Ratas: the COVID-19 crisis has increased the importance of global cybersecurity

Stenbock House, 22 May 2020 – In his statement at an informal meeting of the Estonian Presidency of the UN Security Council today, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas 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 behaviour in cyberspace,” the Prime Minister said.

He 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. Therefore, the need for a secure and functioning cyberspace is more pressing than ever,” the Prime Minister said.

Ratas 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. He also gave examples of how e-services have come to the assistance of the field of medicine as well as teachers and students during the crisis.

The Prime Minister affirmed that Estonia joines those strongly condemning cyber-attacks targeting hospitals, medical research facilities and other essential infrastructure, particularly during this global pandemic. “Those attacks are unacceptable. It will be important to hold the offenders responsible for their behaviour,” Ratas said.

He highlighted three main elements of safeguarding cyberspace. “First, the United Nations Member States have agreed long ago that existing international law applies also in cyberspace.  We hold the strong view that existing international law provides comprehensive guidance for state behaviour regardless of the domain. By following this simple principle, the behaviour 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 behaviour as well as confidence building measures.  It is now important to implement this framework.” Estonia’s third guiding principle is to recognise the importance of capacity building in promoting stability in cyberspace.

The Prime Minister stressed that Estonia continued 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. Preserving an open and secure cyberspace is our common responsibility – not only during the current crisis, but also far, far beyond.”

The event held digitally at the Creative Hub in Tallinn focuses on conflicts in cyberspace and ways in which states could protect their digital infrastructure more efficiently. The event, one of the most important of the Estonian Presidency of the UN Security Council, is moderated by Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu and Estonia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Sven Jürgenson. 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. The total number of participants includes more than 60 countries from across the world.

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

Full text of the prime minister’s speech (in English): https://www.valitsus.ee/sites/default/files/22.05.2020_uro_julgeolekunoukogu_mitteametlik_istung_eng.pdf
Photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stenbockimaja/sets/72157714411514982/
Photos from the event (MFA): https://www.flickr.com/photos/estonian-foreign-ministry/sets/72157714366261236/