Remarks to the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing Responsible State Behavior in Cyberspace in the Context of International Security

Michele Markoff
Acting Coordinator
Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C.
May 28, 2021


Good morning chair and colleagues.

First, I want to express how honored I am to have worked with all of you over the last two years. This group of 25 experts have approached their work with utmost seriousness and diligence commensurate with the importance and seriousness of the topic. We have shared the clear and absolute understanding that we need to prevent conflict in the world in cyberspace.

Each of you provided important technical and cultural insights in your contributions. That has made this report in depth, meaty, and full of insights, and merits the importance I believe it will be given by the international community. During this final week, all of you have expressed an extraordinary willingness to bridge differences in order to reach consensus and understand the need to strive for the balance of interests. That mindset is perhaps the most critical element that has led to our success.

Ambassador Patriota, I want to reiterate my heartfelt thanks to you and your team for your tireless efforts to guide us through this process, particularly in the face of the unprecedented challenges of the COVID pandemic. You never wavered in your dedication to this process. With the help of our intrepid chair, we now have an intelligent, elegant, and comprehensive document that provides what you and we were striving for – “additional layers of understanding” building on a decade of work.

We should all be proud of this report. It is a product of all of our hard work. In our final sessions, much of our energy was devoted to resolving controversial issues, and we have largely succeeded at that. But this entire document is truly remarkable.

We have achieved a substantial new body of guidance on the eleven norms to which all UN member states have committed to adhere. States will no longer be left asking questions about what it means to implement each of those norms that have gained so much attention. We have provided detailed explanations about the intent of each norm as well as what it would mean to implement or adhere to it. The international community has been asking for such guidance since the 2015 report. With our current text, we have answered those calls.

We have put forth a meaningful body of guidance on considerations states should take into account when they are the victim of an ICT incident – ranging from practical requests for assistance to the complex issue of attribution. Given the threats all states are facing and the rise of serious ICT incidents, this may be one of the most important areas of progress in the report.

We have reaffirmed the role and value of confidence building measures and have provided new insights and recommendations that will drive that work forward for years to come.

We have reinforced that these recommendations and this framework of responsible state behavior that we built together cannot be fully realized without the essential addition of capacity building. All states that want to act responsibly in cyberspace should have the capacity to be able to do so and we should help them achieve that promise.

Since 2004, the GGE process has guided the international community’s thinking on how to prevent conflict in cyberspace. Previous GGEs were the ones that articulated the framework of responsible behavior in cyberspace that all UN member states have explicitly and repeatedly endorsed, including through the recent OEWG consensus report. Of course, it is only with implementation we can truly work out how international cyber stability can be achieved. With our new report, we are calling on all states to put this framework into practice.

I am pleased to join consensus on this GGE report. Thank you chair and thank you everyone.