The Brazil-U.S. Cyber Relationship Is Back on Track

Alex Grigsby is the assistant director for the Digital and Cyberspace Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s was in Washington D.C. this week to meet with President Obama. The trip came two years after she had famously cancelled a state visit in 2013 in protest following allegations that the NSA had spied on Brazil and Rousseff personally. At the time, the Brazilian president was very public and vocal in her denunciations, calling the espionage “manifestly illegitimate” and expressing her outrage at the United Nations.

While the U.S.-Brazil cyber relationship hit the rocks in the immediate aftermath of the Snowden disclosures, it seems like time and some deft diplomacy has helped patch things up. At this year’s Summit of the Americas, Rousseff indicated that she’s moved on.

Things have improved so much in fact that the Rousseff-Obama joint communiqué dedicated five paragraphs to Internet issues. Most importantly, both leaders have agreed to resume the Brazil-U.S. cyber working group.

The United States and Brazil share the understanding that global Internet governance must be transparent and inclusive, ensuring full participation of governments, civil society, private sector and international organizations, so that the potential of the Internet as a powerful tool for economic and social development can be fulfilled.

Both countries acknowledge the agenda approved by Netmundial conference (São Paulo, April 2014) as a guide for discussions regarding the future of the global internet governance system.

Both countries reaffirm their adherence to the multistakeholder model of Internet governance and, in this context, reaffirm their commitment to cooperate for the success of the Tenth Internet Governance Forum (João Pessoa, November 10 to 13, 2015), and extension of the IGF mandate.

Likewise, they reaffirm their interest in participating actively in the preparatory process of the High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly for the Ten-Year Review of the WSIS outcomes, to be held in New York in December 2015.

Bilateral cooperation on cyber issues will be resumed by the convening of the Second Meeting of the Working Group on Internet and Information and Communications Technology in Brasilia in the second semester.  The meeting will offer the opportunity of exchanging experiences and exploring possibilities for cooperation in a number of key areas, including e-government, the digital economy, cybersecurity, cybercrime prevention, capacity building activities, international security in cyberspace, and research, development, and innovation.

The resumption of the working group is significant. While the United States and Brazil don’t always see eye-to-eye on cyber issues—particularly on the Internet governance front—they recognize the importance of an un-fragmented and open Internet. That makes them important allies to push for a renewal of the IGF’s mandate and the adherence to multistakeholder model in the face of opposition from countries that question its worth. It will also help both countries coordinate each others’ negotiating positions in the run up to the negotiation of the WSIS+10 outcome document, expected to be issued later this year where the usual suspects are likely to push for a greater decision-making role for UN institutions in Internet governance.

While some may be calling out Rousseff for flip-flopping, the resumption of the working group is unequivocally a good thing for the prospects of an open, global Internet.

Source: Council on Foreign Relations

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