Q1/2020 - Saudi-Arabian G20 Presidency

G20 Summit in Riyadh, 21 and 22 November 2020

The Saudi Arabian G20 Presidency has been caught in the whirl of the corona crisis, too. Although the G20 Summit is not scheduled to take place in Riyadh until 21 and 22 November 2020, more than 100 preparatory expert meetings are on the G20 conference calendar. Since mid-March 2020, a large number of these meetings (initially until the end of April 2020) has been moved to virtual space or cancelled.

G20 Digital Economy Task Force, Riyadh, 1 – 2 February 2020

Still under regular conditions, a series of conferences was held in Riyadh in early February 2020 in connection with the 1st meeting of the G20 Digital Economy Task Force (DETF) under the Saudi Presidency. The G20 DETF was established under the Chinese G20 Presidency in 2016 and has since developed into an essential negotiating mechanism. The official meeting of the G20 DETF took place on 1 and 2February 2020.

G20 Cybersecurity Expert Meeting, Riyadh, 3 February 2020

For the first time, the economic issues were supplemented by cyber security, with a separate “G20 Cybersecurity Workshop” being held on 3 February 2020. On 4 and 5 February 2020, the Saudi government hosted a high-level cyber security conference with 1,200 participants from over 50 countries.

At its first meeting under Saudi Presidency, the G20 DETF discussed artificial intelligence, e-commerce, smart cities and smart mobility as well as the negative impact on the economy of the rapid expansion of cyber crime[1].

The G20 DETF will hold three other meetings (April, May and June 2020) before the task force will pass on its recommendations to the annual meeting of the G20 Ministers of Economic Affairs (22 and 23 July in Riyadh). The resolutions to be expected from this G20 ministerial conference will then be integrated in a closing document of the G20 Summit scheduled for November 2020.

The issue of cyber security has not been on the G20 agenda so far. However, the Saudi G20 Presidency used the G20 DETF meeting to build a bridge between the digital economy and cyber security and held a first "G20 Workshop on Cyber Security" on this occasion.

The keynote speaker at the workshop was Troels Oerting Jorgensen, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Cybersecurity of the Davos World Economic Forum. Until 2015, Oerting was Deputy Head of EUROPOL. He pointed out that at the start of the 2020s there were 5 billion cyber devices connected to the Internet and more than 80% of them conversing exclusively machine to machine. He warned that in addition to the known risks of online theft (six trillion US dollars annually in the 2020s with an upward trend) and the loss of privacy, the danger of using so-called "deep-fake technology" gave particular reason to worry. The use of this technology could undermine the integrity of the global communication system, so that nobody could verify any longer who they were communicating with. Since an ever increasing amount of data was controlled by the private sector this was going to culminate in a loss of governmental control and result in the need to readjust the relationship between governments and the economy[2].

In the course of the discussion, points of general consensus were developed, which will now be dealt with by the G20 DETF. These include:

  • Issues of cyber security are not primarily technical but rather policy issues;
  • Regulation in the traditional sense are not the right solution to tackle the new challenges;
  • All stakeholders must develop a new culture and mindset with regard to cyber security;
  • A broader group of stakeholders must be involved in the discussion designed to find solutions for strengthening cyber security[3].

The Saudi Presidency used the expert meetings in the margins of the G20 meetings to promote a new national cyber security conference on 4 and 5 February 2020, which is planned to be held regularly in the future under the name “Global Cybersecurity Forum Riyadh”.

Global Cybersecurity Forum, Riyadh, 4 – 5 February 2020

The “Saudi Global Security Forum[4] is copying similar national events that have taken place for some years in Israel (Tel Aviv Cybersecurity Week) and Singapore (Singapore Cybersecurity Week). These conferences, which are organised by the national governments, bring together high-level international Internet experts, politicians and representatives of the digital economy, here in particular from the cyber security start-up scene. With the forum, Saudi Arabia wants to position itself as a key player in future international cyber security discussions.

The Riyadh Forum was attended by more than 1,200 experts from more than 50 countries. The event was opened by Prince Abdullah Alswaha, Minister of Communications and Information Technology and chair of the G20 DETF. The keynote speakers included Ciaran Martin, CEO of the British National Cybersecurity Centre, David Koh, CEO of the Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore and Kirstjen Nielsen, Former Secretary of Homeland Security. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Secretary-General of ITU Hamadoun Touré attended as guests of honour.

A "Riyadh Declaration for Cybersecurity" was published at the end of the conference. The declaration, which was not negotiated by the participants but formulated by the Saudi government, contains a total of 18 recommendations in five thematic complexes. Key points are to strengthen the national cyber security industry (above all through local small and medium-sized enterprises), better training (especially for women) and stricter laws to combat cyber crime. The Declaration does not contain any references to the protection of human rights (data protection or freedom of expression) or references to negotiations on cyber security in the UN context (OEWG, UN-GGE) or to the multi-stakeholder Internet governance model[5]

G20 Symposium on International Taxation of the G20 Finance Ministers, Riyadh, 22 February 2020

The focal issue at the G20 Finance Ministers‘ Meeting on 22 February 2020 in Riyadh was the global digital tax[6]. In January 2020, the Working Group established by the G20 (OECD/G20 BEPS) had submitted a first proposal for a possible new global international tax regime for the digital economy. The EU has threatened to introduce a unilateral solution if no international regulation is in place by the end of 2020. The US counter-proposal to establish a so-called “safe harbour” mechanism, which would allow US companies to pay taxes on a voluntary basis in countries where they are active and profitable but have no physical presence, in exchange for a certain long-term “legal certainty”, is not acceptable to Europeans. French Finance Minister commented on this proposal with the remark: “I do not know of any private company that would choose to be taxed instead of not being taxed.”[7]. US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin pointed out the complicated domestic political situation in a US election year. An international agreement on the digital tax would have to be ratified by the US Congress. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said that the topic "leaves no time to wait for elections".

Mehr zum Thema
  1. [1] G20 Digital Economy Task Force, Emerging Technologies and Cyber Resilience on G20 Table, Riyadh, 2 February 2020: „As one of the most transformative emerging technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming how people interact and increasingly affecting a vast range of industries. Therefore, the Saudi G20 Presidency continues the discussions on AI as part of the 2020 agenda. The rapid increase in the digitalization of economic and social activity has resulted in an unprecedented expansion of data collection, usage, and transfer. The DETF, therefore, looked at how to improve cross-border data flows and lower barriers. Discussions on smart cities focused on shaping the future of technology applications in urban centers and smart mobility. G20 members also tackled ways to advance measurement approaches of the digital economy which would enhance evidence-based policymaking. The DETF also discussed cybersecurity aimed at improving the resilience of global economic systems and addressed growing global concerns including economic losses from cyberattacks“, in: https://g20.org/en/media/Pages/pressroom.aspx
  2. [2] G20 Cybersecurity Dialogue — part of the G20 Digital Economy Task Force — meeting in Riyadh, 3 February 2020, „Oerting noted that soon there would be 5 billion cyber devices in operation and more than 80% of them would never touch a human — instead conversing exclusively machine to machine. In addition WEF predicts that by 2020 the economic losses from cybercrime would rise to as much as 6 trillion dollars annually and that the rate of cybercrime was increasing nearly 50% a year. Even more threatening than the oft-reported problems of theft and privacy Oerting noted that “deep-fake” technology threatened our understanding of integrity and that within the foreseeable future it may be nearly impossible to verify who we were communicating with. Of equivalent interest in the gathering is the notion that the digital age is already functionally shifting the focus of power and control from governments to the private sector. As the digital age progresses it will be (perhaps already is) the case that the private sector would dominate information and with information control functionality power will follow. Obviously this would call for a more fundamental rethinking of the government industry relationship than is generally being discussed in government and industry fora.“ In: https://isalliance.org/international/g-20-cybersecurity-dialogue-meeting-riyadh-saudi-ararbia-february-3-2020/
  3. [3] G20 Cybersecurity Dialogue — part of the G20 Digital Economy Task Force — meeting in Riyadh, 3 February 2020, „1.The cyber security discussion needs to be about far more than technology; 2. While it is critical to get basic technical controls (NIST/ISO) right, this will not be enough to address the security challenges of the digital age; 3.Regulation in the traditional sense of Cyber Security is not a practical solution. Technology simply moves too fast for the traditional regulatory structure to keep pace; 4. A new culture and mindset needs to be developed at both the industry and governmental level. The discussion of how this mindset will emerge must involve a broader group of stakeholders than has historically been the case due to the asymmetric nature of cyber issues; 5. Business risk overall is intimately intertwined with cyber risk due to the ubiquity of cyber systems in all manner of business and commerce“, https://isalliance.org/international/g-20-cybersecurity-dialogue-meeting-riyadh-saudi-ararbia-february-3-2020/
  4. [4] Joining Efforts for a Better Cyber World: The Global Cybersecurity Forum, 4 - 5 February 2020, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in: https://globalcybersecurityforum.com/
  5. [5] Global Cybersecurity Forum, Riyadh Declaration for Cybersecurity, 5 February 2020: „The forum encourages the following recommendations to achieve its objectives 1. Thriving Cybersecurity Industry: We recognize the need to continue developing the global cybersecurity industry, and its potential to effectively address the rapidly evolving cybersecurity risks of the current and future eras. We also recognize that the growing cybersecurity industry has the immense challenge of innovating to stay ahead of a continuously evolving and complex global economic landscape. Based on that, we endorse the following: 1a. We encourage incentives that promote business development and entrepreneurship to grow the global cybersecurity industry.1b. We encourage the provision of technical, financial, and mentorship support to emerging cybersecurity businesses, especially to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. 1c. We encourage collaboration between relevant stakeholders in industry, academia, and government, particularly taking the form of public-private partnerships, to pursue R&D of innovative approaches, products, and tools in cybersecurity. 1d. We endorse industry incentives that direct more resources towards cybersecurity R&D and innovation. 2. Capable Cybersecurity Workforce: We highlight the need to increase the supply and enhance the quality of cybersecurity skills in the global cyber workforce to meet current and future demands. We also emphasize the importance of bridging the gender gap in cyber workforce. In this context, we endorse the following: 2a. We aim to continuously enhance academic cybersecurity paths for higher education, and professional training to maintain a future-ready cyber workforce that is capable of dealing with cybersecurity challenges. 2b. We endorse the development of reskilling and upskilling opportunities for individuals employed in cybersecurity and tech-related fields to ensure the development of new skills, adaptation to global technological advancement, and advancement of cybersecurity expertise. 2c. We aim to provide wider access to quality education and training to individuals around the world, including individuals in emerging economies. 2d. We support global growth of Women in Cyber, where women cyber leaders serve as role models and mentors to peers and future generations seeking to advance cybersecurity, unlock opportunities in the field, and bridge the gender gap.3. Cyber Aware Communities: We recognize that cybersecurity is a whole-of-nation effort where personal accountability plays a critical role in cybersecurity at home and in the workplace. Based on that, we endorse the following: 3a. We aim to spread public awareness on cybersecurity hygiene and encourage responsible behavior in cyberspace through the rollout of related public campaigns. 3b. We encourage targeted engagement efforts in major public and private sector organizations to promote cybersecurity awareness. 3c. We aim to offer more cybersecurity awareness programs to key stakeholders (youth, instructors, policymakers, etc.) in order to educate them about the latest cyber threats and equip them with best safety practices to raise Safe Children in the Cyber World. 4. Global Cybersecurity Resilience: We acknowledge the importance of raising the resilience of cybersecurity globally, in light of the increasing digital transformation and the widespread use of emerging and interconnected technologies across cyberspace, which touches the lives of societies such as medical services, telecommunications services, e-commerce, and the related areas to sensitive infrastructure, and accordingly: 4a. We aim to enhance the resilience of critical infrastructure and collaborate globally to strengthen cybersecurity practices and risk management. 4b. We encourage efforts to undertake information sharing across governments and industry globally.4c. We welcome the use of emerging technologies for cybersecurity enhancement as well as deployment of secure-by-design principles in the development of new infrastructures.4d. We favor international collaboration over competition to enhance the global cyber resilience of critical infrastructure. 5. Inclusive Cybersecurity Capacity Building: We recognize that in a cyber world driven and connected by technologies, cybersecurity risks cross boundaries and borders. Based on that, we endorse the following: 5.a: We welcome and encourage countries, organizations, and individuals to collaborate in strengthening global cybersecurity 5b. We encourage the global community to take necessary actions to develop laws that could keep pace with the rapid changes in the cyber space and the technology advancements to secure the global community against cross border cybercrimes, and deal with their legal challenges. 5c. We encourage the provision of support to countries with limited cybersecurity capabilities and the advancement of partnerships across regions. 5d. We emphasize the importance of cybersecurity capacity building for emerging economies in many forms, such as concerted advisory support, the open exchange of best practices, and human capital development. 5e. We emphasize the importance of scientific and research collaboration as well as knowledge exchange in order to perform better practices in cybersecurity.“, in:
  6. [6] G20 Ministerial Symposium on International Taxation, Opening Remarks by Minister Mohammed Aljadaan, 22 February 2020, Riyadh: „In addition, we are all aware that digitalization is making a profound impact on the global economy and the way of doing business. Companies are now able to form significant economic ties with a country without a physical presence, and hence without a tax presence. These evolutions have made it necessary to update and reform the international tax system. Accordingly, the G20 Leaders committed in 2018 to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy. They mandated the G20/OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) to deliver a consensus-based solution to address these tax challenges. Such a solution should discourage unilateral measures that could increase the risks of double taxation and tax uncertainty. Reaching such a solution requires the collective efforts of all countries to ensure that new tax rules can be applied in a fair manner. While countries have different views on what the best approach may be, I do believe that we all share the common objective of having greater transparency, administrative simplicity and certainty for both taxpayers and national tax-authorities. During this event, we will have a constructive conversation about how to move forward and improve the global tax system in a fair and responsible manner.“ In: https://g20.org/en/media/Pages/pressroom.aspx
  7. [7] See: Digital Tax Fight Emerges as Global Economic Threat: European finance ministers, meeting at the G20 in Riyadh, are pushing the United States for a global tax deal as a year-end deadline looms. New York Times, 22 February 2020, In: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/22/us/politics/digital-tax-economy-europe-united-states.html