The following article was contributed by the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Seoul for publication by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985.—Ed.
By Qodirjon Obidov of the Department for International Cooperation in the field of human rights, National Centre of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Human Rights
Human rights are the foundation of a modern rule of law. At the post-industrial stage of development, the protection of human rights takes on a special character. Improvements in information and communication technologies are accompanied by increased opportunities for their unfair use, which poses threats to information security and can lead to violations of human rights. In this regard, the problem arises of the relationship between information security and human rights, first of all, the right to privacy.
The influence of modern technology is manifested primarily in the field of personal rights, among which the right to privacy occupies a special place. On the one hand, measures directly aimed at protecting this right act as guarantees of the right to privacy. On the other hand, when limiting the right to privacy, appropriate safeguards should prevent possible abuse. In addition to the principles of confidentiality, integrity and accessibility, specific legal principles have been developed to protect the right to privacy.
In Uzbekistan, the concepts of “security”, “information security” and “national security” are revealed through “the state of protection of the vital interests of the individual, society and states.
There is no doubt that the rapid digitalization of the life of society, business and the state generates a number of objective problems. In particular, the pandemic caused a sharp increase in cybercrime in the information space.
According to experts, in 2021, the number of cyberattacks in the world increased by 50% compared to 2020. The damage from cybercrime in 2021 exceeded $6 trillion against $3 trillion in 2015.
It should be noted, the problem of protecting critical infrastructure from cyber threats remains relevant. Thus, more than 90% of attacks by the most well-known hacker groups were directed at critical information infrastructure facilities, with the most frequently attacked sectors being energy, industry, defense and the public sector. Along with this, the information space has become regarded by extremist ideologists as the most attractive platform for conducting ideological propaganda.
Furthermore, there is a potential tendency to increase extremist and terrorist online propaganda on the territory of the Central Asian countries.
With the development of technologies, the volumes and speed of information exchange are significantly increasing, the range of possible ways of collecting, processing, providing and distributing it is expanding. As a result, the harm that can be caused to an individual through the disclosure of certain information or in connection with keeping it secret also increases. These processes are deepening contradictions, which are caused by the opposition of principles of confidentiality and access rights to keep information confidential and the right of access to such information. Such contradictions arise both in private law and in public law relations.
The above negative trends require the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member States to develop comprehensive approaches to the protection of cyberspace and ensuring information security.
The cross-border nature of these threats dictates the need to complement national efforts with collective actions at the regional and international levels.
Uzbekistan, being a full-fledged subject of international relations, interested in protecting its information space from external and internal challenges, attaches great importance to strengthening foreign policy cooperation in the field of international information security within the framework of reputable international and regional organizations.
In order to strengthen international cooperation and develop appropriate international norms in order to counter common challenges in the field of information security, the SCO member States presented the “Rules of Conduct in the field of international information security” to the UN General Assembly in 2011.
Uzbekistan also supported the further development of this document within the framework of the 69th meeting of the UN General Assembly in 2015.
Cooperation within regional organizations in addressing issues of ensuring international information security is an effective mechanism for developing new ideas and practical efforts related to confidence-building measures, and also acts as a key element of the efforts necessary to promote information and cybersecurity at the national and regional levels.
It should be noted that to date, the SCO has already established cooperation on issues of ensuring international information security.
In turn, the foundation of cooperation between the SCO countries in the field of information security is the intergovernmental Agreement on cooperation in the field of international information security, signed on June 16, 2009.
At the SCO summits in Astana (2017), Qingdao (2018) and Bishkek (2019), President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev made a number of important new initiatives that are an effective tool for strengthening friendship and mutual understanding between peoples.
So, for example, at the SCO Summit held on June 9, 2017 in Astana, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev put forward an initiative to empower the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure to organize a system for monitoring emerging threats on the Global Internet and countering them.
At the meeting of the Council of Heads of SCO Member States in November 2020 the President of Uzbekistan stressed the importance of ensuring regular discussion of the current situation, coordination of joint measures to counter challenges and threats, including in the information field.
It was noted that in the conditions of integration into the global information space, and the comprehensive digitalization of the activities of state bodies, the dependence of the efficiency of the functioning of society and the state on the state of the information sphere has significantly increased.
Following the summit, an important document was adopted – a joint statement by the heads of the SCO member states on cooperation in the field of international information security.
In the context of globalization, the information sphere is becoming more and more interconnected every day. This gives rise to the notion of the indivisibility of information security, which dictates the need to develop coordinated and more effective measures of interaction between the SCO member states in this direction.
Deeply aware of these processes, Uzbekistan in recent years has gained extensive experience in creating effective platforms for finding solutions to key issues on the agenda. Thus, on June 29, 2021, the CIS International Expert Forum on Information Security was held in Tashkent.
Based on the results of expert discussions, common approaches to the implementation of information security strategies and programs of the Commonwealth states were formed, including the development of a system for joint identification and monitoring of cybersecurity threats.
It should be noted, at the upcoming SCO Scientific and Expert Forum on Information Security, which is expected to be held in Tashkent on 6 September, 2022, there will be a broad discussion of issues of cooperation in combating threats in the information space, ensuring human rights in the fight against cyber threats, expanding the role of the SCO and strengthening the potential of states in this area. Foreign participants of the event will be aware of Uzbekistan’s efforts in the field of combating information security challenges.
As a result, the event will be an important contribution to the development of common coordinated approaches of the SCO member states in the field of information and cyber security.
Based on the exchange of experience, the Forum participants will have an opportunity to develop concrete proposals and practical recommendations for the formation of a unified policy to counter threats and challenges in the field of information security, as well as agree on common approaches to ensure free and unhindered access to information for citizens of their countries.
Based on the potential threats and risks mentioned above, important conditions for SCO Member States to ensure the guarantee of human rights in the field of information security still remain the same as follows:
a) it is necessary to ensure that modern technologies are used for peaceful purposes, to create a secure, fair and open information space built on the principles of respect for other countries’ sovereignty and non-interference in their domestic affairs;
b) it is necessary to develop practical cooperation and consolidate efforts to enhance international information security in line with the respective 2022-2023 Cooperation Plan and other documents adopted by the Organisation;
c) it is necessary to continue to cooperate within specialised negotiation frameworks of the UN and other international platforms;
d) need to continue to support regulating cooperation between their government bodies specialising in digital literacy in order to overcome the digital gap;
e) need to support countries’ equal rights to regulate the internet and their sovereign right to regulate the national segments of the internet.