World facing two-pronged attack of COVID-19 and misinformation: S Jaishankar

He said, a pandemic has devastated our globalised economic system; apart from taking a toll of over 4 lakh lives, it has fundamentally affected the way we live

India is the land of Mahatma Gandhi and can never take its eyes off racism, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar told Rajya Sabha once. File Photo: PTI

Asserting that the world stands at a “transformative moment”, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday (June 26) said a dispassionate scrutiny and reform of all multilateral entities were needed to make them purpose-built for the current times and representative of this century.

Addressing a virtual ministerial meeting of Alliance for Multilateralism, Jaishankar said the world 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. “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,” Jaishankar said.

Suspicion of human interaction is fuelled, more often than not, by fake news, wrong information and targeted disinformation, he said. “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,” he said. He asserted that the way forward to address both the challenges is similar and said that there is a need to strengthen the belief in scientific approaches.


“That means, 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.

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, he said, adding that as Chair of the WHO Executive Board, India is ready to work towards these goals.

“We need to restore our 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,” he said.

In this context, India was pleased to be a part of cross-regional group presenting a statement on the ongoing Infodemic in the context of COVID-19 at the UN, he noted. “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,” Jaishankar said.

“Just as we need to consider the resourcing and regulatory parameters set out for the World Health Organisation, 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,” he said.

This is why India continues to call for reformed multilateralism–one that is relevant for the age in which we live, not when this architecture was erected, he said. “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,” he said.

The “Alliance for Multilateralism” launched by the French and German foreign ministers is an informal network of countries united in their conviction that a rules-based multilateral order is the only reliable guarantee for international stability and peace.