External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said that dispassionate scrutiny and reform of all multilateral entities are needed to make them purpose-built for the present times and representative of this century.

Delivering his remarks at the virtual ministerial meeting of Alliance for Multilateralism, Jaishankar underlined that the world stands at a “transformative moment” and is facing a two-pronged attack of a pandemic and misinformation going viral.

“Today, once again, we stand at a transformative moment. A pandemic has devastated our globalised economic system, apart from taking a toll of over 400,000 lives. It has fundamentally affected the way we live, work, travel and indeed, relate to each other,” he said.

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“While it is too early to say that the coronavirus has altered our way of life forever, it has reduced humanity’s instinctive comfort in the presence of others. Suspicion of human interaction is fuelled, more often than not, by fake news, wrong information and targetted disinformation,” he added.

“So widespread are these phenomena today that we are truly facing a two-pronged attack of a viral pandemic and misinformation going viral. In other words, this is an era of both a health crisis and an infodemic,” Jaishankar stated.

The External Affairs Minister said that the way forward to address both of challenges is similar and there is a need to strengthen the belief in scientific approaches.

“We must set aside politics and focus on facts whether it is the effort to dispassionately analyse the causes and drivers of the current coronavirus pandemic, or to assess what changes our multilateral health mechanisms need to implement to improve preparations for a future pandemic,” Jaishankar said.

He stressed that the resolution adopted at the World Health Assembly last month is “an opportunity to use facts and science to assess our response to this pandemic and take those lessons to prepare better for the future”, while adding that India, as chair of the WHO Executive Board, is ready to work towards these goals.

Jaishankar called on the need to restore faith in meaningful and equal partnerships.

“Trust, partnership and cooperation draw people, societies and countries together especially during crises, particularly when fake news and disease engender isolationism and unilateralism. In this context, India was pleased to be part of cross-regional group presenting a statement on the ongoing ‘Infodemic’ in the context of COVID-19 at the UN,” he said.

“As you know, it received wide political support from over 130 states and observers. Our alliance must also continue to take concrete steps to counter the ‘infodemic’ through its working group in this regard,” the minister added.

“It is an empirical fact that every process and institution must evolve to meet the needs of its time. No institution, howsoever important, can remain frozen at the moment of its foundation. Just as we need to consider the resourcing and regulatory parameters set out for the WHO, to address and resolve shortcomings, so too do we need dispassionate scrutiny and reform of all multilateral entities, to make them purpose-built for our times and representative of this century,” Jaishankar said.

He stated that “this is why we continue to call for ‘reformed multilateralism’– one that is relevant for the age in which we live, not when this architecture was erected”.

“Our alliance must stand for a dynamic multilateralism, for a purposeful reform of existing structures, which must continue to serve the international community even more in this complex and uncertain time,” Jaishankar further said.

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