 100 representatives from the private sector, non‑governmental organizations and academia. A pre‑draft report was shared about a substantive session held in February, with pandemic‑related restrictions modifying working methods to allow for the submission of written comments.
A revised draft on the session was subsequently distributed to members, he said, adding that participants were able to discuss the section on how international law applies to States’ use of information and communications technology. Summarizing other activities, he said consultations with the Group of Governmental Experts provided an excellent overview of the efforts and perspectives of regional organizations.
Following the briefings, Member States raised a number of questions on the groups’ mandates and working methods. Egypt’s delegate, wondering if it was time to move into more action‑oriented formats to address cybersecurity, asked if the mandates and designs of the separate groups made them more deliberative in nature. The representative of the Russian Federation noted that his delegation had tabled a non‑confrontational draft resolution on international information security as part of efforts to engage the international community in a global process on the matter.
Canada’s representative asked how the both groups offer guidance to States, if there are challenges in those efforts being complementary and if United Nations processes can take steps to include the voices of women. Ecuador’s representative asked to what extent the Group of Governmental Experts has helped to have smaller countries participate and if the divergent legal systems among members pose a challenge to its work.
Mr. Patriota, noting that each group has a separate mandate, said having two processes on the subject “is a luxury”. The Group of Governmental Experts has a mandate to continue studying “what is already there” and to deepen understanding. It was not his task to question the mandate, but rather foster discussions on relevant matters.
Mr. Lauber noted the processes share support teams and stressed the relevance of the Open‑Ended Working Group as a forum for members to express their views. On gender, he said concerted efforts are being made by Member States to ensure participation of women diplomats from technological backgrounds, including in intersessional meetings.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 27 October, to begin taking action on all draft resolutions and decisions before it.