UAE foreign minister: in the 15-minute news cycle, we can't afford to ignore criticism

Dr Anwar Gargash said claims over Yemen and other criticisms cannot be left unchallenged

FILE PHOTO: A Shiite Houthi fighter stands guard at the site of a rally attended by fellows Houthis to mark Ashura and the 4th anniversary of their takeover of the Yemeni capital, in Sanaa, Yemen, September 20, 2018. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo
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A senior minister has reflected on the need to respond to criticism and fake news in minutes at a time when information is spread far and wide - regardless of truth or veracity.

Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said the UAE and other governments have recognised that unfair criticism and false claims cannot be left to lie.

He was speaking at the start of the two-day Abu Dhabi Diplomacy Conference - dubbed Diplocon - hosted by Emirates Diplomatic Academy, which trains the country's future ambassadors and officials.

The minister said governments have previously have spent days formulating a response to an event or criticism. Now it has to be done within minutes.

“We are living in what we are calling a fifteen minute cycle," he said.

"We used to have a two/three-day cycle, but today, if there is some information on Yemen, that from our perspective in the UAE we see it is negative... [we have to] deal with that information within 15 minutes. Because the information cycle that is influencing opinions is very fast."

ABU DHABI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , November 14  – 2018 :- Dr. Anwar Gargash , UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs speaking at the Diplocon , Abu Dhabi Diplomacy Conference 2018 held at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Gill Duncan / Daniel Sanderson
Dr Anwar Gargash delivers the keynote speech on the opening day of Diplocon in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National

However, he also warned that online communications are no substitute for traditional diplomatic skills, such as strong analytical abilities and the ability to gather credible information.

“There is no replacement for a good analytical mind, for the ability to gather good, solid information," he said.

"People who deal with me realise that I get frustrated a lot because I always am looking for more concise, more informative readouts of this situation or that situation. From this perspective, I don’t think technology is in any way a replacement for content."

Dr Gargash also went on to illustrate the importance of data security, given the impact on diplomacy.

He gave the example of how the WikiLeaks release of secret cables caused embarrassment among many governments. Cables are used to gather information and inform decision-makers and are typically written in frank terms.

Dr Gargash said: “Many of these reports contained your private thoughts, they contain your assessments to your government. Technology is an enabler that makes this information more necessary, more timely. But beyond that, security of confidential information is extremely important.”


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