Address by the President of the Republic of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the General Debate 68th General Assembly
Mr Secretary General, Mr President of General Assembly
Ladies and gentlemen,
The central theme of the 68th General Assembly is sustainable development.
With its three main pillars this constitutes a comprehensive agenda, even more
comprehensive with all of its prerequisites – conflict prevention; bringing
peace and security to war torn countries; bringing perpetrators to justice
through implementation of international law. Helping the weakest to help
themselves; shaping economies that pay focused attention to social agenda and
environmental issues, and that effectively use e-technologies; protecting human
rights; supporting rule of law and democracy – these are all integral parts of
The Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015
Development Agenda notes that governments bear primary responsibility for
assuring sustainable development and for improving the lives of people on their
territory. Sustainability can be truly implemented, however, only if we instill
it in the core of the thinking of governments, societies, individuals and the international
community as a whole.
Let me start with what is clearly and without a doubt the most
unsustainable situation in the world at the moment: the conflict in Syria. It
has been repeated thousands of times and must be repeated over and over again that
the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable under any circumstances and
requires complete and unreserved condemnation. It is clear that chemical
weapons must be destroyed quickly and verifiably. Therefore the OPCW and the
Security Council must move forward and agree on legally binding terms to
resolve this issue, preferably under Chapter 7 of the Charter, and as soon as
Even without the use of chemical weapons, military actions and brutality in
Syria have created suffering and humanitarian disaster of unimaginable
proportions. More than 110,000 people have been killed and millions of refugees
and internally displaced persons are scattered in the region. About 7 million
Syrians urgently need assistance.
While there is no easy and quick fix for this complex situation, we must
keep doing what we can to ease human suffering. Estonia, among many other
countries, has focused on helping those who have been forced to flee from their
homes and on protecting the most vulnerable members of society – women and
children. I'd also like to praise the good work of UNICEF, UNHCR, OCHA and of
humanitarian workers in Syria – who often, by risking their own lives, have
been able to organize and deliver assistance.
Evidence collected by the UN Human Rights Council's Commission of Inquiry
indicates that war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights
violations have been systematically committed in Syria. Estonia is among the
countries to join the Swiss initiative in January, asking the Security Council
to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC. It is the responsibility of the
international community to protect, if a government fails to do so.
In contrast, let me turn to another country and conflict where hope
recently has been restored. That presidential elections in Mali were carried
out in a peaceful and transparent manner has paved the way for optimism. The
newly elected president has many important tasks ahead of him – starting with
reconciliation between the southern and northern parts of Mali. I wish Mr Keita
all the luck and energy he needs to rebuild his country and I can assure you
that Estonia stands among the countries that will continue to help if needed.
I would dare say that yet another country whose future looks promising, is
Afghanistan. I believe that responsibility and ownership make people masters of
their own fate and I can see the willingness of Afghans to use that
opportunity. The international community must continue to assist that country
to ensure that their efforts will bear fruit. As a long-term partner to
Afghanistan, Estonia remains committed to support the country also after 2014,
training and financing Afghan security forces, and continuing to support their
educational progress, women's empowerment, rule of law and health care.
Yet, on the other hand, it is sadly true that conflicts too, can at times
be surprisingly sustainable so that we become inured to the persistence of
conflict. For years Estonia has underlined that protracted conflicts around
Nagorno-Karabakh as well as in Georgia and Moldova must not fall off the radar
screen of the international community. Without the will of all involved parties
no lasting solutions can be found.
Every year, over half a million people die as a result of illegal or
irresponsible arms transfers. Enormous amounts of money and resources are spent
on arms, often at the expense of more vital needs. We see the adoption of the
Arms Trade Treaty in the framework of the United Nations in June as a historic
milestone for the world community.
As a responsible member of the international community, Estonia strongly
supports and contributes to the activities of the ICC and ad hoc tribunals
created by the UN Security Council. We continue to call for more ratifications
of the Rome Statute and of the Crime of Aggression amendment to the Rome
Statute. Universality is key to ensure that perpetrators of the worst crimes of
international concern are held accountable. Accountability and the prevention
of atrocity crimes have been Estonia's priorities as a current member of the
Human Rights Council. We focus there also on the rights of women and children
and on their disproportionate suffering in armed conflict.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda should transform the
Millennium Development Goals (MDG) into Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In
the meantime we have learnt that the MDGs should have focused more on reaching
the poorest and most excluded groups in society. The main challenge of the post
2015 negotiations will be to formulate and reach global agreement on one
concrete and measurable set of development goals that would keep the three
dimensions of sustainability in its core and maintain a strong focus on poverty
eradication. The targets should leave no one behind and be applicable and
achievable in every country. In many societies women and girls are the main
drivers of development. Not allowing them to fulfill their potential through
education, decent job opportunities and essential health services is to
disregard the potential of half of humankind. It is also important to remember,
that persons with disabilities have been one of the most excluded segments of
our societies, who often have serious difficulties with access to basic social
services and to decent job opportunities.
Official Development Assistance will
continue to play an important role in sustainable development of many countries
also in the future, but it cannot compete with the flows of international
private investment, nor with domestically mobilized resources. Therefore
synergies between different sources of finance, better policies and strong
national ownership are necessary.
Nonetheless, the main drivers of sustainable development are inclusive and
responsible policies in economics. A key enabler to foster growth is the bold
use of modern ICT solutions. It is a key to better governance, access to public
services, job creation, transparency, accountability and civil society
This brings me to two issues of worldwide importance: cyber security and
internet freedom. The two are inextricably linked and in no way incompatible.
Moreover, they require a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance.
Freedom of opinion and expression, online or off, is a cornerstone of every
democracy and constitutes a fundamental human right. Last year the Human Rights
Council, affirmed this very same principle. I am glad that the UN Group of
Government Experts (UNGGE) affirmed that international law is essential in
promoting an open, secure and accessible cyberspace.
In our fight against cybercrime, it is essential to raise awareness and
work on prevention by everyone, from private computer users up to large
critical infrastructure and cloud providers. Raising the awareness of political
leaders and national governments is equally important; cybercrime may have
serious consequences on national security. Still the 2001 Council of Europe's
Convention on Cyber Crime - Budapest Convention - remains, thus far, the sole
legally binding international instrument in the world to address cybercrime.
Needless to say, the more countries that accede to it, the more functional it
can be. We find it odd that among the largest sources of cybercrime are
countries that will not acceed. Yet in other areas they talk of the primacy of
The United Nations has had, and will have a leading role in making the
world sustainable. Yet governments can do and must do their own fair share.
Estonia, for example, proudly continues to support the initiatives of civil
society in contributing to sustainable development. About a half of the world's
countries have joined our 2008 initiative "Let's Do It!", to make
peoples' environment cleaner and our planet environmentally happier.
Let us stay alert and tuned to every
single detail that prevents us from advancing common wellbeing – be it in
developed or developing countries. Let us be united by this common effort.