At Estonia’s initiative, the international community reaffirmed the importance of cyber stability, including during the COVID-19 crisis, at the UN Security Council

At the Arria-formula meeting of the UN Security Council focusing on cyber stability, conflict prevention and capacity building, participants stressed that international law applied in cyberspace and norms of responsible state behaviour hold for all UN Member States. Around 60 countries and organisations took part in the event held on Friday 22 May, as part of Estonia’s Presidency of the UN Security Council.

Estonia’s prime minister and foreign minister both stressed that the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of a secure cyberspace. ”This crisis has also demonstrated how crucial it is to have a safe and reliable digital infrastructure, and how we must collectively work towards a more stable and secure cyberspace,” Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said in his opening remarks. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas highlighted the fact that the global COVID-19 crisis has put extra pressure on our critical services in terms of cybersecurity and therefore, now is the right time for substantive discussions on cyber stability. Many countries concurred in their statements. Foreign Minister Reinsalu also announced that Estonia plans to convene an international meeting soon to address the importance of digitalisation in responding
to the coronavirus crisis and assisting the recovery efforts.

According to Estonia’s Ambassador at Large for Cybersecurity Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar, one of the primary objectives of the events was to clearly enshrine previous UN agreements on cyber stability. ”With this meeting, Estonia showed itself as a driving force when it comes to discussing emerging threats at the UN Security Council. On an international level, it is important that the conviction shared by Estonia and many countries was heard loud and clear: cyberspace is not different from other domains where international law guides state behaviour,” said Tiirmaa-Klaar.

Dr James Lewis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who was one of the experts to brief the Security Council and other UN members, called the event ”a major contribution by Estonia and its co-hosts to put this topic in front of the Security Council”. According to Lewis, cyber norms and international law remain the best and most reliable way to build security in cyberspace.

A large number of participants noted the important contribution by the UN Group of Governmental Experts, of which Estonia is a member. According to the UN High Representative for Disarmament Izumi Nakamitsu, these Groups have been successful in agreeing that international law applies to the use of ICTs. Chief Executive of the Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore David Koh noted consistent engagement at the OEWG, the GGE and in other international fora builds networks of relationships and mutual trust.

The event, one of the most important of the Estonian Presidency of the UN Security Council, was moderated by Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu from Tallinn and Estonia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Sven Jürgenson from New York. Prime Minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas gave the opening speech.

The event is co-organised by Security Council members Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, as well as Kenya. The event was held digitally at the Creative Hub in Tallinn on the virtual events platform Hybridity, which was developed in Estonia.

The event can be re-watched via the Foreign Ministry’s Youtube and Facebook channels.


Photos: (Raigo Pajula and Jüri Kartul)

Introductory remarks by Foreign Minister Reinsalu:

Speech by Prime Minister Ratas:

National statements will be uploaded here: