7th Meeting of the first substantive session of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG)

12 Sep 2019 02:00h

Event report

The seventh meeting of the first substantive session of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) discussed the topic of regular institutional dialogue.

The representative of New Zealand stated that any meaningful institution would have to reflect the realities of the functioning of cyberspace, and would therefore need to include civil society. New Zealand expressed uncertainty about the need for further institutional dialogue, but remains open to the views of other member states.

Mexico underscored the need to focus on the opportunities to build synergies and do away with silos. Mexico proposed a follow-up implementation mechanism. First, there should be a periodic presentation of national reports regarding the implementation of rules, norms, and principles. These reports would be accompanied by requests from member states to the Secretariat to compile a general analysis of the reports, to point out all the progress that has been made at the national level and what could be extrapolated to the regional level, with a view to create international co-operation programmes to build capacities of states. It would serve as a roadmap on what the member states need to agree upon in the future to ensure a legitimate and peaceful enjoyment of cyberspace.

Brazil stated that one of the key deliverables of the OEWG should be strengthening the role and institutional capacity of the United Nations to face the challenges associated with information and communications technologies (ICTs). This might include the establishment of a dedicated forum on this issue, which should steer clear of the mandates of already existing bodies that address other aspects of ICTs. One aspect of the OEWG’s mandate that could be considered is capacity building, inspired by technology transfer mechanisms which aim to bring together relevant stakeholders to support the development of implementation capacities.

The representative of France stated that regular institutional dialogue on the challenges of cybersecurity is necessary to bolster trust and security between states and de-escalate situations, and it is needed so that the UN can remain active in a very swiftly evolving area.

There is a need to explore the possibility of harnessing the existing institutions and bodies, and France’s preference would be to bolster their work. Civil society must be given a bigger role in this dialogue.

Ireland put forward the suggestion that the Chair might make an overview of the existing institutional mechanisms within the UN family and associated regional partner organisations, which could be discussed at the next session of the OEWG.

The Netherlands underlined that deliberations about creating a new form of institutional dialogue must keep in mind to avoid overlapping and duplication between existing institutions. Additionally, the purpose of this dialogue must be made clear; for the Netherlands, it should not be a treaty negotiating body. The dialogue must facilitate multistakeholder engagement, accommodating interaction between states, civil society, and industry. Quoting the Exective Summary of the UN High-Level Panel of Digital Cooperation, the representative of the Netherlands underscored that ‘Effective digital co-operation requires that multilateralism, despite current strains, be strengthened. It also requires that multilateralism be complemented by multistakeholderism.’ The Netherlands also supported the proposal made by Ireland.

Germany stated that the task and the format for a new mechanism that could achieve better results than the already existing one should be discussed. Germany also highlighted that there is already a process on how to implement the recommendations of the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation underway. This also includes the idea of a new architecture to bind different elements of the UN ecosystem on cyber issues together. Therefore, Germany is of the view that there is no need to build a new body. Germany also reiterated the importance of the multistakeholder approach.

Poland stated that the questions that should be answered first are regarding the utility of a new institutional mechanism and its added value vis-à-vis existing formats. The OEWG is a good opportunity to deepen the common understanding of what has already been agreed on, create practical guidance on the implementation of voluntary non-binding norms, exchange best practices, and possible capacity building. The OEWG should respect existing formats and avoid duplication. It is important to keep the focus of the discussion on the implementation aspects. The multistakeholder approach should be the guiding principle in the OEWG’s discussions.

Guatemala stated that the bodies provided by the UN are sufficient for dialogue. Guatemala considers that Mexico’s proposal would be useful, as having more information about progress made and challenges faced would contribute to addressing the needs of each state.

Finland underlined that form follows function. Finland also underscored the need for a multistakeholder approach, for support for activities of regional organisations, and capacity building. Finland also expressed its support of the Irish proposal.

Estonia stated that it is possible that institutional dialogue might not be the solution – what is needed is more capacity by states for already taken commitments to promote international peace and stability. The multistakeholder approach in cyberspace was also underlined.

The Russian Federation’s delegate stated that he would not propose a specific form for institutional dialogue. Rather, the form of the institutional dialogue should stem from discussions at the OEWG.

Iran is of the view that member states should continue with the most inclusive possible institutional dialogue platform. For the moment, the OEWG is the main and the only forum that can save this purpose. To avoid the high degree of duplication of work within the UN system, all relevant UN agencies should be invited to contribute to the process in the OEWG.

Argentina stated that a measure all states can implement is to submit reports on what is being done at the national level to implement the principles and purposes. The need for co-operation in implementation was underlined.

The Syrian Arab Republic underlined that regional arrangements should remain regional as they are limited by nature and specificity of every region. Syria is in favour of a regular process that would remain governmental; however, the private sector should be included in the dialogue.

The Australian delegate also reiterated that form follows function. She also stated that the real value of an institutional mechanism is around capacity building and implementation.

The Russian delegate took the floor again and reiterated that the parameters of the institutional dialogue will stem from the resolution adopted by consensus by the OEWG. Then discussions can continue in both groups, the GGE, or in another format altogether, but it is still premature to decide on what that format should be.

Canada reiterated that it is premature to discuss the form a new institutional mechanism might take. Canada stated that the OEWG should focus on working on the implementation of existing norms. Discussions should be multistakeholder in nature, and include civil society, the IT community, and private companies. Canada also highlighted that the discussions should strengthen the work done on the regional level.

The delegate of the Syrian Arab Republic took the floor again and stated that the OEWG should not limit its mandate to the implementation of norms that were agreed upon in the 2015 GGE report.

Iran’s representative took the floor again and stated that it is necessary to have the most inclusive intergovernmental body to continue dialogue.

Norway stated that now might not be the time to discuss the need for other formats. However, discussions may show a need for additional mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of agreed norms, confidence building measures (CBMs), and capacity building measures. However, existing efforts should not be duplicated or impose additional financial strain on the UN system.