Statement at the Thematic Discussion on Other Disarmament Measures and International Security
in the First Committee of the 78th Session
of the United Nations General Assembly
New York, 24 October 2023
The Holy See supports the creation of international norms and institutions which promote dialogue and the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) “for the sake of human development, justice, and peace—for the upbuilding of society at the local, national, and community levels in light of the common good and in a spirit of solidarity.”
In this regard, my delegation welcomes the adoption by consensus of the second annual progress report of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on ICTs. The Holy See shares the report’s particular “concern regarding the increase in malicious ICT activities impacting critical infrastructure (CI) and critical information infrastructure (CII), including those which provide essential services across borders and jurisdictions […] as well as malicious ICT activities that target humanitarian organizations.”
Cyberattacks on hospitals, medical and educational centers, food distribution and other humanitarian networks, have increased greatly in these last years. As the largest non-governmental provider of health care, education and humanitarian services in the world, the Catholic Church has faced numerous such attacks, the effects of which primarily affect civilians, especially those in the most vulnerable situations. States must work together to build the architecture of peace to help govern emerging technologies.
As a next step, the Holy See urges States to implement the consensual decision to create a global, intergovernmental Points of Contact (POC) directory. This will help facilitate dialogue regarding incidents in cyberspace and build confidence.
However, much more is needed to increase cooperation, information sharing and lessons learned regarding the protection of critical infrastructure, among States, civil society and the private sector. Given this, the Holy See welcomes the proposal to develop “a norms implementation checklist to assist States, in particular developing countries and small States, in their efforts to implement the norms of responsible State behaviour in the use of ICTs.” Such a checklist, in combination with generous capacity-building support, can help reduce the digital divide and ensure that all States, no matter their level of development, can participate in global governance of ICTs as sovereign equals.
It is undoubtable clear that international law applies in cyberspace, as the OEWG on ICTs and previous Groups of Governmental Experts have affirmed. My delegation further encourages the advancement of international law through dialogue among States in an effort to build common understandings of how international law applies to the use of ICTs. For example an action may be considered to be use of force irrespective of the means used, or whether new technologies are used. Some cyberattacks may therefore constitute a use of force and must adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law.
In the face of rapid advancements in technology, widespread cyberattacks and the ever more pervasive spread of ICTs in society, the international community must never grow weary of working together to support and advance international cooperation, norms and legal instruments to promote the common good and protect those in vulnerable situations from the malicious use of ICTs. As Pope Francis has emphasized, it is essential to reinforce the “normative instruments for the peaceful resolution of controversies [...] so as to strengthen their scope and binding force.”
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
 Pontifical Council for Social Communications, “The Church and the Internet,” 22 February 2002, 3.
 Open-ended working group on security of and in the use of information and communications technologies 2021-2025, Draft Annual Progress Report, A/AC.292/2023/CRP.1, 28 July 2023.
 Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion, International Court of Justice Reports 1996, 39.
 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 439.