United Nations Group of Governmental Experts Achieve a ‘Landmark Consensus’

The United Nations (UN) Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) has reached a ‘landmark consensus’ during its third meeting in New York in June, according to the appraisal from both the United States (US) and European Union (EU). The report is to be published at the 68th UN General Assembly in September 2013.

Despite the developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security having been on the UN agenda for years, little progress in achieving consensus has been shown during the meetings of the UN GGE within the area of responsibility of the First Committee. As discussed in a previous INCYDER news item(2012), the two first GGEs were convened during the timeframe of 2004 and 2010, and a third GGE was called for by the GA resolution A/RES/66/241 in 2011. The latter held its third and last meeting in New York in June and will report to the 68th session of the General Assembly in September 2013.2

Despite the report of the third GGE not being available to the public, the UN and EU have already officially welcomed the results of this series of meetings.

The US calls the GGE’s last meeting in New York an achievement with a ‘landmark consensus’, as ‘substantial progress’ had been made in reaching a common understanding on ‘the need to promote international stability, transparency, and confidence in cyberspace; that existing international law should guide state behaviour with regard to the use of cyberspace; and how the international community can help build the cyber security capacity of less-developed states.’3 In addition, according to the press release, the group, consisting of Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Canada, China, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US, had affirmed the applicability of international law, especially the UN Charter, to cyberspace.

The EU, not having published a specific press release on the issue, confirms that the GGE report ‘attaches considerable importance to the work of regional security organisations, including the OSCE, in developing CBMs [Confidence Building Measures]’, and suggests that the report is helpful in future discussions on confidence-building measures in cyberspace.4 Germany has also expressed satisfaction at having played a considerable role in the meetings and that the GGE had reached a consensus that ‘states cannot under international law deny responsibility for actions attributable to them but undertaken by non-state actors.’5

  1. UN General Assembly, Resolution A/RES/66/24, Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security, December 2, 2011. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/66/24 []
  2. United Nations, “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security,” http://www.un.org/disarmament/topics/informationsecurity/ []
  3. U.S. Department of State, “Statement on Consensus Achieved by the UN Group of Governmental Experts On Cyber Issues,” press release, June 7, 2013. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2013/06/210418.htm []
  4. European Union, “EU statement on Working Session I – Transnational Threats and Challenges, OSCE 2013 Annual Security Review Conference Vienna,” June 19-20, 2013, http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/vienna/documents/eu_osce/other/2013/as… []
  5. German Federal Foreign Office, “Disarmament Commissioner pledges German Government’s commitment to international cyber security,” press release, June 14, 2013. http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN/Aussenpolitik/Friedenspolitik/Abruestu… []