A year on, the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) has successfully cemented its status as a neutral and inclusive space for digital policy discussions, drawing on Geneva’s position as a global hub for policy processes.
The GIP’s operations in the past year and its plans for the upcoming months were the focus of last week’s discussion in Bern, Switzerland, on the Geneva Internet Platform: Successful start and future developments, organised by the Swiss Confederation.
The discussion was led by Benedikt Wechsler, MFA, Diplomatic Advisor e-diplomacy and Think-Tanks, who set the scene.
Speaking about Switzerland’s positioning in Internet governance (IG), Philipp Metzger, Federal Office of Communications BAKOM, said that Switzerland believes in a people-centred, inclusive discussion, in which the rule of law plays a central role, with a focus on human rights, access to the Internet, and the function and stability of the Internet. There needs to be good governance, with appropriate checks and balances. He said that Switzerland is taking a pragmatic approach which is continuous and sustainable, and has also been actively engaged in IG for years, highlighting the country’s role in the WSIS process, and the role of Swiss diplomats in several forums.
The function of the GIP reflects and embodies the Swiss approach, based on the underlying values of inclusivity, access to information, and experience. The GIP’s base in Geneva allows it to draw know-how from Geneva, and to connect human wisdom.
At a national level, Switzerland is looking forward to the first official Swiss Internet Governance Forum on 19 May, following the successful pilot initiative in 2013. The .swiss top-level domain will also be launched in September this year.
Ambassador Jurg Lauber, MFA, Head of Division UN and International Organisations, talked about Geneva’s position in global diplomacy with regard to digital policy.. He said we should reflect on the impact of Internet developments and global governance issues.
He reflected on the expertise that comes from people, and how – in the context of Geneva – this is complemented by a large diplomatic community, a vibrant civil society and academic sectors, a competitive business sector, and the fact that many international organisations are based in Geneva.
There can be no commercial exchange without the Internet, Ruedi Noser, President of ICT Switzerland, said. This makes the infrastructure a very important sector.
Stressing the need for knowledge, he reminded those present of the common saying that data is the gold of the future.
Presenting the annual report of GIP activities, Jovan Kurbalija, head of the Geneva Internet Platform, and director of DiploFoundation, described the GIP activities and events, including training courses, monthly IG briefings, the timeline of events, and the ongoing work on the new IG observatory.
Among other activities, he highlighted the fact that the just-in-time training courses on IG were very well-received by participants – diplomats working in missions in Geneva – as the courses anchored the training into the participants’ own work. The next course, starting on 20 April, will once again cover the main Internet-related policy fields, using a blended approach of online discussions and participation in the actual IG process.
Returning from last week’s Asian lecture tour, which took him to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia, Kurbalija described the Asian perspective on main issues such as cybersecurity and data protection, and the new concept of the ‘digital Silk Road’.
Peter Grutter, president of the Swiss Telecommunications Association, emphasised that the Internet is a distributed system of networks, and that multistakeholderism is not only a theory but a model through which stakeholders can discuss how to organise the networks – not just among people, but between people and things, and between things and other things.
He also described the work of the Geneva Dialogue Lab, which focuses on collaboration, borderless exchange, and a reliable technological backbone to manage the service.
Report prepared by Diplo’s Stephanie Borg Psaila who attended the event in Bern. The Geneva Internet Platform is a Swiss initiative operated by DiploFoundation.