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Dennis Broeders in World Politics Review on UN Governance of Cyberspace

Earlier this week, a working group of the United Nations, comprising all 193 of its member states, adopted a consensus report on norms for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. Dennis Broeders, full professor of Global Security and Technology at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University, commented on the new consensus report and governance of cyberspace in World Politics Review.

In 1998, Russia proposed a resolution in the UN General Assembly which eventually formed the UN Group of Governmental Experts (UN GGE), a small group of 15 experts which explored the threats posed by the use of technology to international security. The various UN GGE sessions produced consensus reports in 2010, 2013 and 2015, but failed to reach a consensus in 2017.  “There has not been a consensus report in the UN on cyber since 2015, and cyber years are long”, Dennis Broeders said.

Twenty years later, in addition to a proposal for a new UN GGE process, the UN General Assembly also passed the proposal for this new working group – a controversial Russian proposal. Russia has been pushing for the UN to have a significant role in the governance of technology for decades, and has been a vocal proponent of the need for an internationally binding cyber treaty. Their position is that there is already a legally binding framework to guide states on how to manage conflict—in international law—and that it covers online as well as offline activities. Therefore, there is no need to make an exception for cyberspace. “The fear is that it’s like a house of cards,” Dennis Broeders commented, “If we say that some aspects of cyberspace are so special that we need a new treaty, there is an opening to say, ‘So maybe international law does not apply in its entirety in cyberspace after all?’”

Read the entire article on the new consensus report by Emily Taylor in World Politics Review here.

Dennis Broeders is Full Professor of Global Security and Technology and Senior Fellow of The Hague Program for Cyber Norms at Institute of Security and Global Affairs of Leiden University. His research and teaching broadly focuses on the interaction between international security, technology and policy, with specific areas of interest in global security, international cyber security governance, and emerging technologies.

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