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Remarks by H.E. Mr. Margus Kolga at United Nations at UNICEF Executive Board Annual Session


Mr. President, Mr. Executive Director, distinguished delegates,


At the outset I would like to commend the Executive Director, Mr. Anthony Lake, for the forward looking and visionary overview of the progress and achievements made in 2014.


With the same token I commend the work done by UNICEF in reducing maternal and child mortality, and their success in tackling child killing diseases. Countries around the world have achieved progress towards the achievement of MDGs. The mortality rate of children under age five is declining faster than ever, new HIV infections among children younger than 15 have declined significantly, the number of stunted children under five has decreased, access to improved drinking water has improved, and gaps in primary school attendance between different groups have narrowed. Many of these accomplishments are the achievements of each country, but the contribution of development partners needs to be acknowledged. Recent field visits to Bangkok and Malaysia clearly showed to my delegation the strength of UNICEF in scaling up innovative solutions and helping make achieving development goals a reality.


Since 2010 the Executive Director has been very successful in passionately advocating UNICEF´s focus on equity. During recent years, progress has been achieved in reducing equity gaps. However, the progress has been mixed and many challenges still remain. Today we heard how UNICEF is embedding an equity focus across its work as well as recommendations for how UNICEF and its partners can continue achieving results for children around the world in the future, with equity. Estonia agrees with this vision and share the view that concentrating on the most marginalised and disadvantaged boys and girls is the key to achieving sustainable development. This is not only the right principle, it can be highly cost-effective too. It is imperative to invest in children´s education, health and nutrition, and protection from violence, exploitation and abuse, factors that end up negatively impacting how he/she is able to function in and contribute to the society in adulthood.


It’s important to ensure the status of the child as a rights holder with the right to recognize their dignity and the right for equal protection under the law. To do so, more emphasis should be placed on violence prevention, which requires sound expenditure, but is an investment in the wellbeing of children. From research we know that violence against children has high costs for both victims and society. Preventing all kind of violence using effective interventions improves children’s outcomes and is cost-effective for society. We have to integrate a child protection system with horizontal and vertical cooperation at country level, as well as at a global level with international organisations like UNICEF to ensure the effective outcome for children.


The equity focus is especially important as we are at the final stage of discussing the post 2015 agenda. We believe that making progress for children across all the SDGs is the only way to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. We support UNICEF´s active role in working with Government and civil society partners to incorporate child-focused targets and indicators in the post-2015 development framework.


Ms. President,

Humanitarian needs worldwide continue to grow dramatically. Almost every few months a new crisis erupts and at the same time, the protracted crises do not go away. These emergencies are stretching the capacity of the humanitarian system. Regrettably, the humanitarian sector faces a growing number of emergencies caused by conflicts.  In 2014 as many as 15 million children were caught up in violent conflicts around the world - in Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Gaza and the West Bank. Estonia highly appreciates UNICEF´s valuable contribution to the collective humanitarian response and also UNICEF´s important role in integrating humanitarian action and development goals.


Ms. President,

In this context I would like to stress how important it is to respect international norms and IHL. Unfortunately, the humanitarian actors have never been more insecure. This also represents a serious challenge to the operation of international agencies, including UNICEF who, sadly, just recently lost 4 aid workers in an attack in Somalia. We must demand protection for the people who have devoted their lives to helping others and working for humanitarian relief operations. I take this opportunity to thank all the UNICEF field staff for their remarkable dedication, often working under difficult and dangerous circumstances.


Estonia welcomes UNICEF´s work on gender equality and violence against women and girls in emergencies. We encourage you to continue your work on these important issues, as well as your cooperation with UNFPA and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and Violence against Children.


Finally, it is prudent to acknowledge that UNICEF´s total income has continued to increase, especially the income for humanitarian assistance (19%). I am hopeful that the principle of efficiency and effectiveness will continue to guide your work. UNICEF continues to be a key partner for Estonian humanitarian contributions to those most vulnerable. The Estonian government has gradually increased its contributions, including core contributions, to UNICEF over the last 17 years. Last week, the Estonian Foreign Minister confirmed our continued support to the Executive Director.


Thank you!


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