International law and norms of responsible behaviour are at the heart of the discussions at the United Nations (UN) on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security. The purpose of the present study is, therefore, to analyse – and provide food for thought on – the place of international law within the framework of the two processes underway at the UN, the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) and the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (GGE). It will also explain how international law is being instrumentalised in the present negotiations.
The study is comprised of three parts. First, it sets out the context in which these two processes arose, their respective mandates, and the place of international law in their work. Secondly, it examines the ambiguities and consequences associated with the distinction between norms of responsible behaviour and international law. Finally, the last part focuses on the interpretation of certain rules of international law, such as, on the one hand, the responses authorised by international law in reaction to a cyber operation and, on the other hand, the principle of sovereignty. The study then analyses the geopolitical motivations behind this.