We are facing extraordinary challenges to the peace and security of cyberspace. … In moments like these, States must recognize the critical importance of our common norms, rules and principles of responsible State behaviour and redouble efforts to ensure their effective implementation.

Developments and trends, 2022

In the 2022 sessions of various United Nations bodies, the international community continued to make progress in addressing several emerging challenges related to developments in science and technology and their implications for international peace and security.

On outer space, the Open-ended Working Group on Reducing Space Threats through Norms, Rules and Principles of Responsible Behaviours, established pursuant to resolution 76/231, commenced its work and held its first two substantive sessions. At those sessions, the Working Group took stock of the existing international legal and other normative frameworks concerning threats arising from State behaviours with respect to outer space. It also considered current and future threats by States to space systems, as well as actions, activities and omissions that could be regarded as irresponsible.

Figure 5.1

line chart showing the total number of space objects over the years, as registered at the UN

Total number of orbiting items by year as reflected in the Online Index of Objects Launched into Outer Space maintained by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

The General Assembly adopted a new resolution (77/41) calling on States to commit not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests, building on an initiative of the United States. By resolution 77/250, the Assembly also decided to re-establish a group of governmental experts on further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space, which will meet in 2023 and 2024 to consider and make recommendations on substantial elements of an international legally binding instrument on that issue. After a two-year hiatus, the United Nations Disarmament Commission was able to convene its substantive session, where it restarted its efforts to prepare recommendations on the practical implementation of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities (for more information, see chap. 7).

Figure 5.2

Line graph showing the number of objects in low earth orbit over the years

This graph shows the overall increase in global military expenditures from 2000 to 2022, as well as the regional shares in such spending. Military expenditures grew in four of the five geographical regions in 2022. The largest real-term increase was recorded in Europe (+13 per cent), followed by the Middle East (+3.2 per cent), Asia and Oceania (+2.7 per cent) and the Americas (+0.3 per cent). Spending decreased in Africa (-5.3 per cent).

SOURCE: National Aeronautics and Space Administration Orbital Debris Program Office

The new Open-ended Working Group on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communications Technologies (2021-2025) held its second and third substantive sessions and adopted its first annual progress report. Its work was focused on emerging and potential threats to information and communications technologies security; norms, rules and principles of responsible State behaviour in cyberspace; applicability of international law; confidence-building; capacity-building; and regular, institutional dialogue.

Building on a proposal first introduced by France and Egypt in 2021, the General Assembly adopted a new resolution on a programme of action to advance responsible State behaviour in the use of information and communications technologies in the context of international security. The initiative sought to establish a mechanism to, inter alia, discuss existing and potential threats, build national capacity to implement international commitments, and promote engagement and cooperation with non-State stakeholders.

Participants of the inaugural United Nations-Singapore Cyber Fellowship

From 1 to 6 August 2022, the National University of Singapore hosted 22 participants from 18 United Nations Member States for the inaugural United Nations-Singapore Cyber Fellowship. (Photo credit: National University of Singapore)

On autonomous weapons systems, the Group of Governmental Experts on Emerging Technologies in the Area of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems reconvened in accordance with the outcome of the sixth Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Review Conference. It was able to agree to a report that included substantive conclusions and recommendations, but it was unable to reach a consensus on elements of possible measures or options for a normative and operational framework to address the legal, humanitarian, ethical and political concerns associated with autonomous weapons. Nonetheless, there continued to be increasing convergence, but not consensus, on a so-called dual-track approach comprising prohibitions and regulations (for more information, see chap. 3).