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About the OEWG and this session

The fourth substantive session of the UN Open-ended Working Group on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security 2021-2025 (OEWG II) will take place this week, from 6 to 10 March, in-person in New York.

The OEWG deals specifically with “international” security, threats and attacks that are linked to conflict or even tension between states. The group is tasked with discussing responsible state behaviour in cyberspace, possible further development of rules, norms and principles around this topic, existing and emerging cyber threats, cooperative measures to address them, cyber capacity building, and how international law applies to the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs), among other issues.

All these topics will be discussed by the group during this session. The session will also include an informal stakeholder segment on Thursday 9 March focused on capacity building in the area of security in the use of ICTs. This segment will give non-governmental stakeholders the opportunity to contribute with their views and expertise to the process.

APC considers the OEWG an important process to influence the setting up of international norms on cybersecurity, since the work of the group can influence future work in this area and cyber discussions at the national level. Recommendations from the OEWG could promote human rights and a more secure and stable cyberspace, but could end up doing the opposite. It is also important to work to prevent the creation of mechanisms and narratives that use cybersecurity as an excuse to exercise more control over the internet, affecting human rights and gender equality.

On 1 March, the OEWG chair organised an informal dialogue with stakeholders, with a focus on existing and potential threats in the field of ICT security. APC delivered a statement reiterating our call for a human rights-based and gender perspective to existing and emerging threats, so that cybersecurity can improve the security of people in all their diversity and respond to their specific risks and needs.

Our focus at this session

At this week’s session, APC will continue advocating for our priorities for the 2021-2025 OEWG.

A human rights-based approach to international cybersecurity

APC will continue emphasising the need for a human rights-based approach to the work of the OEWG, which means putting people at the centre and ensuring that there is trust and security in networks and devices that reinforce, rather than threaten, human security.

For APC, a human rights-based approach to international cybersecurity includes:

  • Recognising international human rights law as the guiding principle for a peaceful and stable cyberspace.

  • Ensuring ample participation of multiple stakeholders in cyber discussions and empowering people for meaningful engagement.

  • Guaranteeing transparency in the implementation of norms.

  • Ensuring accountability for non-compliance with existing human rights norms and standards and agreed norms for the behaviour of states in cyberspace.

APC will be advocating for concrete ways in which states could realise some of these principles, such as committing to a more open, inclusive, diverse and participatory OEWG and supporting the proposal of an inclusive, action-oriented UN Cyber Programme of Action to help states to achieve these goals.

The need for an intersectional gender perspective to international cybersecurity

A gender perspective to international cybersecurity means considering that gender shapes and influences our online behaviour, determines access and power, and is a factor in vulnerability. For APC, a gender perspective plays a transformative role in cybersecurity, since it questions the online/offline separation, seeks to rethink individual and collective responsibilities for the cybersecurity of individuals and groups, broadens the field of cybersecurity, and includes the very design of systems and technologies.

During this session, we’ll continue encouraging the OEWG to recognise that gender considerations should be integral to the different areas of work of the group. We’ll also continue working to highlight the need for an intersectional perspective that recognises that other factors – among which is gender, but which also includes race, ethnicity, religion and social class, among others are fundamental to knowing and understanding complex subjects in the context of cybersecurity.

Read more:

More info on the OEWG, the draft programme for the Fourth Substantive Session, side events, and reference documents and statements can be accessed at the OEWG website. The meeting will be in person and will be streamed at UN WebTV. You can also follow the discussions on Twitter at #UNCyberOEWG.