By Maya Plentz

Geneva, 25 June 2020 – The United Nations has convened, since 2019, an Open Ended Working Group to address cybersecurity issues. The group brings together private sector stakeholders, academia, civil society experts, and Members States to discuss responsible norms of behaviour in cyberspace, risks and threats, and technical cooperation.

Swiss Ambassador Jurg Lauber, in his personal capacity as an expert, is currently the Chair of the Open Ended Working Group. The OEWG was created by the UN General Assembly in 2018, and held three meetings so far.

The UN Brief interviewed Ambassador Jurg Lauber to speak about the OEWG’s mandate and the upcoming final report, if a new fora to address peace and security in cyberspace will be created, and how Member States are working with the multiple stakeholders.

Ambassador Jurg Lauber has just been appointed to lead the Swiss Mission to the UN Office in Geneva and UN agencies. Starting the 1rst of July he will become the Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN in Geneva. Watch our interview here:

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The current mandate foresees that the OEWG submits its report to the 75th session of the General Assembly. Member States agreed that the OEWG would conduct three physical substantive sessions, concluding with its third and final substantive session from the 6 to the 10th of July 2020, in New York, after which it would submit its report.

But as this meeting can no longer take place due to the restrictions for physical meetings at the UNHQ in New York, this third and final substantive session was postponed. At the moment the UN is still figuring out when physical meetings with international participation can take place again in New York.

A formal agreement of Member States on the timeline to finish the OEWG process is still pending. In the meantime they have continued discussions virtually to make progress on report.

They had a round of three informal virtual meetings with Member States on 15, 17 and 19 June, with participation from 134 Member States, many of them represented by capital delegates from all around the world.

Civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector can engage with the work of the OEWG in the following way:

1)     The mandate of the OEWG foresees that the Group can hold intersessional consultative meetings with business, non-governmental organizations and academia.

These meetings are open to all interested organizations. They held such a meeting from 2-4 December 2019, in New York, with more than 140 organizations and more than 100 Member States participating. All details about this meeting are on this website and the summary report here. Upon request of Ambassador Lauber, Mr. David Koh, Chief Executive of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, chaired the December 2019 meeting.

2)     At the organizational session of the OEWG, it was agreed that such organizations can participate in the substantive sessions of the OEWG, if:

a.      they have consultative status with ECOSOC or

b.     they apply for participating in the substantive sessions of the OEWG and no Member State objects to their participation

An “Aide Memoire” by the UN Secretariat explains the procedure in detail here.

3)     The Chair established the practice that such organizations can at all times submit written contributions to the process, which is uploaded for Member States’ reference on the OEWG’s website. You can find all received contributions on the website.

Ambassador Lauber is committed to a transparent working method, which is why all communication by the Chair is published on the website, as well as all versions of the draft of the Group’s report and the recordings of the substantive sessions of the OEWG, to allow civil society to follow and contribute to the discussions of the OEWG.

As the mandate of the OEWG stipulates that everything related to the process must be agreed by consensus among Member States, the Group needed to find a balance between the different perspectives of Member States, civil society, academia, and the private sector in the OEWG process.

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