11th meeting of the third substantive session of the OEWG

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Ilona Stadnik

At the final meeting of the third substantive session of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG), the Final Draft report was adopted unanimously, marking the end of the group’s work.

Ms Izumi Nakamitsu (Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs) congratulated Chair Jürg Lauber as well as all the delegations: ‘The work of this open-ended working group over the past one and a half years is a clear demonstration of the unwavering commitment of you, the United Nations member states. Not only have you been able to navigate the complex issue of ICT security, but as one delegation said earlier today, you have collectively been able to harness the “opportunities”, if you will, of the pandemic by forging new and innovative ways of working. This is an unequivocal signal that multilateral consensus is clearly possible. Not only in affirming past agreements, but also for taking steps forward on a framework of responsible state behaviour in the use of ICTs.’

Several delegations asked to take the floor for concluding remarks. First, Ukraine provided their view on the adopted report: ‘The report is a solid and action-oriented document that reflects consensus-based deliberations as well as a significant number of recommendations and proposals submitted during the work of OEWG. However, it lacks some important provisions.’ In particular, Ukraine would like to see in the recommendations and conclusions the notion that certain cyber operations might trigger by a state of its inherent right of self-defense in accordance with article 51 of the UN Charter, as well as on the recognition of the application of international humanitarian law as well as human rights law. Ukraine shared the concern of the EU and a number of states that paragraph 80 on legally binding instruments or new legal obligations for ICTs contains ‘such controversial issue’. Finally, Ukraine welcomed the inclusion of the reference to the Programme of Action (PoA) on responsible state behaviour in cyberspace.

Uruguay also welcomed the adoption of the report ‘which is without doubt a step forward for multilateralism in the consideration of the use of ICTs in the context of international security.’ Uruguay is also a member of the current Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) that is currently in its final stages and Uruguay hopes the OEWG will pave the way for future deliberations. Uruguay also welcomed the future work of the OEWG (2021–2025) as well as the PoA.

The Russian delegate expressed his personal gratitude to the work of the chair, as well as to all the OEWG member states, especially colleagues from Australia for their hard work and cooperation. ‘A very significant result has been achieved and the process of discussing this subject, which is very important for our national interests and for global stability, will be a constant process in the UN, a permanent process that will take place in different formats.’

Suriname, on behalf of CARICOM, also noted they look forward to fruitful discussions in the OEWG group mandated for the period 2021–2025.

Malaysia shared several key takeaways from the OEWG process. First, a high level of compromise, flexibility, understanding, and cooperative spirits among all the delegations. Second, there is a need to study the stewardship of the process by the chair. Third, a lot of negotiating efforts were undertaken behind the scenes in addition to formal and NGO stakeholder dialogues. In Malaysia’s view, each of these three components would be great to repeat in the future to achieve success.

The chair concluded the meeting by expressing his gratitude to the delegates, to the supporting teams and staff, and especially to Brazil Ambassador Guillermo Patriota who chairs the current GGE for his cooperation and fruitful exchanges throughout the work of the OEWG.