Foreign minister Bert Koenders has welcomed 1,800 participants from over 100 countries to the Global Conference on CyberSpace in The Hague, which he is hosting. ‘The Netherlands champions a free, open and secure internet,’ said Mr Koenders in his opening speech. ‘That’s what this conference is intended to promote. Free, so that everyone has access to the internet and the unprecedented opportunities it offers. Open, so that information can flow unimpeded from one user to another, in a single undivided cyberspace. Secure, so that personal data are protected and privacy is safeguarded.’
‘Our dependency on cyber systems is outstripping our ability to safeguard and protect these systems from crime, espionage and infringements on our privacy,’ said the minister. ‘And this is where The Hague, as the international city of peace and justice, comes in. Because in the world we are creating, we cannot take peace and justice for granted. As the international community, we need to answer some fundamental questions: what are the terms of the social contract that governs the behaviour of citizens, corporations and governments in cyberspace? How do we find the right balance between freedom, security and economic growth in relation to cyberspace?’
‘Today,’ said Mr Koenders, ‘cyberspace is so closely bound up with the way our society works, with the welfare and security of our peoples, that we initially feel governments themselves should take the lead in making multilateral agreements – agreements between states to the exclusion of the private sector and civil society. But given the nature of cyberspace, such an approach can never generate lasting solutions. Government, businesses and civil society should work together to develop and govern the internet according to a multi-stakeholder model, in which each party focuses on their own role.’
The minister expressed great concern at the fact that many people in the world still do not have access to the internet: ‘The gap between those who are connected, and those who are not, is growing by the day. And once you are a part of cyberspace, it’s becoming an ever more complex task to maintain safe and secure connections. We need to tackle this digital divide and its consequences.’ Mr Koenders went on to announce that the Netherlands would invest in capacity-building in countries that are unable to do so themselves, so they can keep their internet open and free. ‘There is much we can learn from each other,’ he said. ‘That’s why we are launching the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise this afternoon.’
During the two-day conference at the World Forum in The Hague, participants will discuss various aspects of cyberspace. The goal of GCCS 2015 is to further enhance international cooperation in the digital arena. Another item on the agenda is theestablishment of standards for responsible internet use. The Netherlands champions an open, free and secure internet. By investing in international cooperation between public and private parties, the Netherlands not only succeeds in improving its own digital security; it also creates opportunities for economic growth and innovation.
GCCS 2015 is a follow-up to earlier conferences in London (2011), Budapest (2012) and Seoul (2013). The conference will welcome representatives of governments, international organisations, the business community, universities and civil society organisations. GCCS 2015 is being jointly organised by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs; Security & Justice; Economic Affairs; and Defence.
- Read the opening speech by Minister Koenders (check against delivery).
- Watch the video of the opening ceremony.