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Photo: Kai Schreiber, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence (

At the UN First Committee, two processes – the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) – are currently exploring the same question: responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. This term comes from a 2015 report by the previous GGE, which defines it according to a framework of four components: 1) norms, rules and principles; 2) confidence-building measures; 3) capacity-building; and 4) the application of international law in cyberspace. Understanding these components is crucial to engaging effectively at the GGE and OEWG.

In this series, we’ll be looking at each component in turn – looking at what they mean, how they have been defined, and their relevance to human rights. In this entry, we examine norms in cyberspace, or "cyber norms". This explainer was authored by Deborah Brown and Anriette Esterhuysen of the Association for Progressive Communications and Sheetal Kumar of Global Partners Digital.

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