International law (extracted from 2021 GGE Report)
69. International law is the basis for States’ shared commitment to preventing conflict and
maintaining international peace and security and is key to enhancing confidence among States. In its
consideration of how international law applies to the use of ICTs by States, the Group reaffirms the
assessments and recommendations on international law of the reports of previous Groups of
Governmental Experts, notably that international law, and in particular the Charter of the United
Nations is applicable and essential to maintaining peace and stability and for promoting an open,
secure, stable, accessible and peaceful ICT environment. These assessments and recommendations, in
conjunction with other substantive elements of previous reports, emphasize that adherence by States
to international law, in particular their Charter obligations, is an essential framework for their actions
in their use of ICTs.
70. In this respect, the Group reaffirmed the commitments of States to the following principles of the
Charter and other international law: sovereign equality; the settlement of international disputes by
peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not
endangered; refraining in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the
territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with
the purposes of the United Nations; respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and
non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States.
71. Adding to the work of previous GGEs and guided by the Charter and the mandate contained in
resolution 73/266, the present Group offers an additional layer of understanding to the 2015 GGE
report’s assessments and recommendations of how international law applies to the use of ICTs by
States, as follows:
(a) The Group notes that, in accordance with their obligations under Article 2(3) and Chapter
VI of the Charter of the United Nations, States party to any international dispute, including those
involving the use of ICTs, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of ADVANCE
COPY 14 international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by such means as
described in Article 33 of the Charter, namely negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation,
arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means
of their own choice. The Group also notes the importance of other Charter provisions relevant to the
resolution of disputes by peaceful means.
(b) The Group reaffirms that State sovereignty and international norms and principles that
flow from sovereignty apply to the conduct by States of ICT-related activities and to their jurisdiction
over ICT infrastructure within their territory. Existing obligations under international law are
applicable to States’ ICT-related activity. States exercise jurisdiction over the ICT infrastructure within
their territory by, inter alia, setting policy and law and establishing the necessary mechanisms to
protect ICT infrastructure on their territory from ICT-related threats.
(c) In accordance with the principle of non-intervention, States must not intervene directly or
indirectly in the internal affairs of another State, including by means of ICTs.
(d) In their use of ICTs, and as per the Charter of the United Nations, States shall refrain in
their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political
independence of any State or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United
(e) Underscoring the aspirations of the international community to the peaceful use of ICTs
for the common good of mankind, and recalling that the Charter applies in its entirety, the Group
noted again the inherent right of States to take measures consistent with international law and as
recognized in the Charter and the need for continued study on this matter.
(f) The Group noted that international humanitarian law applies only in situations of armed
conflict. It recalls the established international legal principles including, where applicable, the
principles of humanity, necessity, proportionality and distinction that were noted in the 2015 report.
The Group recognised the need for further study on how and when these principles apply to the use
of ICTs by States and underscored that recalling these principles by no means legitimizes or
(g) The Group reaffirms that States must meet their international obligations regarding
internationally wrongful acts attributable to them under international law. It also reaffirms that
States must not use proxies to commit internationally wrongful acts using ICTs, and should seek to
ensure that their territory is not used by non-State actors to commit such acts. At the same time, the
Group recalls that the indication that an ICT activity was launched or otherwise originates from the
territory or the ICT infrastructure of a State may be insufficient in itself to attribute the activity to that
State; and notes that accusations of organizing and implementing wrongful acts brought against
States should be substantiated. The invocation of the responsibility of a State for an internationally
wrongful act involves complex technical, legal and political considerations.
72. Without prejudice to existing international law and to the further development of international
law in the future, the Group acknowledged that continued discussion and exchanges of views by
States, collectively at the United Nations on how specific rules and principles of international law
apply to the use of ICTs by States is essential for deepening common understandings, avoiding
misunderstandings and increasing predictability and stability. Such discussions could be informed and
supported by regional and bilateral exchanges of views between States.
73. In accordance with the Group’s mandate, an official compendium [document symbol to be
provided] of voluntary national contributions of participating governmental experts on the subject of
how international law applies to the use of ICTs by States will be made available on the website of the
United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. The Group encourages all States to continue sharing
their national views and assessments voluntarily through the United Nations Secretary-General and
other avenues as appropriate.