Statement by the Foreign Minister of Estonia, Mr Urmas Paet, at the High-Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly
20th September 2010
Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for convening this high-level meeting. First I would like to associate myself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union and would hereby like to offer the following comments on behalf of Estonia.
Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Millennium Development Goals framework represents a unique global effort - the most significant promise ever made to reduce poverty and inequality worldwide. In order to keep our promise and give hope it is essential to learn from our past experience. We should keep in mind that what worked well in a certain context may not be a success elsewhere. Most importantly, we should not forget that with timely steps to reinforce our efforts the goals are achievable!
To date, the global record is mixed, as pointed out in the valuable and exhaustive report of the Secretary-General. The report draws attention to important gains but also to significant areas where much still remains to be done. There has been insufficient progress on gender equality and the empowerment of women – an area that has one of the largest multiplier effects on other MDGs. As a result of various crises there is an increased rate of unemployment, malnutrition and hunger. There are still areas with unacceptably sharp discrepancies. For example, while almost all births are attended by skilled health personnel in the developed countries, less than half of women in parts of the developing world receive such care.
A growing body of evidence suggests that economic shocks help intensify conflicts. A third of the world’s poor live in “fragile” states and currently over 42 million people are displaced by conflict. Therefore countries in conflict and fragile countries should receive more attention. For this purpose, Estonia continues to give high priority to development cooperation projects in areas of conflict.
We observe with concern the increasing number of natural disasters. Mitigating the impact of the climate change, particularly in the agricultural sector, as well as dealing with problems concerning diminishing natural resources requires urgently more financing and new strategies. If not timely addressed, ensuring sustainability of all MDG achievement is under threat.
There are also success stories that I would like to touch upon – firstly, a remarkable progress in overall poverty reduction. More and more children go to school and their health has improved. More people have access to clean water and remarkable success has been achieved in fighting malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. Not of smaller importance is the fact that the MDG goals have directed more attention to the issue of development worldwide. This has influenced governmental spending priorities and aligned development priorities more closely with poverty reduction.
I would also like to touch upon the connection between achieving the MDGs and human rights - the two notions inextricably interconnected. I firmly believe that promoting and protecting rights of all members of a society only enhances the efforts to achieve the MDGs.
Mr. Secretary General,
Estonia is firmly committed to support the global achievement of the MDGs by 2015. Since initiating our first development cooperation project in 1998, Estonia has become an international donor. Today, the development cooperation enjoys a firm place in our foreign policy agenda, and its importance is growing year by year.
Estonia is also committed to the internationally agreed principles of aid effectiveness. That is why we have focused our development cooperation on a small number of priority countries. We have created a stable and fruitful basis for cooperation with many of them by sharing our experience of social, political and economical reforms.
Estonia entrusts the UN system with a central role in supporting national governments in the achievement of the MDGs. We supported this role also in the discussions on the UN system-wide coherence reform. Estonia warmly welcomes the consensus reached on this reform a few months ago, which paved the way towards more efficient and coherent UN operational system. Estonia contributes towards achieving the MDGs by supporting annually the UN agencies, funds and programs dealing with humanitarian aid and development cooperation. From 2011 Estonia will contribute to the strengthening of the UN system and MDG achievement agenda also as a board member of the UNFPA, UNDP and UNICEF.
Gender equality and the empowerment of women continue to be the core prerequisite for achieving all other MDGs. As part of our efforts in this regard, we have launched several bi-lateral projects in our priority countries. For example, in Afghanistan we have focused on improving the health of women and girls.
Estonia advocates the incorporation of the gender dimension into all UN activities. I welcome the historic consensus achieved just a few months ago on the establishment of the UN Women – the Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. I note with satisfaction the entity’s positive impact on strengthening the UN’s ability to address the gaps in UN activities on gender as well support countries in promoting gender equality. I would like to congratulate Ms. Michelle Bachelet on her appointment and hope for her strong leadership in making the entity fully operative from 1st of January 2011. For this purpose, Estonia has already decided to make its first contribution to the UN-WOMEN.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to draw your attention to the important linkage between ICT and development as the MDG framework includes the commitment in the field of access to technologies. Estonia has experienced the relevance of this goal in the past 20 years. For us, the development of the ICT has truly been a crucial engine of economic progress and modernisation. ICT solutions have provided better access to information for our citizens. It has enabled them to participate at all levels of decision-making, improved transparency in governance and provided new methods to fight crime and corruption.
Based on this experience, I call for an adjustment of development paradigms. In today’s world the ICT should not be a luxury good, but a part of basic infrastructure. That is why the ICT network needs to be developed in parallel with other infrastructural projects such as roads, ports and energy systems.
Estonia has with the help of the United Nations Development Program and Open Society Institute established a special agency for assisting governments in developing countries with advice and training on electronic governance and on use of ICT in public services. Estonian experts are currently advising governments in all over the world. In several countries we support the development of an interoperability network for better governance and making the public services more transparent and efficient. We have also assisted computerization projects, aimed at putting contemporary ICT systems into use in educational systems.
As for education – which is the best engine for innovation and growth - I am glad to note that significant progress has been made in Sub-Saharan Africa, where school enrolment has increased five times since the 1990s.
Estonia actively cooperates with its partner countries in support of their educational systems. Among others, we supported a project for the development of the vocational training system in Georgia with a special emphasis on the management of vocational schools. We also provide yearly scholarships for students from a number of partner countries. As part of our multilateral policy, we make annual contributions to the United Nations Girls Education Initiative.
Last but not least, I would like to stress the importance of public education on the attainment of the MDGs. By improved education we do not only raise the awareness on MDGs, but also strengthen the support for their funding. The issue of increasing awareness on issues related to development is a challenge that we, as a relatively new donor country, are also facing today. In this regard I would like to draw your attention to opportunities of social media which enables us to reach thousands within minutes via Twitter and Facebook. Digital diplomacy is a powerful tool, demanding just few resources!
Finally, using the words of Mr Barroso – the President of the European Commission, it is time to turn the Millennium Development Goals into the Millennium Development Achievements! Let me reaffirm that Estonia remains committed to this endeavor.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General!