Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Statement by the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cooperation in the Field of Information Security, Director of the Department of International Information Security of the MFA of Russia, Ambassador Andrey Krutskikh, at the 3rd Inter-Regional Conference on Cyber/ICT-Security (VTC, 22-23 June 2021)
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to greet the participants of the 3rd Inter-Regional Conference on Cyber/ICT Security and thank the Korean side and the OSCE Secretariat for their assistance in organizing this useful event.
I am sincerely pleased to see so many familiar faces of our global diplomatic cyberfamily again. Allow me to wholeheartedly greet my "bosses" – Ambassador Jurg Lauber and Ambassador Guilherme Patriota – chairmen of the first Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) and the latest Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on International Information Security, as well as my dear “comrade-in-arms”, Ms. Johanna Weaver, who made a considerable contribution to the successful outcome of both processes. And, of course, I cannot fail to convey my warmest regards from Moscow to my close friend, “the mother of norms,” as she is now called, Ms. Michelle Markoff.
Moving on to the substance of today's discussion, I would like to share with you a conclusion that I have come to after more than 20 years of work in this area. Russia has a well-known record of quite peculiar initiatives in the field of ICT-security. What I mean is that the attitude towards them, at least among a part of the international community, shifts 180 degrees over time. In early 2000s, we proposed to establish an expert platform – the GGE – for discussing ICT-security issues in a narrow circle. Not everyone was happy with this idea, but they gradually joined the discussion and even took over the GGE "baton" in 2018.
The same happened with the OEWG. Since 2018, reluctance of certain states to accept the Group – that was reflected in their negative vote on the respective UNGA resolution – evolved into their active and constructive engagement in the negotiation process.
Eventually, both initiatives had a happy ending that, in my view, represents a landmark in the global discussion on ensuring ICT-security. For the first time in a long period, by joint efforts we managed to reestablish the atmosphere of constructiveness and consensus, and we proved in practice that the international community is able to agree on the most crucial issues, when dialogue at the expert level is led in a pragmatic, depoliticized and constructive manner.
Since the beginning of 2021, the “money box” of global cyber diplomacy achievements has been filled with the adoption of the final OEWG and GGE reports, as well as the launch of the Ad Hoc Committee for elaboration under the UN auspices of a universal convention on countering the use of ICTs for criminal purposes. This plethora of success acquired continuation with the organizational session of the new OEWG on security of and in the use of ICTs 2021-2025 (New York, 1 June 2021).
At that meeting key modalities for the Group’s work were adopted unanimously by all states. The agenda and rules of procedure, including the method of decision-making, were approved. The election of Ambassador Burhan Gafoor, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations in New York, as Chair of the OEWG was essential for the launch of the process. We welcome this choice for an objective, unbiased and pragmatic leadership of the Group. The Chair has already demonstrated these qualities during the organizational session. We wish him every success throughout the whole process and, in particular, in agreeing upon the remaining organizational issues through broad consultations with the UN membership before the first substantive session of the Group (New York, 13-17 December 2021).
The OEWG format has proved its effectiveness and relevance in practice by allowing many countries, mainly representatives of the developing world, to participate directly in the discussions on international information security for the first time. We consider it extremely important to make every effort to preserve the positive atmosphere of multilateral dialogue on this issue under the UN auspices in the most suitable OEWG format.
Let me briefly share our vision of its concept and organizational design. As you know, Russia’s approach was explained in detail during the organizational session and are reflected in the position paper circulated earlier by the UN Secretariat.
In our view, the Group’s work should remain grounded on the principles of inclusivity, openness, transparency and be democratic in nature. The OEWG should become a platform not just for discussions, but for pragmatic and constructive negotiations, aimed at achieving tangible, practical results. In other words, the structure and the activities of the Group should be “result-oriented, not report-oriented”.
Given that this mechanism will work for five years, it should be flexible enough and able to evolve accompanying the needs of the international community. With a view to optimizing the process, agreements can be formalized once they have been achieved, without waiting for the completion of the Group’s mandate.
The starting point for the OEWG process is the UN General Assembly resolution 75/240 and the mandate clearly set forth therein, which envisages, as a priority, to further develop the rules, norms and principles of responsible behaviour of States in information space and the ways for their implementation and, if necessary, to introduce changes to them or elaborate additional rules of behaviour; to consider initiatives of States aimed at ensuring security in the use of ICTs; and to establish, under the UN auspices, regular institutional dialogue with broad participation of States.
The resolution also envisages the possibility of establishing thematic subgroups within the OEWG to facilitate a more thorough discussion on specific elements of its mandate. Organizing the process this way seems feasible to us, from the perspective of making negotiations more focused and systemized. In our view, streamlining and deepening the discussion within the OEWG is in itself important, while the concrete form of doing so – be it within a subgroup, a thematic discussion, a dialogue, a seminar or something else – is not essential in this case, and will be defined by the Chair on the basis of States’ opinions. In particular, we suggest launching such discussions on threats and rules of responsible behaviour, on the applicability of international law to the ICT-sphere, on confidence-building measures, on capacity-building and on regular institutional dialogue. If needed, States may suggest establishing additional subgroups / discussions on other aspects of ICT-security of particular interest to them, but the final decision will, of course, be adopted by consensus.
For the sake of a better coordination of work, as well as to provide equal opportunities to all participants of the process, it would be rational to hold subgroup meetings / thematic discussions in a consecutive order within each substantive OEWG session. At the same time, intersessional work, primarily, virtual consultations, will be of great importance.
We expect that commitment to achieving practical outcomes of the global negotiation process on ICT-security will be our shared guideline for the next five years.
Thank you for attention.