Programming action: observations from small arms control for cyber peace

This briefing paper explores observations from the UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons process that can be applied to the growing calls for a programme of action on state behaviour in cyberspace.  

Malicious international cyber operations have become one of the most pressing security issues of our time. This has prompted some governments to call for an international treaty to regulate state behaviour in cyber space. Others maintain that the existing patchwork of voluntary norms is sufficient—but that these norms require more effective implementation or monitoring to be effective. In 2020, a potential compromise has emerged in a proposal for a programme of action on cyber security and state behaviour in cyber space. 

Some states have suggested modelling a cyber PoA on the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA). WILPF has, through its disarmament programme Reaching Critical Will (RCW), followed the UNPoA on small arms for nearly two decades and is increasingly involved in monitoring UN processes on international cyber security and calling for cyber peace. It is from this perspective that WILPF offers this briefing paper as food for thought to both states and stakeholders interested in advancing a cyber PoA. We have identified five observations from our experience in engaging with the small arms UNPoA that we deem relevant for the international cyber security community to consider as it moves forward. This briefing paper is informed by interviews with other civil society experts, as well as publicly available analysis and commentary

Written by Allison Pytlak • Published in February 2021 by Reaching Critical Will, a programme of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Read WILPF's reporting on OEWG meetings in 2019 and 2020, or view our resource page on the UN's information and communications technology processes and fact sheet on cyber peace and security.