Delegates Propose New Programme of Action for Struggle against Threats to Cybersecurity, in First Committee Thematic Debate
Tackling cybersecurity threats that continue to destabilize Governments, infrastructure and regions requires a new programme of action and the collective will to implement it, delegates said today, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) held a daylong thematic debate on several agenda items.
Delegates shared concerns and suggestions about how best to address cybersecurity threats, the stalled disarmament machinery and regional disarmament challenges. Several delegations submitted draft resolutions, including on engaging young people in disarmament processes and on establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free southern hemisphere.
Echoing broad concerns about and calls for cybersecurity measures to ensure online safety, the Chair of the European Union’s Working Party on Conventional Arms Exports condemned the increasing misuse of cyberspace for the conduct of malicious cyber activities. He said the reports by the Open‑Ended Working Group and Group of Governmental Experts reaffirm the need for a framework for responsible State behaviour in the use of information and communications technology, including the applicability of international law in cyberspace. He noted that the European Union is among a diverse cross‑regional group, including 53 United Nations Member States, that proposed a programme of action to advance responsible State behaviour in cyberspace, adding that such a programme would offer a permanent, inclusive and action‑oriented mechanism within the United Nations.
Indonesia’s representative, speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, said cyberspace must never become a theatre of military operations, calling for intensifying efforts to prevent it from becoming an arena of conflict. Describing the creation of treaty‑based nuclear‑weapon‑free zones as important for disarmament, he said nuclear‑weapon States must provide unconditional assurances against the use of, or threat to use, nuclear weapons against all States parties to such a zone, under any circumstances.
The Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking for the Arab Group, said the Middle East is among the world’s regions most in need of disarmament and arms control. As such, he called for full implementation of the resolution adopted at the 1995 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which supports the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East. He went on to express deep concern over Israel’s continued refusal to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), called for international partnerships to develop and strengthen the capacity and frameworks to confront threats to peace and security and welcomed the decision to establish an INTERPOL liaison office within the region. However, CARICOM remains disappointed with the postponement of the Disarmament Commission’s substantive session and hopes delegations will work steadfastly, transparently and inclusively to overcome the paralysis inhibiting the conclusion of agreements, he said.
The representative of Brunei Darussalam, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underlined the importance of strengthening international and regional cooperation on nuclear disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Highlighting the collaboration between ASEAN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), she welcomed the finalization of the ASEAN Protocol for Emergency Response Preparedness to a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency by the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy.
Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, speaking for the Group of Francophone Ambassadors in Geneva and New York, underscored the importance of multilingualism during both in‑person and virtual meetings. He expressed hope that the disarmament fellowship programme launched by the General Assembly during its first special session on disarmament will benefit in the future from the contribution of multilingualism, while pointing out that the programme will still be provided exclusively in English, 43 years after its creation.
Also speaking today were representatives of the Netherlands, Mexico, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Algeria, Bangladesh, Canada, Iraq, Egypt, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Austria, Iran, United Kingdom, Thailand, Cuba, Australia, Ireland, Brazil, Georgia, Indonesia, China, India, Republic of Korea, Estonia, France, Czech Republic, Sweden, Togo, Switzerland, Turkey, United States, Costa Rica, Poland, Philippines, Hungary, France, Nepal, Pakistan, Colombia, Ethiopia and Malaysia.
The Permanent Observer for the Holy See also delivered a statement.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran and Syria.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 21 October, to convene a virtual exchange with independent and high‑level experts.
PANGERAN IBRANI SITUMORANG (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, strongly rejected and condemned illegal and malicious use of new information and communications technology. Emphasizing that cyberspace must never become a theatre of military operations, he called for intensifying efforts to prevent it from becoming an arena of conflict. He also stressed the need to observe environmental norms in preparing and implementing disarmament and arms limitation agreements. He went on to underline the importance of reducing military expenditures, urging all States to devote resources made available from disarmament efforts to address new challenges in development, poverty eradication and the elimination of diseases that afflict humanity, including the coronavirus pandemic. Describing the creation of treaty‑based nuclear‑weapon‑free zones as important for disarmament, he said it is essential that nuclear‑weapon States provide unconditional assurances against the use of, or threat to use, nuclear weapons against all States parties to such a zone, under any circumstances, and urged Member States to promote United Nations activities in the nuclear‑weapon‑free zones by revitalizing the three regional centres for peace and disarmament.
Concerning the disarmament machinery, he said the main difficulty lies in the lack of political will on the part of some States to pursue progress, particularly on nuclear disarmament. He called on the Conference on Disarmament to agree on a balanced programme without delay, rejecting politicization of its work. He also called upon States to agree, in the Disarmament Commission, on a recommendation for realizing the objective of nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation of nuclear weapons. Underscoring the importance of convening a fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, he said it would offer an opportunity to review the most critical aspects of the process and mobilize action. He went on to express the Non‑Aligned Movement’s deep concern over the inadequate representation of Member States in the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, and requested that the Secretary‑General and the High Representative ensure equitable representation.
He then introduced draft resolutions on the observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of agreements on disarmament and arms control; promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non‑proliferation; relationship between disarmament and development; implementation of the Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace; United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament; and convening of the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament.
DENNIS FRANCIS (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for international partnerships among Member States, the United Nations system and other relevant stakeholders to develop capacity and strengthen frameworks to confront threats to peace and security. To that end, CARICOM welcomes the decision to establish an INTERPOL liaison office within the region, he said, emphasizing the need for measures to eliminate crime and violence, against women and girls in particular. Noting that COVID‑19 lockdowns and stay‑at‑home orders have led to a disturbing increase in armed domestic violence, he said the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean review of small arms laws contains provisions on domestic violence and is in force in 22 countries of the region. It also recommends restricting the ability of convicted perpetrators of domestic violence to acquire or renew firearms licences, he added. Other initiatives include the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, which is ensuring continuity and effectiveness in the region’s actions and responses to security challenges.
CARICOM continues to implement new measures to address current developments in science and technology and their potential impact on security and disarmament measures, he continued, calling for understanding of new and emerging weapon technologies and encouraging Member States to implement the norms, rules, and principles for responsible behaviour. He welcomed the final reports on cybersecurity by the related Open‑Ended Working Group and Group of Governmental Experts. He went on to note that whereas the CARICOM region is not directly affected by armed conflict, it faces tremendous challenges related to armed violence, and significant resources are being diverted away from development to address threats to security. Inevitably, repurposing already limited resources often has a negative impact on social, educational and infrastructure programmes and creates an untenable burden for countries already suffering from debt overload and highly vulnerable to natural disasters, he stressed. On the disarmament machinery, he said CARICOM remains disappointed with the postponement of the Disarmament Commission’s substantive session and hopes delegations will work steadfastly, transparently and inclusively to overcome the paralysis inhibiting the conclusion of agreements.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the Group of Francophone Ambassadors in Geneva and New York, said the health crisis has obstructed system‑wide implementation of multilingualism. He emphasized that six working languages are required, whether in physical or virtual meetings. While acknowledging that the liquidity crisis has meant cuts in interpretation, he said financial issues should never be permitted to affect multilingualism. He went on to reaffirm the Group’s strong interest in the fellowship programme that the General Assembly launched during its first special session on disarmament, expressing hope that it will benefit from the contributions of multilingualism in the future. He also expressed regret that the programme will still be provided exclusively in English, 43 years after its creation.
NOOR QAMAR SULAIMAN (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and endorsing the statement delivered on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, recalled that the bloc established the Cybersecurity Coordinating Committee in 2020 to promote cross‑sectoral and cross‑pillar cooperation in strengthening cybersecurity in the region. ASEAN remains committed to the South‑East Asia Nuclear‑Weapon—Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Treaty, to the fundamental principles and purposes enshrined in the ASEAN Charter and Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and to upholding a rules‑based regional order, including by strengthening international and regional cooperation on nuclear disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, she affirmed. Noting the collaboration between ASEAN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), she cited the Nuclear Technology for Controlling Plastic Pollution project in the region to address global plastic pollution. She also welcomed finalization of the ASEAN Protocol for Emergency Response Preparedness to a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency by the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy.
ERAN NAGAN, Chair of the European Union Working Party on Conventional Arms Exports, in its capacity as observer, condemned the increasing misuse of cyberspace for the conduct of malicious cyber activities, saying the reports on cybersecurity by the Open‑Ended Working Group and Group of Governmental Experts reaffirm the need for a framework for responsible State behaviour in the use of information and communications technology, including the applicability of international law in cyberspace. They also recommend 11 norms of responsible State behaviour, he added. He noted that the European Union was among a diverse cross‑regional group, including 53 United Nations Member States, to propose, in 2020, the establishment of a programme of action to advance responsible State behaviour in cyberspace to take that effort forward. Such a programme would offer a permanent and inclusive action‑oriented mechanism within the United Nations. Describing the situation in Afghanistan as a major challenge for the international community as a whole, he emphasized that the European Union will initiate a regional political platform of cooperation with that country’s direct neighbours as a matter of high priority.
He strongly condemned the clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity through acts of aggression in the east of that country by the Russian Federation, as well as its illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, emphasizing that the European Union will not recognize those actions. He reiterated the bloc’s strong support for the Minsk Agreements. Describing regional partnerships as a fundamental factor in developing a regional dialogue that can facilitate confronting issues of common interests, he said the European Union strongly supports the establishment of regional and subregional confidence- and security‑building measures. Calling on all States to help facilitate the long‑overdue negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other explosive devices in the Conference on Disarmament, he also expressed concern about the continued stalemate in the Disarmament Commission, stressing: “We cannot allow yet another platform of the disarmament machinery to fall victim to issues that are not related to its substantive work.”
MAJED BAMYA, Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, emphasized the importance of developing binding norms to combat the exploitation of information and communications technology and to regulate responsible State behaviour. Noting that the Middle East is among the regions most in need of disarmament and arms control, he called upon sponsor States of the resolution on the Middle East to fulfil their responsibility for supporting efforts to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the region. Welcoming the success of the first conference on that issue in 2019, he said the Arab Group looks forward to the second conference. He went on to express deep concern over Israel’s refusal to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, also affirming the need for universality in meetings in the upcoming year to avoid the failures of the past.
MARK ZELLENRATH (Netherlands) said the reports of the Open‑Ended Working Group and Group of Governmental Experts provide a means to shape a framework within which international law can foster peace in cyberspace. International law must also promote a peaceful environment for information and communications technology, with human rights being applicable both online and offline, he added. There is also urgent need to advance implementation of a normative framework in a transparent manner. He went on to emphasize that equal and full participation of women is essential in the pursuit of peace and security, recalling the failure of disarmament forums to agree on a related resolution. Alarmed by the introduction of draft resolutions aimed at weakening the disarmament and non‑proliferation regimes, he stressed that cyberthreats and other current realities must be addressed through multilateralism and finding common solutions to common problems.
MARÍA ANTONIETA SOCORRO JÁQUEZ HUACUJA (Mexico), noting that the Conference on Disarmament is forcing delegates to “spin their wheels”, echoed France’s delegate in describing it as “brain dead”, citing its working methods, including the monthly rotation of the presidency and “ad nauseum” procedures on a programme of work that is never adopted. The Conference did not even update its rules of procedure to make it gender neutral, she pointed out. Condemning the arbitrary rule of consensus as one of the worst practices of multilateralism, she emphasized that proper practice is to vote when consensus cannot be reached. The Conference is usurping the functions of the Disarmament Commission, she said, adding that there is “pretence and deceit”. Those States committed to disarmament have found “work‑arounds” on various treaties, she asserted, stressing that the international community must rethink the institutional raison d’être of bodies not up to the challenges of the twenty‑first century.
ANDRÉS FERNANDO FIALLO KAROLYS (Ecuador) expressed regret over the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, lethal autonomous weapon systems and the militarization of artificial intelligence. Regulating trade in such technologies is not enough, he said, emphasizing the need to negotiate a binding resolution. Defending the responsible and peaceful use of information and communications technology, he noted that 2021 is a milestone year for artificial intelligence because of regulatory agreements reached under international law. Concerning the increase in transnational challenges, he stressed that if one Member State is not safe, none are safe. He went on to highlight the role of cyberdiplomacy, and efforts by the United States and the Russian Federation to present a single resolution, saying his delegation is pleased to see the return of debates on thematic clusters, which require delegates to focus and listen more closely to one another.
ILYAS AKHMETOV, Head of Division, Department of International Security in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said the biological and chemical weapons conventions provide strict and effective controls. Concerning regional disarmament, he emphasized the critical need to create a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East and to ensure that Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) guides export control. Referring to his delegation’s concept note related to advancing progress on implementing the Biological Weapons Convention, he said the proposal suggests convening a conference to establish a dialogue with all stakeholders, foster trust and discuss the creation of a related agency. Efforts to create such an agency will be based on consensus and will encourage dialogue among all States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention, he added.
YASEEN LAGARDIEN (South Africa) affirmed that his country remains committed to a functioning Conference on Disarmament, expressing regret at the 25‑year‑long stalemate within that body and its inability to discharge its functions and mandate. Urgent attention is needed to rectify that unsustainable situation, which affects the stature of the Conference on Disarmament, he said, emphasizing that the Disarmament Commission must also find common ground to overcome delays in its work. Despite the deadlock, however, the General Assembly was able to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he recalled.
NAZIM KHALDI (Algeria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, the African Group and the Arab Group, said his country is working closely with neighbouring States to enhance security in their region. Noting that the Sahel is particularly plagued by the prevalence of small arms and light weapons, he called for a multidimensional response to deal with the root causes of their spread. Emphasizing his country’s support for the Libyan‑led and ‑owned process that led to a ceasefire in that country, he said Algeria is demonstrating the commitment in Mali. He went on to voice concern over malicious manipulation of information and communications technology and condemned the use of spy software. Noting that the Conference on Disarmament is suffering from deadlock, he also expressed grave concern over its three‑years‑long inability to convene the Disarmament Commission.
MD RAFIQUL ALAM MOLLA (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said increasing dependence on digital technologies has created new vulnerabilities under the pandemic. He expressed regret over the malicious use of information and communications technology, emphasizing that no Government can address that challenge alone. Highlighting the importance of adherence to the core principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, especially on the use of force in international relations, he said peaceful dialogue remains the best approach in building the disarmament architecture. Bangladesh has remained a non‑nuclear State and is an ardent proponent of multilateralism in disarmament, he affirmed, expressing concern over the impasse affecting the Conference on Disarmament and calling for a consensus‑based agreement on a programme of work without further delay.
TANIA ROTH (Canada) said responsible State behaviour in cyberspace and due consideration for a gendered perspective in disarmament matters intersect with everything the First Committee does, yet they receive understated consideration. A framework for responsible State behaviour in cyberspace is a prerequisite for long‑term international peace and security, she emphasized. She welcomed the reports of the Open‑Ended Working Group and the Group of Governmental Experts, while pointing out that more work remains to implement existing agreed norms and for States to explain how they see international law applying in cyberspace. She said Canada has committed more than $27 million to cyber capacity building projects and works with various organizations to promote an open and secure Internet, while stressing that securing an open Internet requires ensuring gender equality across all disarmament processes. Calling on States to collect and share gender‑disaggregated data to help Governments effectively respond to security challenges, she pointed out that a gender imbalance remains and women’s voices are missing “at the table”.
SARMAD MUWAFAQ MOHAMMED AL‑TAIE (Iraq), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said nuclear‑weapon‑free zones constitute a step towards the creation of a safe world free of all weapons of mass destruction. Recalling that the resolution adopted at the 1995 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on creating such a zone in the Middle East has yet to be implemented, he cautioned against stalling on that matter, warning that doing so will affect the region’s security and the credibility of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. He also urged the international community to pressure Israel to submit its nuclear programme to the IAEA and join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. The Conference on Disarmament and Disarmament Commission must end the stalemate and fully discharge their important work, he stressed.
ABDELRHMAN MOHAMED FARID HEGAZY (Egypt), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, the African Group and the Arab Group, noted that efforts to establish a regime to combat possible malicious use of information and telecommunication technology have been stalled for more than a decade. He went on to assert that the Middle East remains one of the world’s most volatile regions and the situation is deteriorating with the unprecedented spread of conflicts, proxy wars, terrorism and sectarian violence. There is a need to recognize that peace and security cannot be achieved in the region under the doctrine of deterrence and the accumulation of weaponry, rather than by engagement in establishing an equitable security, he emphasized. He recalled that the first Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction was successfully convened in November 2019 and reached a number of important and significant outcomes, expressing hope for the success of the forthcoming second session. However, Egypt regrets the failure of the Conference on Disarmament to adopt a balanced and comprehensive programme of work for more than 24 years, he said, stressing the need for immediate action.
ANDREY BELOUSOV (Russian Federation) emphasized that it is unacceptable to resort to threats and use of force or to interfere in conflict settlement without the Security Council’s approval while resolving regional problems. Indeed, there is a strong demand for coordinated collective actions relying on the authority of the United Nations, he added. However, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries are building up their capabilities and increasing military activities in the vicinity of Russian borders, he observed, warning that interactions and dialogue with the Alliance will be hindered unless NATO abandons its deterrence policy against the Russian Federation. In that context, he proposed agreeing on mutual de‑escalation measures, including reduced military activities along the Russian Federation’s border with NATO countries, as well improving mechanisms for the prevention of incidents and dangerous military activities. Turning to international information security, he said the consensus adoption of the final reports of the Open‑Ended Working Group and the Group of Governmental Experts in 2021 is even more significant in light of the divergent positions of States.
DUY TUAN VU (Viet Nam) expressed concern about malicious use of information and communication technology, noting its negative effects on national security, social order, regional and international peace and security. It is the primary responsibility of States to govern, manage and formulate rules and norms on cyberspace for its people and jurisdiction, he emphasized, calling for common agreement on responsible behaviour in cyberspace on the global and regional levels, in accordance with international law. He went on to state that the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, with its provisions on environmental remediation, strengthens environmental norms on preparing and implementing disarmament and arms limitation agreements.
SUSANNE HAMMER (Austria) emphasized that disarmament efforts are even more important in today’s complex geopolitical environment. Yet, despite the substantive health and economic challenges, global military spending continued to rise in 2020, she noted. Expressing concern about unilateral tendencies that challenge the disarmament regime, and the use of procedural manoeuvres to delay, undermine or even prevent substantive exchanges and productive work, she pointed out that the First Committee’s 2021 session has seen a backward trend in gender equality and called upon States not only to enhance the meaningful participation of women, but also to consistently take gender‑specific effects of certain weapons into account. She said Austria is committed to a global, open, free, stable and secure cyberspace in which international law applies fully, and effective multilateralism is the key.
HEIDAR ALI BALOUJI (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said safety and security in the Middle East are of utmost importance to the region and beyond, adding that his country has offered proposals for strengthening them since 1985. Regrettably, the region has witnessed several wars, a massive arms build‑up and power projection by various actors, with catastrophic consequences, he added, noting that the United States is active 7,000 miles from its shores and is the number one arms seller to some countries. The United States is already militarizing cyberspace and Israel has launched cyberattacks against Iran, he said, describing the latter country as a chronic source of insecurity in the region and beyond. He went on to state that the lack of genuine political will on the part of certain nuclear‑weapon States is harming the Conference on Disarmament, citing negative votes by the United States and Israel in the First Committee as evidence of their malign approach to disarmament.
AIDAN LIDDLE (United Kingdom), emphasizing that failure to progress in the Conference on Disarmament cannot be blamed on the pandemic, said that despite the tireless work of the six presidencies, a small number of States have prevented the Conference from adopting a programme of work. He went on to observe that instability in the Middle East is exacerbated by Iran’s systematic non‑compliance with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and called on that country to return to full compliance without delay. Moreover, eight chemical weapons attacks in Syria have been attributed to the Assad regime, he said, urging Damascus to meet its obligations. In Europe, Russia has undermined peace and security through its use of the Novichok nerve agent and its deployment of a missile system prohibited under the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, he noted, while expressing support for the ongoing United States—Russian Federation strategic stability dialogue to start a new era of arms control.
TITTAPHAN VACHANANDA (Thailand), endorsing the statements delivered on behalf of ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Group of Governmental Experts and the Open‑Ended Working Group complement each other and present essential platforms for strengthening cooperation and engaging on the issue of cybersecurity threats. Despite remaining divergence in views, stakeholders must be flexible to forge mutual understanding and pave the way forward during the 2021‑2025 sessions of the Open‑Ended Working Group, he emphasized. Multilateral cooperation must keep pace with the rapidly evolving security landscape, including in cyberspace, he said, adding that confidence‑building measures are critical. Thailand encourages synergy between the General Assembly and the Security Council on non‑proliferation and disarmament and supports revitalizing the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission, he stated.
YURI GALA LÓPEZ (Cuba), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said nuclear‑weapon‑free zones are critical, and nuclear‑weapon States must ratify all protocols to treaties establishing such areas. The United States remains the only State not to ratify the protocols to the Treaty of Tlatelolco and the Treaty of Rarotonga, he noted. Calling for attention to military attack drones and biological weapons, among other threats, he said, emphasizing that multilateralism must be the basis for arms control negotiations. The Conference on Disarmament must adopt a broad, balanced programme of work and draft recommendations on items on its agenda, he added. However, he expressed concern about the United States using cyberweapons and deploying cyberattacks. The use of force is not to be used in the face of a cyberattack, he affirmed. Condemning the use of new information technologies and digital platforms to promote false information about the reality in Cuba, he said that constitutes a non‑conventional war in which the United States is actively involved. He went on to reiterate calls for an end to the decades‑long blockade imposed on his country by the United States.
RUTH HILL (Australia), emphasizing the importance of ensuring a secure and peaceful cyberspace, recalled that her country contributed to the recent consensus reports of both the Group of Governmental Experts and the Open‑Ended Working Group. In particular, she said, the report of the Group of Governmental Experts represents a significant step forward, providing clarity on what responsible State behaviour in cyberspace looks like, and affording in‑depth, practical guidance for all States in implementing their international commitments. She said the proposed programme of action has the potential to become the action‑oriented mechanism needed to ensure all countries understand those commitments and obligations and have the capacity to implement them.
JIM KELLY (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, noted that the workings of the First Committee are often affected by procedural matters that impact its use of time. Emphasizing the importance of increasing the diversity of voices, with full participation of women becoming the norm, he noted that Ireland co‑chairs the International Gender Champions in Geneva and believes in the broad participation of civil society across the disarmament spectrum. He went on to recall that the Conference on Disarmament demonstrated its ability to be productive on the Test‑Ban Treaty, and called for it to do so again to escape more than 20 years of stagnation. Moreover, Ireland is disappointed that the Disarmament Commission has held no substantive deliberations. He went on to warn that growing dependence on information and communications technology accentuates the need to build cyber resilience.
TAINÃ LEITE NOVAES (Brazil) said the pandemic has expanded the role of information and communications technology in all aspects of life, and his delegation does not turn a blind eye to possible malicious uses. He called for new patterns of responsible State behaviour in cyberspace. In two decades of United Nations discussions on cybersecurity, one of the greatest contributions is that international law applies to cyberspace, he noted. He drew attention to the draft resolution submitted by Brazil and Argentina, highlighting their wealth of experience in creating the Brazilian‑Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials and the verification model underpinning it. Citing the principle of “neighbours watching neighbours”, he expressed trust that it will remain a success story and inspiration towards a world free of nuclear weapons.
AKAKI DVALI (Georgia) drew attention to the situation in the Black Sea region, saying that since its military aggression against Georgia and Ukraine, the Russian Federation has used a combination of military and political tools to compromise the sovereignty of its neighbours. Recalling recent actions, he said Moscow carried out a massive military build‑up in and around Ukraine, destabilizing activities in the Black Sea, he said, adding that it has increased its military presence in the South Caucasus, significantly undermining the security of the wider region. Those actions have serious global implications, he warned, also pointing to Georgia’s Russian‑occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. They have been subjected to continuous militarization, including two fully fledged Russian military bases with more than 10,000 troops, heavily armed and equipped with modern, sophisticated offensive equipment, he asserted. The Russian Federation has also implemented massive cyberattacks against Georgia’s public and private institutions, he noted, describing those actions as violations of numerous laws and agreements, and a major challenge for the international community. They must be addressed through a resolute and consistent strategic response and enhanced engagement, he said.
SINDY NUR FITRI (Indonesia) said regional efforts are a critical part of the global disarmament architecture and urged nuclear‑weapon States to sign and ratify the Treaty of Bangkok, which established a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is concerned about the increased presence of power‑projection assets in the region, particularly the Australia‑United Kingdom‑United States (AUKUS) partnership, she said, calling upon ASEAN partners to refrain from any action inconsistent with the objectives of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, the ASEAN Charter, the United Nations Charter and the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. Furthermore, the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula must be achieved, she said. On the stalled disarmament machinery, she said all States must redouble efforts to convene the Disarmament Commission and the Conference on Disarmament must agree on a work programme. Indonesia, for its part, tabled the draft resolution “Nuclear‑weapon‑free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas” (document A/C.1/76/L.34), which would have the General Assembly welcome the ratification of the protocols to the Treaty on a Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone in Central Asia by China, France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom. It would also call upon the nuclear‑weapon States to withdraw any reservations contrary to the establishment of such designated areas.
LI SUI (China) said that in a world witnessing a new revolution in science and technology, all States must be guaranteed the peaceful use of science and technology, he emphasized, calling for inclusive and transparent discussions, and especially for heeding the voices of developing countries. China will submit a draft resolution reaffirming the importance of non‑proliferation and urging all Member States to take concrete measures to promote international cooperation on peaceful use of cyberspace, he said, adding that his delegation is engaged with all States in broad consultations on the text. Noting that a few countries pursue a policy of deterrence while introducing military alliances and ideological divisions into cyberspace, he said a certain State is fragmenting the global supply chain and hampering global development. He stressed that the international community must maintain the authority of international disarmament architecture and uphold true multilateralism.
SUBHASHINI NARAYANAN (India) emphasized the need for a concrete demonstration of political will to negotiate legally binding instruments and called upon States to avoid politicizing the work of the First Committee, saying the disarmament machinery should function as a composite whole. She went on to highlight her country’s annual Disarmament and International Security Fellowship and Disarmament for Youth initiative. She noted that India submitted the draft resolution “Role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament”, adopted by consensus for the last four years. Highlighting the need to promote international cooperation on peaceful uses of science and technology through the transfer of technology, sharing information and exchange of equipment and materials, she further stressed the need for effective regulation of international transfers of dual-use goods and technology, as well as high technology with military applications. She went on to underline the need to address security risks posed by malicious use of information and communications technology (ICT).
SONG DA HEE (Republic of Korea) said his country supports ongoing efforts to address cybersecurity and participates in various ongoing regional efforts. Emphasizing the need to overcome the deadlock in the disarmament machinery, she said the Conference on Disarmament must continue to fulfil its mandate and the Disarmament Commission must also advance its work. She went on to say that the Republic of Korea is working to engage youth participation, inviting all Member States to cosponsor the delegation’s draft resolution “Youth, disarmament and non-proliferation” (document A/C.1/76/L.36), by which, the General Assembly would call upon Member States, the United Nations and other organizations to consider developing and implementing policies and programmes to increase and facilitate the constructive engagement of young people in the field of disarmament and non‑proliferation.
ADO LOHMUS (Estonia), said the successful consensus outcomes on cybersecurity in the Group of Governmental Experts and the Open-Ended Working Group delivered a powerful reaffirmation of a framework for action, including the applicability of international law in cyberspace and norms for responsible State behaviour. That global success highlights the ability of Member States to reach and advance consensus on issues that are increasingly pertinent for the maintenance of international peace and security, she noted. Building awareness of the malicious use of cyberspace and its potential impact was the reason Estonia brought cybersecurity to the attention of the Security Council in June, by organizing the first‑ever open debate on that issue, she recalled. Existing international law provides comprehensive guidance for State behaviour in cyberspace, but a deepening understanding of it continues to be of crucial importance, she said, underlining the value of the official compendium contained in the report of the Group of Governmental Experts. Estonia sees notable merit in the establishment of a permanent, action-based and inclusive platform and a programme of action for advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace, she affirmed.
PHILIPPINE BENTÉGEAT (France), speaking on behalf of the programme of action for 53 cyber co‑sponsors, said States have been engaging in thorough discussions to address the challenges of malicious use of information and communications technology. Their work is reflected in six groups of governmental experts addressing the common understanding on emerging threats. Calling for the international community to follow up on their work with concrete undertakings, she said recent years have witnessed rising threats to peace and security, especially in the context of the pandemic and of increased reliance on information and communications technology. Malicious acts by State and non‑State actors have gained in scale and sophistication, she noted, emphasizing that the capacity to collectively ensure the safety and security of cyberspace depends on each State. She announced the creation of a United Nations programme of action to advance concerted cooperation, support tailored capacity‑building, exchange best practices and foster meaningful engagement with civil society and academe, saying it would take the views of all interested States into account.
PETRA HOFÌRKOVÁ (Czech Republic), emphasizing the important role of regional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security, said the current security environment in Europe is characterized by a lack of trust caused efforts by certain countries to erode previously accepted norms. Stressing the need for a well‑functioning and efficient disarmament machinery, she called for enlargement of the Conference on Disarmament, which currently comprises only 65 members, and the early appointment of a special coordinator to work on that matter. Noting that her country places great emphasis on protecting critical infrastructure against threats arising from the misuse of information and communications technology, she reiterated the need for a permanent and action‑oriented United Nations regulatory mechanism.
JAKOB HALLGREN (Sweden) said major global challenges can only be addressed successfully by working together. As such, the international community has a collective responsibility to ensure the continued functioning, relevance and integrity of the disarmament machinery. Any attempts, including during the current session, to undermine international bodies must be met with a strong and collective response, he said, emphasizing the importance of a holistic approach to global security challenges, as outlined in the Secretary‑General’s Agenda for Disarmament and Our Common Agenda. Sweden’s contributions to the forthcoming Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference include the Stockholm Initiative on Nuclear Disarmament, he said, adding that, in line with the Swedish feminist foreign policy, he is strongly convinced that the full and equal participation of women and men is essential in all aspects of arms control, disarmament and non‑proliferation. Representatives of civil society, academia and industry are all part of an important pillar of the arms control, disarmament and non‑proliferation architecture, he noted, declaring: “We must not let the pandemic become a pretext for restricting their continued participation.”
ABD‑EL KADER YASMIN TCHALARE (Togo) said regional peace and disarmament centres are proof of achievements in the field, as is the critical work of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa. Unfortunately, challenges have worsened, including the spread of small arms and light weapons alongside the proliferation of sophisticated criminal activities. The centres have provided States with assistance on these and other matters, particularly with regard to the African Union’s Silencing the Guns initiative, he noted. Regional centres are currently facing financial challenges, and States must do more to improve their operational capacity to meet ever‑growing needs, he emphasized, urging delegations to support the related draft resolution, to be tabled by Nigeria.
VINCENT CHOFFAT (Switzerland) said that despite improved tools and increased dialogue, technology also generates new challenges to international security. New rules are required to regulate lethal autonomous weapon systems, he emphasized, expressing hope that the Group of Governmental Experts will send a strong signal about their use. He noted that Switzerland joined more than 50 States in supporting a programme of action to create an instrument that would build capacity against malicious use of information and communications technology, adding that his delegation will support the related draft resolution. In view of challenges in disarmament, and the need for a performing disarmament machinery, he expressed concern that the Conference on Disarmament has not enlarged its membership since 1999 or passed a simple update of its rules of procedure to feature women and men equally.
MEMET MEVLÜT YAKUT (Turkey) said that given the ongoing challenges to the international disarmament and arms control architecture, effective multilateralism must be the compass for the way forward. In efforts to ensure collective security, “we need more than ever to utilize our toolbox efficiently” with a priority to protect the disarmament machinery, he said. The First Committee remains a significant component of the machinery and a valuable platform for considering disarmament and non-proliferation issues, he added, cautioning against draft resolutions that unnecessarily duplicate each other. As the sole multilateral negotiating forum, the Conference on Disarmament must demonstrate the political will to recommence its primary task of negotiating legally binding international treaties, he emphasized, also expressing hope that the Disarmament Commission will resume its role as the sole specialized deliberative subsidiary body of the General Assembly for in-depth deliberations on specific disarmament issues.
JEFFREY EBERHARDT (United States) said the First Committee has had a remarkable year, with all Member States coming together to reach consensus on the report of the Open Ended Working Group and, a few months later, the Group of Governmental Experts producing an in-depth consensus report of its own. Noting that the United States worked with the Russian Federation to develop a combined draft resolution calling on States to be guided by those reports in their actions, he said Washington remains prepared to engage in diplomacy with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, offering a meeting without preconditions for a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and that will explore diplomacy. However, he emphasized that his country’s commitments to the defence of the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad. Turning to Iran, he said the United States will continue sincere efforts towards a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, making it clear that if Iran commits to a mutual return to compliance, the United States is prepared to provide sanctions relief, in accordance with the terms of the deal. However, Iran’s continued nuclear escalations are unconstructive and inconsistent with its stated goal of returning to mutual compliance, he said, stressing that the United States Government will not provide Iran any negotiating leverage. He expressed concern about Iran’s failure to live up to its commitments, in particular its refusal to allow IAEA inspectors to reinstall monitoring equipment at the Karaj nuclear site.
MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica) expressed concern about the use of weaponized drones and counter-terrorism activities, saying they must be conducted with full respect for international human rights law. More regularized reporting on drone use must be submitted to the Human Rights Council or similar bodies, and existing treaties must address the threats posed by those armed devices, she said. Counter-terrorism initiatives that use drones should only be undertaken when necessary and in full compliance with human rights. She went on to call for the development of international norms addressing lethal violence involving drones, as well as a permanent forum on cybersecurity, alongside a mechanism to ensure accountability.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, expressed regret over the Russian Federation’s suspended participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and its 2021 withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty. It is also regrettable that the Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures was circumvented, notably by a military build-up along Ukraine’s border, he added. Expressing disappointment that the Vienna Document has not been modernized for years due to the Russian Federation’s veto, he said that country’s aggression is among the most extreme challenges to European security and must be resolved with full respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence within internationally recognized borders. He also condemned the regime in Belarus for using migrants to advance political goals, denouncing its efforts to destabilize Europe, while expressing strong support for all efforts to settle the conflicts in Georgia and the Republic of Moldova.
HAROLD KENT HEREDIA (Philippines) emphasized that transnational cybercrimes have far-reaching implications for peace and security and welcomed recent developments in the field of information and telecommunications technology to advance security and responsible behaviour. He said the Asia‑Pacific region requires flexible multilateral groupings to maintain and support a stable and rules-based regional security architecture, in which ASEAN plays a central role. Expressing hope that the organizational, procedural and political issues impacting the Disarmament Commission over the past three years will be resolved soon, so that its important work can resume, he also reaffirmed his country’s support for the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific in promoting regional disarmament priorities and cooperation.
SZILVIA BALÁZS (Hungary) attached particular importance to cybersecurity, recalling that her country hosted the second Global Conference on Cyberspace as early as 2012. As Chair of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) Informal Working Group on Cybersecurity since 2017, Hungary has actively supported close cooperation between OSCE and the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts and Open-Ended Working Group, she noted. Welcoming the decision by the Russian Federation and the United States to submit a joint resolution on the subject in the First Committee, she said Hungary sees that cooperation as tangible proof of the two countries’ will for a global, open, free, stable and secure cyberspace. As for the Conference on Disarmament, the sole multilateral disarmament body entrusted with negotiating disarmament treaties, she emphasized that the time has come to start its work on a long‑overdue treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other explosive devices, the next logical step towards the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
PHILIPPINE BENTÉGEAT (France), associating himself with the European Union, said civil and military use of cyberspace presents risks and must be a priority for both Governments and the private sector. Among other steps, France adopted the 2018 Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, he recalled. Applauding the conclusions of the Open-Ended Working Group and the Group of Governmental Experts on norms of responsible behaviour, he also welcomed draft resolution tabled by the United States and the Russian Federation in that regard. Going forward, a platform within the United Nations should be established to promote dialogue on cybersecurity among all stakeholders, he urged. Expressing regret at the refusal within the Conference on Disarmament to recognize the status of five nations, he also voiced disappointment that procedures in that body are stalled. He went on to stress that is a part of multilateralism.
INDIRA ARYAL (Nepal), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, underlined the need for global cooperation to develop and implement a robust regulatory framework to govern modern technologies. Noting the reports of the Open-Ended Working Group and the Group of Governmental Experts, she expressed hope for further progress in the cybersecurity field. She said much of the disarmament machinery has suffered from polarization and parochial interests, and called upon the Conference on Disarmament to demonstrate strong political will to forge an understanding and move forward. Similarly, Nepal looks forward to the substantive sessions of Disarmament Commission, she added. Regional disarmament mechanisms and processes promote dialogue and confidence at regional and subregional levels and reinforces global peace and security, she said. As host to the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, Nepal reiterates its call for States of the region to identify their areas of interest and engage with the Centre, she said, adding that her delegation has tabled a related draft resolution (document A/C.1/76/L.18). By its terms, the General Assembly would, among other things, appeal to Member States, international governmental and non‑governmental organizations and foundations to make voluntary contributions to strengthen its programme of activities and the implementation thereof.
KHALIL UR RAHMAN HASHMI (Pakistan) said emerging technologies are outpacing existing norms on Earth, in outer space and in the cyberdomain. They afford new means of waging war, he added, cautioning that some troubling developments increase the prospect of symmetric and asymmetric responses. Noting that lethal autonomous weapons systems and cyberweapons represent substantial risk, he warned that, faced with possible new laws, States possessing weapons of mass destruction will be reluctant to give them up, while other States will seek to acquire them. Given such dangers for regional and global safety, the international community must develop commensurate laws and norms, recognizing that peace and security are codependent at the regional and global levels, he said, emphasizing that it is the special responsibility of States with larger arsenals to advance disarmament. He went on to note that solutions to the two decades of impasse in the disarmament machinery are within its constituents.
NOHRA QUINTERO (Colombia), emphasizing the need for international focus on free, open, accessible and trustworthy digital space, said that, whereas there are differences of opinion between States, there are also points of convergence, such as the joint proposal by the United States and the Russian Federation, of which Colombia is a co-sponsor. She stressed the importance of working hand in hand with civil society, academia and the private sector, and of cooperation with regional organizations. The impasse in Conference on Disarmament has left the international community without rules and norms in the face of dizzying developments in artificial intelligence and new types of weapons, she noted, underlining the primacy of international law and the greater vulnerability for civilians arising from the normative vacuum.
Mr. BUSHRA (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, called for enhanced collective efforts to protect cyberspace and welcomed the reports of the related Open-Ended Working Group and Group of Governmental Experts. Nuclear-weapon-free zones are key to creating a world free of weapons of mass destruction, he said, describing the benefits of the Treaty of Pelindaba to its States parties in Africa. He went on to emphasize that the Conference on Disarmament must agree on its programme of work and the Disarmament Commission must also discharge its mandate. Ethiopia supports the draft resolutions on the benefits of nuclear-weapon-free zones, among others, he said.
Mr. NADARAJAH (Malaysia), endorsing the statements delivered on behalf of ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country is addressing online safety through a cybersecurity strategy that provides guiding principles to enhance management, governance and legislation. He emphasized that nuclear-weapon-free zones are essential in enhancing global and regional peace and security. Concerning the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, Malaysia calls for urgently resolving all outstanding issues in accordance with that instrument’s objectives and principles pertaining to the signing and ratification of its protocol without delay. He went on to encourage strengthening the disarmament machinery, stressing that the Conference on Disarmament must reconquer its viability as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community. The Disarmament Commission must commence its work in 2022, he added.
GABRIELE CACCIA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said the Disarmament Commission last held an informal session in 2019 and expressed hope it will convene again, in person, in 2022. Similarly, all Member States should help the Conference on Disarmament overcome struggles to achieve consensus on further disarmament measures, such as a fissile material cut-off treaty. He cautioned that, despite the invaluable benefits of ICT for humanity, its malicious use can have significant and far‑reaching negative impacts. A cybertool may not look like a gun or a bomb, he noted, warning it can be even more destructive to civilians, as seen in attacks against critical infrastructure such as medical facilities, energy systems and water supplies. He emphasized that complete restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to fully operational status is a key part of efforts to preclude conflict in the Middle East, particularly the risk of further nuclear proliferation, which similarly demands that Member States revive the quest for a nuclear-weapon-free region. He went on to express hope that negative rhetoric and unilateral measures on the Korean Peninsula may give way to the resumption of genuine diplomatic efforts to address the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear‑weapon programme. Ending the state of war on the peninsula would provide for a redirection of diplomacy to address current problems, he said.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said he was responding to comments made today by accusers wishing to distract international attention from their own mistakes and actions. Unfounded and baseless accusations are of no concern, he added, offering an invitation to an open discussion with partners. Opponents also seem to have no interest in dialogue, he noted, referring to statements by delegates representing Georgia, Ukraine and others. Humanitarian assistance to part of Ukraine is called “aggression”, he said, calling on all partners to engage in constructive dialogue.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the hostile policy of the United States against his country is the reason for the current situation on the Korean Peninsula, adding that its policy features military threats. The key to establishing a constructive relationship rests on the United States changing its policies and actions, he emphasized, describing Washington, D.C.’s, touting of dialogue without pre-conditions as a trick to fool the international community. The United States has options to contribute to stability by withdrawing its hostile policy towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and halting its deployment of weapons and training exercises on the peninsula region. He also urged States to drop double standards in that regard.
The representative of Iran, citing unacceptable statements by some delegates, including that of the United States, said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was carefully negotiated to resolve an artificial crisis over his country’s nuclear programme. It cannot be renegotiated or widened, and was not intended to be a catch-all agreement to resolve every issue, he emphasized. Even a year after President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal, Iran continued to uphold its commitments until the United States imposed sanctions, he recalled, noting that the current administration maintains the sanctions, a leverage gambit to compel further Iranian concessions which did not work and will not work. Describing the approach off the United States as unacceptable, he said that, despite allegations, Iran is fulfilling its safeguard agreements with IAEA.
The representative of Syria said the statement by the United Kingdom’s delegate was more evidence of that country’s policy in the Middle East — waging war on the Syrian people at every level. He emphasized that it is part of a campaign of insidious allegations about the use of chemical weapons and trying to get the international community to forget who really used them. Syria signed the Chemical Weapons Convention and upholds its obligations, while some States politicize the subject with allegations that serve the interests of terrorist groups, while shedding doubt about Syrian cooperation with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, he noted.