The proposal for a Digital Geneva Convention: Implications for human rights

30 Nov 2017 01:00h

Event report

The moderator, Mr Jean Yves Art, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships, Microsoft, introduced the panellists and said that Microsoft is proposing a Digital Geneva Convention:

1. To protect civilians against state-sponsored cyber-attacks

2. To assist the private sector to detect and respond to cyber-attacks on companies’ infrastructure

3. To protect companies from states launching cyber-attacks using the companies’ infrastructure

4. To set up institutions to identify the sources of cyber-attacks

H.E. Monique TG van Daalen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Netherlands to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, gave a state perspective on the Digital Geneva Convention. The economies of states rely on the Internet more and more. Highly digitalised countries want to keep the Internet open. The Netherlands wants to enhance security on the Internet through international cyber diplomacy. Van Daalen said that Microsoft efforts are greatly appreciated in the Digital Geneva Convention debate. But Van Daalen pointed out that the name could bring confusion because to some, it could mean that the 1949 Geneva Convention is no longer valid. With regard to the proposed Digital Geneva Convention, Van Daalen expressed appreciations towards Microsoft’s efforts, but noted that it will be a cumbersome process to debate such a convention. He also pointed out that the Netherlands remains committed to the principles that the rights people enjoy offline must also apply online.

Mr Laurent Gisel, Legal advisor at International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), highlighted that the ICRC is responsible for the development of international humanitarian law. The ICRC’s wish is to see that emerging issues be captured in international law to reduce suffering, since new weapons in warfare pertain to technology.

Cyber-attacks used today are criminal acts. Cyber warfare is as much of a concern as any attack on humanity. The use of cyber-attacks on transportation systems, hospitals, and other critical infrastructurescan result in great human casualties. Cyber operations can endanger humans, and the ICRC backs Microsoft’s proposal for international law.