Remarks by Mr David Koh, Chief Executive, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, on the Adoption of the Report by the Sixth Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace in the Context of International Security

28 May 2021


Mr Chair, fellow GGE Experts, and the Experts behind the Experts, greetings from Singapore. As a first-time member of the GGE, I am honoured to have been part of this process in the past two years. Each of you has been a professional colleague and dedicated to the work as Experts; as well as consummate diplomats. I learnt a lot, and have found it of great professional value to have worked with all of you these many months.

I would like to thank the Chair, the secretariat team, Johanna and the many Experts in New York, Michele, Vladimir and Zhang Xiaohong, for working tirelessly to put together this Final Report for adoption. It has been an intense week of negotiations where experts are racing against the clock to formulate and co-create compromise language proposals that are collectively acceptable to all experts.

I want to thank, in particular the Chair, Amb Patriota, for your steadfast leadership to guide us toward our common goal. Especially, in light of the extraordinary circumstances under COVID-19.

In this regard, I’ll like to commend the efforts by experts for putting aside differences and whole-heartedly seeking middle ground solutions on difficult issues like international law, attribution and supply chain security. These are issues that are dear to many of us in different ways. And I’m heartened that our hard work has paid off and we have this finely balanced final report that we can call our own, as well as one that we can provide to the larger UN membership for additional guidance and clarity.

In my view, this report is significant for the progress that it has made on various elements on the framework of responsible State behaviour, reaffirming and building upon the acquis as well as providing an the additional layer of understanding to guide member states.

First, the report has achieved our mission of providing an additional layer of understanding to the 11 voluntary, non-binding norms, including on the complex issues of attribution and supply chain security. It will be an instructive guide not just to our 25 countries, but for the larger UN membership as well. This similarly applies to the CBMs section, which has also been deepened and enriched. We can all take heart that we each played an important role in broadening the acquis for cyber policy discussions – both now and for the years to come.

Second, despite the sensitivities on the application of international law to cyberspace, the report acknowledges that International Humanitarian Law (IHL) applies in situations of armed conflict, with a view to further study how and when IHL principles apply to the use of ICTs by States. This explicit reference to IHL is a remarkable achievement by all experts.

Third, the report has made significant progress on capacity-building, which is especially important for other developing countries and our partners in the ASEAN region. We have reference to a framework (Multi-disciplinary, Multi-stakeholder, Modular and Measurable). The 4M framework provides a useful structure to maximise the effectiveness and value of our capacity building efforts, to build a safer cyberspace for all.

Despite all the collective gains we have made, there are still parts of the report which I would have preferred to see retained. For example, attribution and supply chain security. Nevertheless, in the spirit of compromise, I can go along with these omissions and live with the balanced compromise language.

On the whole, this is a good report that will contribute and build on the acquis, and provide another layer of understanding which will be very useful as we move towards implementation.  As such, I am supportive of the adoption of this report by consensus.  This will be a fitting conclusion to the good work we have done in the last 2 years and do justice to the hard-fought compromises we have brokered over the past week. It is a document we all can be proud of to present to the General Assembly.

Mr. Chair, fellow Experts, Experts behind the Experts, the brilliant support team, and my own team in Singapore who have endured ungodly hours, it has been a pleasure and an honour to have been working with all of you throughout the 6th UNGGE. Once again, Thank you.