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The UN GGE is Dead: Time to Fall Forward

Image courtesy of lost placees/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

The top down UN GGE process appears dead in the water. International norms and laws for responding to cyber attacks must now be built from the bottom up.

Rules must be binding, violations must be punished, and words must mean something. The UN GGE failed on all three accounts.

In 2004, the United Nations established a Group of Governmental Experts with the aim of strengthening the security of global information and telecommunications systems (UN GGE). To date the UN GGE has held five sessions, which are widely credited for successfully outlining the global cybersecurity agenda and introducing the applicability of international law to state behaviour in cyberspace.

However, during the UN GGE’s fifth session in June 2017, fundamental disagreements emerged between the Group’s 25 members, particularly on the right to self-defence and the applicability of international humanitarian law to cyber conflicts. In the end, the fifth and possibly last session concluded without the release of a consensus report. With no plans to pick up the pieces, the question now is, where do we go from here?

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How to Rebuild Trust in the Humanitarian System

Haitian relief workers assist service members embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) unload food and water to aid those affected by recent hurricanes that have struck Haiti.

This article was originally published by the Global Observatory (IPI) on 4 May 2016.

The international humanitarian system is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy, not only because it lacks the capacity and funds to respond to the volume and complexity of current humanitarian needs, but also because the “authorizing environment” has changed: the system no longer represents the interests of today’s humanitarians or is able to instill trust in aid recipients.

Take places like Syria, where approximately 700 local organizations and diaspora groups have filled the void left by the absence of international relief organizations, which have been largely unable to operate in besieged areas since the conflict began. In Yemen, suspicion and mistrust by governments, armed groups, and communities themselves compel international aid organizations to work almost exclusively through local partners. According to surveys done by the accountability project Ground Truth, only one in six of those affected by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal and one in 16 during the early response to the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa felt that their needs were being met by aid organizations. » More

The Welcome Demise of Cluster Munitions

How many legs lost? Photo: François Bouchet/flickr

Munitions that break apart and scatter over a wide territory have been used since World War II. But yesterday, 1 August 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) has finally become part of international Humanitarian Law. Following in the footsteps of the Mine Ban Treaty, the CCM disallows the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions.

The impetus for the treaty was widespread concern over the severe damage and risks to civilians from explosive weapons not only during, but also long after attacks. Cluster munitions (or cluster bombs) are indiscriminate weapons dropped from the air or deployed by ground-based delivery systems that often distribute hundreds of bomblets (or submunitions) that can cover an area the size of several football fields. On impact, many of the bomblets fail to explode – by design or flaw – and thereby remain a threat to lives and livelihoods many years after the conflict has ended. The most vulnerable, as usual, are the children, mistaking the deadly shrapnel for toys. » More

The Solferinos of Today – Views from the Field

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the event that lay the foundation for international humanitarian law and humanitarian aid. The grueling battle of Solferino saw the launch of Henry Dunant’s campaign that resulted in the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions setting today’s standards for humanitarian law.

This year also marks the 90th anniversary of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions.

The ICRC, which owes its existence to Solferino, commissioned an opinion survey about the needs and expectations of people in eight of the most troubled places in the world (Afghanistan, Colombia, DRC, Georgia, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia, the Philippines).

Not surprisingly, the study concludes that armed conflict causes extreme widespread suffering. Almost half of the people surveyed have personal experience of armed conflict. Numbers are topping in Haiti, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Liberia, where almost everyone is affected. Around half of the people with conflict experience are displaced or have lost contact with a close relative. Almost one-third have lost family members.

Contrary to what we probably would expect, people in these eight countries are optimistic about the future. All the same, anxiety and sadness rises and trust declines as a result of conflict.
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