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The pandemic, UN cyber negotiations and international law and norms

Bright winter sunlight flooded the non-descript conference room in the Palais des Nations, as delegates of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on cyber took their seats. It was February 2020, and the 2-year multilateral process was still in its early days, with negotiations scheduled over the course of the next 18 months. While delegations did not then know it, COVID-19 would from that moment fundamentally alter the form and substance of negotiations. For many delegates it would be the last time they would meet face-to-face. And they would soon be discussing a new type of cyber threat, born out of the pandemic; one they would not have contemplated on that cold Geneva morning.   Notwithstanding these challenges, as well as an uptick in geopolitical tensions over the period, in 2021 the GGE (with its 25 experts appointed by States) and the parallel UN Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) (with diplomats from all UN members) both adopted landmark, consensus reports on responsible State behaviour in cyberspace (see here for GGE…

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Will the Taliban Represent Afghanistan at the UN General Assembly?

The work of the Credentials Committee of the General Assembly is normally procedural. Typically, the Committee reviews the credentials submitted by state representatives, and ensures they comply with the Assembly’s procedural rules.  The Committee is scarcely ever called upon to consider matters of government legitimacy.  In stark contrast to this status quo, it seems this year’s…

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The Endless War Against Human Rights in Afghanistan: Human Rights Defenders’ Joint Statement of Solidarity with the People of Afghanistan

Today, the 31st of August 2021, marks the official deadline for withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan after twenty years of military presence initially motivated by the 9/11 attacks of Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.  Many have written (including Henry Kissinger) about the failures of American foreign policy and its efforts at nation-building…

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A Tale of Three Cities and International Law

Last July, an international organization meeting in an Asian city took historic decisions that will influence the fate of three European cities for years to come. At its 44th session, held in Fuzhou and online, the World Heritage Committee (WHC) stripped Liverpool of its World Heritage List (WHL) title. The same day, Vienna was removed from the…

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US Mistreatment towards Iran’s Representatives to the UN: Is Iran Initiating the Third Case against the US at the ICJ?

In recent years, some visa applications for Iran's representatives to the UN have been rejected by the US. Also, Iran's representatives to the UN may only travel between the Iranian U.N. mission, the Iranian U.N. ambassador’s residence, John F. Kennedy airport, and the UN, and they would need authorization to go beyond a 25-mile (40-kilometer) radius (see…

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