Message by the Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan at the virtual Ministerial of the Alliance for Multilateralism “Strengthening the multilateral health architecture: Combating infodemics”

27 June, 2020

I Appreciate the convening of this Ministerial during a very challenging time and especially on the day when we celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations. This symbolism comes once again to amplify the core message of this very Alliance that strong global cooperation, solidarity, effective multilateralism are instrumental tools not only for containing and countering the current unprecedented challenge caused by the Covid pandemic but also for sustaining functional international society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has a disproportionately heavy impact on many countries, including developing, land-locked countries such as Armenia, hampering economic progress and compounded by a volatile security environment regionally and globally.

With or without COVID-19, Armenia is a staunch supporter of multilateral, cooperative international system with effective and functioning global and regional institutions.

The crisis of the global health system caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID19) has been revealing the flaws of global solidarity and trust in multilateral institutions. It is a call for action, a reminder that against the challenge of global problems recommitment to effective multilateralism is an imperative. Armenia is inherently attached to the initiative aimed at promoting strong multilateralism. We have consciously joined the Declaration of the previous Ministerial Meeting of the Alliance, held on 16th April 2020 entitled “We need stronger global cooperation and solidarity to fight COVID 19”.

The WHO resolution on “COVID-19 response” was unanimously adopted during the World Health Assembly on the 18th and 19th May 2020. It is a call for the universal, timely and equitable access to, and fair distribution of all essential health technologies and products to combat the virus and it is a critical point. Indeed, this is a global priority, no one, including those living in conflict areas, should be denied or be limited in access to remedies to mitigate the impact of Covid-19

The WHO is under pressure. The WHO is its membership, therefore it is upon us collectively and individually, as members of the international community to reassess the value and the need of collective action aimed at raising the standard of this multilateral platform. Would we, the international community, be better off with a weak WHO? Would we be individually benefiting from the erosion of solidarity and collective action, from increasing chaos? Armenia’s answer is a resolute no. The World Health Organization, as much as other international and regional organizations have a role to play in coordinating and guiding the global health response, as well as in aligning efforts to respond to the wider socio-economic impacts of the crisis.

Immunization against COVID-19, as a global public good, as well as accessible and affordable vaccines should be available for all countries, especially the vulnerable ones.

We are ready to join our efforts towards strengthening the multilateral health architecture which will impact the healthcare system at all levels, including the national ones, thus improving preparedness in preventing and addressing this and other outbreaks.

Armenia endorsed the Cross-Regional Statement on “Infodemic” in the Context of COVID-19, addressing the spread of misinformation and disinformation regarding the pandemic, which causes confusion among the population and divides communities.

After the Velvet revolution and democratic transformation of 2018 freedom of expression is firmly rooted in our public life in Armenia, it is one of the flagship achievements of Armenia’s democracy.

The Infodemic that accompanies the Covid-19 pandemic is a real threat not only for democratic institutions but for public health and security. Numerous instances of unjustified restrictions or denial of access to essential information on the spread of the disease in various parts of the world are concerning. At the same time, where free media is strong, the recognition of the free media as public value and public service is a compelling means of instilling conscious public collective action in addressing risks. Therefore, free media should also insist on the requisite of responsibility. Fight against COVID-19 amplifies this condition.

The Government of Armenia is resolutely determined in maintaining and guaranteeing strong grounds for people to exercise their right of free expression and freedom of speech. Meantime, the dissemination of misinformation, fake news are among the major threats to ensuring the realization of the constitutional rights of persons to have access to reliable and factual information.

Armenia welcomes the launch of the working group on combating infodemics established within the Forum on Information & Democracy.

Thank you.

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