H.E.MR. TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE
REPUBLIC OF ESTONIA
AT THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
56TH SESSION GENERAL DEBATE
NEW YORK 16 NOVEMBER 2001
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Honorable Secretary General,
First of all, please allow me to congratulate Secretary General Kofi Annan and you, respected colleagues, for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. There is no doubt that without the United Nations, this world of ours would be much less secure, far fewer prospects for solving conflicts. I would also like to praise the efforts that have been made during the last few years to reform this organization so that it can better deal with the new challenges that it has to face. And, Mr. President, please allow me to congratulate you upon being elected President of the 56th General Assembly.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, it became apparent, that when we are all confronted with a common threat, many existing disputes and differences become insignificant. The United Nations member states together have condemned the terrorist acts. It is of the utmost importance to maintain that unity and to persistently reinforce it with concrete actions. Terrorism is the ultimate challenge to our common values, and our struggle against that threat has only begun. The destruction and elimination of terrorist networks is a time-consuming task, for which there are no instant solutions. The United Nations does, however, have effective measures at its disposal for fighting against terrorism. These are the international conventions that the United Nations has adopted over the years, and the sanctions that can be applied to hamper terrorist activities. The ratification of these conventions, and the enforcement of these sanctions by every United Nations member state is, at this moment, one of those truly important tasks all members are behooved to do. I am glad to be able to confirm that Estonia has either already ratified, or is the middle of the parliamentary procedures for ratifying all the appropriate United Nations conventions. Estonia has taken all necessary steps to apply United Nations Security Council Resolutions nr. 1333 and 1373.
Estonia has improved and intensified co-operation and the exchange of information with its neighbors and partners. We have expressed our solidarity and unreserved support to the United States in the fight against terrorism. We have aligned ourselves with the European Union's September 21 anti terrorist summit's final document and action plan. With our neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, we have also formulated common measures for preventing possible terrorist attacks, and for applying coordinated tactics in case we were to become victims of terrorist activities. We have intensified international border controls and police co-operation. Many programs that had been adopted earlier, are now proving to be extremely useful in the struggle against terrorism. The Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, for example, has given a high rating to Estonia's anti-money laundering legislation. A recent audit showed that Estonian banks have no contractual relations with any organization or individual alleged to be connected with international terrorism.
The international political atmosphere in Estonia's immediate vicinity,
the Baltic Sea Region, I am glad to repor,. is peaceful, which is conducive
to stable development and good-neighborly co-operation. Up till now, Estonians
have hardly had to deal with the direct results of terrorism. But this
fall's terrorist attacks were aimed directly at international peace and
stability. This means that now we too keenly sense the danger that faces
us all. No one, no state, no region of the world is immune to this common
danger. This places the United Nations, as the world organization, at the
center of the ongoing struggle.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The reform processes launched during the last few years to re-organize and reform the United Nations are also appropriate for dealing with the current problems. Now, however, we must ask ourselves, if there is some way that we can speed up and intensify these reforms, so as to better deal with the urgency of the prevailing situation. In our new situation, I would bring forth three well-worn and proven principles that apply not only specifically to the United Nations, but to other aspects of international co-operation as well.
- First, we must once again ask ourselves, how exactly each of us can
make the most fruitful contribution.
- Second, what can we do to increase the efficiency of the organization.
- Third, I would like to stress the principle of openness.
First of all, let us deal with the matter of every member's individual contribution. The United Nations brings together member states with a wide range of resources and capabilities. And even the most successful of nations' reserves and capacities have a limit. Therefore, it is only natural that every member state carefully evaluate how it can be the most useful. It is equally important, for members to realistically assess how high a level of development they have achieved, and when appropriate, to refrain from accepting aid in favor of those who need it the most. This is the flip side of development: as one rises out of poverty and underdevelopment, one should also grow up and become more responsible, acknowledging that obligations rise along with living standards. Last year, for example, Estonia decided to relinquish its right to pay reduced contributions to the peacekeeping budget. For Estonia, to give up the rights to such a discount was not a fortuitous step, it was a decision based on the government's realization that with our rapid development we had acquired new responsibilities. The UN Development Program had, after all found that Estonia had developed to the point that the UNDP could terminate the activities of its mission in Estonia in December 2000. We, of course, miss working together with such a useful co-operative agency as the UNDP representation in Estonia. We realize very well, however, that there are many regions in the world, which badly need their assistance, while for Estonia, the presence of the UNDP mission is no longer essential. In other words, maintaining the representation would be irresponsible on our part, using resources more needed elsewhere. This means, that Estonia's co-operation with the United Nations and its agencies has qualitatively advanced to a higher level. This has been clearly demonstrated by the founding of the United Nations Building project in Estonia. The intention is to have the representations of various UN agencies all under one roof. The fact that the United Nations is gaining importance in the eyes of the Estonian populace is evidenced, among other things, by the fact that the Estonian United Nations Association has been steadily increasing its activities.
During the last few years, Estonia has clearly developed from an aid recipient to an aid provider. This transformation has been confirmed, among others, by the OECD Development Assistance Committee, which, in its 2000 yearbook, lists Estonia for the first time as a donor nation. Therefore, those who assisted Estonia during its transition phase, can now clearly see that their aid has borne fruit. We, in turn, are willing to share the experiences that we have gained in the course of the last ten years. As a matter of fact, we have already established co-operative efforts of this nature with several countries.
Before, I spoke about how every member state has an obligation to evaluate how they can best help the United Nations in its endeavors. Of equal importance are the ongoing efforts to increase the effectiveness of the organization as a whole. In this light, I would emphasize two aspects -- reform of the Security Council, and the Brahimi Report for improving UN peacekeeping operations.
We must ensure that our co-operative efforts for solving the urgent problems confronting us do not become entangled in the deficiencies of the structure or the working order of the Security Council. We all know very well what these deficiencies are, and therefore, our common goal is quite clear -to increase the representativeness, the transparency, as well as the efficiency of the Security Council. The enlivened discussion and shift towards greater openness in the work of the Security Council gives us hope. We have supported the strenuous efforts of Harri Holkeri, the General Assembly's previous President, to intensify the activities of the working group dealing with reform. We share the opinion, that it is time to move from discussions on to the negotiating phase.
Estonia supports the enlargement of the Security Council with both permanent and nonpermanent members. just as we support the reformation of the Security Council's decision-making process. In the confrontational context of the Cold War, the veto in the Security Council was a means for the Great Powers to protect their interests. Even then, it was avoided, and a light-handed use of the veto resulted in a condemnation by the international community. By now, the sense of trust among the Security Council members has grown immensely, and a limitation of the use of the veto would be an appropriate reflection of this improved atmosphere.
The composition of the Council, which still reflects the power relationships current in 1945, is another issue that cries out for resolution. From the inception of the UN that year until just a decade ago, the peoples of my country were afforded only rare glimpses of the goings-on at the UN through tears in the fabric of the Iron Curtain. When we finally reestablished our independence in 1991, we emerged onto the international arena only to discover that the Security Council, judging by its composition, was still stuck back in the year 1945.
This strikes Estonia as being anachronistic if not wrongheaded. The guarantors and greatest contributors to stability in the world have, in the course of half a century, changed fundamentally. We need not fear opening a discussion on whether the moral and legal reasoning underlying Security Council membership in the wake of the Second World War is still appropriate for the post-Cold War era.
Participation in the United Nations peacekeeping operations is an inseparable part of Estonia's national security policy. We, therefore, fully support the endeavors outlined in the Brahimi Report concerning the reformation of UN peacekeeping. Estonia is in full agreement with the Report's comprehensive and long-term approach to the prevention and solution of conflicts. Although we often talk about the need for limiting expenditures, in this case, it is clear, that in order to increase efficiency, means must be found for increasing the budget of United Nations peacekeeping operations.
At this point, let me proceed to my third theme - openness. Openness
and transparency are essential for many reasons. Terrorist attacks have
been directed at everyday interpersonal relations and at our usual means
of communication, like the postal system and air travel. Therefore, we
need to make concerted efforts to ensure that the movement of people and
ideas will not suffer due the threat of terrorism. Terrorism itself is
fed primarily by misinformation and misperceptions. Here too, openness
is important - it is essential to communicate our intentions and ideas
both to those who support us, and to those who doubt us.
Openness is also essential in more conventional situations, for instance, in the traditional political decision-making process, be it in the international, or domestic arena. Here, Estonia can share experiences in the sphere of information technology. Last year, the Estonian Government began to hold its cabinet meetings electronically. All information concerning Government activities now moves through electronic channels. In addition to speeding up decision-making and providing monetary savings, information now becomes available to the general public, through the Internet, much faster and more efficiently. More and more Estonians are making use of the opportunities offered by the public sector - the services of the revenue office, local governments, and federal agencies through the Internet. Having connected all Estonian public schools with the Internet, the Government also plans to bring all public libraries online. This last summer, the Estonian State Chancellery launched a unique new project by opening a direct democracy portal called Today I Decide. This portal allows everyone to present ideas, initiatives, and proposals, as well as comment upon proposed legislation. New ideas that have been proposed by portal users are passed on to the appropriate government offices and agencies for action. Many of you may be interested in finding out more, about the initiatives I have described, and we are more than happy to share our experiences with you.
Finally, I would like to stress the fact that the grave events that have affected all of us in the last few months, will not prevent us from moving ahead. Our decisiveness and sense of unity has only been reinforced by what has happened. We must not discard or forget all the common projects initiated before September 11. In many parts of the world, nothing has changed for those who suffer from poverty, hunger, and persecution. Thinking about our projects for the future, I am especially pleased, that the special United Nations session on children, which was postponed due to the terrorist attacks, will nevertheless take place next year, in May. The goal of this upcoming special session, to create better conditions and opportunities for children everywhere, continues to be of the utmost importance for all of us. It is precisely for initiatives of this kind, which endeavor to achieve a better future for mankind, that the United Nations Organization has earned the Nobel Peace Prize.
In conclusion, please allow me to express my personal condolences, and the condolences of all Estonians, to the families of those who perished in the air tragedy that occurred just a few days ago in the borough of Queens.
Thank you, Mr. President.