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Remarks by Ambassador Jürgen Schulz during the Security Council VTC Arria on Cybersecurity, May 22, 2020

22.05.2020 - Speech

Check Against Delivery

We welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with all relevant actors, including civil society.

In today’s world, conflicts do not necessarily start with tanks, guns or invading armies. Disinformation, election interference, intellectual property theft and infrastructure disruption: these are elements of modern warfare! They all pose tangible, real threats to our peace and security. Trust can easily be lost in cyberspace and the risk of escalation of small misunderstandings into full blown conflicts and even wars is real.

It is timely that the Security Council is debating these issues today. The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically underlined the extent to which we are dependent on digital devices and the internet. We desperately need them. They are immensely useful, but they make us vulnerable to cyberattacks. It is of utmost importance that we keep cyberspace open, free and secure. We have to safeguard the internet as a place, where human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and international law are fully respected and upheld.

Germany shares the conviction that existing international law, notably the UN Charter and international humanitarian law, applies equally offline and online. We support the implementation of the existing voluntary norms for responsible state behavior in cyberspace. Therefore, we actively engage in both of the current UN groups tasked with further developing the existing framework. That is on the one hand the group of governmental experts, which has come up with a nascent normative framework in this space and that also applies to the open-ended working group where discussions continue among all UN member states in an inclusive process. I understand that the final session has now been postponed to spring 2021, due to COVID-19 but we hope that the required extension of the mandate can be swiftly agreed so that this important inclusive discussion can be continued.

Let me be clear: this deep commitment to a rules-based international order for cyberspace is only one pillar of our approach to international cybersecurity. It is complemented by our efforts to build up credible deterrence against cyber-attacks: bad behavior in cyberspace – the disrespect of international law and agreed norms – must have serious and deterrent consequences.

We are constantly increasing our resilience: together with our partners in the European Union we have put in place a cyber sanctions regime, which will allow us to respond to cyberattacks in a firm, effective and targeted manner. And: this regime is in accordance with international law. If our security is compromised, we will not hesitate to use this instrument of sanctions.

In a nutshell: on the one hand, we are expanding and implementing the rules-based approach to cybersecurity. On the other hand, we are relying on resilience and deterrence. Rest assured: our activities – always anchored in effective multilateralism – do not stop here:

  • Germany is actively engaging in the Paris Call, which brings together state and private actors to advance cyberspace stability;
  • Also, Germany is actively promoting confidence building measures initiated by the OSCE;
  • Germanys supports the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise and is part of the World Bank Digital Development Partnership to advance capacity building. Our aim is to find global solutions to the global challenge of cyber threats.
  • Germany also promotes the regulation of the military use of artificial intelligence in lethal autonomous weapons, the famous “LAWS”. As a first step, we have already achieved agreement on politically binding Guidelines.

There is an overarching goal behind all our efforts: we have to work together – online and offline – to achieve our goal of making this world a better place. For this reason, cooperation in cyberspace is a key component of the Alliance for Multilateralism and an important topic for the Security Council. I am pleased that we are debating it today.

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