Paris Peace Forum - Round table session at the Alliance for Multilateralism - Opening remarks by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris, 12 November 2019)

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I am here today, along with Heiko Maas who will be here in a moment, to open this meeting on innovative partnerships to better govern digital technology.

I would first like to recall that on 26 September last, on the sidelines of the General Assembly of the United Nations and on the initiative of Heiko Maas and myself, the first ministerial meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism brought together over 50 Foreign Ministers, while six months previously, there were just four of us. As President Macron’s speech earlier intimated, this shows that multilateralism still has a bright future provided that it is reformed.

I am glad to meet you here in Paris to continue the process we initiated together in New York based around digital technology, because if there is one sector in which digital technology must be combined with multilateralism, it is this. Because the major issues linked to cyberspace cannot be dealt with seriously without close cooperation between States, non-State private sector actors and non-governmental organizations.

Firstly, for our citizens, who have legitimate expectations as regards privacy and protection of their rights; next, for our companies which need legal security and clearer rules on all future issues, be they artificial intelligence, 5G, the blockchain or quantum computing; and also for our democracies, one of the pillars of which - freedom, pluralism, the integrity of information - is threatened by the huge increase in fake news.

Based around the Alliance for Multilateralism, two concrete initiatives have already been taken to this end.

First, the Paris Call, which proposes reforming the regulation of digital technology based around clear and solid principles of action, and the information and democracy partnership to combat information manipulation. It was here at the Paris Peace Forum that these initiatives were launched a year ago, which we will discuss later.

Yet implementing multilateralism in digital governance does not stop there: since then, there has also been the Christchurch Call, which is a cooperation model between States and the private sector, the need for which was unfortunately obvious a few weeks ago during the attack in Halle in Germany.

This convergence between the initiative on multilateralism and the Paris Forum is today a striking example of what we want to achieve together for effective, legitimate, renewed and inclusive international governance, particularly as regards digital technology, to avoid the dual pitfalls of both complete laissez-faire and excessive authoritarianism. To ensure that we have a space, with true autonomy in the digital field, with the implementation of a model which we Europeans are trying to build and which will be raised during this debate and these discussions, which is central to both provide balance and to define a new digital world order. I hope that this meeting will help us move in that direction.

Thank you for your attention and I will now give the floor to Heiko Maas.