Statement by the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Estonia H. E. Mr. Urmas Paet at the Forum of Small States (FOSS) Conference on Small States
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the organizers for convening this meeting today, bringing together the small states around the world. Despite being called small, there are many of us. We all agree that the strength of the United Nations lies in the unity of its member states and the same applies to the strength of the small states. Therefore Estonia, the country with a population of 1/8 of that of New York, commends the discussion on small states’ role in international relations.
Let me mention a couple of issues that in my opinion underlie the strength of small states in international politics. Firstly, a strong and well-functioning universal legal system including human rights and basic freedoms where Estonia puts special emphasis on the empowerment of women and the rights of child, as well as on the freedom of speech and Internet freedom. The universal legal system must also have the institutional power to deliver justice and avoid impunity in international relations. Estonia underlines the role of the Rome Statute of the ICC, that was brought on international stage by Trinidad and Tobago. But civil society must also be able to deliver, and for that, democracy education should be put in practice. I am proud to say that Estonia has unique recent experience in building democracy, the rule of law, market economy and inclusive society. And we are ready to share it with those who are interested.
Secondly, being small means you cannot contribute in every field on the global arena. Therefore, a small state must find its niche. For Estonia, it is information and communication technology and the application of ICT in building up civil society. The ICT is for the future, and for the youth. Young people must be inspired. In Estonia it was the information revolution that helped the country to transform successfully and rapidly into a rule of law based democratic society. For us, the freedom of expression is a human right - whether on a city square, in the media or in cyber space.
Estonia was the first country where people could cast their votes in parliamentary and municipal elections also online. Just a few months ago we conducted our census - for the first time to a large extent online. This year over ninety percent of taxpayers in Estonia filed their annual income tax returns via the Internet. The E-government, E-school, E-medical prescriptions and E-parking are examples of Estonian innovation in the field of citizen-friendly public services. E-solutions increase transparency, help prevent corruption and reduce costs.
Thirdly, small countries should exchange their experiences. Estonia is ready and willing to share its knowledge on E-governance solutions and continue to facilitate exchanges with partners worldwide. We have already a number of ongoing successful cooperation projects with countries in North-Africa, Caucasus and Asia, and we are broadening our partnerships.
Forth, the world needs Sustainable Development Goals. We are still in a preliminary phase of discussions but we shall aim high and do our best. In Rio, Estonia introduced the Let’s Do It! - World Cleanup project, aimed at collecting garbage, so that the environment we leave to our children, would be cleaner and richer. This is another example of an initiative by small states that has global implications.
Estonia is willing and able to contribute to global matters. We are convinced that small states have very valuable experience and knowledge to provide for the betterment of our world and therefore their membership in different United Nations bodies is necessary. Estonia is looking forward to becoming a member of the Human Rights Council and working proactively towards the fulfillment of its mandate from 2013 onwards. Estonia is also ready to take responsibility in global peace and security matters, so we have presented our candidature to the United Nations Security Council for 2020 – 2021.
I’d like to thank you and wish you a lively continuation of the discussion.