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GA/DIS/3659
9 November 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 14th Meeting (AM)

First Committee Approves 15 Draft Resolutions, Decisions on Disarmament Measures, Including 2 Following Different Paths towards Keeping Cyberspace Safe

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today approved 15 draft resolutions and decisions on a range of disarmament measures, including two following different paths towards keeping cyberspace safe.

Holding recorded votes on more than half of the drafts on the Committee’s agenda today, several delegates expressed a need to reach consensus on cybersecurity, pointing at two competing draft resolutions, tabled in previous sessions to each establish a group to study the best ways to keep the Internet safe.  The Committee approved one on advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security, sponsored by the United States, by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 11 against, with 9 abstentions.  By its terms, the General Assembly would, among other things, welcome the productive and ongoing work of the Group of Governmental Experts.

The Committee then approved a draft resolution on developments in the field of information and telecommunications, sponsored by the Russian Federation, by a recorded vote of 104 in favour to 50 against, with 20 abstentions, pertaining to the work of the Open‑Ended Working Group on the issue.

Prior to approving that draft as a whole, the Committee held separate votes on two paragraphs.  By a recorded vote of 92 in favour to 52 against, with 24 abstentions, decided to retain operative paragraph 1, which would have the Assembly decide to convene, starting in 2021, a new open‑ended working group on the security of and in the use of information and communications technologies.

It then decided, by a recorded vote of 108 in favour to 49 against, with 11 abstentions, to retain preambular paragraph 10, by which the Assembly would stress that it is in all States’ interest to promote the use of information and communications technologies for peaceful purposes, with the objective of shaping a community for humankind in cyberspace.

Malaysia’s delegate noted that both drafts competed with each other, emphasizing that a better solution would be single proposal that could garner endorsements from all Member States.  “At the end of the day, what’s at stake concerns us all,” he said.  “We cannot be comfortable with competing approaches.”  Highlighting the importance of restoring consensus when addressing cybersecurity issues within the General Assembly’s scope, Brazil’s delegate said that without agreement, the prospects for success are not encouraging, and all relevant actors should productively engage in discussions.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Germany’s delegate called for work on cybersecurity to be synthesized onto one track, supporting the work of both the Group of Governmental Experts and the Open‑Ended Working Group.  Argentina’s delegate said her delegation voted in favour of both drafts, adding that any future discussions must arise from consensus building done within the context of both groups.

The Committee also approved, by separate recorded votes, the following draft resolutions and decisions on:  effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium; promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non- proliferation; compliance with non‑proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments; and strengthening and developing the system of arms control, disarmament and non‑proliferation treaties and agreements.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the following draft resolutions and decisions on:  United Nations disarmament fellowship, training and advisory services; relationship between disarmament and development; women, disarmament, non‑proliferation and arms control; observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of agreements on disarmament and arms control; role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament; United Nations Disarmament Information Programme; disarmament and non‑proliferation education; Open‑Ended Working Group on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security; and Group of Governmental Experts on advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security.

The Committee also heard the introduction of several drafts related to regional disarmament and security.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation and Australia.

The Committee will next meet at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, 10 November, to continue to take action on all draft resolutions and decisions before it.

Action on Draft Texts

Prior to taking action on 15 draft resolutions and decisions related to other disarmament measures and international security, general statements were delivered by representatives of Cuba, Egypt, Venezuela, China, Nicaragua and Belarus.  The representatives of Trinidad and Tobago and the Russian Federation introduced, respectively, the draft resolutions “Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control” (document A/C.1/75/L.21) and “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security” (document A/C.1/75/L.8/Rev.1).

Several delegations presented their views on two draft resolutions related to keeping cyberspace safe:  “L.8/Rev.1”, related to the work of the Open-Ended Working Group on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, and “Advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security” (document A/C.1/75/L.4), which relates to the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.

Many representatives said the drafts represent parallel tracks in developing consensus language on cybersecurity.  Speaking against “L.4”, Cuba’s representative opposed the presentation of competing resolutions that divide the international community, adding that its main sponsor was the State that broke consensus on cybersecurity issues several years ago.  Similarly, Venezuela’s representative said his delegation could not support “L.4”, as the use of information and communication technologies cannot run counter to the Charter of the United Nations.

Several of those opposing “L.8/Rev.1” questioned the co-sponsors’ motives, with the representative of the United States stating that Moscow’s objective is to affirm its authoritarian cyberspace model and destroy 20 years of consensus-driven work.  Germany’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, supported the work of both groups established by the drafts, and called for efforts to bring discussions on cybersecurity onto one track.  Canada’s representative said her delegation would vote against “L.8/Rev.1”, as it would provide the Open-Ended Working Group a mandate that was too long, thus undermining its productivity, and that the draft includes language on disinformation that falls outside its scope of work and could be abused by certain States.

Among delegations voting in favour of both drafts, Armenia’s representative said they recognized the critical role of communication and information technology in promoting development and enhancing cooperation.  Denying access to information infringes on human rights, he stated, underscoring the importance of an open and free cyberspace.

Iran’s representative said his delegation would vote against the draft resolution “Compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments” (document A/C.1/75/L.59).  The draft is redundant and unnecessary, he said, adding that the United States nuclear doctrine is fully inconsistent with its international disarmament obligations.

Belgium’s representative, referring to the draft resolution “Effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium” (document A/C.1/75/L.14), said his was the first State to prohibit such weapons, standing ready to share best practices on the matter.

Also delivering their delegations’ position were representatives of Australia, United Kingdom, Philippines, Nicaragua and New Zealand.

Ahead of taking action on the draft resolutions and decisions, the Committee defeated, by a recorded vote of 57 in favour to 31 against, with 63 abstentions, a motion tabled by the Russian Federation to dispute a call for voting on the inclusion of operational paragraph 1 in “L.8/Rev.1”.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution  “Advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security” (document A/C.1/75.L.4), by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 11 against, with 9 abstentions (Belarus, Cambodia, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Myanmar, Palau).

The Committee approved the draft resolution “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security” (document A/C.1/75/L.8/Rev.1), by a recorded vote of 104 in favour to 50 against, with 20 abstentions.

Prior to its approval, the Committee decided, by a recorded vote of 108 in favour to 49 against, with 11 abstentions, to retain preambular paragraph 10, which would have the Assembly stress that it is in the interest of all States to promote the use of information and communications technologies for peaceful purposes, with the objective of shaping a community for humankind in cyberspace.

The Committee then decided by a recorded vote of 92 in favour to 52 against, with 24 abstentions, to retain operative paragraph 1, which would have the Assembly decide to convene, starting from 2021, a new open-ended working group on security of and in the use of information and communications technologies.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved draft decisions “Open-Ended Working Group on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 73/27 of 5 December 2018” (document A/C.1/75/L.47) and “Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security established by the UN Secretary‑General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 73/266 of 22 December 2018” (document A/C.1/75/L.60) and draft resolutions “United Nations disarmament fellowship, training and advisory services” (document A/C.1/75.L.12), “Relationship between disarmament and development” (document A/C.1/75.L.15), “Observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of agreements on disarmament and arms control” (document A/C.1/75.L.27), “Role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament” (document A/C.1/75/L.33) and “United Nations Disarmament Information Programme” (document A/C.1/75.L.41).

The Committee approved the draft resolution “Effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium ” (document A/C.1/75/L.14), by a recorded vote of 150 in favour to 4 against (France, Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 23 abstentions.

By a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 4 against (Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 50 abstentions, it approved the draft resolution “Promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non- proliferation ” (document A/C.1/75/L.19).

Prior to approving the draft resolution “Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control” (document A/C.1/75/L.21) without a vote, it decided to retain several paragraphs, by separate recorded votes.

By a recorded vote of 173 in favour to none against, with 4 abstentions (Armenia, Iran, Russian Federation, Syria), it decided to retain preambular paragraph 5, which would have the Assembly take note of the Secretary‑General’s disarmament agenda’s “action 36”, on full and equal participation of women in decision-making processes, and “action 37”, on gender parity on disarmament bodies established by the Secretariat.

It also decided, by a recorded vote of 171 in favour to none against, with 4 abstentions (Algeria, China, Russian Federation, Solomon Islands), to retain preambular paragraph 9, which would have the Assembly recognize that women are also essential in preventing and reducing armed violence, and are active players in advocating for disarmament.

The Committee decided, by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to none against, with 20 abstentions, to retain preambular paragraph 13, which would have the Assembly recall the Arms Trade Treaty’s entry into force and encourage States parties to ensure the full and equal participation of women and men in pursuing the object of all the instrument’s provisions.

It also decided, by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to none against, with 18 abstentions, to retain preambular paragraph 16, which would have the Assembly take into consideration the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the progress made in gender equality, multilateral disarmament and arms control and acknowledge that it has further exacerbated the socioeconomic conditions of vulnerable groups across the world, resulting in an alarming increase in cases of domestic and gender-based armed violence.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution “Disarmament and non-proliferation education” (document A/C.1/75/L.42), prior to which it decided, by a recorded vote of 170 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (Iran, Russian Federation, Syria), to retain operative paragraph 4, by which the Assembly would express its appreciation to the Secretary‑General for his disarmament agenda.

The Committee next approved the draft decision “Compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments” (document A/C.1/75/L.59), by a recorded vote of 169 in favour to 1 against (Iran), with 10 abstentions.

By a recorded vote of 179 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (Georgia, Palau, Ukraine), the Committee approved the draft resolution “Strengthening and developing the system of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation treaties and agreements” (document A/C.1/75/L.64).

Among delegations delivering explanations of vote after these approvals, several raised concerns about “L.4” and “L.8/Rev.1”, with Malaysia’s representative saying that the drafts compete with each other and that most delegates would likely prefer a single proposal commanding support from all.  The work of the Group of Governmental Experts should benefit all Member States, while the work of the Open-Ended Working Group “belongs” to all nations, he said, adding that:  “At the end of the day, what’s at stake concerns us all; we cannot be comfortable with competing approaches.”  The question now is how it affects international efforts in the fields of information and communications technology and of security, he said.  Brazil’s delegate reaffirmed the importance of restoring consensus in addressing cybersecurity issues within the scope of General Assembly.  Without consensus, he said, the prospects for success are not encouraging, and all relevant actors should productively engage in discussions.

Indonesia’s delegate said that although “L.8/Rev.1” has been considerably revised following discussions with Member States, his delegation still has concerns over the modalities of a new open-ended working group, as outlined in operative paragraph 1, and had abstained on this provision.  Mexico’s representative said that while her delegation voted in favour of the draft to demonstrate its commitment to the central role of the United Nations and the Open-Ended Working Group as the inclusive venue for discussions on the issue, the initiative to create a new working group is premature.

The representative of Argentina said that her delegation voted in favour of “L.4” and “L.8/Rev.1”, as the future of discussions on States’ responsible behaviours in cyberspace should arise from the consensual decision of both groups currently working on the issue.  Switzerland’s representative said both the Group of Governmental Experts and the Open-Ended Working Group have made good progress despite the pandemic.  His delegation voted in favour of “L.4” because building on achievements remains essential.  However, he abstained on “L.8/Rev.1” and the separate recorded votes held on two paragraphs because universal dialogue at the United Nations level is key to addressing challenges in cyberspace.  The Russian Federation’s delegate said “L.8/Rev.1” represents an opportunity to have an inclusive negotiation process on information security at the United Nations.

Several delegates explained their vote in favour of “L.64”, on strengthening and developing the system of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation treaties.  Germany’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that while bloc members continue to support the draft, all parties must contribute to improve the strategic context in advancing arms control treaties to enhance global security.  The United States representative, also speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom, said his delegation voted in favour of “L.64” because of the deep principles contained therein, however, the Russian Federation’s sponsorship of the draft stands in sharp contrast to its stance on these issues.  Cuba’s representative said her delegation abstained on “L.59”, which decided to include the issue of compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments on the next session’s agenda, because the United States has no moral authority in this Committee to introduce a draft on this matter.

Iran’s representative said his delegation joined consensus on “L.21”, as the draft’s provisions on women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control are in line with national laws, administrative procedures and the Constitution.

Also delivering explanations of their delegations’ position were representatives of Egypt, South Africa, India, Ecuador and Pakistan.

The Committee then turned to five draft resolutions and decisions related to regional disarmament and security, with Pakistan’s delegate introducing the draft resolutions.  The representative of Pakistan introduced draft resolutions “Regional disarmament” (document A/C.1/75/L.23), “Conventional arms control at the regional and sub-regional level (document A/C.1/75/L.24) and “Confidence-building measures in the regional and sub-regional context” (document A/C.1/75/L.25).  In the post-cold-war era, he said, most threats occur among States located in the same region.

An observer for the European Union delegation, referring to the draft resolution “Strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region” (document A/C.1/75/L.31), took note of operative paragraph 5, which aimed at maintaining consensus, and said States that have not yet done so should sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Western delegations are sabotaging the process and breaking with decades of consensus on cybersecurity.  As such, his delegation was offended by their level of cynicism and hypocrisy, which stalled the work of the Open-Ended Working Group, he said, adding that:  “If it were not for the Russian Federation, the United Nations would not have open negotiations on the matter”.

The representative of Australia said that while originally opposed to the creation of the Open-Ended Working Group, his delegation had attended meetings in good faith and continues to engage with members on related matters.  Now, Australia recognizes the entity as inclusive and Member State-owned, he said, adding that:  “It is not for the Russian Federation to determine what it considers to be an inclusive process.”

For information media. Not an official record.