Ratas: Coronavirus crisis has increased importance of global cybersecurity

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) remotely addressing an informal meeting of the Estonian presidency of the UN Security Council. May 22, 2020.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) remotely addressing an informal meeting of the Estonian presidency of the UN Security Council. May 22, 2020. Source: Government Office

In his statement at an informal meeting of the Estonian presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Friday, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) noted that the global pandemic has demonstrated the importance of a secure cyberspace.

"I am pleased to open this virtual debate today on a topic that is close to all Estonians, and also netizens worldwide — today we are holding the first meeting of UN Security Council members that is entirely dedicated to the subject of cyber stability and advancing responsible state behavior in cyberspace," Ratas said according to a government press release.

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 cybersecurity.

"Many of our everyday functions and operations have moved online," he said. "Therefore, the need for a secure and functioning cyberspace is more pressing than ever."

The prime minister noted that the pandemic has brought an evolution to the already extensively digital lives in Estonia.

"My government was paperless before, and now we have learned to be even more connected virtually," he said, also giving examples of how e-services have come to the assistance of the field of medicine as well as teachers and students during the crisis.

Ratas affirmed that Estonia joins those strongly condemning cyberattacks targeting hospitals, medical research facilities and other essential infrastructure, particularly during this global pandemic. "Those attacks are unacceptable," he said. "It will be important to hold the offenders responsible for their behavior."

He highlighted three main elements of safeguarding cyberspace.

"First, UN member states have agreed long ago that existing international law applies also in cyberspace," he said. "We hold the strong view that existing international law provides comprehensive guidance for state behavior regardless of the domain. By following this simple principle, the behavior of states in cyberspace can become more transparent and predictable. Second, Estonia considers that a framework for cyber stability and conflict prevention has already been established by existing international law, voluntary norms of responsible state behavior as well as confidence-building measures. It is now important to implement this framework."

Estonia's third guiding principle is to recognize the importance of capacity building in promoting stability in cyberspace, he said.

The prime minister stressed that Estonia continues to support an open, free and stable cyberspace where the rule of law fully applies, and human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected.

"We gather today — although digitally — at a crucial moment," he said. "Preserving an open and secure cyberspace is our common responsibility — not only during the current crisis, but also far, far beyond."

Friday's meeting, held digitally at Tallinn Creative Hub and moderated by Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and Permanent Representative to the UN Sven Jürgenson, focused on conflicts in cyberspace and ways in which states could protect their digital infrastructure more efficiently.

Other speakers included the UN High Representative for Disarmament Izumi Nakamitsu, Chief Executive of the Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore David Koh and the Director for Technology Policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies James Lewis.

More than 60 countries worldwide participated in the event, which was co-organized by UNSC members Belgium, Dominican Republic and Indonesia as well as Kenya and held on the Estonian-developed virtual event platform Hybridity.

Click here (ink to PDF) to read Ratas' speech in full.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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