Statement at the UNSC Briefing on Technology and Security
Statement23 May 2022
Thank you Madam President, and thanks also to our briefers.
As we’ve heard today, technology is a positive force for good in our lives, but can also be a powerful weapon for fomenting violence and conflict.
Cyberattacks, cybercrime, and the abuse of technology to spread disinformation are severely damaging trust, while advances in modern technology are contributing to the changing nature of conflict. Hate speech can be spread and amplified within minutes, polarising communities, undermining democracy, and fuelling intolerance and violence across the globe.
There are countless examples of such risks.
Russian state-controlled media has cultivated disinformation narratives in an attempt to create a pretext for its illegal, unjustified war in Ukraine. As the war continues, so does the Russian Federation’s efforts to distort reality, and to deny its brutal aggression on the ground.
In Myanmar, as we’ve heard from others, the curtailment of internet access prior to the coup signalled the subsequent erosion of fundamental freedoms, repression, surveillance, and brutal violence.
In Ethiopia, we have seen the misuse of technologies to oppress human rights defenders, to conduct surveillance on activists, to spread hate speech, and to incite tensions through social media.
In many other cases, new technologies are being misused to threaten the security and integrity of States, to target critical infrastructure, to interfere in democratic processes, to curtail human rights.
While the proliferation of digital technologies presents new risk and challenges, it also has the potential to play a vital role in support of peace.
From Colombia to Libya, we have seen how digital technologies have supported greater inclusivity, promoted engagement in peace processes, and complemented face-to-face interactions. They can, and should, facilitate and broaden the participation of women, youth and minorities. Ireland welcomes the work of DPPA’s Mediation Support Unit and Innovation Cell in this regard.
However, these efforts must take note of the particular risks faced by these groups in online spaces, as well as the global gender digital divide.
We encourage all around this table to be more open to the positive role that technology can play in conflict prevention, and in addressing global challenges such as climate change. Capacity-building, confidence building measures and initiatives, including the Programme of Action for Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace, which Ireland was proud to co-sponsor, are central to such efforts.
Technology can also act as a force multiplier in peacekeeping missions, offering our peacekeepers greater situational awareness and improved data analysis capabilities. These critically important enablers improve safety, security, and operational efficacy, thereby enhancing mandate implementation. This is why implementing the “Strategy for the Digital Transformation of UN Peacekeeping” is so important.
It is precisely during times of armed conflict that we must vigorously defend the right to freedom of expression - online as well as offline - and access to information. Freedoms essential to the promotion of lasting peace, to understanding the nature of conflict, and to ensuring accountability.
Today, I pay tribute to the private citizens, journalists, and human rights defenders in Ukraine, who are using digital technologies to share harrowing stories from the frontline, often at great personal risk. They are working tirelessly to collect, verify and preserve digital evidence of the attacks, in the hope that it will be used to hold those responsible to account.
It is beyond question that international law, including international humanitarian law, and international human rights law, applies in cyberspace.
Our approaches to digital technologies must be grounded in human rights, the rule of law and democratic values.
Ireland supports a free, safe, secure, inclusive, and accessible cyberspace.
We know that digital technologies do not exist in a vacuum. It is clear that non-State actors play a leading role in driving technological innovation. The active and meaningful participation of civil society, including human rights defenders, women’s groups, technical experts, academia, and the private sector in our work to identify solutions to shared challenges is critical.
Ireland also strongly encourages the Peacebuilding Commission to consider the impact of digital technologies, both positive and negative, in its discussions and advice.
In conclusion, Madam President, investing in the potential of digital technologies is investing in peace. When it comes to the use of digital technologies, Ireland firmly believes that multilateralism, responsible State behaviour, transparency, and human accountability are key to building and maintaining the trust that underpins international peace and security.