Launch of the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation
Bern, 11.06.2020 - Address by H. E. Mrs. Simonetta Sommaruga President of the Swiss Confederation, 11.06.20.
Your Excellency, Mr. Under-Secretary General,
In some ways, the Corona crisis has worked like a magnifying glass: The essential has become clearer. We saw how important it is to have access to trustworthy information and how important independent journalism is for citizens given the spread of misinformation online.
The crisis has also acted as an accelerator for digitalization: in only a few months, many of us have learnt to deal with online conferences, home schooling and other digital tools that many have not been using before.
We know that technology in itself is neutral – whether its effects are good or bad depends on the intentions of the people using it.
Good intentions open up many opportunities to achieve the UN's sustainable development goals (SDGs). Digitalization not only offers useful tools to combat the spread of the Corona Virus and mitigate against its economic impacts. Digital tools are also used in the fight against global warming. Smart technology can save energy and avoid wasting resources. In agriculture, technology can help to detect disasters at an early stage.
Unfortunately, there are other intentions. Some collect data to gain power and control over people. Others think about using robots to kill people in conflicts. Cybercriminals attack and blackmail institutions like hospitals and thus threaten the life of people.
Our open, free and constructive public sphere is under threat, when some governments or Internet giants control what information we see, know which newspapers we read and what friends we have. In this way, these actors can exert an enormous influence on our democracies. At the same time, it is getting increasingly difficult for smaller and poorer states and societies to defend their freedom and independence.
In our view, digitalization must be put at the service of ALL people.
To achieve this, we need to develop a minimal set of rules for the digital world. As our interests and visions may differ, this is not an easy or quick task. But there is no alternative.
We need to preserve a free and secure digital space for our children. And we need to make sure that all have access to it. This is not the case today. Even in rich countries like Switzerland some children had to be connected to the internet before they could participate in home schooling during the corona lockdown.
So what do we need to do today?
15 years ago, at the World Summit on the Information Society, we agreed to create a space for dialogue among all relevant stakeholders: governments, parliaments, businesses, civil society and academia. And we created the UN Internet Governance Forum. A platform for dialogue. Open to everybody!
Today, such dialogue is still necessary, but it is no longer sufficient. We need to go one step further and develop a space where we can define shared rules.
Last year’s recommendations of the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation have been an important milestone. And the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap as presented today offers an important next step towards a more inclusive digital cooperation and governance.
Given that it is easier to build on existing mechanisms rather than to agree on creating something new, we are convinced that the model “Internet Governance Forum Plus” will have the best chance to bring us the next step ahead.
For the last 20 years, Switzerland has been actively supporting the development of digital cooperation and governance. My former Federal Council colleague, Doris Leuthard, had the privilege of contributing to these discussions as a member of the High Level Panel.
We are fully committed to continue to work with all of you. Also International Geneva, with its many organizations and institutions that are already actively shaping digital governance, shall make an important contribution to this.
Address for enquiries
Communication DETEC, +41 58 462 55 11
General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC