Madam President,

I would like to thank Estonia for organizing this open debate and the High Representative for her briefing. Cyberspace has become an integral part of our societies and creates tremendous opportunities for social and economic development. At the same time, malicious cyber operations pose a risk of instability and have become a threat to international peace and security. We are concerned that cyberspace is being instrumentalized for power projection and is becoming increasingly fragmented and destabilized.

An open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful cyberspace is beneficial to all. The UN plays a crucial role in this respect. Switzerland welcomes the recent adoption by consensus of the reports of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and the Open-Ended Working Group. These reports represent essential steps towards responsible behavior of States in cyberspace.

To promote peace and stability in cyberspace, I would like to highlight the following elements:

First, international law applies in cyberspace. Respect for international law is an essential condition for conflict prevention and the maintenance of international peace and security. The obligation to resolve disputes by peaceful means also applies to the activities of States in cyberspace. Furthermore, international humanitarian law (IHL) is applicable when an armed conflict, whether international or non-international, exists de facto. Switzerland welcomes the fact that the latest GGE report clearly states this. This is a significant milestone. IHL and its fundamental principles place important limits on the execution of cyber operations in the context of armed conflict.

Second, Switzerland is concerned about the humanitarian impact of malicious cyber operations, which have been on the rise since the pandemic and frequently concern medical infrastructures. Switzerland stresses that these are protected, as demonstrated in the open debate in April. The GGE reports provide a framework to protect critical infrastructures from malicious cyber activities. In addition, data collected for humanitarian purposes must be protected. We also encourage States to comply with the voluntary norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace and additional GGE guidance for their implementation, to avoid damages to critical infrastructures, mitigate humanitarian impacts and ensure the protection of civilians.

Third, confidence-building measures are important to prevent a climate of mistrust in cyberspace. At the regional level, Switzerland is committed to advancing the role of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in promoting cyber stability: Switzerland is developing, together with Germany, a proposal for the implementation of a CBM that provides for consultations in the context of a serious cyber incident. Switzerland is also committed to transparency and capacity building: Our National Cyber Security Centre provides technical support to other States in the event of an incident and shares data and information on possible threats. The Security Council and UN organizations should take into account regional initiatives and CBM that have proven useful in promoting peace and stability in cyberspace.

Finally, civil society organizations, the academic and technical community as well as the private sector play an important role in supporting international cyber-stability, especially with regard to the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms online and offline. Switzerland, as a member of the Freedom Online Coalition, engages with over 30 governments and a network of stakeholders to promote freedom of expression on the internet. We encourage the Security Council and Member States to involve the different actors in the implementation of the Framework for Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace.

Madam President,

Multilateral cooperation and adherence to international law, including human rights and IHL, are essential for peace and security in cyberspace. Switzerland encourages further work on these topics, including in the new Open-Ended Working Group and the future Programme of Action for the Promotion of Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace. As a candidate for the Security Council, Switzerland looks forward to pursuing a multi-stakeholder and constructive dialogue, building on the existing achievements.

Thank you very much.