All permanent members, except Russia, took part in the meeting of the Security Council
Estonia became a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the first time. On May 1 – on a rotational basis – she assumed the chairmanship of the Council for one month. Using the new powers, Estonia, together with Belgium, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia, organized an informal meeting of the UN Security Council on international norms in the cyber sphere, including the responsibility of states for cyberattacks. The meeting was attended by representatives of more than 50 states.
The discussion took place in the format of an informal discussion, which is used, in particular, to discuss topics that are unlikely to be brought to the official level..
“The Security Council cannot comprehensively maintain international peace and security if it is not well informed about emerging threats. Despite the growing number of cyber threats, the behavior of states in cyberspace has never been a separate topic of discussion in the Security Council, ”Sven Jürgenson, Estonian Ambassador to the United Nations, told the Voice of America Russian Service..
The meeting was addressed by the UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu, who stressed that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted not only digital capabilities, but also vulnerability to cyberattacks that occur every 39 seconds.
During the pandemic, the number of cybercrimes increased significantly, however, according to Nakamitsu, about 90 countries are taking only the first steps in this area of the world: “We are also seeing alarming reports of cyber attacks on healthcare organizations and medical research facilities around the world.”.
US Deputy Representative to the UN, Cherith Norman Chalet, emphasized the need to create a mechanism to hold states accountable for violations of international norms in cyberspace: “Cyberspace has become a central and integral part of global activity, and its protection through responsible state behavior is critical to ensure and maintenance of international peace and security “.
Chalet also noted that the US is seeing an increase in “malicious cyber activity that appears to be aimed at undermining the efforts of the United States and our international partners to protect, help and inform the public during this global pandemic.”.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has directly accused Russia of carrying out cyberattacks on his country since 2014. According to him, Russia uses information and communication technologies as one of the methods of hybrid warfare, and in 2019 Ukraine was subjected to more than 1,500 cyberattacks on critical infrastructure facilities..
Russia was supposed to take part in the meeting, but at the announced time the Russian representative did not speak. The rest of the permanent members of the UN Security Council – Great Britain, France and China – noted the need for adherence to existing international norms and their further development, including under the auspices of the UN.
The field of international cybersecurity is governed by a number of international regulations, many of which are voluntary. In 2018, the UN General Assembly approved the framework agreement “Encouraging responsible behavior of states in cyberspace in the context of international security”. In September last year, the United States, Great Britain and France, together with 23 other countries, issued a statement promoting the concepts of this agreement and stressed the need to apply responsibility for their violation..
China and Russia have not joined the statement, although Moscow has been advocating that international cybersecurity provisions be legally binding since 1998, when it first proposed a cyber weapons control treaty at the UN. Russia notes that the existence of voluntary norms is not enough to ensure peace and security in cyberspace.
In the UN, cybersecurity issues are discussed in the UN General Assembly Committee on Disarmament and International Security and two working expert groups. The first, created at the initiative of the United States, is closed. It includes 25 experts, including from the permanent members of the UN Security Council. The second group was created at the initiative of Russia as a response to the “non-transparent” US group and is open to all interested UN countries..
Cybersecurity has been neglected by the UN, James Lewis, CSIS, of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Voice of America Russian Service. This topic, especially the issue of holding states accountable for cyberattacks, is “politically sensitive”. Permanent members of the UN Security Council, with veto power, do not want to bring this issue to formal meetings, Lewis noted: “This is why such informal processes are so valuable.”.
Previously, the topic of cybersecurity was brought up to informal meetings of the Security Council only twice: in 2016 by Spain and Senegal, and in 2017 by Ukraine. In March, Estonia, along with the US and UK, set a precedent by raising the issue of cyberattacks in the UN Security Council for the first time. The diplomats of the three countries brought up the issue of the cyber attacks on Georgia committed in October 2019 and blamed Russia for them. This topic was discussed within the framework of the “Any other issues” format, which was assigned to a number of secondary issues that are not subject to official stenography. Moscow dismissed accusations against itself as “unfounded and politically motivated”.
Estonia, which is one of the world leaders in the cybersphere (recall that the NATO Cybersecurity Center is located in Tallinn), has been raising cybersecurity issues in various international organizations for many years..
Voice of America journalist. Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics