The Cybersecurity Tech Accord welcomes the recent announcement that the European Union (EU) plans to launch a new digital diplomacy office in Silicon Valley. This move, along with the growing number of national governments appointing technology ambassadors, reflects a recognition of the need for robust engagement and cooperation across stakeholder groups on a range of international technology issues, including security. The decision to establish a new permanent EU presence in San Francisco also underscores that the demand for this kind of digital diplomacy will only increase in the years ahead, requiring ongoing engagement with the technology industry in particular. Our coalition of signatories looks forward to opportunities to inform and support the work of the new EU digital diplomacy office.
The announcement of the new office is based on the recent conclusions issued by the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, which were approved by the Council of the EU on July 18. The document directs the EU to take a more collaborative approach to address challenges and support the purpose of the EU’s digital diplomacy. This purpose includes to “promote an open, free, global, stable, and secure Internet based on the multistakeholder model of Internet governance,” as well as to “promote universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and democratic principles in the digital space and advance a human-centric and human rights-based approach to digital technologies in relevant multilateral fora and other platforms.” These are values and priorities well aligned with the principles of the Cybersecurity Tech Accord.
With these priorities in mind, the Council conclusions call for ensuring that “digital diplomacy become a core component and an integral part of the EU external action, including by strengthening existing multilateral, regional and multi-stakeholder processes”. The plans for an EU digital diplomacy office in San Francisco are intended to help “strengthen transatlantic engagement on the digital agenda,” and to create a new global hub for innovation. The Cybersecurity Tech Accord is encouraged to see these kinds of structural developments that will facilitate cross-sector collaboration on technology issues.
Whether opening new offices or simply appointing officials to engage on these issues, all governments need to make investments in building their digital diplomacy capacities. This is why we celebrated the recent establishment of the new Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy at the Department of State in the United States, with its mandate to advance international cybersecurity, internet freedoms, and broader digital policy issues. It is also why the Cybersecurity Tech Accord published the whitepaper, Towards effective cyber diplomacy: A guide to best practices and capacity building last fall in an effort to demystify this new area of diplomacy and provide a roadmap for countries developing their own cyber diplomacy capacities.
These same considerations are what led to the formation of the Cybersecurity Tech Accord in 2018, a recognition that industry needs a way to engage with government counterparts as cyberspace increasingly grows as a new domain of human activity and of conflict. Since its establishment, the Cybersecurity Tech Accord has worked to grow its coalition, establish new models of partnership for cybersecurity, and drive dialogue and progress in international forums on peace and stability online – including in many spaces that previously had little or no industry engagement. Multistakeholder collaboration is at the heart of the Cybersecurity Tech Accord’s mission and we look forward to opportunities to engage with the new EU digital diplomacy offices, when they open, to support a free, open, secure and rights respecting online world.