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EU-LAC Digital Alliance on Cybersecurity

The EU-LAC Digital Alliance convened a pivotal high-level policy dialogue on cybersecurity from February 14-16, 2024, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, marking the first dialogue post the 2023 Digital Alliance Days.

With cyber-attacks posing a significant threat globally, the dialogue aimed to unite the European Union (EU) and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) regions in addressing this challenge. 

Over 150 senior government officials, representatives from the EU, LAC countries, civil society, academia, and the private sector gathered to discuss concrete initiatives for collaborative cybersecurity efforts. The dialogue, opened by the Minister of the Presidency of the Dominican Republic Joel Santos, co-chaired by Felice Zaccheo of the European Commission and Vice Minister José Montilla of the Dominican Republic, focused on crucial cybersecurity issues such as cyberdiplomacy, resilient ecosystems, capacity building, and safeguarding secure connectivity and critical infrastructure.  

Notably, Czech Republic and Colombia expressed their intention to join LAC4 as Participant Nations, adding to the existing seven-member bi-regional community of countries and organisations dedicated to enhancing cybersecurity through collaborative efforts and capacity building. 

LAC4 was the main organizer of Day 0 of the 3-day discussions, setting the stage for practical dialogue on cybersecurity cooperation between the public, private and civil sector. Three workshops were convened, delving into key aspects of cyber resilience and collaboration between the EU and LAC: 

1. BUILDING A CYBER-RESILIENT ECOSYSTEM WITH THE PRIVATE SECTOR  

Objective: Discuss collaboration strategies with the private sector to enhance open communication, community engagement, knowledge sharing and a conducive regulatory environment 

Moderation: César Moliné Rodríguez, LAC4  

Speakers:
Felice Zaccheo, European Commission 

Erick O’Reilly, Claro 

Carlos Leonardo, Dominican Republic  

Elena Kaiser, Italy 

Yan-André von Husen, Thales  

The panel emphasized the necessity for regulatory actions to enable both industry and governments to effectively engage in the comprehensive cyber ecosystem. While governments play a leading role in regulatory development, it’s crucial that these regulations are shaped with insights and direction from the industry, which possesses a deeper understanding of the risks and challenges within specific critical sectors. Industry could contribute to societal cyber awareness initiatives, leveraging its insights into cyber risks to enhance visibility and understanding. Strengthening PPPs is essential for fostering a more responsible cyber culture. Efforts to reduce the digital divide should be complemented by dedicated cybersecurity awareness initiatives.  

2. BUILDING CYBERSECURITY WORKFORCE IN THE LAC REGION AND IN THE EU: COMMON CHALLENGES AND REMEDIES 

Objective: Tackle workforce shortages and skill development in cybersecurity and share common challenges and possible remedies from European and Latin-American perspective Moderation: Merili Soosalu, LAC4  

Speakers:
Matteo Luchetti, LAC4/Cyber 4.0 

Gezer Molina, MICITT, Costa Rica 

Javier Marín, NUMU-BeDisruptive 

Alejandro Becerra, Telefónica  

Roxana Radu, LAC4/Oxford University  

Carlos González, RedCLARA  

Representatives from governments, private sector and academia sought practical remedies on qualified workforce shortage both in Europe and in the LAC region. On the European Union side, the European cybersecurity skills framework (ECSF) was presented as a possible tool to define set of roles and skills relevant to today’s cybersecurity field. A perspective of ECSF adaptation to LAC region was discussed to guide the development of cybersecurity professionals in the LAC region.  

Parallelly, private sector in cooperation with academia have also developed initiatives to remedy the practical issue of lacking qualified workforce. It was agreed that untraditional programmes such as hackathons, bootcamps and capture the flag events also serve a purpose to popularize the domain. Finally, creating links between integrating academia into cyber related decision-making, but also cybersecurity for academia is needed. 

3. TOWARDS A BI-REGIONAL PUBLIC-PRIVATE CYBERSECURITY COLLABORATION PLATFORM  

Objective: Discuss multistakeholder collaboration mechanisms as well as the possibility to establish a bi-regional platform to prevent and mitigate cyber risks  

Facilitators:
Patryk Pawlak, Expertise France 

Liina Areng, LAC4/CyberNet 

Jean-Marie Chenou, Expertise France  

Commentators:
Omar De Los Santos, Dominican Republic 

Curro Márquez and Virginia Bernaldo, Telefónica 

Camille Lalevée, European Commission   

With cyber-attacks on LAC’s critical infrastructure on the rise, discussions emphasized the need to strengthen infrastructure to ensure reliability and sustainability. The dialogue outlined four key pillars for an action-oriented approach to cybersecurity: workforce development, multi-stakeholder cooperation, strengthened cyber ecosystems, and secure connectivity. 

Addressing the growing demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals, the dialogue explored avenues for education, training, partnership with the private sector and academia, skills enhancement, and global collaboration. Recognizing that cyber threats transcend borders, participants stressed the importance of international cooperation between LAC and the EU to exchange best practices and applicable knowledge to enhance regional and global cybersecurity resilience. 

Looking ahead, the dialogue reiterated the EU-LAC Digital Alliance’s commitment to enhancing global cybersecurity and contributing to a free, open, safe, and secure cyberspace. It aligns with the roadmap set by the Alliance launched in March 2023 under the EU Global Gateway, aiming for regular bi-regional dialogue and cooperation on digital matters for the benefit of citizens. The outcomes of the dialogue will contribute to the 2025 EU-CELAC Summit, showcasing concrete steps towards strengthened cybersecurity cooperation.