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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Remarks at High Level Leader's Meeting

Christopher Painter
Coordinator for Cyber Issues 
Bali, Indonesia
October 21, 2013


Good morning, Minister, Chairman Sasongko, Mr. Assistant Secretary General [UNDESA], and Mr. President [ICANN], distinguished colleagues and participants here today. It is truly a pleasure to join you all in beautiful Bali, and an honor to take part in this Leader’s Meeting today. As this important meeting immediately precedes the Internet Governance Forum starting here in Bali tomorrow, we appreciate the adjacency of the two related but distinct meetings in order to take the opportunity of the gathering of people from countries all over the world for this more targeted yet equally robust conversation.

We have quite a full agenda for this meeting, so I will focus my remarks this morning on two key areas on which we in the United States are heavily engaged under the meeting’s theme of Global Multi-stakeholder Collaboration and that address some of the sub-themes for our dialogue today.

First, allow me to introduce my colleague Ambassador Danny Sepulveda, our new Ambassador for Communications and Information Policy who will be joining our discussion today and those in the IGF throughout the week. Other members of the U.S. Government are also in attendance, along with industry and civil society representatives.

Second, I should mention that I come to Bali directly from Seoul, South Korea, where I led the U.S. delegation to the third installment of the Cyber Conference series was just held. Launched in London two years ago and followed by Hungary last year, the conference continued its focus on cybersecurity, international security, cybercrime, economic growth, and social benefits. This year's event added an emphasis on cyber capacity building, giving that issue increased prominence. The Korean hosts also welcomed more stakeholders from developing nations than ever before to the Conference, enriching the discussion generally, and adding an extra dimension to consideration of capacity building approaches. Many of the topics discussed in Seoul are equally pertinent here, and the Seoul Framework for and Commitment to an Open and Secure Cyberspace lays out a valuable set of existing, pertinent principles that I commend for your reference.


The sub-themes laid out for this discussion reflect the breadth, diversity, and complexity of cyber issues. It’s not possible to address all of these issues in the short time we have here.

As the first key area, I will focus on the progress in the last year or so in the pursuit of international consensus on principles that should guide us as we think about these many issues.

The U.S. regards cyberspace as something that is neither owned nor controlled by states. We see states as one of many stewards working to ensure that this resource is available to all the world’s people. Yet, in the cyber realm, as elsewhere, states have a special responsibility, working with all stakeholders, both to protect their own national security and to promote peaceful and stable relations between themselves and other nations. Because state-on-state actions in cyberspace have the potential to disrupt cyber-dependent economies and damage critical national infrastructure, it is essential that states promote transnational cooperation in order to keep the peace in cyberspace.

Some years ago the US concluded that the international community needed to strive for a state of "international cyber stability"; an environment where all states are able to positively and dependably exploit the benefits of cyberspace; where there are benefits to cooperation and to avoiding conflict and little incentive for states to disrupt one another’s computer networks or Internet activity. We believe that the appropriate framework to achieve this stability is through recognition of international norms, and confidence building measures. The framework of existing international law and norms of acceptable state behavior which guide states in other contexts must also apply to cyberspace. Along with norms, the United States believes that practical operational confidence building measures are needed to enhance predictability and reduce the risk of conflict.

On June 7 of this year, in the context of a UN Group of Governmental Experts, 15 states including our hosts and many other states here today - achieved a ground-breaking consensus report. The Group:

  • Agreed that confidence-building measures, such as high-level communication and timely information sharing, can enhance trust and assurance among states and help reduce the risk of conflict by increasing predictability and reducing misperception.
  • Agreed on the vital importance of capacity-building to enhance global cooperation in securing cyberspace.
  • Affirmed that state efforts to address the security of ICTs must go hand in hand with respect for human rights and fundamential freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments.
  • Reaffirmed the importance of an open and accessible cyberspace, as it enables economic and social development.
  • Agreed that the combination of all these efforts support a more secure cyberspace.

Perhaps the most significant single achievement in this consensus was the Group’s affirmation that international law applies in cyberspace. That affirmation was coupled with consensus that States must meet their international obligations regarding internationally wrongful acts attributable to them; States must not use proxies to commit internationally wrongful acts; and states should seek to ensure that their territories are not used by non-State actors for unlawful use of ICTs.

It is our expectation that future discussions on these subjects will use the results of this report as the foundation for discussion on how international law applies in cyberspace, how the international community can work with developing states to improve their own capacity, and how to implement specific practical measures to achieve these goals.

The U.S. believes that broad recognition of norms will help promote a safer and more secure cyberspace. In particular, the understanding that International law applies on the Internet is helpful for discussions around the second key area – the topic of Cyber Ethics.

For the United States, discussions about cyber ethics must begin with the fundamental understanding that human rights apply equally online as they do offline. This principle has been widely recognized by the international community. In fact, the UN Human Rights Council affirmed this principle by consensus just last year. So, further conversations on this topic need to begin by acknowledging the human rights obligations and commitments we each have.

Notably, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not limit the protections given for expression only to what is termed “ethical” expression. In contrast, some states seek to define “ethical standards” to suppress speech they do not agree with. We stress that human rights are universal, and do not vary from place to place, or from culture to culture.

Some view network technologies like the Internet as disruptive. But, when the State curtails freedom of expression online in the interests of social stability, they limit their future development. Their young people miss out on conversations and debates elsewhere in the world, and they lack exposure to the free inquiry that spurs people to question old ways of doing business and invent new ones. Freedom of thought is part of what fuels economic innovation.

In the United States, the ability of citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression has paid big dividends. There is a clear connection between our freedom to express our thoughts and our ability to organize our companies and our societies in creative and innovative ways that make us more productive, more efficient, and more prosperous.

In conclusion, there has been significant progress in forging international consensus on the issues under discussion today. The United States will continue to work toward regional and international collaboration on key cyberspace activities, including norms, and also areas where capacity building, multi-stakeholderism, and trust can contribute to greater international cyber stability, growth, and sustainable development.

Thank you for the opportunity to join this meeting today, and I look forward to the discussion.

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