Statement by the Permanent Mission of Russia to the UN on its non-participation in the UN Security Council Arria-Formula meeting on Cyber Stability, Conflict Prevention and Capacity Building, organized by Estonia on 22 May
Due to the recent violation by the delegations of Estonia, UK and US of the established practice that all Security Council Members participate in Arria-Formula meetings, regardless of whether they approve or disapprove its topic, the Permanent Mission did not participate in this event as it undermines established UN inclusive negotiations mechanism. The statement planned to be delivered by us at this meeting is provided below.
The Russian Federation attaches great importance to the issue of Cyber Security. Therefore we support the inclusive discussion that is being carried out under the auspices of the UNGA established Open-Ended Working Group on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security. We believe that by focusing the discussion on arguable concepts that do not have broad support with UN Member States the organizers push the international information space closer to unpredictable and undesirable scenarios.
It should be clearly understood that cyber confrontation can never be contained within local borders and will inevitably spread far beyond them. The world literally finds itself now before a choice between global cyber peace or cyber warfare. This choice is now existential, and that’s not a metaphor. Making this choice should lie with all Member States regardless of their capacities and cannot be usurped by the “elite” minority, which thinks itself entitled to unilaterally regulate the information space.
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced dramatic changes into our lives and is rightfully dominating the UN day to day agenda. However, this is also an important reminder that the issue of international information security (IIS) is no less critical for the security and mankind. Amid the COVID-19 crisis almost all of the communication, be it public or private, went digital. Our government services, banks, hospitals, schools as well as other essential institutions now fully rely on digital infrastructure.
The world’s dependence on the information and telecommunication technologies (ICTs) is now unprecedented. Ensuring them security has already become a national priority worldwide. Despite political differences or economic disparities, Member States are equally vulnerable to this threat and feel an urgent need to come out with a global response.
It is of grave concern that this “elite” minority is actively pursuing the militarization of cyberspace by pushing forward the concept of “preventive military cyber strikes”, including against critical infrastructure.
It is even more regrettable that certain countries are exploiting the pretext of the ‘full and unconditional application of international law in information space’, including international humanitarian law, in an attempt to justify unilateral pressure and sanctions on other Member States and even possible use of force against them.
We completely reject these concepts and stand firmly for the use of ICTs for peaceful purposes only. The role of the UN in this process is unique and indispensable. Only the UN can provide a truly global response and ensure the participation of all states on equal footing. While we acknowledge the valuable input of regional organizations, there should be no fragmentation of global efforts as they become split along regional lines or among the ‘power groups’.
In our view reaching a state of “cyber peace” is a realistic goal and can only be achieved through UN consensus based and inclusive mechanisms like the OEWG on ICTs which is uniquely positioned to address this issue. In order to expedite this process we should focus our efforts on the following priority areas.
1. Elaborating a comprehensive, attuned to present-day realities set of universal rules, norms and principles of responsible behavior of states in the information space. We call on all Member States to actively participate in the drafting of the outcome report of the OEWG on ICTs in order to ensure that this document embraces new, consensus-based rules of behavior and has a reference to the need to continue under the UN auspices regular institutional dialogue on IIS. Given the current dynamics and a growing desire for a better IIS system among states, at some point in future a legally binding instrument on IIS should also be explored.
2. Further study on how international law can be practically applied in information space. The digital field is not an unregulated area, however, still there is no universal consensus – or even at least understanding – around this issue. Though before it was agreed by the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (GGE) that international law, and in particular the Charter of the United Nations, is applicable, the GGE also noted that common understandings on how such norms shall apply to state behavior and the use of ICTs by states require further study. Moreover, it was underscored that given the unique attributes of ICTs, additional norms could be developed over time. In 2015 the GGE confirmed that common understandings on how international law applies to State use of ICTs are important for promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful ICT-environment. This was a hard-won and a fragile consensus formula which should not be broken.
We notice with concern the attempts of certain states and group of states to submit their national visions on this matter as ready-made guidelines for the international community. Any ‘final judgement’ on this issue can only be a product of negotiations with the participation of all Member States in relevant UN fora and should enjoy universal consensus. This work is under way in the OEWG, and we should not prejudge its outcome.
3. The open-ended intergovernmental committee of experts initiated by Russia to elaborate a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of ICTs for criminal purposes is another important step towards the state of “cyber peace”. It is critically important to join efforts and contribute constructively to the work of the committee.
4. Ensuring that an equitable and just IIS system is in place where the interests of all states regardless of their capacities matter. UN-led capacity-building efforts aimed at bridging the digital divide are vitally important and should be strongly supported. We hope that the OEWG on ICTs will be able at some point to formulate practical recommendations that will meet the expectations of those in need and will be effectively put into practice.
As we all have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, lives matter more than political dividends. The Russian Federation firmly believes that such an attitude should be channeled to our joint efforts to build a peaceful ICT-environment for the common good of future generations.