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Calling on the UN to prioritise digital trust and security

Web Foundation · September 22, 2020

The following is an open letter addressed to His Excellency Volkan Bozkir, the new President of the United Nations General Assembly, urging him to make digital trust and security a priority for his presidency.

The letter calls for a global statement on digital trust and security to be endorsed by member states. The statement would send a clear signal that world leaders in government, industry, and civil society are committed to closing the trust deficit in the digital age and securing progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

His Excellency Volkan Bozkir, President, United Nations General Assembly
Tuesday, September 22, 2020

We – the undersigned –  call on the United Nations to promote and safeguard the digital technologies that now underpin society. As the world faces a historic challenge it is now more critical than ever that technology is both available to all as a matter of social and economic justice but also used in the right way and in pursuit of common good.

The UN General Assembly—representing the collective conscience and will of the international community—has a responsibility to take the steps necessary to ensure the digital domain is universal, safe, meaningful and trustworthy so it can promote social and economic progress for all.

As you usher in the historic 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, we urge you to make digital trust and security a central pillar of your presidency. We commend the historic achievement of the Declaration on the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations. For the first time, all member states committed to improve digital cooperation and ensure safe and affordable digital access for all citizens. Progress must  not stop there. At a time of crisis it is essential that the world steps up efforts in this space, not least to support the development and delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals, an endeavour on which the role of digital technology is fundamental.

We call on your leadership therefore to advance the digital agenda, and we call on all member states to reinforce and expand upon these commitments in a global statement on digital trust and security as called for by the Secretary-General in his Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. Our daily lives, economic prosperity, security, and social progress hinge on a safe and secure digital environment that is affordable, accessible, and reliable. ICTs increasingly underpin access to nearly all essential services, including food, water, energy, and healthcare, as well as critical government functions, such as issuing identification and conducting elections. This statement would send a clear signal that world leaders in government, industry, and civil society are committed to closing the trust deficit in the digital age, bridging the digital divides, promoting digital rights and equality and securing progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Prioritizing digital trust and security will provide more visibility and energy to the UN processes already underway aimed at advancing a rules-based digital order, including the Group of Governmental Experts in the Field of Information and Telecommunications and the Open-Ended Working Group. We eagerly await the results of their work and hope to support their efforts to advance global cyber norms. As those and other processes advance, we encourage leadership at the United Nations to abide by the language in the 75th anniversary declaration to “provide a platform for all stakeholders to participate in such deliberations.”

We must learn from the lessons of history not to let one crisis breed another. Progress towards a safe, open, and secure cyberspace is needed now more than ever to meet and surmount the challenges we face. Civil society, technical communities, Think tanks,  industry and eminent digital personalities have found common ground on the need for global action on digital trust and security. Surely governments can join our call, endorse a global statement, and ensure a safe and secure digital future for everybody.

In his Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, the Secretary General makes clear that, “future generations will judge whether the present generation seized the opportunities presented by the age of digital interdependence.” The undersigned organizations stand willing to join governments and other stakeholders to advance this global imperative. Together, we can deliver a digital future that is safe, secure, and inclusive.

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil
President Ricardo Lagos, former President of Chile
Secretary Madeleine Albright, Former Secretary of State, United States
Daniel Mitov, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bulgaria
Susana Malcorra, Former Foreign Minister of Argentina
Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, United States
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Founder, Web Foundation; CTO, Inrupt
Carl Bildt, Co-Chair European Council on Foreign Relations
Hina Jilani, The Elders
Margaret Chan, Former Director-General, World Health Organization
Julian King, former EU Commissioner for the Security Union
Andrus Ansip, Member of the European Parliament and former European Commissioner for Digital
Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman, Munich Security Conference
Edson Prestes, Member, HLP on Digital Cooperation, Brazil
Marina Kaljurand, Member, HLP on Digital Cooperation, Estonia
Akaliza Keza Ntwari, Member, HLP on Digital Cooperation, Rwanda

Access Smart, LLC
Advocacy Initiative for Development (AID)
African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Coalition (AfDec)
African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX)
Alliance for Affordable Internet
Alliance for Peacebuilding
Association for Progressive Communications – APC
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Association of European Journalists-Belgium vzw
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio & Communication(BNNRC)
Campaign for Human Rights and Development International CHRDI, in Sierra Leone
Carnegie UK Trust
Centre for Digital Development
Centre for Multilateral Affairs (CfMA)
CloudFactors LLC
Convene North
Cyber Policy Institute
CyberPeace Institute
Cybersecurity Tech Accord
Digital Peace Now
EastWest Institute
Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center
Emonyo Yefwe International.
F-Secure Corporation
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
Finnish Information Security Cluster (FISC)
Foundlings with Living Parents Foundation
Free Expression Myanmar (FEM)
Free Media Movement
Future of Life Institute
Global Cyber Alliance
Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
Global Open Data initiative for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN)
Global Partners Digital
Inidev International
Instituto Nupef
Internet Protection Society
L’Association Francophone pour les Droits de l’Homme
LEADx Change
League for Societal protection against drug abuse (LESPADA)
Liberia Information Technology Student Union
Lie Detectors
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)
Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe Chapter
Media Rights Agenda
Netfreedom Pioneers
Nigeria Network of NGOs
Organization of the Justice Campaign
Paradigm Initiative
Rainier Communications
Red Dot Foundation
RNW Media
Siemens AG
Simply Secure
Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet)
Swiss Digital Initiative
The Global Forum on Cyber Expertise Foundation
The Kosciuszko Institute
Women in Crisis Response
World Wide Web Foundation

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