As much as social media offers a digital platform to improve exchange of information and enhance popular participation, its attendant negative impacts simply cannot be ignored, Hailemariam Dessalegn, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, told the United Nations General Assembly today.
“In fact, we are seeing how misinformation could easily go viral via social media and mislead many people, especially the youth,” he said in his address to the annual general debate, adding: “Social media has certainly empowered populists and other extremists to exploit people's genuine concerns and spread their message of hate and bigotry without any inhibition."
On other global challenges, he said international peace and stability is facing greater risks with the rise of geo-political tensions and the growing threats posed by “all shades” of terrorist groups. Moreover, the global economy has not yet rebounded from the financial crisis.
Further, “it is critical to underline one matter which is usually given short shrift, both by the media and others. It is simply hypocritical to deny that some of our countries have been targets for destabilization activities carried out with no accountability by people and groups who have been given shelters by States with whom we have absolutely no problems,” he stressed.
It is under these challenging circumstances that countries are striving to implement the new UN transformational agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and, obviously, he said, there are no easy solutions to these complex issues. “The situation is much more pronounced, especially for least developed countries like us, which are making every possible effort to […] escape the poverty trap.”
“We believe our vision is right and we are determined to get there. Whatever challenges and shortcomings we may have, we don't have difficulty owning up to them and we will make every possible effort to deal with them in close consultation, cooperation and participation of our people,” Prime Minister Dessalegn said, noting that there is no better testimony for the resolve Ethiopia has shown in this regard than the way it had handled this past year’s devastating El-Nino.
At the same time, he said Ethiopia could not simply “wish away” the challenges it is facing. Indeed, they need collective and coordinated responses “and we are always ready willing to continue to contribute positively in close partnership with others, in our region and beyond, in tackling these challenges.”