Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hanke Bruins Slot at the UN General Assembly Information Integrity session

Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hanke Bruins Slot at the UN General Assembly Information Integrity session, 20 September 2023.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

When we use a word like ‘integrity’, we all instinctively understand what it means – at least when we’re referring to people, organisations, or structures. It means they’re solid, reliable, trustworthy. But when it comes to information integrity, most people don’t immediately know what that means.

Of course, it basically amounts to the same thing. And yet, there continues to be a gap between the real world and the digital world. We have strict codes of conduct for how public officials should behave, or how strong a bridge should be, but we have no clearly agreed standards when it comes to how we share information online. This disparity is becoming a major concern.

Every day, the world is flooded with disinformation and misinformation. Rapid advances in technology – particularly generative AI – make it more and more difficult to tell fact from fiction. And algorithms are built in such a way that they cause unreliable information to spread like wildfire. All of this is having serious real-world consequences.

A healthy and robust democracy needs an open dialogue between citizens, an informed debate between politicians, and a free and diverse media landscape. That’s how the public can form opinions, governments can reach informed decisions, and human rights can best be protected. The availability of reliable, accurate and trustworthy information is the oxygen of any free and democratic system. If that oxygen supply is cut off, or contaminated, these systems will slowly suffocate.

So what we’re talking about today truly matters. We’re talking about the future of democracy itself. That’s why I’m proud that we’re gathered here today to launch the Global Declaration on Information Integrity Online. This Declaration will help us protect information integrity online, and advance our discussions about setting clear ground rules. Because the gap between the real and online worlds has been too big, for too long. We need stronger standards. And today we’re taking an important step in the right direction.

Without your active contributions, this would not have been possible. And you in particular, Mélanie Joly, have been a driving force. The Declaration we’re launching today really is a collective effort, and it’s now our collective responsibility to make sure it succeeds!

Thank you.

Please, allow me to give the floor to the Honorable Melanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, who has been actively involved in the entire drafting process of the Declaration and has been a strong advocate for the promotion of information integrity.