President Toomas Hendrik Ilves gave a speech at the General Debate of the 70th United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, focusing on human rights, personal freedoms and the refugee issue.
Ilves started his speech by expressing hope that the historic agreement on the Iran nuclear program will pave the way toward more stability in the broader Middle East. “It is a region where conflicts in Syria and Libya have led to the radicalization of an ever greater number of people and to the emergence of ISIL. It poses a serious threat to peace and security in Syria, Iraq and the broader Middle East. ISIL violates universal human values. No country is immune from the threat that it poses. Stopping it, and other terrorist organisations, requires a global effort. Estonia supports the international coalition against ISIL,” he said.
Ilves said that ongoing crises and conflicts, including in Syria and Libya, have also led to the current refugee crisis in Europe. “The civil war in Syria alone has created more than four million refugees. The majority of these people have sought refuge in neighboring countries, which bear, by far, the greatest burden. But many have also opted to take the dangerous route across the Mediterranean and have ended up in Europe. There were 600,000 asylum seekers in Europe in 2014. There will be far more this year.”
Estonian president added that he is extremely worried to witness the rising support for far right or far left political movements in Europe, often fuelled by anti-immigrant, racist statements. “Short-sighted, populist policies exploiting fears of ordinary people will lead nowhere,” he stated.
While also mentioning Ukraine crisis, Ilves emphasized that respect for human rights has become more important than ever. “We must uphold universal values and stop massive violations of human rights and crimes against humanity, regardless of whom or what caused them. As stated in the Universal Declaration, human rights apply to everyone without exception.”
Ilves also spoke about how the smart use of the Internet and digital technologies can be essential drivers for economic growth and development. “Ninety percent of people without access to the Internet live in the developing world. Bridging the digital divide between and within countries – across borders, gender, income and age – is essential for a contemporary digital economy,” he said.
“In 2016, the Internet will become the world's fifth largest economy, behind only that of the United States, China, Japan and India. It is time for world leaders to place the potential of digital technologies at the top of the development agenda. I am personally glad to co-chair the advisory panel of the upcoming World Bank's World Development Report 2016. The report titled Digital Dividends examines how the Internet can be a force for development and asks importantly what is required to unlock the potential of still largely unrealized digital technologies,” the president added.
Editor: S. Tambur