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Introducing a new global technology initiative: The Sydney Dialogue

Posted By on December 23, 2020 @ 14:14

As announced today [1] by Foreign Minister Marise Payne, ASPI will host the Sydney Dialogue—which we aim to make the world’s premier summit for emerging, critical and cyber technologies—in the second half of 2021.

This annual dialogue will bring together political, business and government leaders with the world’s best strategic thinkers to debate, generate new ideas and work towards common understandings of the opportunities and challenges posed by emerging and critical technologies.

We have ambitious plans for the Sydney Dialogue, and getting this onto the government’s agenda didn’t happen overnight.

Back in 2018, we spotted a gap in both global discourse and policymaking. Governments around the world were increasingly being forced to make major decisions about critical and emerging technologies. We could see that as these decisions were arising, politicians and policymakers were looking around for advice and lessons learnt, but were struggling to find places to turn to.

Fast-forward two years and this gap has only widened with the onset of Covid-19 [2]. State practice and the pace of technological development continue to outstrip formal multilateral processes. There is no leading multilateral agency when it comes to technology, and CEOs in the United States and China are making major decisions every day that countries around the world are struggling to keep up with.

There’s a lack of consensus between the key stakeholders—governments, businesses and civil society—and no spaces that bring them all together to focus on solutions and policy options. Debates are taking place in silos—for example, on artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, space technologies and the future of cyberspace—and tend to be limited to particular regions around the world.

Governments, businesses and civil-society organisations are talking to their counterparts but are not spending enough time talking with one another.

Yet we know that these emerging, critical and cyber technologies are having a material impact on our lives and work. They are reshaping our societies, economies and the very future of our planet.

At the same time, technology is leap-frogging traditional areas of foreign policy cooperation and is quickly becoming a key priority [3] in bilateral relationships. Australia has been ahead of the curve [4] on the foreign policy opportunities that engagement on technology issues can present.

But despite pockets of positive momentum, a global policy vacuum remains. And while we know where the US, China and Europe stand on key technological developments, we hear very little about where policy thinking in India, Japan or Indonesia may be heading.

And this is where the Sydney Dialogue comes in. We want this dialogue to help fill this critical gap and push global discourse and policymaking into a new, more forward-leaning phase. As we are an Australian think tank, it will take a natural focus on the Indo-Pacific, while also helping to highlight views, priorities and ideas from across the region.

Talking points won’t be welcome at this dialogue; rather, we will be looking for leaders and thinkers from around the world who are willing to push the envelope. We want them to set out their thinking and strategy by outlining new ideas, identifying their red lines and telegraphing major developments or shifts in technology policy.

ASPI has undertaken policy-relevant research on issues relating to cyberspace and technology for eight years now. This work is often agenda-setting, and is continuously pushing into new, often unexplored areas. The Sydney Dialogue will need this characteristic in order to drive future global policy debates on technology.

We hope that, over time, this new dialogue will rise to the stature of—and complement—the Indo-Pacific’s already well-respected and influential dialogues, including Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue, hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which brings together the defence community, and India’s Raisina Dialogue, which brings together the foreign policy community and is hosted by the Observer Research Foundation. We will be watching these and other dialogues closely, so that conversations and debates happening around the world feed straight into the Sydney Dialogue each year.

The Sydney Dialogue is the result of almost two years of work including consultations with politicians, governments, businesses and civil-society organisations. Along the way we’ve benefited from the support of a range of different stakeholders who are also passionate about this initiative (and I’ll highlight Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre CEO Rachael Falk in particular).

These consultations were reflective of the very problem we are hoping the Sydney Dialogue will help solve. Everyone we spoke with was in furious agreement that there was a global gap in strategic thinking and policy development when it comes to technology, but no one was quite sure what the path forward would look like.

It would be easier to admire and analyse this pathway as it unfolds. But the goal of the Sydney Dialogue is to play a leading role in steering, shaping and building it.

Now the hard work begins.

Article printed from The Strategist: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au

URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/introducing-a-new-global-technology-initiative-the-sydney-dialogue/

URLs in this post:

[1] announced today: https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/media-release/australia-strengthens-global-discussion-cyber-and-critical-technology

[2] with the onset of Covid-19: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/covid-19-is-accelerating-the-surveillance-state/

[3] a key priority: https://www.aspi.org.au/report/critical-technologies-and-indo-pacific-new-india-australia-partnership

[4] ahead of the curve: https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/media-release/australia-and-india-agree-new-partnership-cyber-and-critical-technology

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