Kallas to Summit for Democracy: Freedom can never be taken for granted

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Russia's genocidal war on Ukraine as waged over the past thirteen months and counting is indication of how threatened autocracies feel in the face of democracy, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.

The prime minister made her remarks in an opening address to the Summit for Democracy 2023.

The Summit for Democracy is held virtually, hosted by the U.S., whose President, Joe Biden, is also addressing the event, and co-hosted this time by Costa Rica, South Korea, The Netherlands and Zambia.

This is the second time the summit, whose stated aim is "to renew democracy at home and confront autocracies abroad," has been held, and Prime Minister Kallas made her remarks in her national statement on behalf of Estonia, which follows in its entirety.

Thank you, President Biden, for launching this timely summit.

Democracy means freedom. Freedom from repression, freedom from war crimes, freedom to decide over our own security arrangements and foreign policy direction.

But not everyone in the world has been given a possibility to enjoy freedom and democracy, even if it is the peoples' will.

Over the past year in particular, we've seen how much democracy matters. And we've seen how much some want to destroy it. Why is Russia waging a genocidal war in Ukraine? This started when Ukraine chose its democratic path. Russia does not want freedom and democracy to prevail. It is a direct threat to dictatorship.

We cannot take democracy for granted. You need to care for democracy every day. If we wish to continue to live freely, we must show willingness to take every measure to protect our democracies. And sometimes you also need to fight for that. Ukraine is a reminder of that. Ukraine also reminds us that freedom must be armed better than tyranny. And here we all have a duty to make sure freedom prevails.

Estonia made commitments in the first summit to help to protect and promote democracies around the world. We have set our focus to supporting technological advancements and freedoms of expression. We promised to support organizations like the Freedom Online Coalition, the Fund for Public Interest Media, LifeLine and others. We have fulfilled all those promises, and our support continues. Estonia is also ready to take up new commitments at this second summit.

During the past year, Estonia chose to focus on something we have first-hand experience in – making technology work for democracy. The Technology for Democracy Cohort, which we co-lead with the U.K. and the NGO Access Now, has been a success. From the start, we decided together that our work must produce real tools that help democracies.

We focused on two topics. First, bringing attention to internet shutdowns around the world. Autocratic governments use internet access as a tool of control and censorship. Standing up for uninterrupted access to the internet is essential, because informed citizens are the gatekeepers of democracy.

Second, showcasing the good that technology can do for democracies. The state should be where the people are – and the people live their lives online. That is why in Estonia our citizens benefit from digitalized economy and e-governance solutions, including digital services. This gives citizens more transparency about governance and it brings governance closer to citizens. There are wonderful inclusive e-democracy tools available. They must be made free and easily accessible to countries who want to implement them.

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the Technology for Democracy Cohort. Our work will not end with this Summit. This is only the beginning.

Estonia will also continue hosting international events to bring together all stakeholders for democracy promotion. Last February, we hosted the Third Global Conference of the Media Freedom Coalition. On September 6 and 7 this year, Estonia is to host the Global Summit of the Open Government Partnership. The Summit will support strengthening the engagement of civil society and will focus on open government in the digital age – I hope to see many of you in Tallinn in September.

The first Summit for Democracy was held December 9-10, 2021.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Government Office

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