Calling on the UN General Assembly to prioritize digital trust and security

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distance mandates, individuals and businesses alike have reimagined how they socialize, learn, and work online. Unfortunately, the uptick in digital activity presents opportunities for malicious entities, including nation-state actors, to exploit the crisis, which ultimately undermines the trust that is essential to an open, free and secure internet.

Since its inception, the Cybersecurity Tech Accord repeatedly called on governments to uphold the international laws pertaining to cyberspace and implement the rules of behavior agreed upon in the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts. Today, that call to action is more important than ever.

Last month we joined over 80 international leaders and organizations in signing a letter 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. Other signees included Madeleine Albright, Former United States Secretary of State, Andrus Ansip, Member of the European Parliament and former European Commissioner for Digital, the CyberPeace Institute, the EastWest Institute, the Global Cyber Alliance, and the World Wide Web Foundation, among others.

The letter calls for a global statement on digital trust and security to be endorsed by the United Nations member states. We believe this action will 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.

Please find the full letter reproduced below.

His Excellency Volkan Bozkir, President, United Nations General Assembly

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.

For a complete list of signatories, please see the World Wide Web’s Foundation website.