Key Note Statement by H. E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson at the Conference on Children´s Rights in the Migration Crisis and in the Digital Environment, 4 November 2016
Key Note Statement by H. E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson
Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and the President of the UNICEF Executive Board
4 November 2016, Tallinn
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have recently seen a humanitarian crisis of a magnitude that has strained the ability of Governments and aid organizations to respond. The millions of refugees and migrants are fleeing war, poverty, oppression or the ravages of climate change. Their needs are complex and overwhelming. As discussed during the morning session, children are the most vulnerable in this crisis.
The refugee and migrant crisis has been high on the United Nations agenda in 2016. It was discussed during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May. And just recently, on 19 September, world leaders came together at the United Nations summit on refugees and migrants, the first time at the Head-of-State and Government level. They adopted the New York Declaration, which expresses their political will to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, to save lives and to share responsibility for large movements of people on a global scale. The declaration also prepares the world for future challenges, namely through the commitment to start negotiations for an international conference to be held in 2018. The aim is to adopt a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.
Estonia is presiding over the UNICEF Executive Board in 2016 and we have made every effort to put children at the heart of the discussion on refugees and migrants. During the World Humanitarian Summit, Estonia hosted, together with the Governments of Canada, the Netherlands and Switzerland as well as UNICEF, a side event on child protection that was organized by the ChildFund Alliance and child-friendly NGOs. On 18 September, a day before the UN summit, Estonia, together with UNICEF, the Council of Europe and the US Fund for UNICEF, hosted a high-level gathering that focused on children in the refugee and migrant crisis. At the event, numerous speakers emphasized that whether these children were migrants, refugees or internally displaced, they were children first. We need to protect them from violence, keep families together and invest in their future by giving them the opportunity to go to school.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
High-level discussions are important to draw the attention of the world to the impact of this crisis on children, but even more so is work in the field. Therefore, I would like to commend UNICEF for all its efforts on behalf of the millions of displaced children, from setting up safe spaces along migration routes in Europe to providing food, water, shelter, health care and educational services in refugee camps. Much more needs to be done. We must be bold enough try new, imaginative approaches and cooperate with new partners.
This brings me to the next topic of today´s conference – the possibilities of the digital world and challenges of the digital environment.
In Estonia, we have experienced how digital technology and public-private partnerships can deliver development. Digital innovation has brought Estonia more economic growth, more resource efficiency and more human development. All Estonians receive a unique digital identity at birth that enables us to access digital services related to everything from health care and education to child protection. In the interconnected world in which Estonia is fortunate to participate, we take these kinds of services for granted. However, many Governments around the world struggle to deliver such basic services. The digital environment offers new methods for improving the lives of children in the developing world and protecting their rights.
For example, technology can increase access to education for out-of-school children or children living in remote areas and improve the quality of their education. I recently saw some excellent examples of UNICEF´s work in this area in the village of La Bomba, Argentina, where a lack of teachers prevented children’s education beyond primary school. Now, in an ICT-based school, the use of digital technology has provided access to secondary education for the first time.
In the area of child protection, digital technology can facilitate birth registration and the sharing of real-time information on newborns between hospitals and national Governments.
During UNICEF Executive Board discussions and field visits, we saw many examples of the organization´s successful efforts to use digital solutions and new technologies to solve intractable problems that affect children and their families around the world. UNICEF´s Innovation Division recently received a CIO Award for its use of new technologies in the service of protecting children’s rights. I am glad that members of this award-winning team and UNICEF´s senior management at the country and regional levels visited Estonia last summer and found the visit inspiring. They were able to identify a number of areas in which Estonia´s expertise and technological solutions would allow UNICEF to achieve results for children all over the world faster and more effectively. You can read about the visit on the UNICEF blog, and we will hear about the Estonian experience with both the possibilities and the risks of the digital world throughout the afternoon.