Good Cyber Story
Theme: Gender
Target Groups: Women
Dominant Genes: Diversity, Political Importance, Organisational Capacity
DNA sequence Info

Women and International Security in Cyberspace Fellowship


The challenge


As recognised by the Women, Peace and Security agenda, women are differently and uniquely affected by conflict and threats to international peace and security. In addition, they bring unique perspectives and contributions to international negotiations, conflict resolution and peacebuilding activities.

However, women are still underrepresented on multilateral fora that deal with international security. As the 2019 report by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Affairs (UNIDIR), Still Behind the Curve, shows, the UN First Committee – responsible for arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament – has the lowest proportion of women diplomats of any of the UN General Assembly’s Main Committees.

Multilateral discussions on international security issues related to responsible state behaviour in cyberspace are no exception. And the gender gap in discussions such as those of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (UN GGE) or the UN Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on the use of ICTs in the context of international security undermines the effectiveness and legitimacy of the outcomes of these processes.

Women are discriminated against also in day-to-day use of the Internet. Although the number of Internet users grew on average by 10% every year from 2005 to 2019, the proportion of women using the Internet globally is 48%, compared to 58% of men. In relative terms, the global Internet user gap is 17% and although the digital gender gap decreased in Europe in the period 2013–2019, it increased significantly in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Arab states, Africa and developing countries. Worldwide, the user gender gap has increased from 11% to 17% in the past six years. Furthermore, women represent less than 25% of the cybersecurity workforce.

A response

To address this need, the governments of Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have developed the Women and International Security in Cyberspace Fellowship (WiC), which promotes greater participation of women in discussions at the United Nations on international security issues related to responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. Current fellows come from Fiji, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Thailand, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

Thanks to the Fellowship, 35 women diplomats representing countries from ASEAN, Asia Pacific, South America and the Commonwealth were able to participate in the meetings of the UN OEWG on the use of ICTs in the context of international security. Fellows also receive training from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) on multilateral negotiations, participate in an introduction to issues relevant to international security in cyberspace, and receive mentoring from senior colleagues working on these issues at the UN in New York.

The Impact

The WiC has already brought concrete results. In February 2020, during the second substantive session of the OEWG in New York, 54% of delegations included at least one woman with a speaking role. Globally, 42% of all interventions were made by women, and 15% of them were made by Fellows of the WiC. This was the first time that gender balance was achieved in a UN First Committee Process.

Furthermore, Fellows participating in the UN meetings and attending the courses take their knowledge back to their own countries and drive gender conversations across their own governments. This allows positive spill-overs and the promotion of gender balance in the cyber domain at all levels. In addition, the project has provided an important community-building function and a support network among fellows.
Rsz wic2

Project DNA

Which aspects of this project have contributed to its success? And which, according to the implementing organisations, might play an important role in launching similar initiatives in other parts of the world? The project DNA profiling on the basis of the Good Cyber Stories framework highlighted the importance of three success genes in particular:

D - Diversity


I - Political Importance

Political Importance

C - Organisational Capacity

Organisational Capacity

Women and International Security in Cyberspace Fellowship

Project DNA

Multi-Stakeholder Participation
Local Ownership
Organisational Capacity
Transparency and Accountability
Legal and Institutional Framework
Political Importance
Societal Awareness

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