Geneva’s platform for global digital governance (OF77)

20 Dec 2017 15:00h - 16:00h

Event report

[Update] Learn more about the Geneva Initiative on Capacity Development in Digital Policy, which promotes innovative capacity development solutions to embrace digital opportunities and mitigate the risks. The Geneva Initiative focuses on the main needs for capacity in digital policy, and proposes ways to address these needs. It also suggests who can provide capacity development in the Geneva digital ecosystem.

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

The panel presented the kickoff for the Geneva Initiative on Capacity Development in Digital Policy, with interventions from involved stakeholders from around the world of digital policy. 

The moderator, Dr Jovan Kurbalija, head of the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) and Director of DiploFoundation, stressed the need for capacity building, and explained the motivation of the Geneva Digital talks, which started on October 3rd, with the goals of, awareness building, inclusive governance and capacity development on the level of both institutions and individuals. From this came the launch of the Initiative on Capacity Development in Digital Policy,which, according to Kurbalija, will focus on institutional capacity development, through the network of diplomatic academies managed by Diplo, among other avenues.

Mr Pierre Maudet, State Councillor of the State of Geneva, expressed the support of the government of Geneva for the endeavour and its ongoing support of GIP. He explained the history of the Geneva digital talks, and lauded Geneva as a space for many important actors in Internet governance (IG). Maudet described the framework by which international law applies to cyberspace, which makes clear that states should refrain from attacking critical infrastructure. This framework needs to be taken forward by improved discussion, normatively, in a participatory manner, to make a contribution to creating a safer Internet. . Maudet said that the combination of the GIP’s work, Digital Switzerland’s resources, and Geneva’s overall position as a global centre of perspective and a fundamental ethics platform, will make sure that strengthened cooperation and broken silos lead to global cooperation through this new initiative. 

Mr Phillipp Metzger, Director General of the Federal Office of Communications of Switzerland, began by praising the Internet governance forum (IGF) and particularly this IGF in GenevaGeneva for bringing people together, breaking up the silos and allowing connections that mean seeing the bigger picture. Further, he likened it to the necessary precondition to progress, capacity development, which requires similar open and equal discussions. Digital capacity and infrastructure building are closely connected to sustainable development goal (SDG) realisation Metzger argued, and encompass many types of activities, from skills acquisition to institution building. There are many current programmes, he posited, from ICANN and ISOC to Diplo and the GIP, but the new initiative, undergirded by a necessary level of trust and confidence, represents a new phase.

Mr Kastern Geier, Head of Cyber Policy of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Germany, explained the current international environment, and how to push forward from a mix of applying existing rules and non-bonding regulations to promoting a free and open cyber space, through capacity development. While the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) which recommending how to implement previous GGE cyber security recommendations did not reach consensus, the conversation moves forward, he argued. Geier gave concrete advice in urging the Initiative to find a niche which complements existing cyber capacity building institutions, to develop curriculum not simply based on what it can offer, but more importantly what is needed, and cautioned about the use of new terms and misuse of established terms like the Geneva Convention. He offered three cyber 101 tips: reaching agreement on the current threat situation, understanding structures and processes at the national level; and providing urgently needed rules for international cooperation.  

Ms Constance Bommelaer de Leusse, Senior Director of the Internet Society (ISOC), started by explaining the history and unique role of ISOC in IG. She commended the recommendations for the Initiative as being simple, powerful and “making a lot of sense”. In particular, Bommelaer highlighted two of them, thinking global, but acting local, which resonates with ISOC’s mission, and the involvement of a wide range of actors, as the theory of

multistakeholder governance remains theory if it does not have a vibrant community. She suggested the creation of further literature in IG and in multistakeholder governance, and the pulling in of knowledge from other literatures. She cautioned that issues should be taken up at the early stage before they become politicised. 

Mr Jean-Yves Art, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships, Microsoft, spoke from the perspective of the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution, large transformations, through emerging technologies, which allows us to react not just in a piecemeal approach, but manage the change the way we want. He argued for the embedding of values and frameworks in technology if we want technology to serve society and humanity; human rights need to be the guide, and capacity building is the most important element, in a holistic approach. Art said that it is also important to have a more holistic approach to technology development, especially in Geneva, which is full of UN agencies touching on every aspect of technology. 

The audience discussion focused on the existing initiatives and how this one can complement them.

By David Morar