Address by Mr. Sven Jürgenson, Undersecretary for Political Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the 61st Session of the General Assembly
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to begin by congratulating you, Madam President, upon your assumption of the office of President of the General Assembly. We have full confidence in you and wish you every success. I would also like to praise Foreign Minister Jan Eliasson for his effective leadership during the sixtieth session of the United Nations General Assembly, which I think achieved truly noteworthy results.
I would, also, like to warmly welcome the Republic of Montenegro as the 192nd member of the United Nations.
The United Nations is confronted with huge tasks. There has been already a remarkable progress in certain reform areas such as the establishment of the Human Rights Council, the Central Emergency Response Fund, and a Peacebuilding Commission. We also attach great importance to the launching of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which calls for enhanced UN measures for dealing with terrorism, as well as for the better coordination of such efforts. Estonia is strongly committed to promoting peace and security throughout the world. We have been following the developments in the Middle East with concern and compassion. The recent events have once again demonstrated that, in addition to securing lasting peace, prompt action and generous contributions of the international community are needed to resolve humanitarian crises. Estonia has not just been a bystander. We have been responding to the dire needs of the people in Lebanon, and have provided assistance to the Iraqi people so that they can rebuild their country.
Estonia continues to actively support the United Nations in promoting peace and security, and the organisation’s important role in international development. We remain convinced that the United Nations is an answer to both current and future threats and divisions in the world. As we fully subscribe to the comprehensive statement delivered by the President of Finland on behalf of the European Union on the opening day of the General Assembly, let me briefly highlight some aspects of global partnership to which we attach great value.
One of the main aims of the Millennium Development Goals is to develop a global partnership for development. This encompasses a commitment to good governance, to the efficient functioning of democratic institutions, as well as to fully respecting human rights and the rule of law for the sustainability of development efforts. As has already been emphasised in the final document of the 2005 World Summit, no country can tackle today’s complex challenges alone. While all nations bear the principal responsibility for their own development, their individual efforts should, nevertheless, be supported by concrete global actions and programmes. Partnership is truly a central element in everything we do.
Joint global action is most urgently needed when a disaster hits a country or a whole region. For timely and efficient response from the international community, a well-coordinated and properly resourced global disaster relief system is required. Estonia gives increasingly high priority to the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance on the global level, and finds it important to further strengthen the UN’s humanitarian response capabilities. The first year of the Central Emergency Response Fund has been a promising step towards a balanced and more responsive international humanitarian system, although many challenges remain. We are committed to further increasing our financial contribution to the United Nation humanitarian system disaster relief assistance.
In this regard, it is important to always ensure that disaster relief and all other development activities favour environmentally sustainable solutions. Environmental sustainability is an urgent, but at the same time long-term task, which demands common action. Estonia attaches great importance to the need for coordination and coherence in the field of environment related activities, as well as supports the creation of a more coherent institutional framework within the UN.
The fulfilment of the internationally agreed development goals calls for the engagement of not only governments and intergovernmental bodies. The commitments made at major conferences cannot be implemented without cooperation with local institutions, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations.
Our experiences clearly demonstrate that non-governmental organisations can play a crucial role in effective development cooperation. In many cases, civil society institutions are much more efficient in establishing dynamic working relations with NGOs of partner countries than government institutions. The cooperation with NGOs has been remarkably advantageous in such sectors as sustainable development, information and communication technology, as well as e-governance.
This brings us to another area of cooperation – using information and communication technology to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Since my country has been notably successful in employing new information and communication technologies, as well as in carrying out extensive reforms, we shall continue to increase our input into overall development in this field.
There is also a need to reinvigorate and reform the United Nations. Estonia, to the best of its ability, is ready to contribute to the development of a comprehensive information and communication technologies strategy for the whole UN structure.
All these issues – information technology, sustainable development, humanitarian and disaster relief – are also on the agenda of the General Assembly’s Second Committee, which will be chaired by the Permanent Representative of Estonia during this 61st session. We will do our utmost there, and see to the effective promotion of the aforementioned and, of course, all other crucial matters before the Committee.
We must remain strongly committed to the respecting of the rule of law, and to our rights and dignity as human beings. Indeed, if we want human rights to form one of the three main pillars of the UN, alongside security and development, it is essential to implement General Assembly Resolution 60/251 according to its letter and spirit. We expect the Human Rights Council to be strengthened and to become an authoritative institution, and for human rights issues to gain an equal standing with other major items on the UN’s agenda. This first year of the Human Rights Council is the year of transition and capacity building. Estonia’s vision encompasses the establishment of an operational body with reinforced special procedures and a new efficient and universal mechanism, which monitors individual countries, with NGO-s as essential partners.
We should also make sure that the rights of indigenous peoples remain an integral part of human rights and continue to be a matter of substance for the Human Rights Council. The adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the 61st General Assembly is of great importance for the millions of indigenous peoples worldwide. Therefore, it is crucial to pass the Declaration at the plenary of the General Assembly this year. Its implementation could be a major step towards eliminating the widespread human rights violations suffered by many indigenous peoples. The Human Rights Council could also host a forum for dialogue, where the representatives of indigenous peoples, States, and a special rapporteur could discuss the issues enshrined in the Declaration.
Another new instrument that needs to be adopted by the General Assembly and implemented by the States, as soon as possible, is the Convention on Enforced Disappearances – a recurrent phenomenon that must be fought against. It is essential, that the Convention be adopted at this current session, so that States can already start signing and ratifying it, at the beginning of next year, in Paris.
The Millennium Development Goals are also intended to promote gender equality and empower women worldwide. This includes the United Nations too. Estonia shares the vision, that the role of women within the decision-making system of the UN should be increased. As the General Assembly is going to decide upon the next Secretary General this year, we support the proposal to consider Mrs. Vaira Vike-Freiberga as a candidate for Secretary General of the United Nations. Thus, the President of Latvia could be the first woman to head the United Nations in its sixty years of existence. Our commitments must be reflected in our decisions. The time has come to have more representatives from Central and Eastern Europe in high-ranking posts in the United Nations. I believe we are ready to make history.
Before finishing, I would like to express my deepest respect to our Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan. We appreciate your dedication and personal determination in addressing the enormous challenges of the 21st century and shaping our common future. During nearly ten years of service, you have held high mankind’s universal values and lead the United Nations with true vision.