Speech by Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam SC at Tashkent Law Spring Panel Discussion
22 Apr 2021 Posted in [Speeches]
- Thank you, your Excellencies. I made some short remarks earlier. Thank you for the opportunity to participate again, after the earlier session.
Trust in Institutions
- During this session, I will touch on sovereignty, New Media, and the Rule of Law. Over the last few years, we have seen a very important development, which is, loss of trust in institutions across the world. And this loss of trust affects both public institutions and private institutions. Loss of trust in governments, political systems, media, financial institutions, businesses, professions, and other institutions.
- If we take a step back, we will see institutions are the building blocks of societies. They deliver economic and societal benefits. Institutions in any country play a crucial stabilising role to manage diversity and hold communities together.
- Institutions succeed, and I say institution - whether it’s a parliament, cabinet, the police or the army - they in turn, depend on trust and legitimacy in order to persuade the public to make sacrifices for the common good. You need their trust and legitimacy to encourage societies to come together to solve problems, to implement policies, to take actions for society’s benefit, and to steer countries through crises.
- But when people in a country lose trust in institutions, then that creates a vicious cycle. The institutions lose their ability to make change.
Factors leading to loss of trust
- Today in the world, we see several factors contributing to this loss of trust. One is of course, the increase in inequality in many parts of the world. Two, political systems are finding it more difficult to deliver what people want. Three, there are changes in the way traditional media in many countries deliver news. And four, the impact of New Media. For my purposes today I will just focus on the impact of New Media.
- New Media is an information super highway. It has got many byways, it links to different groups in society.
- It has greatly enhanced the sharing of knowledge and information, and connectivity. It has created tremendous productivity; it has made lives better across the globe.
- But it has also now been used to send out, on an industrial scale, falsehoods to mislead people.
- There are several forces driving this, including digital advertising models, which have turned websites into, basically, real estate. And, the abuse of New Media by people seeking to spread hate, terror, and to create loss of trust in institutions and governments.
- Modern technology has made the creation and dissemination of falsehoods easier, cheaper, more profitable. And, it is happening in many countries around the world. In fact, in almost every country, I would dare say, unless you don’t have the Internet.
Impact of loss of trust
- And often, these falsehoods affect the Infrastructure of Fact, upon which the proper functioning of society depends.
- If we don’t address this, there is going to be deep damage to institutions across every society, including those which uphold the law, like the Police and the Judiciary.
- Many examples all around the world – Europe, Asia, US – of fabricated stories. Of Police brutality, about immigrants, spreading xenophobia.
- Now, countries have tried to deal with this through domestic solutions and legislation. But really, the borderless nature of New Media means that when countries try and deal with this issue individually, within borders, the effectiveness is limited.
- It is important for countries to coordinate and work together across jurisdictions, and we have to consider some serious questions:
– How can we get a more united response across the globe?
– Does international law have to come in?
– What kinds of changes do we need to make to our own legal systems, to make sure we are prepared to deal with this industrialised age of falsehoods?
- These are difficult issues, there are no easy answers. It goes to sovereignty itself. Countries’ ability to decide for themselves and in the interest of their people is now being undermined by people who live outside and who can easily undermine institutions and their legitimacy.
- Forums like this are useful for countries to learn from each other, exchange best practices, share ideas, and I look forward to the discussion later. Thank you very much.
Last updated on 22 Apr 2021