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Statement by H.E. Marina Kaljurand Foreign Minister of Estonia at the United Nations General Assembly Review of the World Summit on the Information Society 15 December 2015


I am very pleased to be here today to mark the ten year review of the World Summit on the Information Society. We have come a long way.
The world has experienced incredible economic and social growth as a result of development and the use of ICTs. The Internet and interconnectivity have become a decisive factor for development, growth, prosperity and stability.
Estonia has been a keen adopter of these benefits. The benefits are not abstract – 96% of people submit their personal income tax declarations online, for a majority of people it takes less than 5 minutes. We also estimate we save 2% of GDP annually in the whole of economy just by signing everything and anything digitally. ICTs have helped us to save time, human resources and money.
ICTs have also helped Estonia to create a well-functioning partnership between people, industry and government in support and in protection of our values, economic aspirations and political goals.
We know that the principle for adopting ICTs as a factor of development is different for every country. It’s about conscious choices of establishing one’s own formula of growth and development - establishing your own way of life.
For that very same reason, an effective global governance of the internet needs to be perceptive to the less traditional structures that new technologies provide for and include close cooperation and coordination among the respective stakeholders - not only governments, but the work and collaboration of industry, civil society, the technical and academic community.

WSIS is a good example of more than ten years of work that has created a platform of multi-stakeholder interaction and better understanding between key interest groups and stakeholders. Perhaps one of the most sensitive questions around ICTs is security.
For Estonia, cyber threat is not an abstract doomsday scenario. In 2007 we became one of the first countries in the world to experience how ICT-dependent lifestyle can be attacked in support of political agendas.
Attacks on Estonian governmental servers and financial services caused considerable nuisance but we were able to take control of our own services and functions with the help of numerous countries – through information exchange, coordinated defence and expert cooperation. We were able to test and reinforce our laws and policies. We were able to invite other countries to turn more attention to threats and risks that come with the development and use of ICTs as well as with any other technology or societal change.
Based on our own experience - even for a small country, it is possible to build ICTs into the society in a way that offers more benefits and advantages than introduce new risk.
We have also taken seriously the international effort of cyber security.
There have been major achievements during the past ten years in developing consensus on the application of international law with regards to the state use of ICTs, in particular by the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Communications in the context of International Security. It is important to bear in mind that the cyberspace is not a lawless domain. National and international law, including human rights and humanitarian law, all apply fully.
Both benefits and mitigation of risk require us to reach out.
We deem it necessary to provide assistance and cooperation to technologically less developed countries in order to try to bridge the digital divide.
We will continue to share our experience and contribute to relevant programs and activities, but it is essential for all of us to focus more on coordination among actors globally – exchange views and good practices, as well as to seek future synergies in our respective global capacity building initiatives.
Significant digital divide does not only exist between countries, but also between women and men.
The world cannot afford to make use of only half of the human potential for growth and innovation. It is critical to address women’s empowerment in the digital age and work towards closing the gender gap in ICTs.
There are explicit interlinkages and synergies between WSIS and the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, we must ensure that there is consistency between WSIS implementation and the 2030 Agenda.
We cannot separate the idea of ICT and the idea of freedom.
The development of every country, including in the field of ICTs has to be based on the promotion and protection of human rights. The principles stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must remain the core of any strategy and development plan in democratic society. Estonia as an active member of the Freedom Online Coalition is convinced that the freedom online contributes to the faster development of ICTs and thereby increases the competitiveness of every country.
The human rights that we have all signed up for under international law are “technically neutral”– we do not need to create new moral values just because we went from analogue to digital.
It’s of deep concern when we see the governments’ restrictions, including on social media, used to follow people and limit their freedom of expression, to uncover, reveal and ultimately to persecute dissidents.
Estonia supports and stands by everyone who shares the values of democracy and the rule of law applicable equally offline as online. We continue our dedicated work to promote and protect human rights – freedom of expression, assembly and association and privacy online. We remain committed to advance Internet freedom as an engine to strive for the extended use of ICTs for the development and continue working closely with our partners in the world.
In many ways, ICTs function as a platform for stability and peace and prosperity if we learn to adopt and approach them that way.

Let me conclude by saying that ICTs are not the end of technological development; they are the beginning of a technology-centric lifestyle, good governance and security.
We need to acknowledge the differences that sovereign countries have on the development and use of these technologies. However, our focus needs to remain on shared goals and objectives – the more we postpone constructive attitude and full attention the more we postpone social and economic benefits, stability and security related to ICTs.
WSIS has done an excellent work by pointing out the interrelationship between benefits and risks of ICTs and this work needs to be continued. We have not yet fully discovered all the potential that ICTs carry and it is therefore paramount to keep debating and understanding each other’s perspectives.

Last but not least, I want to thank all of those involved in working on the outcome document, in particular the co-facilitators - the ambassadors of Latvia and United Arab Emirates.


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