10th meeting of the third session of the OEWG

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Ilona Stadnik

The 10th meeting of the third substantive session of the OEWG continued with statements by the group members related to the adoption of the final report. Overall, all the delegates expressed their willingness to join the consensus and adopt the final report. However, many of them noted that the final draft made all the delegations ‘equally unhappy’ since they had to make concessions. In particular, states expressed their concerns about the absent (or, on the contrary, present) concepts and ideas in the final report, and reservations on the report structure:

The Islamic Republic of Iran specified concerns and itemized the red lines including respecting the sovereignty of states, non-interference in the internal affairs of the state's using ICT, accountability of platforms and transnational corporations. After a thorough consideration of the draft submitted by the chair, Iran found that a few proposals supported by the group of like-minded states contravene the Iranian red lines. 
Besides, the report is aggravated by the proposals of some member states that contradict the mandates of the OEWG. Iran, while disappointed with unacceptable parts of the report, will not be pleased to witness failures or deadlocks in the OEWG process. Therefore, Iran formally registered its objection to certain parts of the report that are not in line with its principal positions and expressed grave concern over the causes of this unacceptable situation. However, Iran does not block the consensus on the report but disassociates itself from any part of the report that does not match its positions, as described in the deliberations of the current session of the OEWG. 

Germany said states have proven that such a complex multilateral format has the ability to act. Germany welcomed the recommendation for the voluntary national survey on the implementation of resolution 72/37. However, some issues have not been sufficiently solved so far: human rights and fundamental freedoms, international humanitarian law, state responsibility, and due diligence. These are key concepts that Germany would like to continue to discuss in the next OEWG. Regarding the implementation of norms, Germany has high hopes for the Programme of Action (PoA). 

Belarus fully supported the final report and the willingness of states to move forward towards reaching mutual understanding and consensus. Belarus drew attention to the fact that today's small and medium-sized countries are not always able to ensure the full protection of their cyberspace. Therefore, it is vital for Belarus to reflect the proposals of states for the consolidation of norms and principles of responsible behaviour in cyberspace, including, but not limited to, previously developed rules. More attention should also be paid to the scientific perspective regarding issues related to ICTdevelopment. 

Canada said the outcome of discussions and exchanges that included all UN member states is in itself is a major milestone for all of us. Canada is pleased to see that the importance of gender perspectives has rightfully been recognised, while it would have liked a stronger language. Canada would have also liked to see stronger references to the importance of the multistakeholder approach, particularly given the essential contributions that they made to the discussions. Canada would like to have more progress in international humanitarian law, state responsibility, human rights and self-defence, but they support the report  in the interest of consensus. However,Canada does not adhere to the reference to additional legally binding obligations in paragraph 80. 

Belgium said they can join the consensus. Belgium has always supported and will continue to support a multilateral system that is robust and effective, based on the rule of law. Belgium is, however, not convinced of the need or added value of undertaking preparations for a new legally binding instrument; it would be premature, while the more urgent matter of reaching an agreement on the tangible implementation of already agreed norms has not yet been solved. 

Romania said that the report with all its significant added value does not fully reflect the issues that they had intended to include: a stronger emphasis on human rights and fundamental freedoms, alongside the other issues mentioned throughout the session. 

Nicaragua asked to give credit to the Russian Federation and all countries that promoted the creation of this unique, historic, inclusive, and transparent platform. Nicaragua endorsed the consensus to ensure that states could go ahead with the new OEWG according to resolution 75 /240.

France said ‘yes’ to the report not because they agree with it entirely but because, for the first time, a hundred and forty states recognise the acquis of the last 20 years. While the OEWG itself has not made the world safer, it allows for concrete steps to be taken to ensure that in the future.  

Venezuela noted that the final text presented for our consideration, most likely to be adopted, does not incorporate many of the points of view suggested during the consultation processes regarding a number of specific issues. For example, new norms and principles for responsible state behaviour must be developed and they must involve binding obligations and commitments. Unilateral coercive measures related to the use of ICTs have increased across the world. This is far from facilitating a peaceful ICT environment and fuels a new escalation of tensions. However, the report does not include requests made by a number of states to reference unilateral coercive measures.

Israel stands ready to join other delegations and support this report. However, Israel had some reservations on paragraph 24 to specify the 2015 GGE norms. Israel’s view on paragraph 29 is that it would be more constructive to reach a high level of implementation of existing norms before moving to developing new norms. Finally, there is no consensus over the need to develop additional legally binding obligations. Israel strongly disassociates itself from any reference to the need to develop  any legally binding instruments at this stage.  

Ecuador highlighted the opportunity to participate in cyber debates through the OEWG.  With this OEWG, over the last 18 months, the mission of Ecuador, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and national institutions accelerated their understanding of cyberspace in the context of international peace and security. The OEWG itself is a capacity-building mechanism and even a confidence-building measure. Ecuador is one of the delegations that feels satisfied with the final report.

Italy aligned itself to the EU statement and said that the OEWG is tangible proof that multilateralism is alive, and the UN is the ultimate forum where it manifests itself because of its inclusiveness. The final report is a very finely calibrated compromise and thus makes us all equally unhappy. Italy would have preferred to keep the order of the chapters as in the first draft of the report, as well as a clear reference to human rights, international human rights, and humanitarian law,  and as the EU said, Italy does not think that paragraph 80 represents a balanced final observation. Finally, Italy is glad to see the PoA reflected in the recommendation section.  

Argentina said they want to keep an open, free, stable, safe, and peaceful cyberspace. Argentina considered that better understanding must be reached on the new rules, principles and norms for responsible state behaviour, protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the importance of reducing the digital divide between countries and the gender gap, ensuring capacity building moving towards confidence-building measures. As for the PoA, it could be an open permanent forum within the United Nations. Argentina thanked civil society, the private sector and academia for providing additional valuable concepts to OEWG discussions.  

Colombia, in order to prove their flexibility, decided not to oppose the change in the order of the sections of international law and norms, rules, and principles. It is fundamental to maintain multilateral dialogue about how to apply international law in cyberspace and move towards the operationalisation of the consensual norms, rules, and principles while discussing the development of new rules as required. 

Chile was not completely satisfied with this text, particularly because some points of the discussion were not covered by the report - applicability of international humanitarian law,  international human rights law,  applicability of the charter of the United Nations in its entirety, and article 51 on the right to legitimate defence. Chile hoped they would be part of the upcoming work. Chile positively recognised the mention of the PoA in the report.

Turkey also agreed that the final substantive report of the OEWG strikes a careful balance among the diverging views expressed during the deliberations. In particular, the national survey on the implementation of agreed norms is referenced in the report. Turkey joins the consensus on the final report. 

Bangladesh believed that the final draft is well-balanced and represents an important development in this regard. The draft final report and the annex containing the chair’s summary of the group's work over the past two years should serve as a good basis to guide our future work. Bangladesh is ready to adopt the draft  as presented.

Algeria said the draft final report did not accommodate most of the concerns raised by the UN member states, although it paved the way for the continuation of our common efforts to reach the ultimate goal of ensuring a safe and secure cyberspace.  

Ireland echoed their reservations on the report made earlier by the EU, especially on much stronger references on human rights and fundamental freedoms, and on international humanitarian law, greater stakeholder engagement, and the order of the chapters in the report. Ireland welcomed the inclusion of the PoA in the final report and looked forward to future engagements in this process. 

Pakistan said that consensual adoption of the report would be of historic significance in supporting global efforts towards the common goal of creating a safe, secure, stable, and peaceful ICT environment. The imperative of bridging the digital and gender divide, as well as the need to transform the digital divide into digital opportunities was also recognised, which is of crucial importance for developing countries. 

Croatia reconfirmed that the application of international law including the United Nations Charter in its entirety, international humanitarian law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the endorsement of GGE reports are crucial steps towards better mutual understanding and ensuring peace and stability not just of the ICT environment but also for our societies at large. Croatia wanted this to be better reflected in the final report. In addition, they wanted to underline the neutrality of technology as the main principle. Croatia is content that the PoA is reflected in the report since it could contribute to concrete and action orientated cooperation between states as well as with the other stakeholders  and enhance International Security and stability in cyberspace. Croatia noted that multistakeholders have actively contributed to the negotiations and their voice has been heard, hoping that cooperation will continue in the future.

Morocco looks forward to continuing discussions on ICT in the context of international security within the new 2021- 2025 OEWG as well as within the new frameworks of the GGE and the future POA.  

Malaysia noted that the adoption of the final report does not mean that we disregard our issues and concerns and that it does not mean that we change the policies or positions of any particular country in any way.

Peru joined the consensus on the final draft. They also support regular institutional dialogue in the form of the OEWG 2021-2025. In this OEWG, we will be able to develop other proposals such as the PoA.

Sri Lanka is pleased to join others and welcomes the adoption of the report by consensus. The document provides a rich reference to the range of issues that can be built upon and addressed in our future work ahead, as we collectively strive to safeguard our common ICT realm.  

Costa Rica preferred more direct references to the topics important to them like international humanitarian law,  human rights and fundamental freedoms in the sphere of ICT. Costa Rica echoed the Mexican delegation on the importance of following up on what they have achieved within local and regional forums. 

Finally, the ICRC took the floor for the final comment. The ICRC stressed that a number of states are developing ICT capabilities for military purposes and that the use of ICTs in future conflicts between states is becoming more likely. The ICRC shares the concern as invested in the report about the potentially devastating humanitarian consequences of ICT against critical civilian infrastructure that supports essential services and the risk of harm to human beings is particularly important when medical facilities are targeted. In this respect, the ICRC welcomed the OEWG emphasis on the importance of respecting and protecting medical facilities as part of every state critical infrastructure, Guided by the rules, norms and principles for responsible state behaviour and importantly in accordance with states obligations under international law. Discussion on how international humanitarian law limits the use of ICT capability during the armed conflict needs to continue.