UN OEWG 2021-2025 – Organisation of work

28 Mar 2022 15:00h - 29 Mar 2022 16:30h

Event report

A number of countries condemned the situation in Ukraine and the actions of the Russian Federation, including Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the EU, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, the UK, Ukraine, and the USA. The countries called on the Russian Federation to stop cyberattacks on Ukrainian targets and disinformation campaigns in Ukraine. Some countries also expressed that the Russian Federation cannot be a trusted partner in negotiations on responsible state behaviour in cyberspace as it is reportedly breaking the already agreed-upon norms of behaviour. On the other hand, Belarus, China, Cuba, Nicaraagua, and the Russian Federation called for the process not to be politicised.

The UK suggested that, since member states cannot agree on modalities of stakeholder participation, states should not adopt the programme of work and should transition into an informal mode of discussion. This was supported by Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the EU, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, and the USA.

Iran stressed that convening the session as informal can undermine the status of the process; it is in clear contrast with the programme and budget allocated to the process. Furthermore, this will have implications for the annual report of the group that should be discussed and prepared in the next substantive session. Brazil, Indonesia, and the Russian Federation also brought up the uncertainty over whether national statements made in an informal mode will be taken note of in the final report of the group. 

A number of countries suggested that the work of the OEWG should proceed based on the manner in which the first substantive session was held in December, i.e. set aside the matter of adoption of the programme of work and start substantial discussions on a formal basis. Such a view was expressed by China, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Korea, Iraq, Indonesia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

The UK stated that should modalities of work from December be adopted, states would again postpone the issue of modalities of stakeholder participation, which would hinder their further work.

Iran and the Russian Federation stated that the issue of modalities of stakeholder participation is distracting the OEWG from its mandate, and the Russian Federation said that a group of Western countries is ‘block[ing] its [OEWG] work from within’. The Russian Federation highlighted that while the OEWG mandate states that it can decide to work with NGOs, the group is not required to do so. They stated that the discussion on modalities of participation is harming the implementation of the group’s mandate. The issue should be discussed during the intercession period, the country stressed. They also suggested the creation of an unofficial subgroup to address the modalities of cooperation with NGOs, either following the precedent set by the OEWG 2019-2021 in the original format, or in the format suggested by India. The EU refuted this idea, noting that member states have four months before the next session begins to agree on this issue.

At the suggestion of the USA, delegations discussed the Chair’s December proposal, which was already vetoed by a group of countries. Austria, Canada, Jamaica, the EU, Switzerland and the UK backed this proposal once again, while the Russian Federation refuted it. 

A proposal made by India would see the group apply the stakeholder modalities of the OEWG 2019-2021 for the duration of one year. This proposal seemed to have garnered wide support from France, Indonesia, Iraq, the Russian Federation, and Egypt, but no consensus was reached.

The Russian Federation expressed its willingness to consider the possibility of organising stakeholder participation as done by the Open-Ended Working Group on Conventional Ammunition. Austria noted that the modalities of stakeholder engagement employed in the Open-Ended Working Group on Conventional Ammunition are not a suitable precedent : 1) there was previous agreement that these modalities should not be a precedent for other working groups 2) stakeholder engagement in cyberspace and in the field of small arms and light weapons cannot be compared. 

The Chair suspended the meeting and the delegations started discussing substantive issues in informal mode.