Session 1-1 Transcript
(OEWG 2021-25)

This is an unofficial transcript of a UN session.

Ambassador Gafoor

Morning everyone. Excellencies, distinguished delegates, friends and colleagues, the first meeting of the first substantive session of the Open-ended Working Group on security of and in the use of information and communication technologies 2021 to 2025 established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 75/240 of 31 December 2020 is called to order. Distinguished delegates, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to all delegations attending this meeting in person as well as those of you who might be following this meeting via UN Web TV. It has been a very difficult period, as all of you know, with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic with uncertainties in travel arrangements for all of us. I’m glad that we are able to meet today in person and I look forward to a productive session of this working group. I’d like to acknowledge the presence of Miss Izumi Nakamitsu, Under Secretary General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, and I thank her and her team for their continuous support and guidance. Before proceeding further I’d like to remind members of the following COVID-19 mitigation measures that are in place for this meeting. All delegates are required to wear a mask or a face covering at all times except when directly addressing the meeting. And the delegation size is two persons for the combined conference room one, two and three, in which we are meeting now. And when we use the General Assembly Hall the delegation size will be four persons. At this stage I’d like to invite Miss Izumi Nakamitsu, Under Secretary General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, to make a statement. Miss Nakamitsu, you have the floor please.

Izumi Nakamitsu

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. His Excellency Ambassador Burhan Gafoor, Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, it is an honor to address the opening of the first substantive session of the new Open-ended Working Group on the security of, and in the use of information and communications technologies. You embark on a five year mandate. Yet the need to address the peace and security challenges arising from the malicious use of ICTs remains urgent. Incidents involving the malicious use of ICTs by state and non state actors continue to grow. The increasing sophistication and diversity of these incidents harm peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. Mistrust linked to the digital domain is on the rise, and an ever expanding ICT attack surface is exposing new vulnerabilities. While the cyber threat landscape is daunting there is reason for optimism. The successful conclusion of two recent intergovernmental processes this year marked a high point in multilateral efforts to ensure a safe, secure, and peaceful ICT environment. I extend my gratitude to Ambassador Patriota and Ambassador Lauber for their tremendous efforts in bringing that work to successful conclusion, particularly in the face of ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 Pandemic. I also applaud the tremendous flexibility and dedication of all delegations which contributed to substantive and concrete results. The first Open-ended Working Group in particular, represented a significant milestone in preventing and mitigating the impact of malicious ICT activity. Building on the foundation established by the expert groups the working group painted an increasingly clear picture of cybersecurity risks, while elaborating recommendations to address them. Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates, as many delegations have already highlighted, this working group is not starting from scratch. The General Assembly has recognized the emigration [sic] of an initial framework, comprised of concrete norms of responsible state behavior, and international law underpinned by capacity building. The norms aim to ensure cooperation and information exchange, to prevent escalation including, because of misattribution of responsibility and to uphold human rights. Protection of critical infrastructure continues to be of particular concern. For example, much attention has rightly been drawn to the potential devastation of a malicious cyber activity directed towards the health care sector and public health emergency, in light of the current COVID-19 Pandemic. It is notable in this connection that three of the eleven norms aim to protect such assets. This includes a requirement to refrain from conducting or knowingly supporting ICT activity that intentionally damages such infrastructure or otherwise impairs its use or operation. Alongside norms, states have identified common principles and processes related to building the capacity of all states in order to ensure they have the ability to prepare and respond to malicious ICT activity. And governmental experts have elaborated additional understanding on the applicability of international law to cyberspace, while committing to study this topic further. As important as these achievements have been more can and should be done. In this regard, I wish to highlight three key areas for dedicated attention where further work is required and where this working group could make meaningful contributions to a safe and secure ICT environment. First, I encourage delegations to identify practical measures to effectively implement the agreed normative framework at the sub regional, regional and global levels. Such measures can include reviews of national and regional strategy frameworks on the basis of voluntary reporting or peer to peer review processes. Confidence Building Measures in international cooperation to build national capacities can also help states develop means to detect, attribute and respond to ICT related incidents. Second, states must commit to further unpacking of the applicability of existing international law to cyberspace, including international humanitarian law. As an essential baseline states have affirmed that international law, in particular the UN Charter, is applicable and is essential to maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful ICT environment. This is a fundamental common understanding. Nonetheless, it is critical that states discuss concretely how international law applies to cyberspace including acts carried out in the context of armed conflict that might result in the incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects. In line with the recommendation of the first Open-ended Working Group I encourage states to continue to inform the Secretary General of their assessments of how international law applies to their use of ICTs in the context of international security. Even where divergences exist, exchange of national views and practices can support greater predictability and reduce miscalculation. As a contribution to promoting this understanding my office could be mandated to prepare a substantive report on the basis of these national views and practices. Third, deepened engagement with stakeholders must be prioritized. I have repeatedly emphasized the importance of engaging a range of stakeholders in an inclusive and sustained manner given the unique character of ICTs and in this connection stakeholder contributions are particularly important as ICT infrastructure is often developed and managed by private sectors. These entities can directly support implementation of the normative framework including through supply chain security of their ICT products. Given the ongoing limitations of access to headquarters by Non Governmental Organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic it is particularly important that their meaningful participation is safeguarded. I am encouraged by the chairs commitment to systematic, sustained and substantive engagement with stakeholders. In this regard, I am pleased to see that tentative dates for informal consultative meetings with stakeholders have already been identified to coincide with each substantive session. Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates, combating peace and security risks in cyberspace necessitates the building of cooperation and trust among states. In the context of digital global security trust is a two way street. Undermining trust can threaten international peace and security, while building trust supports it. At the same time, increasing trust between states is an essential ingredient in our efforts to ensure an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful cyberspace. The discussions you launched today through the Open-ended Working Group are part and parcel of these efforts to build trust. My office pledges its full commitment to support all delegations in this endeavor. I wish you every success with your session this week and I thank you very much for your attention. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much Miss Nakamitsu for your comprehensive statement. I will now make some opening remarks as Chair. I’d like to start by saying that I’m deeply honored and humbled to have been elected Chair of this Open-ended Working Group. It is indeed a big responsibility and I thank all member states for placing their trust in me. As in any intergovernmental process at the UN the success of this working group and the direction and pace of progress will be determined by Member States. This is ultimately your process. And as your chair I will do my best to facilitate your discussions. I will listen carefully and be guided by the views of all members on all the issues as set out in the mandate of the Open-ended Working Group as contained in resolution 75/240 and the agenda that we adopted at the organizational session. I know that delegations have different views. But I believe we all share a common objective, which is to achieve an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful ICT environment. It is my hope that this common objective will bring members together to find common ground. As the Chair I will be a neutral and objective facilitator. And I will do my best to bridge differences, build convergence and find consensus solutions. I’m committed to an open, inclusive and transparent process, and my doors will always be open to any delegation that wishes to meet with me at any point in this process. As we begin our first substantive session I’d like to share with you some of my reflections on the Open-ended Working Group process. First, we are beginning the first substantive session in a context of continued challenges in the ICT environment from the perspective of international security. As the UN Secretary General noted in his report entitled ‘Our Common Agenda’, the risks to peace and security are growing, as new technologies are placing the capacity to disrupt global stability in the hands of far more actors. The report of the previous OEWG noted that there has been a continuing increase in incidents involving the malicious use of ICTs by both state and non-state actors, including terrorists and criminal groups. That report further highlighted that some non-state actors have even demonstrated ICT capabilities previously only available to states. And almost every day we see and hear of media reports of new cyber incidents around the world involving the malicious use of ICTs. These are worrying developments and they show that the work of the Open-ended Working Group continues to be relevant and much needed. Although the international ICT environment is challenging, and the views of member states are diverse, I believe there is strong political will and commitment among all member states to address the malicious use of ICTs. This gives me some ground for hope that we can build on what we have already achieved and that we can make further progress within this Open-ended Working Group process. Secondly, as all of you know, the mandate of this Open-ended Working Group spans a period of five years, which is different from the previous Open-ended Working Group. The length of this mandate gives us additional opportunities, as well as responsibilities. With a five year mandate, we can and we must take a longer term view. In the next five years, the threat landscape will continue to evolve, and so will technologies. It is therefore necessary to consolidate our foundation, strengthen the implementation of what we have already agreed, and begin to address new issues and anticipate new challenges that will arise over the next five years. Although a five year timeframe gives us more time than the previous Open-ended Working Group, we cannot afford to be complacent. It is important for the Open-ended Working Group to make progress and show some early results in small, incremental steps. It may be tempting to wait for five years before we make any decision. However, such an approach will not be credible especially with the growing risks to international security posed by cyber threats and incidents. Thirdly, the Open-ended Working Group is the only democratic universal and transparent forum that we have at the UN at this moment to discuss developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security. There is great value to an inclusive process like the Open-ended Working Group, because it allows all member states to have their voices heard on an important issue. And precisely because the Open-ended Working Group is an inclusive process it has the potential to be a platform for building trust and confidence for building common understanding and for strengthening cooperation at the global level. However, whether the Open-ended Working Group can fulfil its potential, depends on whether all member states are willing and able to work together in a spirit of mutual trust, mutual respect, and mutual understanding. Fourth, as I said at our organizational session, and I echo what was just said by Miss Izumi Nakamitsu, that we are not starting from scratch. We have a strong foundation to build upon. The issue of information and telecommunications in the context of international security has been on the UN Agenda since 1998. We now have an initial framework of norms, rules and principles for responsible state behavior in cyberspace that has been endorsed by UN General Assembly Resolutions. This year, we achieved significant outcomes, namely the consensus adoption of the Open-ended Working Group report in March 2021 and the GGE report in May 2021. This was followed by the consensus adoption in the first committee and General Assembly of Resolution 76/19, which was jointly tabled by the United States and the Russian Federation. These are very positive developments and they bode well for our work in the Open-ended Working Group. However, our past successes do not guarantee the future success of our work in this Open-ended Working Group. We need to continue our work patiently by building on the foundation that we already have. We need to patiently build consensus, issue by issue, piece by piece. There is no shortcut to building consensus, except through listening, understanding, and some give and take. And most importantly, we need to move forward as a working group and not slide backwards. Fifth, the Open-ended Working Group itself is an important confidence building measure. The OEWG gives all member states a platform to talk to each other, understand each other and further increase the levels of trust and confidence. We have achieved much this year by talking directly with each other and making good faith efforts to understand our differences. But this state of affairs is not to be taken for granted. I would strongly encourage delegations to continue to reach out and talk to other delegations especially to delegations that have a different view. If we want to build consensus we need to start by building bridges. While it is important to talk to each other, talking alone is not enough. We need to walk the talk and demonstrate that the Open-ended Working Group can deliver results. This leads me to my sixth point, which is that the Open-ended Working Group cannot just be a talk shop with no results to show. Many countries, especially the smaller countries, are looking to the Open-ended Working Group to deliver concrete outcomes in terms of support and capacity building. The Open-ended Working Group must therefore be a platform for action, collaboration and implementation. It must be a place where we can achieve concrete results. As I said earlier, it is important for the Open-ended Working Group to take small incremental steps and demonstrate its value by showing some early progress. If the Open-ended Working Group is not able to show early progress, for example, in the area of capacity building, many delegations will lose interest in the process. And if you’re not able to deliver outcomes, we will not be able to build trust and confidence in each other. The good news is that we are starting this process from a good position. We have a strong foundation in the form of an initial framework of norms, rules, and principles for responsible state behavior. However, this framework cannot just exist on paper. This framework must be made into a practical reality, by giving all member states the support and capacity building assistance needed to implement the framework. That is why it is important to make early progress, especially on the issue of capacity building. Capacity Building is not an end in itself, but rather a cross cutting issue that is integral in our overall framework. And there’s no better way to build confidence and mutual trust in our framework than by giving all member states the capacity to put it into practice, through active participation in Confidence Building Measures, norms, implementation, and policy development. My seventh and last point is that it is important for the Open-ended Working Group process to have meaningful and substantive engagement with stakeholders. The reality is that only a small proportion of cyberspace is managed by state actors. So it is crucial that any discussion on cyber issues require the active involvement and input of stakeholders. As Chair of the Open-ended Working Group I remain committed to engaging with stakeholders in a systematic, sustained and substantive manner. In the last few months I’ve had the chance to meet with many stakeholders and I appreciate and welcome their willingness to engage with me. I know that many stakeholders are excited about the Open-ended Working Group process and they are ready to contribute by sharing their ideas, expertise, as well as their resources to achieve meaningful outcomes in the Open-ended Working Group process. It is my hope that we can find a consensual solution to defining modalities for the participation of stakeholders, which remains a pending organizational issue, and which we will address very shortly. Let me conclude with an African saying that is often repeated here in the corridors of the United Nations, which is as follows: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far go together”. There is no doubt that the challenge we are facing requires us to go far and to do that successfully there is no doubt that we need to work together. As the Chair, I’m hopeful that we can go far and achieve good outcomes from this Open-ended Working Group process. We have already achieved some important outcomes this year. We already have a good foundation of norms, rules and principles. And there seems to be strong political commitment to continue discussing the issue of cybersecurity at the United Nations. There is therefore no reason why we cannot go far, especially if we put our minds to it and work together over the next five years. in a spirit of mutual trust and mutual confidence. I thank you for your attention. I would now like to play a pre-recorded statement from His Excellency, Ambassador Jurg Lauber, Chair of the Open-ended Working Group on developments in the field of information and telecommunications, in the context of international security 2019 to 2021. Can we have the pre-recorded statement please?

Ambassador Lauber

Mr. President, dear colleagues, it is my great pleasure to address you at the opening of this first substantive session of the new Open-ended Working Group. And I thank my dear colleague, Ambassador Gafoor, for his opportunity to share some of my reflections from the previous group. I feel honored for having had the opportunity to chair that group and to work so closely with so many of you. I’m convinced that our common efforts within the Open-ended Working Group, as well as within the Group of Governmental Experts since 2004, play an important role in making sure that we all can benefit from the enormous opportunities that the digital age offers. On the other hand, we all recognize the devastating consequences that cyber attacks can have. I’m convinced that we are all aware of the urgency to continue our work to ensure security in the use of new technologies. The success of both UN processes on ICTs in the context of international security, the earlier Open-ended Working Group and the latest GGE, is an encouraging sign and proof that consensus and cooperation are possible, even under difficult circumstances. There is still much to do, and it is my hope that states will continue on this path of cooperation and constructiveness, fulfilling our shared desire for a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace, meeting the expectations of the many out there suffering from the malicious use of ICTs. Now, allow me to share some of my own key takeaways from the previous Open-ended Working Group, and I do insist that all the comments and suggestions I will make today are indeed my personal ones. First of all, it is important to stress that also the previous working group did by no means start from scratch. The UN has been addressing the issue of ICT security since 1998. The Groups of Governmental Experts have produced substantive reports with conclusions and recommendations, amongst others, the important 2015 report that was unanimously endorsed by the General Assembly. To achieve further progress it is important that we base our future work on this common understanding. The latest GGE and OEWG reports are parts of this acquis. In its entirety it serves as an established international framework of responsible behavior in cyberspace. Making progress means building on what exists already. Secondly, let me stress the significance of inclusivity and of a multistakeholder approach. I’m convinced that these are important prerequisites for finding fair, legitimate and implementable outcomes. As such, the Open-ended Working Group was the first dedicated regular institutional dialogue on cybersecurity under the auspices of the United Nations allowing for the participation of all member states. It has proven that an inclusive General Assembly based format can deliver results on the issue of ICTs in the context of international security, or in other words, multilateralism truly matters. Additionally, the Open-ended Working Group allowed stakeholders from civil society, academia and the private sector, to contribute on a much larger scale than ever before. And they did so regularly and in high quality, as the many written contributions on the Open-ended Working Group’s website attest. I’m convinced that the continuous efforts for a broader multistakeholder participation, and the inclusion of their contributions can only enrich and strengthen the Open-ended Working Group’s process. Finally, it is crucial to take into account the perspectives of both women and men, to complement the picture of existing challenges and necessary solutions. As women are still widely underrepresented in discussions on international security and peace, I’m especially grateful for the support of the sponsors of the women and the international security in cyberspace fellowship. Not least due to their support, the second substantive session of the Open-ended Working Group saw an unprecedented level of women’s participation in discussions on international cybersecurity under the auspices of the United Nations. Their participation, their expertise, and their perspectives clearly added to the quality of our debates. Excellencies, dear colleagues, allow me now to highlight a few key elements of the Open-ended Working Group’s report. Having mentioned the importance to build on what exists, I hope that this overview will be helpful for your work ahead. As you know, the final report consists of two parts: a substantive part with agreed conclusions and recommendations; and the Chair summary reflecting the wider discussions among Member States. I believe this summary could serve as an inspiration for the discussions within this new Open-ended Working Group and I will refer to it in a bit. To start with, the substantive part of the report includes progress in the common assessment of the cyber threat landscape that mentions important current threats, such as the attacks on healthcare facilities and the need for protection against such attacks, also under the existing agreed norms of responsible state behavior. As mentioned earlier, it also recognizes the potentially devastating consequences of cyber attacks. It acknowledges the importance of the general availability and integrity of the internet as well as the impact of cyber attacks in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic. It strongly reaffirms the applicability of international law, in particular of the UN Charter, and the report mentions practical Confidence Building Measures, for instance, the designation of a national point of contact. The capacity building part of the report is probably its strongest, urging the need for building cybersecurity capacity. The report establishes a list of principles as guidance for such capacity building efforts. Last but not least, the report recognizes the need for regular institutional dialogue on ICTs in the context of international security, established under the auspices of the United Nations. Now, turning to the additional Chair summary. The summary contains additional elements and proposals on all six substantive items under the group’s mandate. Furthermore, it offers a list of the proposals made by states on additional norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, as well as proposals for guidance on the implementation of the existing norms as endorsed by the General Assembly. So what are the themes that your discussions could build upon? In regard to threats, new technological developments should be on the radar. This can include ongoing developments, such as the expansion of big data, or the Internet of Things, but also future breakthrough technologies such as quantum computing. In regard to international law, now that the applicability of international law has been confirmed by all, the discussion could continue to further flesh out how international law applies to cyberspace. Specific regimes could be discussed, such as human rights law or international humanitarian law, which was explicitly mentioned for the first time in the latest GGE report. Furthering legal clarity will contribute to stability in cyberspace. In regard to rules, norms and principles for responsible state behavior, the Open-ended Working Group could build on the report of the latest GGE, which developed a new layer of understanding of the existing norms. The focus of future discussions should clearly be on implementation. If the group wants to venture into questions related to accountability this has not been part of the Chair’s summary, but I still want to refer you to a new report issued by the Council of Advisors, on the Application of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to Cyberwarfare report, that was prepared by the permanent mission of Liechtenstein and supported by a number of countries including mine. In regard to Confidence Building Measures, we arrived at the conclusion that sharing good practices would be beneficial. Discussions could focus on how to operationalize this sharing of information. More generally, this group could draw on the work and experiences of regional or subregional organizations in this area. In regard to capacity building, the discussion could further explore how to best leverage and coordinate existing efforts. Finally, discussion on the institutional dialogue could consider existing initiatives. As also mentioned in the Open-ended Working Group report, several states have suggested the Programme of Action, which is meant to focus on implementation of the normative framework and to provide capacity building to support such implementation efforts. Excellencies, dear colleagues. While these are of course, just my personal reflections, I hope that they may help you in your forthcoming work in the Open-ended Working Group format. I would like to express again my sincere appreciation to delegations for their continuous engagement on this very important issue. I’m convinced that under the able chairmanship of Ambassador Gafoor, we the international community will be able to build upon the important progress achieved in the past. Let us not forget that while we have seen enormous technological developments over the past decades, we only stand at the beginning of a major digital transformation. It is now that we need to continue to set the right tracks to foster mutual confidence and trust, and to tackle not only the security challenges we face in the present, but also to preempt those that may lie ahead. I thank you all for your engagement, your openness and your spirit of sincere collaboration. And I wish all of you a fruitful first substantive session. Thank you very much.

Ambassador Gafoor

I thank Ambassador Lauber, my good friend, for his pre-recorded statement, and I wish him all the best as he continues his work in Geneva. I would now like to invite delegations to hear a pre-recorded statement from His Excellency Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on advancing responsible behavior in cyberspace. Can we have the pre-recorded statement please? Thank you.

Ambassador Patriota 

Mr. Chairman, Ambassador Burhan Gafoor, Excellencies, distinguished delegates. Thank you for the opportunity to brief the first substantive session of the Open-ended Working Group on the security of, and in the use of information and communications technologies, in the context of international security 2021-2025, established by General Assembly resolution 75/240. I was the Brazilian Designated Expert in the GGE on advancing responsible state behavior in cyberspace in the context of international security, established in 2018, by resolution 73/266. Thanks to the agreement of fellow experts, I became Chair of that GGE. As you are all aware, the GGE completed it’s work in May of this year, with the adoption by consensus of a substantive final report, contained in document A76/135, dated 14 July 2021. One very important aspect of the process was my close coordination with Ambassador, Lauber of Switzerland, Chair of the first OEWG. To make sure the two track negotiations on cybersecurity in the first committee would be complimentary and consistent with each other. I can now say with confidence and hindsight that our efforts were very successful. The outcome of the GGE that I Chaired, which was GGE number six, achieved many important objectives in my view. First of all, it reaffirmed the assessments and recommendations of the 2010, 2013 and 2015 GGE reports. Meaning there was no regression or backtracking with respect to the so called acquis, but moving beyond a mere reaffirmation of past decisions. The agreements reached in this group provided additional layers of common understandings on the full range of critical issues of relevance to cyber security discussions, fully meeting the mandate of the General Assembly as far as I can assess. The GGE also produced an official compendium of voluntary national contributions of participating Governmental Experts on the subject of how international law applies to the use of ICTs by states. This compendium has been made available as document A76/136, uploaded to the UN ODA website. And the GGE agreed to encourage all states to continue to share their views and assessments on the subject on a voluntary basis through the Secretary General and other avenues as appropriate. The 2019-2021 GGE was composed of experts appointed from 25 states. It held sessions in December of 2019, February of 2020, April of 2021 and May of 2021. The first and second sessions were held in person in New York and Geneva. The third and fourth sessions were convened virtually. Considering interruptions to air travel and in-person meetings, posed by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the third session of the group was postponed by decision 75/551 of the GA. Nonetheless, the group continued to accomplish substantive work between sessions through a series of virtual informal consultations. These additional sessions essentially doubled the time available to experts for in depth work. More inclusive than its earlier editions, the latest GGE received the mandate to consult the wider community of states particularly at the regional one. The Chair held meetings with the OSCE, The European Union, The Organization of American States, The Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its Dialogue Partners, and the African Union and the African Union Commission. Informal consultations between the Chair of the GGE and all UN member states were convened in December of 2019. Over a two day period prior to the first formal session of the GGE. In May of 2021 a second round of this consultation was held, this time virtually. The second set of consultations already had the report of the OEWG and it allowed the Chair of the GGE and experts to draw from that report, thereby strengthening complementarity and consistency between the two processes. The 2019-2021 GGE sought to build upon the cumulative outcome of two decades of GGE discussions. These exchanges yielded a normative framework for addressing existing and emerging cyber threats, and the application of international law and the use of ICTs by states through voluntary non-binding norms of responsible state behavior, Confidence Building Measures and capacity building. In addition, the final GGE report adopted in May of 2021 contains agreements on non-dated assessments of ICT threats to international peace and security, references to the COVID-19 Pandemic and health, the challenging issue of attribution of malicious ICT acts, critical infrastructure of special concern, international humanitarian law and the application of international law to the use of ICTs by states, the protection of supply chain integrity by balanced needs, confidence building and transparency measures, cooperation at the political, legal and technical levels, capacity building and international development cooperation, among other important matters. The report of the GGE also provides additional information on the 11 norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, emphasizing their value and facilitating more consistent interpretation of the norms. The report contains agreed guidance on the implementation of the norms and suggestions for strengthening related institutional arrangements at different levels, in particular at the national and regional levels. Importantly, the report underlines the linkages between different substantive elements of the group’s mandate and the importance of engaging other actors in states’ efforts to implement this framework, namely the private sector, civil society, academia and the technical community. The full commitment and constructive engagement of all experts enable the production of quality work and a substantive, robust, consensus final report. I’m grateful for the support provided by the Office for Disarmament Affairs and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research. And I thank the Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Miss Izumi Nakamitsu, for her professional engagement with and contribution to the process. I’m very pleased that the 76th session of the First Committee was able to adopt the single consensus resolution on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security that welcomes the consensus final reports of the GGE while also recognizing the final report of the OEWG and calls upon states to be guided in their use of information and communications technologies by both reports. This represents a fundamental step in realigning avenues for dealing with the challenges of ICTs in the context of international security, under a unified work stream and mandate within the United Nations. I look forward to seeing how the new OEWG continues to tackle the use of ICTs by states in the context of international security. I believe the outcomes of the successive GGEs and of the first OEWG provides solid ground to build upon. I would think such a finely balanced acquis, reflecting two decades of laborious work at the UN and a consensus that is welcomed by all should be a point of departure for the new OEWG. And that new agreements achieved should strive to maintain full consistency with the evolving framework of norms of responsible state behavior. It would be extremely important if this OEWG could further elaborate on the application of international law, to the use of ICTs by states in the context of international security, as well as produce an integrated programme and structure for the further development, implementation and support of the evolving normative framework, its interlinked Confidence Building Measures, and associated cooperation and capacity building provisions. I wish all delegations the best for this first substantive session of the new OEWG and I thank you for the opportunity of this briefing.

Ambassador Gafoor

I thank Ambassador Patriota for his comprehensive pre-recorded statement. Distinguished delegates, I’d like to draw your attention to General Assembly Resolution 75/240, which established this working group and provided the mandate for our work. The agenda is contained in document A/AC 292/2021/1, which was adopted during the group’s organizational session, held on the 1st of June this year in New York. And I would also like to draw the attention of delegations to General Assembly Resolution 76/19, which was adopted by consensus by the First Committee on the 3rd of November, and by the plenary of the General Assembly on the 6th of December. This resolution provides for this group to take into account of the outcomes of the previous Working Group and the Groups of Governmental Experts, and to add to their efforts and be consensus-oriented and results-oriented. It was in this context that the statements from both Ambassador Lauber and Ambassador Patriota I think are very useful for our working group as we embark on our substantive work. Distinguished delegates, I’d like to remind delegates of the decisions taken by the group at our organizational session on the 1st of June and the working group decided to conduct it’s work in accordance with the rules of procedure of the main committees of the General Assembly, while acting on a consensus basis in accordance with GA Resolutions 75/240. I now invite the working group to continue Agenda Item 3, which is organization of work. Delegations have before them the provisional programme of work of the first substantive session, as contained in document, A/AC 292/2021/2. As I explained in my letter dated 15th November, and also at the informal briefing which I convened on the 18th of November, the programme of work has been structured in accordance with the agenda. But the programme of work also takes into account the chapter headings of the previous Open-ended Working Group’s report, in order to ensure continuity and also to build on the rich discussions from the previous Working Group. May I take it that the working group agrees with the programme of work as contained in document A/AC 292/2021/2. I see that the United Kingdom has made the request for the floor. The UK, you have the floor please.

United Kingdom

Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And I’m sure you’ll come back to us in a minute for wider statements on the organization of work. I think that the UK would like to reserve its judgment on the agreement to the programme of work in the round, until we’ve addressed all of the issues, as they relate to the organization of the work of the Open-ended Working Group, if we may. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, UK for your statement. What I was suggesting, and I’d like delegations to consider this carefully, we will, after we adopt the provisional programme of work, get to the issue of the outstanding organizational issue regarding the participation of stakeholders. And in order to get to that I think it will be important for us to adopt the provisional programme of work. So could I appeal to the UK delegation to allow us to adopt the provisional programme of work so that we can get precisely to that issue, which I know is dear to the UK and so many other delegations. UK, can I hear your response, please?

United Kingdom

I’m afraid as things stand Mr. Chairman, I understand the rationale you just set out, we would like to wait on the adoption of the programme work until or unless the question of NGO and multistakeholder participation in this Open-ended Working Group is settled. So I’m afraid, regardless of the fact that we understand your logic, we would need to agree these things in the round rather than sequentially. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, UK. Can I seek a clarification as to whether your delegation has objections to the programme of work? Or rather, it is a question of having them adopted, after there’s clarity on the discussion on the participation of stakeholders. UK, can I have your response, please? Thank you.

United Kingdom

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s the latter. So we’re content to proceed on a provisional basis on the programme of work as outlined, but don’t think we should be agreeing the programme of work in the round until we understand precisely how different groups can participate in that programme. I hope that’s clear. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, UK. Based on what I heard, I understand that you mentioned we could proceed on a provisional basis, so could we now proceed on that basis to have a discussion on the multistakeholder issue while holding the adoption of the provisional programme of work in abeyance for the moment? Are there any other requests for the floor? I see none. So, we are not at this point able to adopt the provisional programme of work as I had circulated and I now want to move on the understanding that we will have a discussion on the multistakeholder participation issue. And we will come back to the adoption of the provisional programme of work. In my letter, dated 15th of November, I had, as delegations would know, addressed the issue of stakeholder participation, and outlined a possible approach to move forward. And I had also, at the informal briefing on the 18th of November, discussed with delegations the question of stakeholder participation, which was raised by many of you. On the 8th of December, I had circulated to all members an open letter that I received from a group of countries as well as stakeholders on the topic of stakeholder engagement. And this letter, which I circulated to all delegations, proposed a set of principles that the modalities should embody for stakeholder engagement. And I thank the group of countries for their letter and for their active engagement in the Open-ended Working Group process. In the last few months, and also in the last few weeks and days, I’ve been engaged in informal consultations with many delegations on the issue of stakeholder participation in the Open-ended Working Group. And there continues to be different views on the issue, and it is clear that we need to have further discussions on the issue. As the chair of the working group, and as I said in my opening remarks, I recognize the value of engaging with stakeholders as I believe they can enrich our work with the ideas, their expertise, as well as their resources. I therefore remain very much committed to engaging with stakeholders in a systematic, sustained and substantive manner. Now, I note also that the previous Open-ended Working Group held a very successful and substantive informal intersessional consultative meeting with stakeholders in December 2019, and we heard from Ambassador Jurg Lauber, earlier in his pre-recorded statement, where he spoke precisely about this meeting and it is my hope that we can build on this precedent, and continue our engagement with stakeholders, both in an informal and formal setting, and within the framework of this Open-ended Working Group process. And given the importance of the issue of stakeholder participation I believe it is necessary to have an open, inclusive and transparent discussion within this working group. So I would therefore like to open the floor now for delegations to express their views on this issue. In taking the floor I encourage delegations to indicate not only their position on stakeholder participation, but I also invite them to identify potential solutions that can build consensus and bring us forward. To put it differently, I think the different positions on stakeholder participation are well known, at least to me. What we need to do at this stage is find ways to bridge the differences and find compromise solutions. So, the floor is now open for delegations wishing to address the issue of stakeholder participation. UK, you have the floor, please.

United Kingdom

Many thanks, Mr. Chair and a warm good morning to you. Excellencies and distinguished delegates in the room, and notwithstanding my previous intervention, may I begin by welcoming you formally to this role, and saying how pleased the UK is to have such an experienced and knowledgeable diplomat in the chair as you. It’s slightly odd, Mr. Chair, speaking to an empty podium, but we’ll try and get used to it. Mr. Chair, the UK is, as I am sure you know, committed to promoting and upholding the consensus framework for responsible state behavior in cyberspace, based first and foremost on the application of international law to state activity in cyberspace. And we welcome this opportunity to further the international conversation and make practical progress together on the shared aims that you and our other briefers this morning have set out. As this is about the organization of work, I will say first, that in the context of the ongoing pandemic, as you yourself acknowledged at the outset, these are challenging times. And the UK thinks it’s unfortunate that this first session of the Open-ended Working Group could not meet in a hybrid format. That would have met the inclusive aspirations of the group and the lack of a hybrid format has meant that the UK’s expert has been unable to join us here in New York, because of the pandemic restrictions, as sadly have 16 expert representatives of 13 Commonwealth states the UK sponsors to participate in the Woman in Cyber Fellowship Programme also been excluded. So we hope that if necessary, an inclusive hybrid approach could be adopted for future sessions, while uncertainty around COVID remains. But as you said Mr. Chair just now the matter that concerns us most is the inclusion of non state expertise in our deliberations. And Mr. Chair, in the mandating resolution for the Open-ended Working Group OP4 states the Open-ended Working Group may decide to interact as appropriate with other interested parties, including businesses, non-governmental organisations, and academia. Now, as you’ve just noted, this matter remains pending following the organizational session in June, and the UK firmly believes that we must resolve it before moving on to matters of substance, hence our position on the programme of work. And, Mr. Chair, we have considered carefully, your letter that you just refer to, dated the 15th of November. And the recommitment, also that you’ve made just now in your opening statement, and just before opening this element. And we would suggest that the UK cannot agree that the Open-ended Working Group adopt its modalities used for 2019 in the 2021 Open-ended Working Group. We don’t think they are fit for purpose and we think that we need to reflect and consider. So, I want to start by saying that recent GA decisions have shown overwhelmingly that there is support for a more transparent and collective approach to civil society participation. This is precisely because a broad range of states recognize that formal participation of stakeholders improves our understanding and reinforces the credibility of our processes. And this is also true for the UN cyber process, where the reality is, as I think you noted yourself, that states would benefit enormously from engaging with the expertise of relevant individuals and groups. We must not and we cannot move backwards from these established GA norms on transparency and inclusivity. So retaining the modalities of the last Open-ended Working Group, and with it, and this is critical, the ability of individual member states to unilaterally and anonymously veto a stakeholder from participation in the group without even having to disclose why we find it unacceptable. So, we cannot therefore support the modalities proposed in your letter. But, Mr. Chairman, you asked for solutions. So, first of all, I refer you to the letter you noted from a group of 44 states with 152 signatories, which set out some ideas and we believe that the decisions about the Open-ended Working Group should be made by the group through a transparent, consensus based approach. So, we therefore support the proposal made by Canada in June for objections to be shared with the group. And we think this would allow states to voice concerns about specific non ECOSOC stakeholders, but crucially would enable all members of the group to have an equal and full awareness of any objections that have been raised. Such an approach is crucial we think for the credibility of the process. Now, Mr. Chair, this falls short of, as you will know, several of the modalities texts recently agreed in the GA, which have a gold standard, which prevents any GA member from vetoing a stakeholder. But instead allows the GA itself, to take a view on any objections that are raised in a vote. So, this is already a compromise back from that GA standard in the understanding that we are trying to seek consensus. So, Mr. Chair, we welcome your desire for substantive dialogue with these stakeholders. Meaningful participation requires an ongoing conversation between states and stakeholders. And we are open to considering proposals which provide formally, in a formal setting for this kind of direct exchange. We’re committed to listening carefully to any concerns others raise and, as you just said, working to find a solution and make progress with real urgency. But, we must be given the opportunity to hear those concerns and find consensus before any decision can be taken on this crucial issue, and take us forward. And I’m afraid without an agreement the UK will be unable to join consensus on our organisation of work, or on our programme of work. Many thanks, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, UK. Australia, you have asked for the floor.

Australia 

Thank you very much. Thank you Chair, and may I first congratulate you on your appointment as Chair of this Open-ended Working Group. The Australian delegation looks forward to working with you and offers you our full support. Australia appreciates that there is much to discuss this week and we have a significant amount of work ahead of us over the term of this Open-ended Working Group. We look forward to beginning those matters of substance. Before we return to those, it’s important to discuss and decide together, how this process will operate. In the previous OEWG, despite all non-ECOSOC-accredited organisations being disallowed to participate in our meeting, there was robust multistakeholder engagement. This was, with thanks, to the initiative of specific member states, most notably Singapore, which organised and chaired the intersessional multistakeholder consultation in December of 2019. And also Canada, which cosponsored along with Australia, the EU and others, the virtual ‘Let’s Talk Cyber’ consultation event in December 2020. Australia remains a strong supporter of inclusive and transparent approaches to civil society participation at United Nations meetings, as well as stakeholder engagement more broadly. The UN, as we all know, is for everyone and the meaningful participation and engagement of stakeholders can only improve the perspectives brought to the table, and the success of decisions that are subsequently made. The multistakeholder community plays an integral role in the issues under discussion in this group. Cyberspace is unique. The private sector, the technical community, and cybersecurity experts play a vital role in its technical management and its governance. The multistakeholder community can provide perspectives that help us better understand emerging cyber threats, their impacts and how to address them. That role should be recognized in the discussions of the UN OEWG, to help us come to our consensus decisions as states. Australia, therefore supports the principles for meaningful multistakeholder engagement that were set out in the open letter to the Chair of the 8th of December 2021. In particular, Australia supports increased transparency in the processes for the participation of intergovernmental organizations, civil society, industry, the technical community and academia in our discussions. This should include a transparent process for accreditation requests by non government stakeholders and for objections to those requests. All states agreed by consensus in the 2021 OEWG report, that future mechanisms discussing international peace and security of ICTs, under the auspices of the United Nations should, I quote, “be inclusive, transparent, consensus driven and results based”. This message was reiterated in the mandate for this new OEWG, which convenes the group, quote, “with a view to ensuring the uninterrupted and continuous nature of the democratic, inclusive and transparent negotiation process”. The ambition set forth in this OEWG’s establishment for open, inclusive and transparent discussions, and reiterated by its initiators in a vision paper, gives Australia confidence that we will not fail that vision at its first hurdle. In the OEWG’s organizational session in June, several modalities for multistakeholder participation were proposed. Additionally, the open letter sets out principles to guide our engagement towards an ongoing conversation between states and stakeholders. Australia supports a mechanism that facilitates meaningful dialogue between all parties, that is coordinated, impactful and maximizes the limited time that we have together during formal sessions. Australia hopes that this procedural issue will be concluded today so that we can move on to our substantive discussions with confidence and with certainty, we welcome the views and constructive suggestions of all states towards a consensus solution. Thank you, Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Australia. I’ve had indications for requesting the floor from 10 delegations. And given the importance of this issue it is my intention to give everyone who wishes to speak an opportunity to speak. So, I’d like to go down the speaker’s list as I have them. Next, would be Mexico. You have the floor, please.

Mexico 

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. At the outset, let me welcome all colleagues who have joined us from capitals. I’d also like to express my appreciation to you, Chairman, for this process, which you are ably leading. You can count on my delegation support. And let me also especially thank you for today’s space to address an issue which, as far as my delegation is concerned, is of the greatest importance. As pointed out in the informal consultations last November, convened by you, my delegation pointed out, and also this was pointed out in our co-signed letter on the multi stakeholder participation, our delegation have pointed out that it is necessary for us to have as great a presence and attendance as possible of voices that go beyond the experience and knowledge of member states. I have to say, I do recognize we are in an intergovernmental process, which will be agreed upon by member states. However, having said that, as we have heard in previous statements in these United Nations processes sometimes within the framework of formal sessions we can have the participation of NGOs. And it seems to us that this working group should be an exception in this regard, especially since this is a process that will last several years and will require the technical expertise of others. And also because of the nature of the issue that brings us here together. So, Chairman, I will imagine that you will bear in mind the previous sessions where we were able to have such participation of civil society. And I also wanted to support the various ways forward expressed by other delegations who spoke before me. As far as my delegation is concerned it will be important to underscore the importance of ensuring that these entities, non-state entities, can and should be able to address member states in these official sessions. These are webcast meetings and it seems to us that if this is done it would help build transparency and widen the reach of our work. We’ve seen this happen, for example, in negotiations on sustainable development. And more recently, we saw this take place during the SDG summit a couple of years ago. And during those meetings we saw that there were mechanisms in place that still respected the presence of member states, but it also allowed other entities to take the floor and make their views known, in the interest of our work. Now, if this took place as part of closed sessions we don’t see any reason why this couldn’t take place in our open and formal sessions. And this is one of them. So bearing all of that in mind, Chairman, it seems to us that there is a need for us to resolve this issue. And I have no doubt that this will have a great impact on our work programme for this session and indeed for future sessions. And we must resolve this so we can move forward, substantively, and draw on the inputs that academia, civil society and other relevant entities may have to contribute. So sir, my delegation is very open to continuing to work with you and other delegations to try to find a solution that can attract a consensus from all member states. And this would include possible steps that you, as chairman, may propose to us as a group. And once again, may I reiterate on behalf of my delegation, our support for the work that you are so ably carrying out so far, sir. Thank you very much, sir.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much, Mexico. I give now, the floor to Canada, to be followed by the European Union. Canada, please.

Canada 

Chair, excellencies, colleagues. Allow me first to congratulate you, Ambassador Gafoor, for your nomination as Chair. Please rest assured, that you can count on the Canadian delegation’s full support throughout this process. After the organisational meeting last June, the issue of stakeholder modalities remained pending. Mr. Chair, Canada took note of your letter dated November 15, to all delegates, in which you suggested that the OEWG adopt the modalities used for the 2019-21 OEWG. In 2019, 18 organisations applied to participate in the proceedings of that group, we believe that they would have positively contributed to our discussions. These organisations were from every region of the world. Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and the Asia Pacific. The list included reputable NGOs, such as Canada’s own Citizen Lab. It included well known think tanks such as Chatham House, and tech companies such as Microsoft. They all have significant expertise and relevant insights to bring to UN cyber processes. As others noted before me, under the modalities that were in place in that previous group, all of these organisations were rejected in an opaque process, which allowed member states to anonymously object without having to justify their objection. It was then up to others to find informal ways of gathering the input of these stakeholders. In its final consensus report, the previous OEWG recognise these stakeholder’s contributions to the process. It noted that, “The broad engagement of non governmental stakeholders has demonstrated that a wider community of actors is ready to leverage its expertise, to support states and their objective to ensure an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful ICT environment”. This is in line with the recent report of the Secretary General on the UN’s common agenda, which stated that, “The United Nations, governments, the private sector, and civil society, could come together as a multistakeholder digital technology track”. Unfortunately, the modalities of the previous OEWG did not live up to this ideal. Frankly, they were abused in a way that prevented stakeholders’ meaningful participation in that group’s formal proceedings. Mr. Chair, Canada has no reason to believe that the old modalities, if applied again to this process, will not be similarly abused. In effects, these modalities would likely again, prevent the participation of the various stakeholders whose input we valued in our last report. Mr. Chair, the participation of stakeholders to our formal proceedings is a key part of the very credibility of this process. That is why like the UK, Canada cannot support the modalities proposed in the November 15 letter, that you submitted to all delegates. In June, at the modalities meeting, Canada proposed modalities that were based on the Cybercrime ad hoc committee ones. In short, they said that if a state wished to veto the participation of a group, it could do so, but it would have to take the floor publicly to say so. As the UK noted, this was in fact a compromise proposal. You asked us for solutions. As stated in the open letter addressed to you by 44 states, and 108 other signatories, we need to strive for modalities that will facilitate, not impede the participation of stakeholders. I would like to quickly focus on two of the principles in the letter, as I think they are the most relevant to our discussion today. One, the need to ensure that the modalities facilitate the participation of stakeholders, rather than result in vetoes. Two, that the modalities promote greater transparency in the accreditation process. In this, I would like to associate with what Australia mentioned a moment ago. Canada and other signatories of the letter belief that, if a state wishes to object to the participation of a stakeholder, that is not ECOSOC accredited, this should not be done anonymously, as was the case under the old OEWG modalities. Rather, this should be done in a public way, so that all delegates are aware of the objection and the reasons behind it. Canada is flexible on the exact nature of the modalities that this group should adopt. We believe that these should be based on the principles in the open letter that we proudly signed, including avoiding blanket vetoes, and ensuring transparency in case of objections. We believe a majority of members would support a more inclusive and transparent approach along these lines. Again, this is critical to the credibility of this process, in our view. To conclude, Chair, Canada believes that we must agree to stakeholder modalities before we can move forward with substantive discussions. We would associate with the UK in saying so. We stand ready to work with you and all member states to arrive at modalities that can be agreeable to all. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Canada. European Union to be followed by New Zealand. EU, please.

Thank you, Chair. I have the honor to speak on behalf of the EU and it’s member states. The candidate countries, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Albania. The country of the stabilisation and association process and potential candidate, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, with Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statements of the EU and its member states. Firstly, we wish to express our gratitude to the Chair and to his team for all the preparations that have been done. We look forward to working with you and your team to advance our discussions on an open stable, secure cyberspace. Building on the solid basis that we have achieved through prior GGE’s and the Open-ended Working Group. As reflected in our prior contributions, including also through the open letter that has been shared with you, with principles as regard to multistakeholder participation. The EU and it’s member states value strong multistakeholder participation, a position that is shared by many in this room. Engaging with the multistakeholder community and having them feed into our work here is essential. We take into account here, the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders, that they have in maintaining security and stability in cyberspace. To promote an effective multilateral debate on issues on our common agenda, there’s a clear need to endorse a mandate that allows leveraging the expertise from stakeholders in a systematic, sustained, substantive and meaningful manner, and to do so in a transparent way. In this context, the Open-ended Working Group could also elaborate an exchange on the role of different stakeholders on the implementation of norms of responsible state behavior, and in view of advancing our common understanding, including on their responsibilities, and to provide future guidance, as well as take into account gender considerations into cybersecurity. In this regard, we look forward to continue discussions, and to future formal and informal meetings to be held in a hybrid format to ensure inclusivity in this process, and allow for the participation of delegates who cannot travel to New York in person, due to the current situation. And we will also encourage all states to work with the multistakeholder community in view of our continued discussions. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, EU. New Zealand to be followed by the Netherlands. New Zealand, please.

New Zealand 

Allow me first, to congratulate you on your appointment as Chair. You can be assured of my delegation’s full support throughout this process. Chair, the fundamental strength of the OEWG process is it’s inclusivity. If we are to achieve our shared objectives, the modalities for this meeting must enable an inclusive and meaningful participation in a transparent manner. It is New Zealand’s view that the current proposal on the table, to adopt the modalities used during the 2019 to 2021 OEWG, does not do this. At the first OEWG, we were encouraged by the wide participation of member states. This clearly reflects the importance we, as an international community, placed on the issues before us. We want to ensure that this wide participation continues. To that end, we are disappointed that there was no consideration of a hybrid element for this meeting. We would strongly encourage the consideration of hybrid sessions as, a method of ensuring all interested states are able to participate meaningfully in the process. Pandemic restrictions will continue to have an impact on the ability of various states, including those from our region, to travel and it is important that these restrictions do not result in exclusion. Critically, we must do better to facilitate hearing the perspectives of the broadest range of stakeholders as possible. New Zealand’s strong view is that the OEWG should enable more structured and genuine engagement with civil society, the private sector, academia and non government organizations. We strongly advocate for inclusive dialogue that would provide the basis for stakeholders to play a role in the implementation of decisions, and which would take into consideration their means and ability to participate and contribute to the outcome of this process. UN discussions and processes around stakeholder participation have moved on since the first OEWG. Particularly with regards to the no objection principle. It is important for transparencies sake, that states which choose to object to a stakeholder, communicate the rationale behind this objection. We cannot and must not move backwards on the issue of transparency. My delegation stands ready to work with all delegations to resolve this critical issue. And in doing so, protect the credibility of this important process. I thank you, Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, New Zealand. Netherlands to be followed by Columbia. Netherlands, you have the floor, please.

The Netherlands 

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Wonderful to see you in that position, even if it’s only from the screen from my end. We’re sure that you’ll be able to help us to guide our deliberations. And we look forward to the outcomes and you can certainly count on our full cooperation. Mr. Chair, I think my Mexican colleague said it quite well. You said basically, that states have a primary responsibility for inter-governmental processes that we’re in, but we don’t operate in a vacuum. And especially here, I think the unique characteristics of cyberspace mean that many other entities also have an important responsibility and an important contribution to make, and whether that’s about protecting ICT infrastructure, reporting vulnerabilities, building cyber resilience, the private sector, civil society and academia each have a role to play. So, any effort to make concrete progress in this working group requires the meaningful participation of other stakeholders. And I think you said something along those lines, also in your opening statement. And you asked for solutions. Now, the previous Open-ended Working Group adopted a procedure to allow that meaningful and substantive input, including from NGOs without an ECOSOC consultative status, to which many organizations of course in the cyber ecosystem belong. The problem, however, was that the objections were raised to all NGOs that expressed interest. And since the previous Open-ended Working Group, there have been several UN processes that provided more transparency in the procedures for participation of non ECOSOC, accredited NGOs. In most cases, this includes a provision that requires states to make known the basis of their objections to the group through the secretariat. And we believe such a procedure would increase the transparency and inclusiveness of the process. And it’s not just something for this working group, certainly also in our common agenda. The Secretary General himself, points that out, and I’ll quote that he says, “Now is the time for a stronger, more networked and inclusive multilateral system”. So yes, now is that time, and we stand ready to further consult with you Chair, also as a co-signatory of the letter that was mentioned before, it has over 130 signatories and consult with you other interested member states to find a solution. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Netherlands. Colombia to be followed by the Russian Federation. Colombia, please.

Colombia 

Mr. Chairman, first of all, I’d like to congratulate you on your election to lead this Open-ended Working Group and offer the support of my delegation for the success of our deliberations. Colombia believes that its important to define as early as possible, the modalities of participation of the multiple stakeholders interest in this, so that they can accompany this process from its beginning, so that we can benefit from their expertise and their support in making the agreed measures operational. This is very important if we want to move forward with our goals. We welcome the goal of building on the road already covered by the previous Open-ended Working Group, also in this very important and crucial aspect of the participation of the multiple stakeholders interested. We are grateful for your commitment to work with them in a systematic, sustained and substantive way, as well as the timetable of informal and consultations proposed. Mr. Chairman, various states have proposed a set of principles for the modalities of participation of the various stakeholders that are interested, that would make it possible to expand and enrich the dialogue with them also. And therefore, among this proposal, is the use of a hybrid format for formal and informal meetings, with the goal of providing facilities for greater participation, both for delegates as well as the stakeholders, especially in the face of restrictions, derived from the Pandemic and with the goal of strengthening the inclusivity. This is a compromise proposal that we hope will make it possible for us to move towards consensus on this specific issue. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Colombia. Russian Federation to be followed by Poland. Russian Federation, you have the floor, please.

Russia

Mr. Chairman of the Open-ended Working Group, Ambassador Gafoor, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. I am sincerely happy to welcome all the participants of the first substantive session of the UN Open-ended Working Group on security of and in the use of ICT 2021-2025. You know, initially, I planned to speak a bit later. And I planned to say that this year has become a milestone in this process, because we agreed on the outcome of the first report of the first two working group of Governmental Experts, and also the specialized US Russian draft resolution at the General Assembly was adopted by record number of delegates. And we hope that all these achievements and the generally positive atmosphere would make it possible to have this substantive session be a success. However, in the context of what is looking like a well orchestrated, massive attack, aimed at derailing the beginning of the work of this group, I am forced to react to this discussion. And in response to the statements that I have heard from the colleagues, I have to say the following. Allow me to begin from a bit farther back. We supported Mr. Chairman, who proposed holding our meetings exclusively in person. We believe that an in person format expands our possibilities of finding common ground, expands opportunities for a true democracy. At the same time, I have to note with regret, that a meaningful part of the Russian interagency delegation could not come to New York, due to the fact that the American host’s side delayed the issuance of visas until the very last moment, and some members of our delegation did not receive visas at all. And we know that we’re not the only countries facing a similar situation, we know a range of colleagues from other countries were in the same situation. We consider this situation completely unacceptable and we will counter any attempts to limit the rights of states to participate in the negotiating process within the Open-ended Working Group. And we would appeal to the United States of America to avoid projecting problems in our bilateral relationship to the global stage, and not to abuse its position as a host state and use that as a political lever. We will be very grateful to the Secretariat of the UN, for its considerations on how to not have the situation be repeated in the future, given the five year mandate of the OEWG. I was forced to react to this situation that occurred with visas. Also, in the context of the discussion that we’re witnessing, regarding the participation of stakeholders in the work of our Open-end Working Group. We believe that the priority for us should be, in the course of the negotiating process, to ensure a fully-fledged participation of member states.  That should be the starting point of our work. And only then, as we deal with this, as we achieve this, we can examine other matters, including the participation of NGOs. In the work of our group. The Russian Federation believes that the basis of the mandate of the OEWG, should be what was in resolution 75/240 of the General Assembly of December 2020. And confirmed by United Nations General Assembly resolution 76/19 of December of this year, that should serve as the basis of its activity. And the group will adopt all it’s decisions by consensus. Now, in defining the modalities of cooperation between the OEWG with other stakeholders, we believe it’s very important to strictly adhere to paragraph four of resolution 75/74, which says that the OEWG can approve modalities of cooperation with the other modalities. The mandate of the OEWG which I repeat was confirmed by a resolution of 2020, and then it was confirmed by consensus in a resolution of this year. This mandate does not make it possible to involve stakeholders in informal meetings or any kind of obligations to cooperate with them. Nevertheless, the Russian Federation from the very beginning, starting in 2018, considered that it was important to expand dialogue of member states, who were the main participants of our process, with all the other stakeholders in ensuring the security in the use of ICTs. As you all remember very well in that context in accordance with resolution 73/27 in December of 2019, there was a two day intersessional consultative meeting with non governmental actors, and during the framework of that meeting, all interested NGOs could put forward their initiatives. So, we believe that on this matter, we have to ensure the integrity and the full implementation of the mandate of the OEWG as established by UN-GA resolution 75/240. We have a very important task and that is to achieve concrete results on each element of the mandate. And the member states have the main responsibility for the outcome of our work. So, we need to focus on achieving those goals, rather than on secondary issues. In case there’s an unlimited access to stakeholders to official meetings of the OEWG, member states will simply not have enough time to express their views and discussions might lose its substantive character, and the whole process might just kind of spin out of control. In accordance with the rules and procedures of the General Assembly, NGOs that wish to speak during meetings of the General Assembly or the Security Council, must go through a silence procedure. And states are not forced to publicly explain their reasoning regarding the participation of such organisations. A similar practice should be applied in the framework of the OEWG as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly. All NGOs who are interested in the intergovernmental negotiating process can follow the formal meetings of the OEWG through online broadcasting. If they wish to express their views on any of the issues touched upon, they can send their written submissions to the Chair, who will circulate those submissions for consideration by states, as well as convey them during consultative meetings. As we know, a number of countries including Australia, Finland, The Czech Republic, etc, have already expressed their intention to have meetings in parallel to the first session with stakeholders. We believe that this is an excellent option for the participation of stakeholders. In the framework of the intersessional activity, we could certainly involve stakeholders and other participants, in particular the UN Institute on Discernment Research. We believe that UNIDIR, in this way, could make a significant contribution towards our work. In the future consideration of this topic, we would just like to recall that, unlike the first OEWG, the mandate of the current OEWG does not require holding intersessional consultations with stakeholders. Nevertheless, as part of a consensus based and constructive approach of our delegation in this process, we’re ready to support the proposal of the Chair, to organize work with stakeholders in that format. Including by expanding the number of such intercessional meetings. We will probably express their views further down on this point a little later on. But for the time being, I would like to call on all our colleagues to support the Chair in his vision of the modalities of the work, and in the cooperation of the OEWG with stakeholders and to begin our substantive discussion in the framework of the first substantive session of the Open-ended Working Group. Thank you very much for your attention.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Russian Federation. Poland to be followed by Germany. Poland, you  have the floor, please.

Poland

First of all, and very briefly, let me congratulate on assuming this very important and challenging position, chairing this Open-ended Working Group work. Let me assure that Poland will do his best to support you in that task. My views are not surprisingly, very similar to those expressed by the European Union delegation, but also by the many other delegations speaking before me, including, for example, Mexico or Canada. But I decided to take the floor because Poland hosted the Internet Governance Forum, which took place just last week in Katowice. The forum itself proved, again, that a very wide participation of NGOs, academia and private sector brought a lot of very positive input into processes, and offered a very important perspective on the issues of internet and all the other substantial issues that were part of the IGF. I very much stand on position, that decisions taken within the UN are decisions taken by the members states governments, and only by the governments. Before, I supported a full and maximum allowed participation of any government representation in this discussions. However, at the same time, decisions which are taken by governments must be prepared, after hearing the voices and inputs and wisdom and experiences and perspectives of multi-stakeholders. This is a common experience of the huge majority of states on the national level. In the context of such complex reality of cyberspace, it is very difficult to imagine today, reasonable decisions, and the best decisions of governments, taken without hearing voices of multi stakeholder community. Before we think the same situation should be reflected in the processes taken here, in the framework of the United Nations, we really need to know what they bring into the process. The governments today cannot grasp the whole complexity of the cyberspace related issues. Nor do we have the whole wisdom solely coming from the structures of administration to prepare the best solutions. So in this international process, we believe the multi-stakeholders’ voice should be solid and available to all participating member states. On the matter of substance, how we shall do it, there were some good proposals already expressed, and I would refer here to the delegation of The Netherlands. We stand ready to continue this discussion in order to solve the outstanding issues and to start discussing the substance of the Open-ended Working Group work. I thank you very much.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much, Poland. Floor now to Germany to be followed by Ireland. Germany, please.

Germany 

Honorable Chair, distinguished colleagues. Germany’s fully aligned with the statement of the European Union, and wishes to add a few remarks in a national capacity. The Open-ended Working Group in it’s report this year, not only acknowledged the broad engagement of non government stakeholders and their expertise, it has also underlined that all stakeholders have responsibility to use ICTs in a manner that does not endanger peace and security. So, their engagement is something that can directly contribute to all of our country’s security and international stability. By asking non governmental stakeholders to engage in this process, we are putting a considerable commitment on their shoulders. We’re not only talking about multinational corporations that have offices here in New York, but also about representatives of academia and civil society from other parts of the world, who have relevant expertise to share, but will not be able to do so if we keep their involvement at the level presently foreseen. Therefore, we should ensure an exchange inside this working group, which allows for the substantive and meaningful engagement, both as part of our schedule of sessions and by providing written input to the process. Germany stands ready to advance a solution for this question, which we believe is essential to the overall success of the five year process ahead of us. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Germany, floor now to Ireland to be followed by China. Ireland, please.

Ireland 

Thank you very much Chair. At the outset, I would like to reaffirm Ireland’s support to you and your delegation for a successful OEWG. I’ve asked for the floor this morning to voice our support for the positions expressed by the European Union and others with regards to multi stakeholder engagement. Ireland firmly believes that the work of this group will be strengthened through open, transparent and inclusive processes. And we support the valuable engagement that non state stakeholders can make in this regard. Looking ahead, we firmly believe that real meaningful and substantive stakeholder participation will better inform and guide stronger decisions at this OEWG, and ultimately facilitate the implementation of what is agreed here. It will be important that the modalities for participation in this OEWG reflect this. As you said at the beginning, Chair, during your own opening remarks, “To go far, to be successful, we need to go together”. In Ireland’s view that includes non state stakeholders. Ireland therefore supports the principles of multi stakeholder engagement, as set out in the joint letter to the Chair earlier this month, which we were pleased to co sign. Thank you, Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Ireland. China to be followed by Estonia. China, you have the floor, please.

China

Thank you, Mr. Chair. The United Nations OEWG on the security of, and in the use of ICTs, is an inter governmental process led by member states. Appropriate participation by NGOs can facilitate his work. On the issue of NGO participation, we support the Chair’s approach, i.e. addressing the issue in question, based on the precedent set by the first working group. We support the group’s continued interactions with NGOs during informal consultations. As the current meeting arrangements already allowed for sufficient time and opportunities for NGOs to state their views in a variety of formats and considering the tight shedule and heavy workload of the formal meetings, we do not think that the proposal by some member states and NGOs to further increase NGOs participation is either necessary or feasible. Just now, some countries demand that the NGOs participation issue must be resolved before we can proceed with substantive issues. We regret about that. This leads to some doubt that some countries willingness and determination to facilitate the working groups to make achievements on substantive issues. There are many NGOs in the field of cyberspace, in respect of NGOs that do not have consultative status with ECOSOC, their participation itself has many uncertainties, and therefore poses a challenge to the group’s deliberations. This is precisely why some individual NGOs were unable to participate in the meetings of the first working group. In order to avoid any impact on the progress of the working group, which is an intergovernmental deliberation process, the UN member states are fully entitled to say no to NGOs that apply for participation. However, China trusts that all member states will exercise this right prudently, and no member state will block the participation of NGOs at will. In light of the above, China calls on all parties to support the Chair’s decision safeguard the sovereign rights of member states, and refrain from creating artificial confrontations and affecting the substantive discussions at the working group. I thank you, Mr. Chairperson.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, China. Floor now to Estonia to be followed by the Czech Republic. Estonia, please.

Estonia 

Allow me to begin by expressing my gratitude to you, Mr. Chair, and your team for carrying out extensive consultations, ahead of the first substantive session of the OEWG and your efforts to set us on a good path with an eminently practical approach. Let me reassure you of Estonia’s full support to you. We look forward to a constructive week of discussions which, building on the achievements of the GGEs and the previous Open-ended Working Group, will help lay the groundwork for how this group will proceed and how we can collectively strive to achieve. It is our pleasure to meet a number of colleagues here in New York this morning, while also acknowledging that sadly, many colleagues from capital were not able to travel due to the ongoing pandemic situation. However, before we can proceed with our substantive discussions, we agree that it is essential to settle outstanding issues on modalities, notably multistakeholder engagement. Estonia aligns itself fully with the statement of the European Union and expresses support for colleagues from Canada, Australia, the UK, Mexico, and many others who have already spoken and provided constructive input on the meaningful, and more structured involvement of civil society, academia and the private sector in the Open-ended Working Group, and how to put in place modalities that do justice to the transparency and the open part in the name of the Open-ended Working Group. As a co-signatory of the open letter on multistakeholder engagement, Estonia ascribes particular importance to this issue. We regard it as one of the primary issues that we need to discuss this week. We will not endeavor to explain here why the meaningful involvement of multistakeholder engagement is necessary for the success of the Open-ended Working Group process because it has already been done, and very eloquently by other colleagues, starting with High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, as well as many delegates already. So it seems that there is agreement on why it is important. However, the question now is, how do we actually practically move on from acknowledging the role of the multistakeholder community to laying out genuine and transparent opportunities for their formal engagement from the outset, including transparency or non-objection procedures, well timed and in depth, consultations, timely information sharing and means to contribute their views in a way that would allow them the best chance of consideration by states. If we wish to pave the way for a successful Open-ended Working Group, choosing the path of transparency and genuinely meaningful engagement will prove invaluable. Estonia stands ready to consider options that would allow for compromise that would clearly lay out the modalities that follow the positive examples of other UN processes and allow to harness the expertise of the multistakeholder community. We hope that we achieve this compromise in the coming days, hopefully today. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Estonia, floor now to the Czech Republic to be followed by the Republic of Korea. Czech Republic please.

Czech Republic 

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I asked for the floor because the Czech Republic attaches particular importance to the role of stakeholders within the Open-ended Working Group process. We wish to strongly support Canada’s solution, which respects past UN precedents and is based on modalities adopted earlier this year in the context of UN cybercrime negotiations. The technical community and the private sector play an indispensable role in providing us information around the threats emerging from cyberspace. Many of the recommendations they adopt here, cannot be implemented effectively without their active participation. We need stakeholders in the room rather than waiting in the door otherwise, we risk losing their invaluable insight and technical support. I would like to point out that in the prior iteration of the Open-ended Working Group, 39 non governmental organisations from all regions submitted written contributions to inform our work, unfortunately the majority of those proposals were not debated officially, since only 3 out of 39 contributing non governmental organisations, held the ECOSOC accreditation, and the rest were blocked from participating in our discussions without further explanation. Such blanket use of veto without an adequate explanation and it’s use runs contrary to the spirit of multilateral cooperation, inclusiveness and transparency that this Open-ended Working Group is supposed to embody. By the way, it is not so surprising that 36 of 39 NGOs who submitted written contributions in the previous itteration of the Open-ended Working Group are not accredited at ECOSOC. It only proves that the technological progress is immense, and there are new players and we must be flexible and ready to find an adequate solution. We therefore join all previous speakers, with the exception of a few, in asking for transparent process to be put in place, regarding any objection from a member state to individual accreditation requests. We appreciate having the open discussion on this important issue, and they don’t find it useful characterising this discussion as attacks. As for in person format, the prefer it as well, but in the context of global Pandemic, ‘in person’ doesn’t mean most inclusive and democratic process for everyone. To ensure Open-ended Working Group inclusiveness, we also strongly urge for future informal and formal meetings to be held in a hybrid format. We must recognise the unique nature of this process, which depends on technical contributions of capital-based experts. The hybrid option will be especially important during the global Pandemic when entire countries or continents can be cut off from travel. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Czech Republic. Republic of Korea now, to be followed by Denmark. Korea, please.

Republic of Korea 

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Let me first extend my sincere congratulations to you on your election as Chair of the OEWG. I assure you my delegations for support. My delegation expects the new OEWG to be open, inclusive and transparent, and to have active engagement with the multi stakeholders. In this vein, we joined the open letter on multi stakeholder engagement, but signed by many states and stakeholders. We would like to echo previous speakers that, meaningful and inclusive participation of multi stakeholders is essential for the success of the OEWG. I thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Korea. Denmark now, to be followed by France. Denmark, please.

Denmark 

Thank you, Mr. Chair. With the exception of two states, I feel like I’m preaching to the choir, so I’ll try to make the statement relatively clear and short. First of all, this is the first time Denmark is taking the floor in this process, so allow me to congratulate you on the Chairmanship of this OEWG. But maybe I should actually thank you for volunteering because apparently this won’t be that easy. On the organisation of work. First with regards to multistakeholder participation, my government strategy for technological diplomacy, or techplomacy, if you want to sound cool, highlights the need to engage with the industry that runs most of our critical ICT infrastructure and the platforms where we are increasingly spending our time. I cannot think of a more relevant process to push for including them, than this one. Moreover, as in most cases, we should listen to the civil society and academia. Therefore, our position is that they need to be included formally, in the future negotiating discussions of this OEWG. This is why we were pleased to co-sign the open letter with suggestions on multistakeholder participation. I hope this makes us stand clear. Good solutions have already been provided by Canada and others. Secondly, and this might not come as a surprise to anyone, but the Pandemic is still very much ongoing, this is it why was surprising to us that we’ve moved away from allowing participation in a hybrid format. I think we managed to agree on the last OEWG report in a hybrid format, so I’m having difficulties understanding the rationale not to continue this. I thank you Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Denmark. Floor now to France, to be followed by Greece. France, please.

France

Thank you, Chairman. I greet you well. Since I’m taking the floor for the first time in this formal session, allow me to renew Frances’ congratulations to you on the election to the chair of this group and to express our appreciation for your efforts in preparing this meeting. I would also like to assure you of France’s support and our commitment to constructively participate in the work of this group to build on the collective efforts of states towards peace and stability in cyberspace. We’re pleased to take part in person, in this meeting. In person meetings allow us to have more interactive sessions and to have informal contacts as well, which are essential to diplomatic work. Having said that however, like others here, we regret that some states, because of the health situations that we’re all too familiar with, have had to forego travel to participate in this meeting and we therefore support a hybrid format for future meetings. Mr. Chairman, with respect to the programme of work that you have sent in your letter of the 15th of November, to states, we can support it as is. We support your proposal to have this reporting structure of previous OEWGs, to build on the acquis from those other processes as well as the work of GGEs. We also welcome your will to be results oriented and to take into account initiatives taken by states in ICT security. Let me now turn to the key issue for my delegation, which is the modalities for the participation of multi stakeholders, which we support. I am sorry that some colleagues see that there is a push against your work. The issue of multi stakeholder engagement in cyberspace work is a major issue, and I think we have just started our substantive work. The Organisation of the United Nations has contributed greatly towards creating the Internet Governance Forum, and building a multi stakeholder involvement in cyberspace. The Russian Federation knows this well, because they organised the next forum, so we’re turning now to the substantive issues. Now, it’s true that we are in the First Committee’s framework, and it deals with international peace and security, it is only normal and right that we should have exchange between the member states who have a primary responsibility to bear in this area. Nevertheless, the digital landscape is not national, we’re not talking about oceans or forests, this is an artificial territory, which is made up of researchers, enterprises, and civilians who contribute to it. So, if we are to reflect on the stabilisation and good governance in this artificial territory, we must ensure that our discussions can draw on the expertise and experience of other stakeholders, enterprises, researchers and civil society organisations. This is all the more necessary to ensure that these multistakeholder and the previous OEWG pointed this out in OP-10, because they see they must have a key role to play in the dissemination of responsible technologies in cyberspace. So, we therefore welcome your determination to consult other stakeholders, so as to ensure that there is substantive, sustained input from them. We must ensure that there is more substantial participation of such multi-stakeholders in the work of this group. And everyone knows here that France has come up with several multi stakeholder fora to deal with major aspects of ICTs. We have the Paris and the Christ Church and Canada fora, and we found our place in them without losing our privileges. As a state, we believe that we were able to deepen substantially work on these issues, and to come up with unprecedented, effective and innovative solutions. And we think that this spirit can still help us to guide the work of our Open-ended Working Group. If we are to strengthen credibility, we believe in particular that the procedures by which states can object to the accreditation of an NGO could or should be more transparent. France is therefore associated with the letter which several stakeholders sent you, on the 7th of December to set out several principles that should guide the participation of non governmental experts in this process, we remain at your disposal to constructively exchange our views with you while keeping in mind the spirit of trying to come up with a compromise solution acceptable to everyone. Sir, we thank you once again for your preparatory work, and we’re pleased to be able to take part in substantive negotiations throughout your Chairmanship. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much, France. The floor now to Greece, followed by the United States. Greece, you have the floor please.

Greece 

Thank you, Chair. Greetings, dear delegates. First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment as Chair and state that you have our full support as well. Now, on the issue of stakeholder participation, we fully align with the statement made by the EU delegation, and we also support the opinions expressed by the UK, Australia and Canada. It is our view that stakeholder participation is not only important but also imperative, especially when taking into consideration the road to capacity building and to the development of technical solutions to address cyber threats incidences. I thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much Greece. United States to be followed by Finland. US, you have the floor, please.

United States 

Thank you, Chair and I would join the other chorus of voices congratulating you on the assumption of your position here. I would like to add my voice to those of many of my colleagues on the issue of stakeholder participation. Indeed, the United States strongly supports the active participation of non governmental stakeholders in the Proceedings of the OEWG. International security in cyberspace, like many other issues, relies on the expertise and efforts of far more than governments. Indeed, private sectors, increasingly is playing a role as early warning system in conjunction with governments in the understanding of events and incidents in cyberspace. The United States joined many others in signing the open letter to you, with regard to this subject and we fully support the list of recommendations in that letter. The letter proposes what we believe to be a reasonable approach, that’s in line with the overall trend of a more inclusive and transparent UN process. The United States did not vote in favor of the resolution that mandated this OEWG. Nonetheless, we are participating because we believe there’s an opportunity and a momentum among member states, to carry forward the progress that was made earlier this year in the GGE and the OEWG. Member states promote the OEWG as a transparent and inclusive process. But as has been noted by other speakers, the process for determining stakeholder participation has not been transparent, and was not at all inclusive in the last OEWG. So all, let me repeat all, requests for accreditation, were indiscriminately objected to buy one member state, there was no transparency, no justification. And ultimately, those stakeholders did not participate. We would be naive if we assume that the same states would not abuse the process again. So we must do better this time in this OEWG. But unfortunately, we’re rather disappointed that more consideration was not given to strengthen stakeholder participation in this process. And we call upon you, Chair, on the Secretariat and all other Member States to work toward a more inclusive and transparent process that’s consistent with the nature of this unique technologies. So, the United States aligns with other member states calling to update the modalities to the current norm in New York. And we encourage you, Chair, Secretariat and all member states to implement the recommendations in the open letter. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, United States. Floor now to Finland to be followed by Costa Rica. Finland, you have the floor, please.

Finland 

Congratulating you upon your election as Chairman of our working group. Finland aligns itself fully with a statement delivered by the European Union. The EU, including Finland, is one of the signatories of the open letter addressed to you, Mr. Chair, stating out suggestions to improve multi stakeholder participation. In our view, the OEWG negotiations should be inclusive, which they are not, without meaningful multi stakeholder participation. Essentially, multi stakeholders should have access to formal negotiations throughout the five year term of the OEWG. Their participation should be systematic, sustained, and substantive. Let me stress that non state actors can bring to the table their diverse and unique experiences and experience. This will make the process stronger, more relevant in the real world context, and more in line with the vision outlined in the UN Secretary General’s roadmap for digital cooperation and in his report, our common agenda. If there is a UN process where meaningful multi stakeholder involvement is of singular importance. It is this very working group, due to the central role of the private sector in ICT innovation, and in ensuring in a multi stakeholder approach, that the internet is free, open, safe and secure. It is also crucial that during our work, we maintain a human centric focus on all of the topics on our agenda. In order to be able to do that, we must hear the voices of civil society. It is their voices that can best help us do exactly that. For these reasons, Finland believes that now is not the time to turn back the clock, but to move forward towards greater transparency and inclusivity. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Finland. Floor now to Costa Rica to be followed by Turkey. Costa Rica, please.

Costa Rica

Thank you very much, Chairman. Costa Rica congratulates you on your chairmanship of this Open-ended Working Group. M country is one of the 41 states that signed the letter requesting the active participation of non governmental organizations and other stakeholders. And to ensure that this participation could take place in a hybrid format for Costa Rica, these are two crucial and not incidental issues, because we have seen this issue dealt with in other open ended processes. This is a principal position and we have defended this position in all fora in this organization, especially those dealing with international peace and security. The participation of civil society is not an option, it is a need, and this is also supported by the Secretary General in his common agenda. Given the importance of multilateralism, and cooperation and erosion of citizen participation in international communities, our response should be to open the doors to them and to be inclusive and transparent. Costa Rica therefore rejects any attempt to impede and prevent civil society from participating in our work and we must ensure that this is open and inclusive because this is an issue of political will for us, nothing less, nothing more. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Costa Rica. Floor now to Turkey to be followed by Nicaragua. Turkey, please.

Turkey

Mr. Chair, at the outset, I wish to congratulate you on assuming the chairmanship of the Open-Ended Working Group on security of and in the use of information and communication technologies. And I thank you for your hard work in advance of this first substantive session. I assure you that throughout your term, you can count on the full support of Turkey as we undertake this important work. My delegation aligns itself with the statements made by the European Union. Regarding the working methods and modalities of the OEWG, we believe that we can learn from all the stakeholders as we seek to mitigate the threats in the field of ICTs. In the informal intersessional meetings of the previous OEWG, we have benefited from the participation of a diverse range of stakeholders. As such, we continue to support a meaningful participation of NGOs in our deliberations. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much, Turkey. Floor now to Nicaragua, followed by Iran.

Nicaragua

Thank you. Thank you, Chairman. We congratulate you in your election, and we’re happy to see you chair this Open-ended Working Group. We trust in your ability to help us reach the goals that we’ve set for ourselves, and we appreciate your effort in the work done in this group. In your statement, you said that we need concrete results, and for this we need to have a broad discussion on substantive issues. We are happy that this group gives us an inclusive intergovernmental platform to exchange views as broadly as possible and to work towards this concrete result. While it’s true that the contribution of stakeholders and NGOs can contribute to our work, this should be done in an appropriate way and in accordance with established practice, especially the need to respect the UN procedures on these topics, which have already been established in resolutions with ECOSOC and that include the principle of non-objection. However, we must also be cautious in that these participations do not interfere with our intergovernmental deliberations. This is why we support your proposal in your letter of the 15th of December and that the participation of stakeholders be during intersessional periods, including the possibility of expanding meetings and consultations to include these stakeholders, and you can count on our support, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Nicaragua. Floor now to the Islamic Republic of Iran to be followed by Cuba. Iran, you have the floor, please.

Iran 

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair for giving the floor. Allow me to begin by congratulating your election as the chair of this OEWG, and please rest assured of my delegation’s full cooperation during this five-year process. I would like to echo what was said by Russia and China. And in addition, I should underline the principal position of my delegation, which is the necessity of avoiding politicized approach on any issue, be it visa or participation. My delegation agrees with your conclusion in the first organizational meeting, as well as the last one in November, to continue the practice of the first OEWG, which indeed was successful through the informal interaction that took place through a designated representative of the chair of the OEWG, and its report afterward. We know that there were a lot of other opportunities that the NGOs and civil society representatives could address and communicate with the OEWG. We welcome their contribution. However, this cannot and should not be only through formal participation, that is the privilege of only the states. We also believe that the inclusivity, transparency and democratic features in the report of the previous OEWG were only advantages to this global process under the UN auspices against the disadvantages of the GGE, that they lack all those advantages. Therefore, those terms should not be interpreted in a way that is not supported by consensus and giving a similar status to the NGOs. It is a record that the precious time of the OEWG should be spent on marginal organizational issue, while we must start our work on the substance. Once again, my delegation is supporting, continuing the previous practice with regard to their participation. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Iran. Floor now to Cuba, to be followed by the Syrian Arab Republic. Cuba you have the floor, please.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to first of all, start by reiterating our congratulations on your election to chair this new Open-ended Working Group of the General Assembly. You can count on the support of our delegation in fulfilling your task during the deliberations of this group. Mr. Chairman, we attach a great deal of importance to the work of this Open-ended Working Group. And we believe that all member states should have the possibility of participating in it on an equal footing. Through our various delegations, including those who have to travel to New York. And for this purpose, they must be issued visas in a timely manner. Now, with regard to the organizational issue that we’re discussing, our delegation believes that it’s important to preserve the practice of the previous Open-ended Working Group. We consider that we should respect the United Nations procedures regarding relationship with NGOs. This is established in resolution 1996/31 of ECOSOC, including the application of the principle of non-objection. This is why we support the proposed course of action contained in your letter of the 15th of November 2021. We note that you have already scheduled informal consultations with other stakeholders. As we understand, we can also have intersessional meetings to engage in dialogue with these stakeholders and other interested parties. Thank you very much.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Cuba. Floor now to the Syrian Arab Republic. Syria, you have the floor, please.

Syria

Thank you, Chairman. I would like to start by congratulating you on your election to chair this Open-ended Working Group on security of and in the use of ICTs 2021-2025. We trust that your expertise will make it possible to facilitate the work of this Open-ended Working Group. Mr. Chairman, we’d like to stress the importance for the host country to adhere to constructive and positive approaches, especially on the issue of visas. This should be based on fulfilling the obligations and legal requirements, these visas should be issued independently of any political considerations. Now, regarding the organizational issue and the participation of stakeholders, we support the modalities that had previously been adhered to and we support the statement of the Russian Federation and China. We also support your letter from the 15th of November. Thank you very much.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Syria. The floor now to Italy to be followed by Slovenia. Italy, you have the floor please.

Italy 

Thank you, Chair. Can you hear me? Yes, thank you, Chair. Good morning all, distinguished colleagues and friends, and especially Distinguished Chairman. Let me once again congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, for your election and for the work you have done so far that has brought us here today. Like in the past edition, I’m here to testify to Italy’s will to participate actively and in good faith in this common endeavour. And please rest assured, Mr. Chair, that you have our full support. Italy aligns itself with the EU’s statement that has been delivered earlier this session and would like to join other EU member states and other states who have touched upon the question of multistakeholder participation. It is also a signatory of the letter on modalities of participation because we think that, also building on the experience and on the report of the previous OEWG, the suggestions contained in the letter are reasonable, constructive criteria to make sure we fulfill the expectations emerged, both in the GGE and in the previous OEWG, when the important role of different stakeholders in this matter has been repeatedly affirmed. And like others, we stand ready to further discuss possible ways forward. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much, Italy. Floor now to Brazil, followed by Venezuela. Brazil, you have the floor, please.

Brazil

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving me the floor. Brazil at the outset, congratulates you on your appointment to this position and we ensure you have our full support to your work. On the matter beeing discussed now, on the the modalities of participation of civil society, Brazil reaffirms its full commitment to a multistakeholder approach to the work of the OEWG. We believe that the involvement of civil society, academia and the private sector has the ability to provide unique inputs, not only for the elaboration of norms, rules and principles, but for the effective implementation of these formulations, not to mention their invaluable role in capacity building initiatives. Brazil therefore fully supports the inclusive and transparent modalities, to allow for the comprehensive involvement of non-governmental entities in discussions on all topics in this OEWG agenda, and we are ready to contribute to find a consensus solution to this issue. Thank you very much.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much, Brazil. I have four more speakers left. I’m conscious also of the time, so I’d like to propose that we close the speaker’s list and we hear the rest of the remaining four speakers, and then I’ll share some reflections. The floor now is to Venezuela to be followed by Chile. Venezuela, you have the floor please.

Venezuela

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My delegation would like to congratulate you on your election to chair this working group, and you can count on the support of our delegation. Venezuela considers that the topics contained in the mandate of this group are very important and also are quite broad and quite complex. We are open to having the working group receiving contributions that enrich the intergovernmental approach and perspective, and we believe that the practices already established have been effective, and thus we should not adopt new modalities. Intersessional mechanisms and informal meetings open the possibility of participation of stakeholders and also makes it possible to interpret and put in practice the mandate of the group with regard to paragraph four of resolution 75/250. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Venezuela. Floor now to Chile, to be followed by Slovenia. Chile, you have the floor, please.

Chile

Thank you, Chairman. We would like to echo the congratulations on your election to chair of this group. I would like to reiterate our readiness to move forward in these negotiations. For Chile the participation of all stakeholders is essential so that we can truly have an open process. The challenges and threats that we confront in cyberspace cannot be successfully tackled if we don’t incorporate into our discussion, stakeholders who could contribute to the development and implementation of viable measures and solutions. Bearing this in mind, my country would support what was stated by other delegations and we are one of the signatories regarding the modalities of stakeholders. This is because we believe that this document proposes constructive, transparent and viable solutions to incorporate all stakeholders, who without a doubt will help and make significant contributions to a broader, substantive discussion of the topics that are in the mandate of this group. Thank you.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much, Chile. Slovenia to be followed by Pakistan. Slovenia, please.

Slovenia

Distinguished Chair, Your Excellencies, dear colleagues. First of all, allow me, dear Chair, to congratulate you to the chairmanship of the Open-ended Working Group. And I would like to thank you for your vision of the OEWG. It is a forward looking and action-oriented process, and for your express commitment to explore possible engagements with the stakeholders in a systematic, sustained and substantive manner. Slovenia fully aligns itself with the position of the European Union and firmly believes that all interested stakeholders should be allowed to engage in regular interactive discussions, and share their views and in this sense fully endorses a set of principles for the modalities of stakeholder participation, laid out in the December 7th, open letter to you, Chair. Slovenia stress that the Open-ended Working Group should be a transparent, inclusive and consensus driven environment for stakeholders to elaborate, express and exchange views, as regards to the responsible use of ICTs by states. Thank you so much.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much, Slovenia. Pakistan to be followed by Ecuador. Pakistan, please.

Pakistan 

Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. First of all, my delegation congratulates you on your election as Chair of this group and I assure you my delegation’s full support and our cooperation. We look forward to working with you closely. On the issue of participation of the stakeholders, while acknowledging the role and contribution of non-governmental stakeholders in supporting states to ensure an open, secure, stable and accessible peaceful ICT environment, we welcome the Chair’s proposal to maintain the precedent of first Open-ended Working Group regarding the participation of stakeholders in formal meetings and continuing engagement with stakeholders in informal consultative meetings. We believe that this group is a state driven process with participation of all estates, however, the inputs and insights of multistakeholders are valuable and should be taken into account like we did during the first Open-ended Working Group. Secondly, it is also important that the participation of multistakeholders during the intersessional sessions meetings interactions should also be inclusive. The private sector and civil society organizations are predominantly those which exist or emerged from advanced industrialized countries. Such multistakeholder participation will inevitably continue to reflect the priorities and values of the Global North. The objective, interest and Weiss of South non-state actors are also less numerous and influential should not be drowned out. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you, Pakistan. The floor now is to Ecuador to be followed by Switzerland.

Ecuador

Thank you, Chairman. I want to thank you for your statement today and for the message of the High Representative, Miss Izumi Nakamitsu and the messages for Ambassador Lauber, the Chair of the previous Open-ended Working Group, and Ambassador Patriota, Chair of the Group of Government Experts. Ecuador appreciates that the reports of both groups have been adopted by consensus and that the first committee in fact adopted only one resolution on the topic that received the broad support of all the membership. We believe that the same spirit of cooperation should  guide our work in this session, and we should take advantage of it. I’d also like to acknowledge the transparent and inclusive way in which you conducted the organizational meeting last June, and I appreciate your intersessional work. I’d like to thank you for your letter of the 15th of November in which you transmitted to us the programme of work proposed for this substance of session. Ecuador values your proposal and we consider that it is still possible to improve the format with regard to the hybrid aspect of the meeting. We believe, for example, that the case of member state delegations is not necessary to change established rules, however my delegation is sensitive and supports the full participation of the multiple stakeholders that are interested. We believe that to achieve a more inclusive group, it should be possible to provide hybrid formats so that representatives of civil society, especially those in charge of gender issues, as well as such sectors as academia and the private sector could contribute to our work. We support this aspect of the letter to which delegations who spoke earlier referred to lastly. Mr. Chairman, you can count on the wholehearted support of Ecuador in the sessions work. Thank you very much.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much, Ecuador. The floor now is to Switzerland. You have the floor, please.

Switzerland 

Thank you, Mr. Chair for giving me the floor. Mr. Chair, as this is the first time that Switzerland takes the floor, I would also like to congratulate you on your Chairmanship, you can count on our full support. Switzerland is looking forward to contributing constructively to this and upcoming sessions of this group. Switzerland is in favour of broad participation by various stakeholders in the work of this group and in both formal and informal meetings. We welcome your proposal outlined in your letter of the 5th November on systematic, sustained and substantive engagement with other stakeholders. But we think that we should be even more ambitious. For this reason, Switzerland is a co-signatory of the letter of states and multistakeholders to you, dated the 7th of December. I will not repeat the arguments contained therein individually. Other speakers have already done, so possible solutions are outlined in that letter. Switzerland is convinced that this is the only way to ensure the democratic, transparent and inclusive process that this Open-ended Working Group is supposed to be. States should be transparent about their objections and it should be up to this Open-ended Working Group to then discuss and decide on participation. This does not mean that states give up control over the process. A voice is not a vote. But we need to hear all voices to make reasonable, fair and implementable decisions. One thing is clear, measures agreed in this Open-ended Working Group cannot be implemented without the active participation of non-governmental actors. Mr. Chair, you mentioned, or you used in your statement in an African saying, I would like to add another one. Mr. David Koh, co-chief executive of the cybersecurity agency of Singapore and Commissioner for cybersecurity, always reminded us in the Open-ended Working Group and the GGE, that cyber security is a team sport. He used an Asian saying recently during a meeting to demonstrate that “Breaking one chopstick is easy. Breaking a bunch of chopsticks is hard”. We think that this puts it really well. We want to promote an open, free, secure, stable and accessible cyberspace. We need all actors with their chopsticks around the table, if I may say so. Switzerland would have wished a hybrid format for this meeting. An important justification for this Open-ended Working Group and the previous one, was that it is an exclusive and democratic process. Especially in times of the pandemic, which also hit my delegation, and many other delegations in a far more a way. Not all delegations or stakeholders can travel, a hybrid format would have contributed to full and inclusive participation. We hope that such a format will be chosen for future meetings if needed. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ambassador Gafoor

Thank you very much, Switzerland for your remarks. I have no further requests for the floor and I just wanted to very quickly share some of my reflections. First, there’s been several expressions of congratulations to the Chair. I think what the Chair needs is statements of commiserations, which I will gladly accept. But I’ve also noted that many of you have expressed full support to the work of the Chair, that encourages me and I thank you for that in advance. Second, this discussion is a necessary discussion. And I therefore decided that we should have it in an open, inclusive format, so that we can all hear each other, listen to each other, and hopefully understand each other. Fundamentally, this discussion on stakeholder participation was about building trust and confidence. Because ultimately, the issue is whether all of us here in this working group, are able to understand each other in such a way that we can trust each other. That we are all working together to achieve meaningful outcomes in the context of the working group. So, I hoped that this conversation today was not just messages sent to the Chair, but in a sense messenges sent to each one of you, was a conversation amongst yourselves. And I hope that that will contribute to not only understanding better each other’s perspectives, but also building some degree of trust on this question of stakeholder participation. The third point that I wanted to say is that it is important that we build on what we have achieved so far. And some of you had pointed out that in the context of the previous OEWG, there was indeed, wide participation of stakeholders. I remain convinced that we can have systematic, sustained and substantive engagement with stakeholders. The challenge is that, in the context of the working group, we need to make all decisions by consensus. There were also references to some other examples and some other modalities. And I think we need to look at all options. But we also need to note that in the working group, we do not have the option of voting, as has been the case in other working groups or processes in the General Assembly. And what that means is that we need to strive and achieve a consensus on this issue of stakeholder participation. My sense listening to the discussion this morning, is that there’s actually broad support for stakeholder participation, and a recognition that stakeholders can indeed contribute to the work of the Open-ended Working Group. And I found this encouraging, and I was also encouraged by the constructive tone of the various interventions. Now, it is clear that there are different views and different expectations. And my sense is that there is still a gap and we need to work harder to achieve consensus. But we may be much closer than we think, and the differences may not be insurmountable. And I am hopeful that we can find a consensus solution going forward. My sense also, is that this issue will benefit from further informal-informal discussions, and I’d like to propose that I could be in an informal-informal meeting during lunchtime at 1:15pm in conference room 4. That is what I was talking to the Secretariat about. Now, I’d like to point out that conference room 4 has a seating capacity only for 85 delegations, I’m told, so we certainly will not be able to accommodate everyone because of the COVID mitigation measures, but at the same time, it is not my intention to exclude anyone. But if there is a willingness to have an informal-informal discussion over lunch, to explore possible solutions, I am available and at your disposal to convene this meeting at 1:15pm, today, immediately. This is an important issue and certainly, I’m committed to doing all I can to find a way forward. So, I’d like to see whether anyone has any objections to having an informal-informal meeting to explore solutions, at 1:15pm at Conference Room 4, this afternoon. I see no objections, and given the COVID mitigation measures and the fact that the room will only be able to accommodate 85 delegations, I would encourage interested delegations to make sure that you have not too many people present in the room so that we do respect the COVID mitigation measures prevailing at UN headquarters in New York. So, if there are no further comments or requests for the floor, I would see all interested delegations at CR 4 at 1:15pm, in order to explore possible solutions that we can hopefully bring the process forward. The meeting is adjourned. Thank you.

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