H. E. Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President
24 September 2008
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TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES, President of Estonia, addressed the issues of the Millennium Development Goals, natural disasters and humanitarian assistance and the conflict between Georgia and Russia. Regarding the Goals, he noted how little time remained to achieve them. There had been progress in providing greater access to education, reducing infant mortality, debt relief for developing countries, increased access to information and communications technology, as well as a certain degree of progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS. However, in the spheres of trade and development cooperation, progress had been modest. While donor nations had increased their ODA, the actual flow of financial assistance had decreased over the last two years. The halting of the Doha round of trade negotiations was also a serious setback, he said.
Further, he noted that every nation was primarily responsible for its own development and called on developing countries to strengthen administrative infrastructure, intensify their fight against corruption and improve their economic environment. Donor States and organizations, he continued, could enhance effectiveness by coordinating and standardizing procedures for development cooperation. He expressed support for the Millennium Development Goals “Call to Action”.
He also spoke of the importance of formulating and implementing measures to minimize the danger to people and property from natural disasters, and to avoid or reduce their damage to infrastructure and the environment, and prevent social and economic convulsions that natural catastrophes often triggered. He further stressed the urgency of providing assistance immediately following such disasters, and the essential nature of free access for humanitarian experts at such times regardless of their nationality or the organization they represent. When they were prevented from offering their expertise, he noted, it was the most vulnerable who suffered.
Finally, he addressed the recent military confrontation between Georgia and Russia, and posed the question: “What do these events mean for us, the United Nations?” He noted that the issues involved were complex, but that “the principles governing relations between States had been seriously damaged”. Based on the fundamental United Nations principles decrying the use of force and aggression, he demanded that the Organization be capable of “convincing one Member to withdraw its military forces from the territory of another sovereign Member State”. The United Nations would lose its reason to exist if international law could be selectively implemented. He noted that a permanent member of the Security Council should be especially committed to fulfilling the principles of the Charter.
He called for the Organization to bolster its capacity to regulate and resolve conflicts, and noted the importance of Security Council reform. He also drew the Assembly’s attention to the danger of cyber attacks and cyber warfare, a form of aggression no nation could deal with on its own. “Cyber attacks can be launched against any nation and on any continent. And from any continent,” he said. Fighting this danger required cooperation and the standardization of relevant international regulations. He called on Member States to take the risks concerning cyber security seriously.