Digital space should be a place for cooperation
published : 29 Dec 2020 at 10:44
It is increasingly evident that the post-COVID-19 world will see a surge in online activities, be it common daily routines, business negotiations or even meetings of world leaders. This year the 75th session of the UN General Assembly as well as ASEAN and East Asia Summits shifted to videoconference format.
Digital platforms are widely used by citizens, businesses and governments of Russia, Thailand and elsewhere in the world. However, the expansion of information and communication technologies (ICT) creates a completely new social domain. Moreover, it raises several questions. How will this new sphere be regulated at national and international levels? Also, who will write the new rules?
International information security (IIS)
For more than twenty years, Russia has been promoting a number of specific proposals aimed at making the global information space more secure. By this we mean protection from the use of ICTs for terrorist or criminal purposes as well as prevention of wars and conflicts in this domain. We regard as unacceptable any concepts that allow for the possibility of use of force in the information space.
Russia stands for a just and equitable world order in the digital field that would safeguard the interests of all countries regardless of their level of technological development. Therefore, we oppose any attempts to establish monopoly or impose narrow unilateral “rules of the game” which would benefit only certain players.
In fact, our country was the first to raise this matter in the UN, as we strongly believe that IIS challenges should be addressed under the organisation’s framework with active and equal involvement of all member states.
In 2018, the UN General Assembly, thanks to the support of 119 members, adopted a Russia-initiated resolution with an initial set of guidelines and principles of responsible behaviour of countries in the field of information and communications technologies (ICT). This set embodies the principles of the UN Charter in relation to the ICTs, namely non-use of force, respect for national sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.
With a view to making the UN negotiation process on security in the use of ICTs more inclusive and transparent, the UN Open-ended Working Group on IIS (OEWG) was established. Open to all states and acting on a consensus basis, it has an extensive agenda to work on in order to develop the concrete rules and ways for their implementation. For two years, experts from various countries have been debating the said matters in order to draft a report for UN consideration.
Such an outcome isn’t achieved quickly – that is why we believe that the mandate of the OEWG, expiring in 2021, should be prolonged. Russia would like to make this field-proven mechanism more practical, dynamic and results-oriented. During the next period of its work the group should focus more on issues of capacity building, contribute to bridging the digital divide, which is a concern of many developing countries.
ICTs and cybercrime
Another direction of Russia’s efforts is combating cybercrime, a transnational issue of paramount importance related to malicious use of ICTs. We try to bring all states to the understanding that a universal set of rules to ensure the security and use of ICTs is very much required. Hence, Russia initiated the drafting of a comprehensive international convention on this matter within the UN framework.
In December 2019, the UN General Assembly established an Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Committee of Experts to elaborate a UN convention on cooperation in countering cybercrime. By this initiative we urge all stakeholders to convene its preparatory session at the earliest, preliminary in January 2021.
The problem with fighting cybercrime is that at this stage there is regrettable lack of a unified comprehensive international legal framework for cooperation in countering criminal use of ICTs. There isn’t even a single terminological base. The task of the Committee is to take into account the respective legal instruments as well as lay the grounds for elaborating universal convention in this sphere.
Russia, Thailand and ASEAN
It is my pleasure to note that Russia and Thailand have common approaches to urgent issues of IIS and combatting cybercrime. We are grateful to our Thai partners for their consistent support of our initiatives at the UN. Moreover, close coordination between our two countries in various international fora has become an important element of Russian-Thai relations.
In the bilateral sphere, the Russian Computer Incident National Response Center, which serves as a designated organisation for interaction with foreign computer incident response centres and international and non-government organisations operating in this domain, is ready to cooperate with relevant Thai authorities.
As the pandemic led to a surge in online activities, notably related to financial transactions and remittances, people in this country and region become more vulnerable to cybercrime. In 2019 Thailand emphasised this topic, including capacity-building activities with international partners, as one of its priorities as the then ASEAN Chair. Russia strongly advocates regular dialogue and consultations with our ASEAN friends. In particular, every year our senior officials participate in Singapore International Cyber Week. Hopefully, it could become a regular venue for ASEAN-Russia consultations on cybersecurity.
We believe that such works will be even more called for with the recent establishment of a relevant Department of IIS at the Russian Foreign Ministry to better coordinate our work with our partners, including Thailand and ASEAN.
Despite many groundless accusations of various “malicious steps or intentions” in the digital sphere against Russia, our country remains open to pragmatic cooperation on IIS and countering cybercrime. We strongly believe that the way to peace and security in the global information, communications and technology space lies through dialogue and the usage of existing bilateral and international mechanisms.
The absence of a universal international code of conduct in the cyber sphere is jeopardising the sustainable socioeconomic, scientific and technical development of all countries. It is important not to shelve pressing matters, not to engage in a political tug-of-war, but to focus on practical work and pool efforts.
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the
Kingdom of Thailand H.E. Mr. Evgeny Tomikhin