Digital technologies have tremendous potential to advance peace and security, said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. At a recent UN Security Council meeting on the use of digital technologies in maintaining international peace, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield noted that “new technologies are already playing a critical role in the UN’s peacekeeping efforts, and it is essential that they are used in a constructive manner.”
“Social media tools and messaging applications can facilitate access to lifesaving information prior to and during conflict. Data from satellites can identify risks from climate change, provide critical information to peacekeepers, and improve emergency communications during conflict and natural disasters,” said Ambassador Thomas Greenfield. “We can identify and stop famines before they start. We can find homes and housing and jobs for refugees. We can better protect our peacekeepers and those they are mandated to serve.”
It is therefore unfortunate that tools with so much potential to improve people’s lives are so frequently misused to restrict human rights and to fuel conflict. “In the hands of state actors, and in some cases non-state actors, these technologies are being used to cut off access to information, suppress freedom of expression, and spread disinformation, thereby escalating conflict,” said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.
“These actions hamper the ability of civilians to access health services, delay documentation of atrocities and human rights abuses, disrupt financial services, and restrict family members from connecting virtually to loved ones.”
The United States, said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, works with numerous partners in the Freedom Online Coalition to protect Internet freedom and ensure that digital ecosystems respect human rights. And we support the framework of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, through which all UN Member States have endorsed the applicability of international law to cyberspace, along with 11 voluntary norms to guide states’ cyber activities in peacetime.
“We are also standing together with countries around the world to protect against and respond to malicious cyber activities,” said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.
“To effectively maintain peace and security in the 21st century, we need to respond to 21st century threats and deploy 21st century tools,” she said.
“All of us who are committed to addressing and preventing conflict worldwide must do our part to ensure technologies serve as a force for positive change, and not as a tool misused to perpetrate human rights abuses, fuel hatred, and exacerbate conflict.”