In introducing the item, the Secretary-General noted the need for a substantive discussion on this very sensitive issue, which has been highly visible in the press in recent months. He noted that there exists a general awareness of how the information society has revolutionized many aspects of global society, including sensitivity to the risks of insecurity of the information age, indicating that computer viruses, theft of intellectual property and the use of technology for criminal behaviour are nothing new. However, a growing awareness of the loss of privacy, coupled with a growing awakening to the risks to global security, has fed a growing urgency to take action to protect the work of the United Nations system and the populations that are served. Recent events have revealed the scale of private information that is collected and analysed by various actors and have spurred both the public and private sectors to act. The increasing attention to the issue was highlighted during the general debate of the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session, when the first speaker, the President of Brazil, dedicated significant time to the issue.
During the discussion, many Board members highlighted the sensitivity and complexity of the issue, which includes elements as diverse as human rights, privacy and the impact on development. On the human rights dimension of the issue of cybersecurity and cybercrime, several participants emphasized that all measures to counter cyberinsecurity and cybercrime must be in conformity with international human rights standards, including freedom of expression, information, opinion, association, privacy rights, dissemination of hate speech, racism, child pornography, abuse and trafficking in persons, and underscored the notion that cybersecurity must not only include the security of assets and the cyberenvironment, but also of individual users. Participants also noted that, although women and children tend to be victims of cybercrime in many ways, the opportunities afforded to those groups through universal access to the Internet underscored the “double-edged” nature of the issue, and therefore the importance of ensuring a secure cyber environment so that such opportunities can be enjoyed by all.
Many participants stressed the need to consider the impact of cybersecurity on development and the role of a cybersecure environment while considering actions in the post-2015 development area. Some noted that ICT will be critical to achieving results in social and economic development and that a cyberinsecure environment will only inhibit growth.
In concluding its discussion, the participants generally agreed that the information and communication revolution touched on many different aspects of the work of United Nations agencies, including crime, the role of women, climate change and youth unemployment. Furthermore, they agreed that all of the issues were part of a new global landscape and that CEB could be utilized as a vehicle for further work on integration and working as one.
In summarizing the discussion, the Secretary-General thanked all members for an interesting, thought-provoking and enlightening discussion. He noted that Member States were very engaged in the discussion. Technology, he noted, is in the hands of everyone, for both good and evil, but in today’s world it functions as a cross-cutting tool that the world cannot do without.
The Board endorsed the United Nations-wide framework on cybersecurity and cybercrime (see annex III) and welcomed the initiative by the High-level Committee on Management to develop enhanced system-wide capacity to address cybersecurity threats to United Nations agencies. As a result of the discussions, and rather than make any decisions at the level of CEB at the present time, the Secretary-General called for ITU, together with UNESCO, UNODC, UNDP and UNCTAD, and in close coordination with the High-level Committee on Management, the High-level Committee on Programmes and the United Nations Development Group, to develop a system-wide comprehensive and coherent strategy for addressing the issue, for discussion at the second regular session of 2014.