Earlier today, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis opened this year's Ambassadors and International Network Conference at Wankdorf stadium in Bern. The four-day event will focus on digital diplomacy and provide a platform for debating, among other things, the opportunities that new technologies present and the challenges they pose for Swiss foreign policy. Around 170 participants will attend the event, coming from within the country and from Switzerland's representations abroad. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the conference will also be held live online.
Geneva as a leading hub for debate on digitalisation and technology
"Digital technologies offer new opportunities for diplomacy, poverty reduction and the promotion of sustainable development in line with the 2030 Agenda," said Cassis in his opening address. He went on to say he intends to focus more sharply on this key issue in the coming year. The Federal Council has set out digitalisation as one of the four priorities of Switzerland's Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23. In this thematic area, Switzerland is pursuing the goal of further developing its digital foreign policy with the involvement of all relevant actors, positioning International Geneva as a leading hub for debate on digitalisation and technology. In doing so it advocates for an open and secure digital space, with a focus on people's needs and respect for international law. "International Geneva has an important role to play here as a hub for digital governance and as a platform for dialogue between science and diplomacy," said Cassis.
Foreign policy concerns not only the FDFA
Foreign policy does not only concern the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), as other federal departments also deal with international economic, scientific and migration issues. In order to ensure a uniform, coherent approach to these issues within the Federal Administration, members of the Federal Council and representatives of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) and the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF) will also be taking part in various workshops and discussions during the conference.
A platform for exchange of views
Every year the Swiss ambassadors, consuls general and honorary consuls, and heads of international cooperation come together with the head of the FDFA. At the heart of this tradition, which dates back to 1887, is an exchange of views on topical foreign and economic policy issues. The main topic of the 2020 conference was the FDFA's response to COVID-19, while in 2019, the participants discussed the drafting of the Foreign Policy Strategy and Switzerland's 2028 Foreign Policy Vision (AVIS28).
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