Estonia promotes cybersecurity issues at the UN

Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar: Cyber Security in Estonia 2020: What Has Changed

Estonia seeks to bring cybersecurity and international responsibility for cyber attacks to the UN agenda

Estonia, which became a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2020-2021 for the first time, took over the presidency of the Security Council for one month on a rotational basis on May 1.

The Security Council includes 15 UN member states, five of which – the United States, Russia, China, France and the UK – are permanent and have veto power, and 10 member countries are elected through a vote of the UN General Assembly for two-year terms, 5 countries each year.

The chairmanship of the UN Security Council provides an opportunity to shape the agenda, therefore Estonia plans to pay attention to the topics of the pandemic and the security situation, the protection of civilians and issues of international cybersecurity..

In the international arena, the small Baltic country is known for its high level of digitalization, the presence of an effective e-government system and is one of the world leaders in the cyber sphere, having located the NATO Cyber ​​Security Center in Tallinn..

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, on Thursday, May 7, during a web discussion organized by the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington, noted that today at the international level there is no international institution or legislation that could be officially addressed by countries facing with cyber, hybrid or disinformation attacks. This leads to the fact that they cannot formally assign responsibility for such attacks to the countries that committed them..

In March of this year, after Georgia’s appeal to the UN, Estonia, Great Britain and the United States submitted to the Security Council meeting the issue of the cyber attacks on Georgia committed in October last year. Diplomats representing Estonia, Britain and the United States at the UN blamed Russia for the cyberattacks. The committed cyber attacks “are part of a long-term Russian campaign of hostile and destabilizing activities against Georgia and are part of a broader destabilizing action,” the ambassadors noted, adding that “irresponsibility in cyberspace is harmful to all of us.”.

Russia dismissed these accusations as “unfounded and politically motivated”.

The issues of attribution of cyber attacks were discussed in the UN working groups on several occasions, but the participants did not reach an agreement, therefore, their consideration directly to the Security Council was an unprecedented step for the organization, which is often hostage to the interests of its permanent members, President Kaljulaid noted..

“The next time someone wants to discuss the commission of cyberattacks against their sovereignty and address it in the UN Security Council, there is a precedent,” the president said. “We need to start creating precedents, creating international law on how we respond to attacks on states and their sovereignty through cyber means.”.

The very mechanism of the UN, which provides for the veto of resolutions and actions of the organization by its permanent members, has been repeatedly criticized for its inefficiency and politicization..

Estonia promotes cybersecurity issues at the UN

As part of its chairmanship, Estonia also brings cyber security issues to the UN Security Council on May 22. The meeting “according to the Arria formula” – the UN format for informal and confidential meetings – should touch upon issues of international security in the context of cyber threats and “political mechanisms to promote responsible behavior of states”.

Answering a question from the Russian Service of the Voice of America during a discussion about what kind of diplomatic maneuvers Russia is taking at the UN, the Estonian President succinctly noted that the use of bureaucratic obstacles or technical failures can be one of the practices to undermine a number of discussions.

Thus, when organizing a meeting at the initiative of Estonia in the UN Security Council to discuss the situation with human rights in Crimea, one could observe technical problems, said President Kaljulaid, describing such a plan of maneuvers as “beautiful technical diplomacy.”.

“But at least we were able to discuss this issue, and this is important,” the president added..

  • Valeria Jegisman

    Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics

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Estonia promotes cybersecurity issues at the UN

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