Statement by Mr. Urmas Paet, Foreign Minister of Estonia at the 13th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Geneva, 3 March 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to begin by expressing my sincere condolences and the sympathy of Estonian people to the people of Chile after the tragic earthquake on 27 February.
Human rights is a topic that concerns every human being. This should also be the case with protecting these rights. However, despite the general recognition of universal human rights principles, the rights that appear so natural and self-evident for many of us today have not reached universal implementation even now, at the beginning of the XXI century. Hence it is appropriate to pose the same question Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn asked in one of his novels 50 years ago: can a man who is warm understand one who is freezing?
The answer is not simple, but one thing is certain: the United Nations along with the OSCE, Council of Europe, and European Union have done a tremendous job in creating that understanding. No question about it. Rule of law has become the norm for state building around the world and individual freedom and integrity are today valued to a much greater extent than, for example, just 50 years ago.
To this end, we welcome the ratification of Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights by all parties of the Convention, which allows its entry into force, thereby strengthening the protection of human rights in Europe.
Estonia appreciates the role of the United Nations in assisting the global implementation of the universal and comprehensive principles of human rights. We also acknowledge the expertise of the UN human rights treaty bodies with whom we co-operate closely and we have extended standing invitations to the representatives of the UN human rights mechanisms.
Saying that, we have for the first time set an objective to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council in 2012-2015 and a member of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2011. I believe Estonia has gained valuable experience in human rights affairs during last 20 years and our accession to all the main international human rights instruments has been a useful lesson for us. We have gradually increased also our contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights as to share our lessons learned with others.
As the world is constantly changing, there is a need to adapt accordingly. Approaching the Human Rights Council’s review, we are looking forward to this process with great anticipation. We encourage all UN member states to actively participate in the process for building an even stronger, more credible and more efficient Council.
Hereafter I would like to focus on the three spheres of human rights Estonia is paying special attention to: the rights of women, the rights of the child, and freedom of expression.
Estonia has been engaged in promoting the rights of women and girls as a member of the ECOSOC, through the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and during our chairmanship of the Consultative Committee of the UN Development Fund for Women. We also contribute regularly to the UN funds and programmes dedicated to supporting efforts for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
In the follow-up to the Beijing Platform of Action, we have actively continued to develop our gender equality policy, for example, through the adoption of the Gender Equality Act and by creating the institution of the Gender Equality Commissioner. We are raising awareness and developing the means to address violence against women, including through a specific national action plan that is to be completed this year.
We support the full and comprehensive implementation of resolution 1325 on “Women, Peace and Security”, in which the UN Security Council for the first time turned its attention to the disproportionate effects that conflicts have upon women. We see the international and national efforts to promote the aforementioned resolution and its subsequent resolutions as essential in building sustainable peace around the world. To this end, Estonia has started drawing up a national action plan in order to systemise and further develop our activities in the field of women’s rights, peace and security.
The promotion of women’s rights is also a priority in our humanitarian and development co-operation efforts. In Afghanistan, for example, we have launched several development projects that are dedicated to the improvement of the medical and emergency-related skills and the knowledge and awareness of women and girls. We also consider it important to develop the overall health systems, as well as the skills of medical staff.
Focusing on the quality of health care and ensuring access to it for women and girls contributes significantly to maternal and newborn health. Consequently, it helps to reduce maternal mortality. This is part of our contribution to achieving the gender equality and maternal health-related Millennium Development Goals.
We emphasise the importance of a comprehensive and coherent national approach regarding the protection of children from all forms of violence and abuse. Currently, for example, the drawing up of a national Children’s and Family Policy Development Plan is in progress in Estonia.
As over 70% of Estonians use the internet, special attention is paid to internet safety. Therefore it is one of our top priorities to prevent the internet-related crimes that might be harmful to children. The main emphasis is placed on awareness-raising activities among parents and children.
Estonia has a recent experience on the importance of the free flow of information for the development of an open society. And that is why we strongly support efforts to secure freedom of expression, particularly the freedom of the electronic media. That is also the reason why we are extremely concerned to witness the growing attempts to abuse information technology in limiting the free exchange of opinions, thoughts and ideas. I believe there is no excuse for that, let alone for attempts to suppress the free media or independent journalists.
Like one of the most eminent Estonians of our age and great defenders of pluralistic media, the late Mr. Enn Soosaar has said: we should have long ago left the time and the way of thinking in which there was only one truth, only one good taste and only one way to understand.
In conclusion, Mr. President, I would like to confirm our sincere commitment to continue working towards the enhancement of the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
We call upon all States and regions to promote and protect these rights, especially through the Human Rights Council.
I thank you, Mr. President.