A years-in-the-making UN document that establishes rules for how countries should interact online has been adopted, with Australia playing a role in seeing it come to fruition.
On Friday, the United Nations General Assembly took a break from trying to warn everyone about climate change to adopt a report from the Open-ended Working Group on Developments in the Field of Information and telecommunications in the Context of International Security.
What this the report does is present a set of basic ideas for how countries should act and interact on the internet.
It was negotiated and agreed upon by all 193 members of the United Nations, including Australia, led by our head of Delegation Johanna Weaver.
— Johanna Weaver (@_JohannaWeaver) March 14, 2021
What are some of the UN’s online rules?
According to the committee’s chair Ambassador Jürg Lauber of Switzerland, these rules “contribute to confidence-building by increasing transparency and cooperation between States and for reducing the risk of conflict”.
Translated from diplomat-lish, this means that countries are less likely to get shitty at one another when there are basic expectations.
This might seem obvious but when it comes to the internet, everything is new. The job of this Open Ended Working Group was to translate the old rules to the brave, new world that we live in. For example, it’s generally frowned upon to attack hospitals. Part of this agreement was to agree that hospital technology is crucial and shouldn’t be targeted.
According to Weaver, the major achievements of the report are that international law and existing norms of responsible state behaviour does apply to cyberspace and that health infrastructure is critical and shouldn’t be attacked online. It also sets out a survey to find out how each country is actually living up to these standards. Interestingly, it also explicitly notes the “gender digital divide” and urges for action to address gender equity.
These principles will create a stronger internet, Lauber claims, which in turn creates a safer world.
“Together, these elements constitute a global framework of cooperative measures to address existing and potential threats in the sphere of ICTs,” Lauber said.