The Geneva Digital Talks

Internet use is growing day by day. The need for a safe internet environment is felt by everyone, including public authorities and private companies. Effective governance is essential to ensure stability and prosperity in the digital space. Governments, researchers, and Internet companies such as Microsoft and Google – among others – have intensified their search for digital policy arrangements.

On this page: About the Geneva Digital Talks | Calendar of events | Map of organisations

What are the Geneva Digital Talks?

The Geneva Digital Talks, which ran between October and December 2017 in the build-up to the Internet Governance Forum (18-21 December 2017), contributed to this search by harvesting the experience and expertise in Geneva, which hosts more than 50% of the global organisations that deal with the technological, economic, legal, security, and human rights aspects of digital governance. (Scroll down for a map of organisations active in the digital policy process in Geneva.)

The aim of the talks, which were supported by online discussions and research on digital policy, was:

  • to contribute towards finding inclusive and sustainable digital governance solutions;
  • to strike the right balance between a broad digital governance approach (which includes trade, technology, and human rights) and a focused discussion on the pressing need for cybersecurity regulation (e.g. recent proposals by Microsoft and Google);
  • to strengthen participation of Geneva-based organisations in global cyber discussions;
  • to overcome ‘policy silos’ by facilitating the sharing of knowledge and experience, in particular among Swiss and Geneva-based organisations.

The outcome of the Geneva Digital Talks, which were coordinated by Directorate for Economic Development, Research and Innovation (DGDERI), Republic and State of Geneva, was the Geneva Initiative on Capacity Development in Digital Policy (the Geneva Initiative), which promotes innovative capacity development solutions to embrace digital opportunities and mitigate the risks. The Geneva Initiative focuses on the main needs for capacity in digital policy, and proposes ways to address these needs. It also suggests who can provide capacity development in the Geneva digital ecosystem. Learn more about the Geneva Initiative.

Calendar of events

GDT events

Throughout October and December 2017, the following talks were organised as part of the GDT:

What can Geneva offer in global digital governance? | 12 October 2017, 18:00 – 21:00 | Read the event report

The launch event of the Geneva Digital Talks (GDT)explored the aim of the talks, which is to contribute towards finding inclusive and sustainable digital governance solutions by encouraging the participation of Geneva-based organisations in global cyber discussions. Moreover, through knowledge-sharing and confronting experiences, GDT ultimately aims at overcoming ‘policy silos’ and building bridges across sectors.

How can technological solutions advance cybersecurity? | 3 November 2017, 10:00 – 16:30 | Read the event report

(Geneva Internet Platform, WMO building, Av de la Paix 7bis)The design of digital technology impacts cybersecurity. While the initial Internet architecture was not secure enough, security was gradually built into new operating systems, applications and tools. Today, we are faced with new challenges ranging from the expansion of the Internet of Things to artificial intelligence. Technical solutions for both existing and emerging cybersecurity challenges will be essential for the future of the Internet.

This Geneva Digital Talks discussion will feature three parts: (1) a mapping of cyber vulnerabilities, (2) a panel on the interplay of technical and policy aspects as well as the installation and presentation of one practical Internet solution – the SCION architecture, and (3) future directions and expectations in cybersecurity. Preventing cyber conflicts: Do we need a cyber treaty? | 9 November 2017, 09:30 – 11:00 | Read the event report (Geneva Internet Platform, WMO building, Av de la Paix 7bis)

In early 2017, Microsoft’s president Brad Smith called for a Digital Geneva Convention ‘to implement international rules to protect the civilian use of the Internet’. Microsoft’s proposal has generated extensive discussions: Do we need a convention at all? What clauses should be included? How should it be implemented and enforced? What can we learn from similar processes, and in particular the humanitarian field that inspired Microsoft’s proposal? This session will build on the discussion triggered by Microsoft’s proposal, using the expertise, experience, and tradition of Geneva as a place for debates on delicate policy issues.Current Internet governance challenges: What’s next? | 9 November 2017, 16:00 – 18:00 | Read the event report(Palais des Nations, Assembly Hall)

This year’s Geneva Lecture Series will open with welcoming remarks by the Director-General of UN Geneva, Mr Michael Møller, and a keynote speech by the President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft, Mr Brad Smith. In the panel debate that will follow, Mr Brad Smith will discuss with the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Ms Kate Gilmore, and the Head of the Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the United Nations in New York, Mr. Phillip Spoerri, on various aspects of internet governance and the proposed Digital Geneva Convention. The event will be moderated by the Chief of Strategic Planning and Membership Department at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin. The event will be complemented by an online discussion moderated by the Director of the Geneva Internet Platform, Dr Jovan Kurbalija. Simultaneous interpretation in English and French will be provided. This year’s 10th edition of the GLS is jointly organised by UNITAR and UN Geneva in partnership with the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies and the Geneva Internet Platform. It is organized with the kind support of the Fondation pour Genève.Where and how to protect legal interests in the digital era | 28 November 2017, 15:00 – 16:30 | Read the event report(Geneva Internet Platform, WMO building, Av de la Paix 7bis)

In the absence of agreed rules, judges are becoming de facto rule-makers in the field of digital policy. This session will explore digital developments and alternatives to traditional dispute settlement which should be easier to access by the Internet users in, for example, protecting their interests on the major online platforms. An innovative dispute resolution system should be also more technologically-sensitive than traditional courts. 12th Internet Governance Forum | 17-21 December 2017 | Read the sessions reports through the GIP’s just-in-time reporting (Palais des Nations).

The 12th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is scheduled to take place on 18-21 December 2017 in Geneva under the overarching theme ‘Shaping your digital future’. As in previous years, the IGF meeting will include a large number of workshopsopen forums, dynamic coalition meetings, and other events that will give participants the opportunity to engage in open discussions on various Internet governance issues.

Geneva’s platform for digital governance | 20 December 2017, 15:00 – 16:00 | Read the event report (Palais des Nations, Room XXI – E)

Over the last three months, the State of Geneva together with the Geneva Internet Platform have been conducting ‘Geneva Digital Talks’ aimed at discussing how the experience and expertise concentrated in the Geneva Area (internet governance community, multilateral organisations, cybersecurity ecosystem…) could contribute to addressing pressing digital policy issues such as cybersecurity. At the IGF, this Open Forum will have two major aims. Firstly, it will present results of previous discussions and accompanying research on the current and potential contribution of Geneva to digital policy discussions. Secondly, it will foster multistakeholder discussions on applying Geneva’s policy experience in processes and discussions focused on addressing issues of cybersecurity and other broader digital policies.

Partner events

SME Cybersecurity: Let’s Take Action! | 9 March 2018, 08:30 – 13:00 | Read the event report

Organisations in Geneva active in the digital policy process

Click on any of the organisations below, and the links in the pop-up window on the map, to learn more about their work.

Explore the issues


Cybersecurity is among the main concerns of governments, Internet users, technical and business communities. Cyberthreats and cyberattacks are on the increase, and so is the extent of the financial loss.  



Cyber-attacks can have a background in international relations, or bring about the consequences that can escalate to a political and diplomatic level. An increasing number of states appear to be developing their own cyber-tools for the defense, offence and intelligence related to cyberconflict. The use of cyber-weapons by states – and, more generally, the behavior of states in cyberspace in relation to maintaining international peace and security – is moving to the top of the international agenda. 

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