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India to collaborate with nations and tech firms to check misinformation

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India has called for greater collaboration between nations and technology companies to stop the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 as fake news and doctored videos undermine the people’s trust in authorities to tackle the disease.

The long-term ramifications of COVID-19 were discussed at the 74th United Nations General Assembly high-level forum on the Culture of Peace on Thursday. The coronavirus has claimed over 900,000 lives with over 28 million confirmed cases in the world so far.

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“The pandemic has demonstrated the existential dilemma of an information society. We have been exposed to misinformation and disinformation campaigns which have put lives and livelihoods of millions at risk, divided communities with fake news and doctored videos and undermined the trust in public authorities to tackle the disease, Counsellor in the Permanent Mission of India to the UN Paulomi Tripathi said at the forum.

She said lack of access to information continues to stifle key decision-making processes and positive social change.

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With social and political strife compounded by the pandemic, Tripathi said there are rising tensions in inter-state relations and there has been an upsurge in violence, bigotry and discrimination during the pandemic.

“We need greater collaboration among states and other stakeholders, including technology companies, to stop the spread of misinformation and disinformation, and to build strong counter-narratives based on reason, science, and empathy. We need to bolster access to information to ensure informed decision-making at all levels and to empower women and youth, she said.

Speaking at the session, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the pandemic threatens to erode trust in public institutions and democratic processes, even in developed countries.

Not since the United Nations was founded have we faced such a complex and multi-dimensional threat to global peace and security,” the UN chief said.

“In the face of this grave danger, it is more important than ever to work for a culture of peace, as the essential foundation for global cooperation and action,” he said.

Tripathi said the adoption of the UN Declaration and Programme of Action in 1999, culture of peace agenda has provided an effective blueprint for multilateral action to promote solidarity and understanding and today, more than ever, there is a need to reaffirm the abiding commitment to promote culture of peace.

She stressed that inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between individuals and groups with different backgrounds are key to promoting culture of peace.

We need to encourage more such cross-cultural engagements to mitigate the hateful narratives that tend to dominate public discourse,” she said.

Noting that the pandemic has upended education systems in many countries, Tripathi said efforts must be redoubled to restore learning opportunities for all, including by utilizing technology in support of remote learning, distance education, and online learning.

We need to harness the power of technology to ensure that pre-existing learning disparities are corrected. Education systems must also infuse the ethos of solidarity and global citizenship among children and youth to prepare us better for future challenges, she said.

The concept of a culture of peace has its genesis in an initiative put forward more than 20 years ago by Bangladeshi diplomat and former senior UN official Anwarul Chowdhury.

Ambassadors have met annually since 2012 to uphold their commitment to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, which the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus on September 13, 1999.

Speaking at this year’s event, Chowdhury said that a culture of peace simply means that everyone must consciously make peace and non-violence a part of their daily existence.

We should not isolate peace as something separate or distant, he said.

We should know how to relate to one another without being aggressive, without being violent, without being disrespectful, without neglect, and without prejudice,” he said.

He added: “In today’s world, more so, it should be seen as the essence of a new humanity based on inner oneness and outer diversity.”

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