It’s a great pleasure to welcome you to the House of Switzerland in Davos today (2nd edition ;-)). The House of Switzerland is an opportunity for my country to showcase its role as a pragmatic and innovative member of the international community. And also to present the role of Geneva in this interconnected world. Indeed, ‘Geneva Day’ aims to explore innovative solutions and new international governance mechanisms in areas such as global health, digital trust and financial inclusiveness.
Switzerland has a long tradition of hosting international organisations that began more than 150 years ago with the establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The first general assembly of the League of Nations took place in Geneva - 100 years ago - on 15 November 1919. Even though the League of Nations ultimately failed as an institution, it nevertheless laid the foundations for today’s multilateralism, and served as the basis for a number of international organisations and scientific collaborations. As we celebrate 100 years of multilateralism, the multilateral system once again finds itself under pressure.
I believe that a strong and effective multilateral system is fundamental to meeting today's challenges. At the heart of world diplomacy, Geneva already serves as a laboratory for addressing digital governance issues.
Ladies and gentlemen
We live in an age of digital interdependence in which digital technologies have become prevalent in almost every aspect of modern life. Digital applications offer a wealth of opportunities: they can be tools for education, for financial inclusion or for better health diagnosis. Tomorrow, at the ‘Tech4Good’ event organised by my department, we will discuss how they can help us to achieve Agenda 2030.
Digital tools allow us to be permanently connected; they generate vast amounts of readily available and complex data, which we can use for good. Yet, we should ask ourselves how well we are managing the many ways they impact on our individual and collective lives.
For all their potential, it is evident that this new reality also presents critical risks. Examples of invasions of privacy and the spread of fake news highlight the perils society may face if we fail to create more effective ways for citizens, governments, academia and the private sector to work together. Furthermore, many people are as yet unable to benefit from digital technology.
I am convinced that digital transformation can contribute positively to the public good in many areas. But these emerging technologies need to be matched by equally innovative approaches to governance. To stay relevant, global governance institutions such as the UN have to ensure that they are receptive to new voices and establish new effective instruments.
Switzerland has therefore been very supportive of the UN Secretary-General’s initiative for a High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation which called for the elaboration of common visions, principles and potentially updated governance mechanisms to reap the benefits of the digital revolution. I am delighted to welcome Doris Leuthard and Jovan Kurbalija, who both played a key role in the panel’s work. Ms. Leuthard will continue to shape international digital cooperation as the chair of the Swiss Digital Initiative that will be introduced here later today.
Science and technology, also known as ‘science diplomacy’, has become a crucial part of Switzerland's new foreign policy vision. Innovation is a driver of international cooperation - it generates a need for cross-border and cross-sectoral collaboration. The use of scientific methods can strengthen international dialogue based on a common language. This is an opportunity for international diplomacy to cross lines of conflict and build bridges between communities.
Last but not least, I recently announced the creation of the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator, which aims to strengthen dialogue between science and politics - injecting more science into politics and more politics into science. This foundation will provide substantial support in anticipating the societal impact of scientific breakthroughs – in order to inform political decisions. The project is co-chaired by Peter Brabeck whom I warmly welcome here today.
I will close by wishing you fruitful discussions on all aspects of digital interdependence, imbued with the esprit de Genève.