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Dear global cyber community,
Back in the 1960s few people thought that the large grey terminals that lined a basement in California would one day change the world. Today, we see their impact on almost every aspect of our lives: the Internet connects people beyond social classes, boosts trade and broadcasts debate. Global connectivity empowers individuals, state and non-state actors – for good and for bad.
The era of cyberspace has brought enormous economic and social benefits. The entire social fabric of our societies is changing as a result of global connectivity. The Internet is affecting the way we learn, the way we take decisions, the very way our brain works. Social media have influenced how we do business and interact with one another. New technologies have the potential to empower people all over the world.
Today farmers can check the weather forecast on their mobile phones. Villagers can seek markets for their products over the Internet. Programmes like “One Laptop per Child” in Africa and Latin America give primary school children the chance to easily access information, and improve standards of education.
But our reliance on technology also has a darker side. Social media were a crucial factor in empowering the Arab Spring, but they are also a powerful tool in the hands of ISIS/Da’esh, for spreading its message of hatred and violence.
The immense number of online sources of information has made it harder for authoritarian governments to be gatekeepers of the new society. But it is also harder to separate facts from propaganda, to identify a lie when it is repeated often enough.
Cyber-attacks affect individuals, companies and governments around the world. The citizens of our countries risk falling prey to online crime when they use the Net to shop, vote, bank or study. Our dependence on cyberspace for essential services like transport, power, and water makes us vulnerable in new ways to cyber-terrorism, or cyber-espionage. Recent events show how cyber-attacks increasingly drive asymmetric warfare and hybrid conflicts. This trend is likely to increase globally.
To address these challenges, the European Union is reviewing its strategic foreign and security policy framework. More than ever we need to work closely with international partners, to tackle the risks, and to make the most of new opportunities.
But the risks should not overshadow the gigantic potentials of cyberspace. Technology can be the driving force towards improving living standards for future generations. Our aim is to let this happen. Let the safe and peaceful use of technology facilitate the free flow of information and ideas, as we keep a check on its misuses.
Cyberspace knows no borders. So we need a common global coordination. International law provides guidance on human rights and fundamental freedoms – online as much as offline. We now need to unite and implement these principles in cyberspace, so that everybody has an equal opportunity to speak out and come together, to learn and also to teach safely.
For that to happen, the Internet should be open and accessible to people in all corners of the world.
As for cyber diplomacy, we need creative efforts to build trust and confidence. We have already started to invest in increasing the resilience of cyber infrastructures and addressing cyber threats in Asia, Africa and Latin America. And we will step up our commitment to globally bolster these activities in the future.
We are proud to support the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise, which is launched here today. Many of my colleagues have also engaged in bilateral cyber dialogues and global efforts to agree on the “rules of the road” in cyberspace
As we develop new and innovative technologies, we should also bear in mind the need to include safeguards that protect human rights, including freedom of expression and the right to privacy.
It is our duty and responsibility, here and now, to preserve and share the benefits of cyberspace – today and for future generations.