Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, while addressing the issue of climate change in a speech in front of the General Assembly of the United Nations during the UN's Climate Summit Wednesday, devoted his main thrust to asking what can the world do to restore the validity of international agreements that have already been signed.
Ilves pointed to international agreements such as the 1990 CSCE Charter of Paris for a New Europe, where all parties agreed to "fully recognize the freedom of States to choose their own security arrangements," the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 where "all countries agreed not to use force to change borders or challenge the political independence of any state" and that other countries' borders should be "inviolable."
Ilves also quoted the UN Charter itself, which says that all members "shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political indepedence of any state."
Putting his arguments in the context of the crises in Iraq and Syria and the rise of ISIL, Ilves spent most of his time on the conflict in Ukraine.
"The Ukrainian crisis is not solely a conflict between two countries," Ilves said. "It is not even solely an European issue. If instead of agreements and laws, raw, brutal force will apply in international relations; if changing state borders by force will become an accepted norm, then the stability of the whole world is threatened. As President Obama said this morning: 'This is a vision of the world in which might makes right.' And he added: 'We believe that right makes might.' So does Estonia. We believe that too."
"Such developments must be firmly condemned. The international community cannot leave Crimea as it is now. We cannot accept frozen conflicts created for geopolitical ends."
Ilves said that the UN needs to do what it can to keep the international structures of the post-World War II era intact.
"Since May 8, 1945, we have believed that we had been freed of certain ideological demons for good," he said. "Yet today we see the return of the long-discredited ideas dating back to 1938. The existence of co-ethnics abroad has been used as a justification to annex territory. This is 2014, not 1938. So we've seen a return of ideologies of hatred, and lies and propaganda.
"We must be clear in condemning extreme nationalism, homophobia, xenophobia and religious extremism. We need to recall and reaffirm the values that the United Nations were created to protect. The United Nations, a unique global instrument of security and peace, must succeed where the League of Nations once failed."
Ilves said that climate changes is an an existential threat to some countries, particularly smaller island states. "If we do not act soon enough, other countries will be threatened as well. We must see this problem globally, not just from the perspective of short term national or economic interest."
You can read the full text of Ilves's speech here.
The annual gathering of heads of states, expected to draw 140 heads of state and government over the course of the next five days, convened while US-led airstrikes are taking place on Syria and Iraq, and ebola is expanding its reach in Africa.
“It has been a terrible year for the principles of the United Nations Charter,” the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in his address. “From barrel bombs to beheadings, from the deliberate starvation of civilians to the assault on hospitals, UN shelters and aid convoys, human rights and the rule of law are under attack.”