'Democracies Can Be Fragile': NZ PM Jacinda Ardern Delivers Speech at Harvard

She got a standing ovation when she explained how she tackled gun ownership in response to the 2019 mosque attacks.

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"We must realise that democracies can be fragile," said Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand while making the annual commencement address to more than a thousand students at Harvard University on Thursday, 26 May.

"This imperfect but precious way that we organise ourselves, that has been created to give equal voice to the weak and to the strong, that is designed to help drive consensus – it is fragile," she said.

Prime Minister Ardern asserted that the assumption that the longer a democracy exists the stronger it becomes, "ignores the fact that the foundation of a strong democracy includes trust in institutions, experts, and government – and that this can be built up over decades but torn down in mere years."

"It ignores what happens when, regardless of how long your democracy has been tried and tested, facts are turned into fiction and fiction turned into fact. It ignores the reality of what we are now being confronted by every single day."


On Gun Laws

In the backdrop of the tragic mass shooting that killed 21 people including 19 children at a school in Uvalde, Texas, Ardern said, "We knew we needed significant gun reform, and so that is what we did."

The prime minister received a standing ovation when she explained how her government tackled gun ownership in response to the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks that killed 51 people.

"But we also knew that if we wanted genuine solutions to the issue of violent extremism online, it would take government, civil society and the tech companies themselves to change the landscape," she added.


On Social Media

After talking about fact and fiction with respect to democracies and their functioning, Prime Minister Ardern spoke extensively about social media.

"I’m not here to argue that social media is good, nor bad. It’s a tool. And as with anything, it’s the rules of the game, and the way we engage with it, that matter. That means recognising the role they play in constantly curating and shaping the online environments that we’re in – that algorithmic processes make choices and decisions for us, what we see and where we are directed, and that at best this means user experience is personalised, and at worst it means it can be radicalised."

"The time has come for social media companies and other online providers to recognise their power and to act on it," she added. "The issues we navigate as a society will only intensify. The disinformation will only increase. The pull into the comfort of our tribes will be magnified. But we have it within us to ensure that this doesn’t mean we fracture."

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Topics:  new zealand   Jacinda Ardern 

Edited By :Padmashree Pande
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