Bern, 16.04.2015 – Den Haag, 16.04.2015 – Statement of Swiss Federal councillor Didier Burkhalter at the opening of World Conference of the Cyberraum 2015.
Switzerland is strongly committed to an open, free and secure cyberspace. The internet has created myriad opportunities for our economies and societies. It has empowered billions of individuals around the world. It has become a key driver for human rights as it gives people a voice, and unprecedented access to information.
We all should enhance our efforts to further bridge the digital divide and enable ever more people to benefit from the opportunities of cyberspace.
Switzerland supports a series of capacity-building initiatives in the cyber domain. We commend the Netherlands for launching the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise, which we will join as a founding partner. Let me also draw your attention to the Geneva Internet Platform that we launched last year to make the broad cyber expertise in Geneva – one of the world capitals of digital policy – more globally available and strengthen the participation of small and developing countries in the digital policy debates.
The internet’s open and free nature has been at the heart of its success story. But it evidently also brings about challenges. Our job is to maximise the opportunities and define adequate responses to the challenges.
One such challenge is to preserve the right to privacy in cyberspace. It is essential that the same rights that people have offline are also guaranteed online.
Another major challenge are the security threats that occur as
cyberspace is increasingly being exploited by actors pursuing criminal, espionage or military objectives. Maintaining the openness and freedom of cyberspace while protecting it against cyber threats is a strategic objective of Switzerland.
This is why, in 2012, Switzerland adopted the “National strategy for the protection of Switzerland against cyber risks”. Its underlying theme is cooperation – cooperation within the government, between the public and private sectors, and, not least, at the international level.
There will be no secure cyberspace without effective international cooperation. For such international cooperation in the cyber domain to take hold, two things are required above all:
• a framework of rules;
• and trust.
Switzerland is committed to advancing both.
Regarding the need to establish the rules of the road in cyberspace, Switzerland holds the view that any such framework must be based on the existing international legal order.
We welcome the consensus reached in the UN Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE) in 2013 that international law applies in cyberspace. This affirmation is a strong expression of the rule of law.
Moving forward, we should now clarify how exactly the existing rules of international law are to be applied to cyberspace, given its particular characteristics. Switzerland contributes to this discussion, for example by supporting the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research project on international law and cyberspace.
We should also discuss how we can build on the consensus reached within the UNGGE while at the same time allowing for a broader participation of states representing all regions of the world. We consider such an inclusive process key to reaching a sustainable and globally-shared understanding on the applicable legal framework for cyberspace.
As for the need to increase the trust level between states in the cyber domain, Switzerland is engaged in efforts to apply the tool of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to cyberspace. Since the anonymous nature of cyberspace leaves much room for ambiguity, we are convinced that building confidence through transparency and cooperation is vital to reduce the danger of miscalculation, misperception and misunderstanding.
Confidence Building Measures were invented by the OSCE in the context of the East-West conflict four decades ago. It is therefore no coincidence that the OSCE was the first regional security organisation to formally adopt CBMs in the realm of cybersecurity, too.
During the Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE last year, we organised an event on cyber CBMs. For the first time, the private sector and other non-state stakeholders were systematically included in confidence-building activities between states. Because cybersecurity depends upon trust and cooperation between all relevant actors, this multi-stakeholder collaboration needs to be developed further.
The workshop also pointed to the need to go beyond regional boundaries, as cyberspace is global in nature. To this end, Switzerland convened a high-level workshop as part of the official preparatory process leading to this conference today. This workshop enabled cross-fertilisation between different regional confidence-building processes and thereby enhanced global understanding and coherence.
Ladies and gentlemen
Switzerland will continue to promote cyber CBMs, both within the OSCE context and beyond. As a next step, we seek to deepen the exchange with the Asian Partners for Co-operation at the OSCE. At the OSCE Asian Conference, which will be co-organized by the Republic of Korea and Switzerland and will take place in Seoul this June, we will make the case for regular dialogue between the OSCE and Asian countries and organisations on cyber security issues.
Just as in the pioneering days of the OSCE, we are again called today to jointly shape the new security space of cyber through common principles and cooperation. Just as four decades ago, this is a complex task that requires vision, stamina, and, above all, commitment – commitment to security that is cooperative and for the benefit of all.