Closing remarks – ICPEN Conference 2021
Notes from an address by Josephine A.L. Palumbo
ICPEN President 2020-2021, Deputy Commissioner, Competition Bureau Canada
Thursday, June 24, 2021
Thank you so very much to the COVID-19 working group. I believe it is fitting that we conclude our final conference with this working group, as the pandemic has certainly shaped the entirety of our Presidency. And all of ICPEN’s work over the past year.
One year ago today, we were preparing to presume the Presidency role of the Network. For us in Canada, that time was certainly one of great uncertainty. Uncertainty in how the pandemic would continue to play out for us and all nations across the globe, and uncertainty on how the pandemic would continue to affect consumers globally.
Fortunately, today, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Countries are beginning to re-open, vaccines are being administered at ever increasing rates, and border restrictions are beginning to ease.
Today brings us to the end of our three day ICPEN Conference, and also brings us very close to the end of our tenure as the ICPEN President.
At the outset of this Conference, we set ourselves out to work together, to share and exchange ideas, views and strategies so that we can continue to better coordinate and collaborate as a Network all with the goal of improving our investigative detection abilities, our technical skills, knowledge and strategic thinking as consumer protection authorities, all for the protection of consumers on a global scale.
Over the course of the last three days, I believe we have all had a great opportunity to discuss the enforcement issues that matter most to consumers and to our respective organizations. I encourage you all to keep these important discussions moving in the months ahead.
And, let me say that, while virtual meetings, such as these, have had their unique limitations, we have overcome, and we were able to achieve much success thanks to the dedication and determination of member nations who participated and supported us, in moving forward the important work of the Network.
And, this, despite the circumstances; despite the obstacles; and despite the unprecedented conditions surrounding us. For this, I would like to thank you all; because it took courage, vision and a conviction that the work we do for the Network is important, is relevant; and it matters.
Certainly, we can say that adapting to change that we neither asked for nor expected has been a shared burden throughout this pandemic. Despite it all, we continue to move forward with the hope of soon returning to a better normal.
I would like to take you back to 1996. As some of you may know, that was the last time Canada was vested with the ICPEN Presidency. An entire generation ago.
Back then, the consumer-based Internet was in its infancy. The biggest businesses in the world were automotive and oil companies.
And that was a world away from where we were in 2019, when Canada proposed to assume the role of the 2020-2021 ICPEN Presidency.
And let me say that, 2019 is a whole world away from where we are right now. We all had plans in 2019. But then we were forced to make new ones. COVID-19 rapidly changed the way we work, live and interact with each other. And, as I like to say, it has turned the digital marketplace into “the” marketplace.
It raised physical borders, but pulled down transactional ones. It amplified risks to consumers around the world. It redefined “trust”. It made the case crystal clear, the case we have been making for years, that more work is needed to ensure coordinated enforcement action among international organizations and deeper consumer protection strategies in this ever changing digital landscape.
When we assumed the role as President, we set out to deliver a Programme of Work that would ‘build consumer trust in an ever changing digital marketplace’. We developed a Programme that would seek to focus upon the digital economy, first and foremost, and the issues that matter most to consumers, and, of course, with special attention to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting us all.
Before I highlight some of our Network achievements, I would like to say a few words regarding the legacy Canada hopes to leave behind.
The Team Canada ‘legacy’
Under our Presidency, operating within the Canadian Competition Bureau framework, we have worked to build a legacy of inclusiveness, transparency, and diversity of voice. And also important, collaboration. Core values and principles reflective of the Canadian spirit.
First, inclusiveness. We have worked to ensure that ICPEN, as a leading international consumer protection network, would be as inclusive as possible. We have expanded the Network under the Canadian Presidency. There is no doubt that we all benefit from a diverse Network with widespread geographical and cultural representation.
I believe the continued growth of the ICPEN is an essential component to its long term success and its’ ability to deliver on its mandates well into the future. To this end, we are very pleased to welcome two new partners - Botswana and Singapore. As well, joining the Network are two new members in South Africa and also, Morocco in the upcoming days.
We also opened the Network to work alongside noteworthy international organizations including Consumers International, the G20, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
As ICPEN President, I engaged in outreach efforts with our international partners, highlighting the importance of our work on the international stage, our current areas of focus as a global enforcement organization, and the meaningful impact the Network is having on consumer protection worldwide.
All of these valuable partnerships demonstrate the important role of international collaboration and highlights Canada’s principled approach toward inclusion of many voices in building and sustaining working relationships between international agencies.
Second, transparency. Transparency in regards to how we communicate the important enforcement and outreach efforts we engage in as a Network. I believe that in order to protect the over 5 billion consumers we aim to serve, we need to raise awareness of all the noteworthy effort we are advancing as a coordinated and interconnected Network.
A recent example of transparency was our enforcement effort, specifically our joint statement with GPEN, involving the actions against Apple and Google. Co-led by Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom and involving 27 ICPEN member nations working together to get both Apple and then Google to make security and privacy changes to the App Store and Google Play stores.
The convergence between consumer protection and privacy continues to emerge and I believe must be an area of continued focus for us as law enforcement agencies. Further, the increase in
public acknowledgment and awareness of our work as a Network needs to be encouraged and supported.
Diversity of Voice
Third, diversity of voice. Diversity of voice is important as it ensures all ICPEN members, each with unique backgrounds, experiences and skills, have the opportunity to equally participate and advance the core objectives of the Network.
A great example of this was the highly successful regional COVID-19 webinars, which allowed a diverse group of member nations to discuss pointed issues within their respected regions relating to the pandemic and to share this important information for the benefit of all.
Through our proposed Strategy Plan, we encourage Members to rotate positions regularly to allow for an exchange of ideas, views and perspectives.
By allowing for a broader member base and the opportunity to share and exchange different and, at times, diverging views and perspectives, I believe we can better serve all global consumers. Because we know that diversity of voices is the path to success.
And finally, collaboration. You have heard me speak at length about collaboration over the course of the past three days, but this is for good reason. Our collaboration with other global organizations will serve to better highlight the important work we do. It will serve to highlight our role as a leading consumer protection network and will ultimately allow us to better protect consumers worldwide.
In a time of mass digital expansion, more and more conduct is occurring across sovereign boarders. And when borders disappear, enforcement challenges increase. It makes little sense to work alone when a problem, stamped out in one region, pops up in another the next day.
Borderless problems demand borderless solutions. And borderless solutions find themselves in international collaboration networks such as ICPEN.
During the Conference, we also had so many interesting and important sessions that touched upon a number of key issues and themes in our work.
As I said earlier, when we assumed the President, a year ago, we set out to deliver a Programme of Work that would ‘build consumer trust in a changing marketplace’. And with the help of so many of you, I believe we have been able to accomplish just that.
During the past few days, we have discussed a number of key issues within our dedicated Working Groups including: Digital Platforms; Enforcement in the Digital Economy; Artificial Intelligence; Misleading Environmental Claims; and Enforcement During COVID-19. Also, the updated 2021-2024 Strategy Plan we hope will ensure the Network is well positioned for continued future success.
To all of our speakers over the course of the past three days – too numerous to list by name, on behalf of myself and colleagues on Team Canada, sincerest thank you for sharing your time, your insights, your knowledge and your expertise.
I would also like to thank our German Secretariat, Martina Naujoks and Werner Kannenberg, for supporting our Presidency over the last year. Our ICPEN Advisory Group has also been instrumental in our success as an organization. Their thoughtful advice during our Presidential term has served as a hallmark for our work over the past year.
And to Belgium, thank you so very much for your instrumental role in organizing the best practices webinars earlier this year. Your hard work and dedication did not go unseen.
And finally, to Australia, our webmaster, Joe-Anne Riddiford. Thank you for supporting this important part of ICPEN. Your work is critical to not only our webpage, but also the broader work of our entire organization.
Thoughts about the future
While, I do believe we have accomplished a great deal in the past year, there is still more work to be done.
As the outgoing President, here is what I see on the road ahead: more of what has made this organization so successful to date and so effective this past year.
We all know the digital economy is moving fast: ICPEN will need to keep pace. And, we know it will because we must. All things digital will continue to be a defining feature of our collective work. As international law enforcement agencies, we must be nimble and ready to adapt to the new reality and the changing digital landscape that lies ahead in a post-pandemic era.
We will need to engage in more joint enforcement actions. More of what we saw under the Canadian Presidency, when we secured agreements with two of the largest app stores in the world.
We must continue to question and look at whether we are positioned to address the challenges of today, and those of the future.
Our success as an organization will be measured upon our ability to keep pace with the massive digital expansion and disruption and the constant transformation in the marketplace we all operate in.
Let me say here that, while we have faced challenging times, we also have had an unprecedented opportunity to build a stronger and more competitive network of international consumer protection authorities.
And as we continue to face unprecedented challenges – namely COVID-19 and the staggering pace of technological change – I appeal to you all to act on the issues we have discussed over the course of the Conference in a collective manner.
Indeed, after a year of incredible change, more change comes for ICPEN at the start of next month. That is when our colleagues from the Consumer Directorate-General of Portugal assume the Presidency.
In wishing them the very best, new challenges will present themselves, and when they do, we know that Portugal will have this mighty Network here to serve. Ready to ‘surf the wave of cooperation to protect consumers’ as their theme motto tells us.
I would also like to take a moment to extend special thanks to our colleagues from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, for contributing to our conference but also in coming forth as the 2022-2023 ICPEN President.
Indeed, as Canada winds up our time as President, I speak for all of us when I say that ICPEN is in very capable hands with Portugal and Australia. Because just like Canada—and just like every member nation in this organization—they are devoted to acting in the best interests of consumers – striving for greater enforcement and to build even greater trust in today’s digital marketplace.
Gratitude and thanks
As the great physicist and bestselling author Carlo Rovelli puts it: The world isn’t really made of objects or things. It’s made of relations: a network of them. These relationships —as he says— are “the magic of the world.”
I cannot express how proud I am to have had the honour to represent the Network and Team Canada over the past year. It has truly been a humbling experience and one that I will cherish.
Let me conclude by saying that all that the Canadian Presidency was able to achieve simply could not have been possible without the amazing work of each member of Team Canada.
Beginning with, Jean-Pierre Bornais, thank you so very much Jean-Pierre for everything you have done throughout the Presidency term. You have been a pivotal part of coordinating the Canadian Presidency and its mandate. A very special thank you to Tatjana Trifkovic who worked so very hard to make our Conferences and High Level meetings all they could be, under very challenging circumstances, such amazing leadership direction, patience and stamina. I am deeply grateful, Tatjana.
Louisa Montesano, thank you for all your efforts in helping to create such an intensive and interesting Programme of Work that really gave life, Louisa to our Presidency and for your steadfast support throughout our Conferences.
William Gillen, so grateful for your unwavering support and instrumental assistance in advancing so many responsibilities of the office of the Presidency. Your incredible efforts cannot be measured, William.
Bradley Russell, Your hard work and dedication to Team Canada was so pivotal, Brad to the success of our mandate and your leading on our Working Groups was greatly appreciated.
And to the rest of the members of Team Canada: Marie-Christine Vezina, Philippe Alexis, Nigel Ceaser, Marie-Chantal Breton, Éponine Nizeye, Chantal Martel, thank you so very much for all your hard work, dedication and steadfast commitment in assisting us in organizing the Conferences and the various responsibilities of our Presidency.
I would be remiss if I did not recognize our amazing event coordinator, Sharon Workman and the talented Tech team here at Library and Archives Canada led by Marc Andre Croteau who really ensured this Conference was such a great success.
And, to all of you who have joined us over the last few days and during the course of our Presidency, we have felt your virtual presence throughout - your enthusiastic participation and steadfast support was very much appreciated by all of us at Team Canada.
It is unfortunate that COVID-19 has not allowed us to meet in person, so that we might share with all of you everything our beautiful country, Canada has to offer. But I do hope that, through our videos, music and trivia, you have gained a glimpse into the amazing place we are fortunate to call home.
To each of the members of Team Canada, thank you for your hard work and dedication in representing Canada, our country with such honor and grace.
With this, the curtain closes on the Canadian Presidency but the memories and our time shared together will not be forgotten.
And as our closing hymn says - we believe in the power that comes from a world brought together as one. In the same way, that ICPEN has and will continue to bring us all together for the betterment of our world consumers.
And, together we can be the change we wish from others. We will stand for what is right, for what we must to ensure global consumer protection today and for the future.
Thank you again. It has been an honor and privilege and we hope to see you all very soon.
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