The GFCE Europe Regional Meeting took place back-to-back with the European Cyber Agora conference 2023 in Brussels, Belgium.
Ms Tereza Horejsova, GFCE Outreach Manager, opened the regional meeting by sharing the context of regional efforts of the GFCE, which serve to better understand regional perspectives and capacity needs and translate them into specific activities to support capacity building. The aims of the meeting thus included: to encourage and support European regional coordination and cooperation through mechanisms and tools, such as the Cybil Portal; to share knowledge; to offer support for individual needs of countries and the global Cyber Capacity Building research agenda by filling in knowledge gaps; and to support sustainable growth of GFCE structures such as the GFCE Foundation, Advisory Board, and various other Committees and Groups that ensure inclusivity and diversity of perspectives within the GFCE. She stressed similar format meetings are organized for other regions in which the GFCE is active, including Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean, Pacific Islands and South-East Asia. Special focus, within Europe, is given to the region of Western Balkans.
The director of the GFCE, Mr David Van Duren, followed by explaining the GFCE structure, highlighting the evolution of the Forum over the years. He stressed that the GFCE main focus has shifted from awareness to implementation. In addition, he highlighted that strengthening international cooperation and cyber capacity building is and should always be the main mission of the GFCE.
The highlight of his presentation was an announcement of the Global Conference on Cyber Capacity Building (GC3B), which will take place in Accra, Ghana, on 29-30 November 2023. The conference will conclude months of efforts in building a program that reflects the shaping of global agenda on cyber capacity building and will be important for further connecting development and cyber discussions.
Representatives of the GFCE Africa Team and AUDA-NEPAD consequently presented an overview of the importance and achievements of the flagship AU-GFCE Collaboration project, a 2-year project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Towela Nyirenda-Jere, Head of Economic Integration at AUDA-NEPAD provided an overview of the African cybersecurity ecosystem by reminding participants that 14 countries have ratified Malabo Convention, meaning that it is one country shy of coming into effect. This in itself is good news for the continent, as the convention already lays out the provisions that countries will have to adhere to, as well as the requisite capacities that AU Member states will need to have to implement said convention. In considering implementing CCB programs and initiatives in Africa, she reminded, Partners and implementors are encouraged to take into account the various studies conducted by AUDA-NEPAD and the GFCE, institutions used an inclusive approach for gathering inputs and priorities for AU-Member countries. The inputs gathered have been translated into an Africa Agenda on CCB—a blueprint that will prove useful for all CCB actors on the continent.
The GFCE’s Clearing House Coordinator, Ms. Jaqueline Pateguana, presented the proposed Africa Agenda on CCB, a document which is in development phase by the Africa CCB Coordination Committee. The AA-CCB proposes strategic goals and priorities for CCB programming in Africa, and it aims to ensure coordinated CCB programming in Africa. As it stands, the document has 5 strategic goals (strengthening of regional and national cyber posture, developing an interconnected cyber ecosystem, to name a couple) which can be accomplished through the execution of priority actions that are also listed. While the document is still in the development phase, it will be submitted for AU endorsement and later shared with the global CCB community once approved. Meeting participants were encouraged to stay tuned to the Global Conference on Cyber Capacity Building (GC3B), as the global CCB agenda as well as Africa Agenda on CCB will be discussed during the event.
Lastly, Dr. Martin Koyabe, the Senior Manager for the AU-GFCE Project spoke to participants about how the GFCE Africa Regional Hub will support the coordination of CCB activities in Africa. The Hub, which is currently operating virtually with a staff of 4 people, will serve as a one-stop CCB resource center for GFCE Members and Partners wishing to execute CCB activities on the continent.