After the OEWG report: what did the countries actually say?

ASPI Cyber Policy
9 min readMar 17, 2021


In order of appearance during the 9th and 10th meeting of the Third Substantive Session on March 12, 2021.

Russian Federation

From: UN Web TV, at 6m55.

“We are only steps away from formalising the consensus as a result of practically two years of work of the Open-ended Group (OEWG) on International information security (IIB).

Ambassador Andrey Krutskikh

This is the first time in the UN’s history and the work within its system that we have such a truly democratic and inclusive negotiating mechanism on one of the most relevant Issues of the contemporary global agenda: ensuring International ICT security.

I welcome the efforts and dedication of our Chair, Ambassador Lauber. He has done an immense and historic amount of diplomatic work. I’d like to thank UN Under Secretary General, High Representative on Disarmament Affairs Ms I. Nakamitsu for the constant attention she paid to the OEWG process.

Despite the complex nature of the topic, and the difference in positions held, as with the difficulties caused by the pandemic and the new virtual format of our negotiations, we ultimately have a truly comprehensive final report of the group which reflects the key consensus elements from discussions that were held.

We all understand of course that it is a compromise in nature. As for my view on the document, I would like to quote the representative of South Africa, who a few days ago set something that spoke volumes of this document : “the report does not make us happy, but it is satisfactory”.

The main significance of this final report is that it guides the international community towards preserving and boosting the negotiation process on ICT security under the aegis of the UN and preserves the OEWG format into the future.

The topic of ICT security is considered within the mandate and through the prism of the First Committee agenda, i.e. through the lens of questions of international peace and security.

Russia, as one of the initiators of the OEWG as an absolutely new negotiating format on ICT security within the UN, believes it is possible to support a consensus on the report.

I must also note that, at the same time, not all my country’s proposals are fully reflected in the document. In this regard, I would like to caution in advance that Russia will continue to actively advocate for its interests and for the interests of its friends in the future negotiation process on this topic, in whatever form and on whatever platform it takes place.” (10:40)

United States

From: UN Web TV, at 11m00.

Ambassador Michele Markoff

“I will also raise my voice to congratulate Amb Lauber, the UN Secretariat crew and support, and of course UNODA and its leadership, for managing an extraordinarily difficult process. I can’t help but be impressed with the quality and nature of this report considering that you had 193 contributors.

So, the US is pleased to join the consensus on the final report of the OEWG. Although we voted against UNGA Res 73/27 that established the OEWG we participated in the OEWG in a positive fashion because we understand the opportunity for international dialogue with all other member states on matters of international sec in cyberspace is a rare occasion.

Building on previous GGEs and working in parallel with the current GG we have engaged in good faith and with the sense of urgency to universalize the emerging framework of resp state behaviour in cyberspace that was articulated in the three consensus gge reports of 2010, 2013 and 2015, and affirmed by the UNGA in 2015.

This final report is not perfect in our opinion, and we continue to have reservations about the need for a new OEWG to run until 2025. But we recognise were not alone in our disappoint and that many member states have said and will say that they want to see more issues important to them addressed in the report. We therefore support the initiative to share a two-part chair’s summary on the extent of our discussion and the many proposals from member states.

As we’ve indicated throughout our negotiations, the US cannot subscribe to calls for negotiating a new legally binding instrument. In a circumstance and an environment where some states refuse to explicitly affirm essential elements of existing international law that is well established and are unwilling to comply with the affirmed voluntary norms, what possible confidence could we gain from negotiating a new treaty instrument?

We remain of the view that ICTs are simply not susceptible to traditional arms control arrangements, and it would be futile and a tremendous distraction to spend a decade or more negotiating new legal obligations.

In the end, however, we think the report is a step forward and we’re pleased to join consensus on it. All UN member states are making a clear affirmation in this report that international law applies to cyberspace and that states should be further guided by a set of non-binding, voluntary norms of responsible state behaviour. Furthermore, all UN member states recognise the important role of capacity building, strongly supported by the United States, and confidence building measures, essential to communication to improve international stability.

Above all, we’ve been heartened by the level of engagement from member states, the quality of the participants’ contributions and ultimately the hard work we all did to reach a consensus outcome. Our hope is that this report’s adoption will usher in a return to a consensus based action and collaboration towards mutually beneficial outcomes that building on the existing framework of international law, voluntary norms and confidence building measures.

Once again, we express our deep appreciation to the chair and the Secretariat and we were encouraged by the collaborative and serious dialogue among member states and with the whole international stakeholder community. We look forward to continuing our discussions of these issues in the next GGE meetings in April and May towards a positive conclusion of that process and further opportunities for engagement with all member states and other stakeholders.” (16:35)

United Kingdom

From: UN Web TV, at 50m11.

UK representative to the UN First Committee

On behalf of the UK delegation, I want to thank Amb Lauber, UNODA and the secretariat for your tireless efforts in getting us here today, particularly through the challenges of virtual and hybrid meetings and multiple timezones. From NY I want to acknowledge colleagues around the world who have joined us outside of their working day. Our collective commitment demonstrates the importance of these discussions to international peace and security in cyberspace.

I’m pleased to say that the UK will join consensus on this report. As we set out at the start, the UK has engaged constructively throughout this open-ended working group, we strongly support an inclusive process that represents the diverse views of all member states and other stakeholders. We’re proud to have contributed to the increased participation of women through the Women in cyber fellowship programme and must redouble our efforts to ensure a diverse range of perspectives is heard.

The United Nations GA has already made important progress on our approach to cyberspace. This has been an opportunity for all member states to build on the three consensus GGE reports of 2010, 2013, and 2015 which affirmed that international law applies to cyberspace and established a framework of responsible state behaviour consisting of a set of voluntary, non-binding norms, and confidence building measures underpinned by capacity building.

We welcome that that acquis has been reconfirmed by all member states today. We have a collective commitment to maintain international peace and security and to promote and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. We also have a shared commitment to uphold international law which applies in cyberspace just as it applies to activities in any other domain. The General Assembly endorsement of this in 2013 and 2015 was an important anchor to frame our developing conversation. While the UK would have liked to see more progress in the international law section, we welcome the reaffirmation that international law is applicable and essential to peace security and stability in the ICT environment. We also note the delicate relationship between international law and norms and welcome paragraph 25 in this regard.

The UK welcomes the support for capacity building in the report. The UN can use its convening power to raise the profile of cybersecurity capacity building and encourage coordinated good practice . But others have a role to play. The GFCE is already an effective coordination mechanism for capacity building. Independent capacity review tools , best practice guides and organisations like FIRST in the CSIRT community are important contributors to this objective

Like many represented here today, the UK is a co-sponsor of the proposal for a programme of action to facilitate inclusive regular institutional dialogue on responsible state behaviour in cyberspace at the UN. We’re clear that the reference in this report to the PoA puts further work to elaborate and establish a proposal. We hope more member states will join us.

On the reference to supply chains in paragraph 28, it will be important to work through the practical steps and do so in the relevant fora with respect to responsibilities for these issues.we believe the best way to achieve trust and confidence in the use of ICT products is to engage users and developers , public and private, to champion cyber hygiene, cyber security and resilience in end-to-end prodigy development.

We acknowledge the chair’s summary reflects a range of views expressed during discussions. Differences over international law were strongly expressed. The UK is clear that only the text of the report itself represents the consensus views of states. Finding consensus was never going to be easy, and the report we have is not perfect, which reflects the difficult balance the chair has struck. However we recognise others have been flexible, and in return we’re willing to compromise for the sake of a consensus approach. Recognising what this report does achieve, the UK supports adoption today and we urge others to do the same.

The UK will continue to engage with all member states and stakeholders to protect and promote a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace.” (54:30)


From: UN Web TV, at 1h03m54.

China’s representative to the UN Open-Ended Working Group

“It seems that it’s very likely that we will reach consensus on the final report today. Therefore, China would first of all like to thank you, Chair, for your efforts made and your coordination in drafting the report and facilitating countries to reach countries on this report.

We’d also like to express our gratitude to the Secretariat and for the contributions of representatives of various countries . it is through our wisdom, our effort and our persistence that we can reach consensus under the difficult pandemic circumstances. And this is a positive signal that the international community can unite and stand together to meet the challenges of information security . The OEWG is the first transparent democratic and inclusive multilateral cyberspace process that is open to the entire UN membership where members can participate on equal footing. It is of historic significance

The report reaffirms the essentiality of the UN on the basis of the GGE report. The OEWG has come to a common understanding of the framework of norms for responsible state behaviour. When referenced and cited in the future it is necessary for us to categorically and fully respect this important consensus.

The report also contains elements that we agreed during the relevant discussions and will continue under the new OEWG framework. So that’s a sustained and inclusive process within the UN. that is dedicated to the building of an open, safe, stable, accessible and peaceful ICT environment through our collective efforts.

In light of the developments of the situation, China’s priority is on the formulation of new norms. During the current OEWG, China has put forward a proposal on formulating the new rules on data security with specific suggestions. We stand ready to exchange views and cumulate consensus with all parties in the new OEWG.

Before I conclude, once again, I’d like to express our heartfelt thanks to the chairman and the secretariat for the hard work which makes it possible for holding the successful meeting under difficult circumstances.” (1:06:01)



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