Address by the President of the Republic of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the General Debate of the 69th United Nations General Assembly
the 364 days since I last had the honor to address this assembly, the world has
changed dramatically. We have seen a profound change in the global security situation. We see unprecedented threats
to peace and security in Post-World War Two Europe and the world, while
terrorism, climate change, human rights violations and the spread of the Ebola
virus continue to be global challenges.
need a concerted effort to achieve peace and stability in Europe and the Middle
East, and to restore the credibility of international law.
circumstances can ever justify terrorism in any form. By signing UN anti-terrorism conventions,
states have promised to prevent and investigate terrorist crimes as well as to
refrain from supporting or tacitly tolerating those crimes.
poses a serious threat to the people of Iraq and Syria as well as the broader
Middle East. This terrorist organization executes prisoners, kills civilians
and commits genocidal acts against religious and national minorities. Its
brutality, barbarous crimes and extreme ideology threaten all of humanity. It
challenges the universal human values enshrined in United Nations’ documents. We
must stop the terrorists. Estonia commends all global efforts to fight the ISIL
and other terrorist organizations, and stands ready to contribute to those
efforts. And here, I’d like to welcome the adoption today of the UN Security
Council resolution on foreign terrorist fighters.
quarter of a century ago, in the annus
mirabilis 1989, Europe and the democratic world celebrated a historical sea
change. The Berlin wall fell. The Cold War that had divided the world into
hostile camps for half a century, ended.
year we should celebrate an anniversary of the triumph of freedom and
2014 has turned out to be a year when the international order as we’ve known it
since the Cold War has been violated and put in doubt. Cynical geopolitics in
international relations has once again come to the fore. The international
agreements upon which the stability of the post-Second World War security
architecture has relied, have been compromised.
me remind you of what we have collectively agreed upon.
Charter of the United Nations, from 1945, declares: “All Members shall refrain in
their international relations from the threat or use of force against the
territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 all trans-Atlantic
countries agreed not to use force to
change borders or challenge the political independence of any state. States
agreed to regard
one another's frontiers inviolable; to refrain from making each other's
territory the object of military occupation. No such occupation or acquisition
would be recognized as legal.
the 1990 CSCE Charter of Paris for a New Europe, all signatories,
from Vancouver to Vladivostok, agreed to “fully recognize the freedom of States
to choose their own security arrangements”.
annexing Crimea and invading Eastern Ukraine, one of the signatories has
violated all of these agreements. Thus, we find ourselves in a completely new and
unforeseen security environment. We must enforce the fundamental agreements upon
which our peace and security rely.
Ukrainian crisis is not solely a conflict between two countries. It is not even
solely an European issue. If instead of agreements and laws, raw, brutal force
will apply in international relations; if changing state borders by force will
become an accepted norm, then the stability of the whole world is threatened.
As President Obama said this morning: “This is a vision of the world in which
might makes right.” And he added: “We believe that right makes might.” So does Estonia.
We believe that too.
developments must be firmly condemned. The international community cannot leave
Crimea as it is now. We cannot accept
frozen conflicts created for geopolitical ends. Referenda that are in agreement with
international law cannot be arranged in two weeks, in the presence of foreign
armed forces. Results of such referenda cannot be considered valid. Independence,
sovereignty and territorial integrity must remain the fundamental rights of
states and nations.
includes their right to direct their own future and to choose their allies – as
stated in the CSCE Paris Charter. Such free choices by sovereign nations cannot
be accepted as an excuse for aggression. However, it was not Ukraine’s wish even
to choose its security alliances that was used as a justification for aggression.
Its mere desire to enhance trade and
political relations with the EU, which is not
a “security arrangement”, led to the country’s dismemberment.
can we do to restore the validity of international agreements?
were warning signs of current events in Ukraine earlier. Alarm bells rang already
six years ago in Georgia, but few bothered to hear the wake up call. We must
take conflict prevention more seriously. We must support states in their choice
of democracy, rule of law and human rights and decisions that follow from that.
recent developments force us to seriously reconsider the role of the United
Nations. How can one of the fundamental goals of the UN, global peace and
security, be promoted when basic international agreements are ignored, state
borders are changed and territories are annexed through force?
cannot ignore that the Security Council has been paralyzed as international
justice has been manipulated and multiple crises have escalated. The Security Council
needs to be reformed. Its work methods and principles must be revised, with
special attention to the openness, accountability and transparency of its
permanent members of the UN Security Council bear enormous responsibility in
guaranteeing international peace. No permanent member should abuse the veto to
circumvent the principles of the UN Charter.
rights remain the most cherished values of the UN. Unfortunately, respect for
human rights can still not be assumed to be the norm.
cannot accept arguments that for some countries human rights do not apply for
cultural reasons. Human rights, as stated in the Universal Declaration, are
universal, inalienable and inviolable. They are based on the humanity and
dignity of each and every person.
peace or justice, stability or security can be guaranteed unless the basic
rights of all human beings are
respected and protected in every country, by all governments. We must,
moreover, pay special attention to the rights of the most vulnerable groups. Women’s
rights must be protected everywhere. It is crucial that empowering women and action
against gender-based violence be implemented in accordance with UN Resolution
1325. We must respect the rights of children and minorities as well as
indigenous people; we must care for people with special needs.
speech remains a crucial right. Some states have made efforts to stop the free
flow of information on the Internet and to divide cyber space along state
borders. This we must avoid. The Internet must remain a
universal platform for uninhibited exchange of information.
is proud to be a
founding member of the Freedom Online Coalition, a community of 23 nations committed to promoting free
speech online and the multi-stakeholder model of a free and open Internet. It is a global initiative that
together governments, NGOs, entrepreneurs and think tanks.
April the Freedom Online Coalition gathered in our capital and issued the
Tallinn Agenda, a statement expressing our strongly shared conviction that all people are entitled
to the same rights and freedoms, online as well as offline.
This is not a “lifestyle” question. The
Internet is a driver of economic growth and a key tool for development. Since
the 1990s it has blossomed into a global network of nearly three billion users.
Most of the next billion Internet users will come from developing countries.
The UN post 2015 Development Agenda should recognize the importance of new
technologies and e-services as a major contribution to the security and
prosperity of the world.
As we grow more dependent
on digital services in our daily lives, we become more vulnerable to cyber
attacks. Cyber security is essential not just for protecting rights, but also for
economic prosperity. Cyber attacks can paralyze crucial services or
infrastructure, they can cause enormous economic damage. Limiting access to or
censoring the contents of the Internet, however, is not the answer to cyber
sustainable development is essential in order to tackle some of the challenges
we face. Even in the current fragile security
environment, we must take care of the future of the planet and work towards a world where
everyone can live a dignified life, free from poverty, violence and exclusion. In
today’s interdependent world, this is hard to achieve without peace and
The world today also faces the
outbreak of a deadly virus. This is no longer a local concern of a few
countries. Ebola has become an international public health
emergency. Despite efforts already made by governments and international
organizations the outbreak races ahead. We support the efforts of the Global
Ebola Response Coalition, tasked to contain and stop the spread of the virus.
change is already an existential threat to some countries. It has a dramatic impact on their living
conditions and their security. The small island developing states are most vulnerable. If we do
not act soon enough, other countries will be threatened as well. We must see
this problem globally, not just from the perspective of short term national or
The risks of conflict, violence, insecurity,
financial and economic collapse, climate change, lack of resources and natural
disasters are inextricably intertwined and need to be addressed comprehensively.
development agenda after 2015 must be truly universal. Sustainable development
goals are best addressed together.
Progress in these fields is best guaranteed by good governance,
transparency of decision-making and low corruption. Effective and accountable
institutions are powerful enablers of sustainable development, and modern digital technology helps us to create them. In Estonia we have
developed an e-governance system that increases transparency and limits
corruption. We have been sharing the system with all interested partners and we
continue to be willing to do so.
Since May 8 1945 we have believed
that we had been freed of certain ideological demons for good. Yet today we see the
return of the long-discredited ideas dating back to 1938. The existence of co-ethnics
abroad has been used as a justification to annex territory. This is 2014, not
1938. So we’ve seen a return of ideologies of hatred, and lies and propaganda.
We must be
clear in condemning extreme nationalism, homophobia, xenophobia and religious
extremism. We need to recall and reaffirm the values that the United Nations
were created to protect. The United Nations, a unique global instrument of
security and peace, must succeed where the League of Nations once failed.
us not forget. 75 years ago on August 23, a pact was signed between Hitler’s
Germany and Stalin’s USSR to divide Eastern Europe into their spheres of
influence. A week later, on September 1, Hitler attacked Poland. On September
17, two and a half weeks later, Hitler’s erstwhile ally, the Soviet Union, also
attacked Poland, and WW II had begun.
On August 31st
this year, 20 years passed since occupation forces left Estonia – troops that
were there as a result of that said Stalin-Hitler pact. And yet just a few days
later, on September 5th, an Estonian police officer was abducted by foreign
security services on Estonian territory and taken by force to Moscow where he
is still held in the infamous Lefortovo prison.
cannot allow anyone ever again to divide countries into their “spheres of
influence”. The community of nations is only secure
when its smallest members can feel secure. We cannot, will not, accept threats
and intimidation in 21st century international relations. We cannot
have peace, security or prosperity, in Europe or in the world, unless we find a
way again to enforce and to revalidate the agreements that we all have signed.
Thank you for your attention.