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The President of the Republic Address at the fifty-eighth Session of the UN General Assemblyin New York, on 24 September 2003

Mr President,

Allow me to congratulate you on the election to the office of the President of the fifty-eighth Session of the General Assembly. This is significant tribute paid to you and St. Lucia. Estonia, similar to St. Lucia, is a small state and together we can admit that the UN is an organisation, which allows small states to participate on equal footing with large ones in influencing global processes.

My commendation also goes to your predecessor Mr Jan Kavan for the accomplishments in presiding over the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly. I am pleased to do so, considering the largely similar fate of Estonia and the Czech Republic and our joint endeavours to join the family of democratic nations, the European Union and NATO.

Mr President,
Mr Secretary-General,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

The 58th regular session is the first since the outbreak of the war in Iraq. This year has been a difficult one both for the UN and the entire world. Long and emotional debates in the UN Security Council preceded the crisis of Iraq. Many think that the war, arising tensions between states and post-war reconstruction of the country have put to test the UN capability, credibility and role in the world. I would like to believe that the passed year has not undermined the morale of the world organisation but rather on the contrary. The ordeals and the war of Iraq have been a lesson and deepened conviction that the UN should be even more decisive and efficient in future than today.

Unfortunately the crisis in Iraq has had not only a moral impact on the UN. Although the UN has been a target of terrorist attacks before ØC the UN Headquarters were planned to blast ten years ago ØC the terrorist bombing of the UN Headquarters in Iraq on 19 August, which took more than twenty lives, is unprecedented. Terrorism and violence never choose their victims and it is significant that the UN as a global peace and stability organisation, uniting all states of the world, was targeted.

I would like to emphasise that Estonia has resolutely condemned the terrorist attack on the UN mission in Baghdad. Together with all of you the people of Estonia and I are in deep morning over the tragedy of the murder of Sergio Vieira de Mello, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of UN, and others. I deeply sympathise with the relatives and the colleagues.

A terrorist act against people who are committed to assist the people of Iraq is a painful blow to the UN and a crime against the people of Iraq and the international community. However, it cannot be an impetus for the UN to withdraw from hot spots. Estonia welcomes the statement made by H.E. Secretary General Kofi Annan stating that despite attacks the United Nations will continue its activity in Iraq. Terrorists should not determine the future of Iraq and make the people of Iraq and the international community to withdraw from the goal of building up a sovereign, democratic and prosperous Iraq. The resent events have even more clearly demonstrated the need for the presence of stabilisation forces in Iraq. In order to enforce peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region, enhanced cooperation between coalition forces, the UN and the international community is necessary. Despite its small size and moderate resources, Estonia is also actively involved. In May 2003, the Estonian Parliament Riigikogu approved to deploy a unit of Estonian Defence Forces to peace enforcement operations in Iraq and Estonian servicemen started the mission in the Persian Gulf region in June. Estonia has acceded to all twelve UN anti-terrorist conventions and is actively cooperating with many states and international organisations.

Mr President,

Now I will proceed to a central topic of my address ØC environment and sustainable development. I consider sustainable approach to the environment and sustainable development one of the most significant commitments both for the United Nations Organisation and states. In long-term, the welfare and state of people will primarily depend on our ability or will to use wisely and sparingly the limited resources of our planet and shape the environment we live in. Vis-a-vis the ever-growing population of the world, increased production and consumption and also the resulting pollution, the pressure of the human activity on our living environment is continuously adding up. Under the circumstances environment protection and ensuring of the welfare of the mankind and wildlife is becoming an ever more important and difficult task. It is not by chance that the UN declared the year 2003 the International Year of Fresh Water and that the year 2002 focused on eco-tourism and mountain regions.

Twenty years ago the UN General Assembly resolution set up the World Commission of Environment and Development to define global problems and find ways of solving them. Gro Harlem Brundtland chaired the Committee. The report Our Common Future, completed in 1987, defined sustainable development. The main message was that the economic growth and increased welfare of the people should not compromise the ability of future generations and the environment to meet their own needs. The global economic development should take into consideration the tolerance thresholds of the environment and the need to preserve natural resources.

Sustainable development as a cohesive development of socio-economic field and the environment has been one of the priorities in most of the democracies all over the world, especially after the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. As the head of the Estonian delegation I signed Agenda 21 and the Framework Conventions on Climate Changes and Biological Diversity.

Eleven years have passed since the Rio de Janeiro Conference. Considering the developments, we see that meanwhile some progress in global environmental cooperation between states has taken place. New goals were set and interim conclusions made at the special session of the UN General Assembly in New York in 1997 and at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. The session of the UN General Assembly in 2000 agreed upon the UN Millennium Declaration, with the main goal set as environmental sustainability.

However, we should admit that the world population has added another billion since the Rio de Janeiro Conference in 1992. In 1990ies the world GDP grew an average of 2.6 per cent a year. No doubt, sooner or later these processes are going to influence the living environment of us all. Although we cannot as yet single out the actual relationship between human activity and the climate of our planet, a glimpse into the climate changes of the last decade is worrying. Natural phenomena like el niňo and la niňa have come to set a lasting impact on human life. Floods, droughts, tornados and extreme fluctuation of temperature have become nearly daily reality on our planet. European states have not remained untouched by the climate changes, either. In 1997, floods devastated Eastern Europe; last summer Western and Central Europe was hit by a heat wave. These facts should convince us that the environmental protection is a matter of common concern for the mankind.

Cooperation readiness is extremely important and Estonia has done its best to collaborate. We have acceded to all essential environment conventions and wish all other states in the world to do the same. Estonia ratified the Framework Convention on Climate Changes on 27 July 1994 and acceded to the Kyoto Protocol on 17 November 1998. In unison with Europe Estonia expresses its clear will to enforce the Kyoto Protocol as soon as possible.

Estonia is a small state with moderate resources, playing a significantly small role in world economy and environment. Nevertheless, we adhere to the principle - act local, think global. It is extremely important in environment protection. Estonia has long traditions of nature conservation. As early as in 1297 King Erik Menved of Denmark banned cutting forests on several Estonian islands. Only four years after regaining of independence, in 1995, Estonia adopted Sustainable Development Act. In 2001, on the proposal of the Committee on Sustainable Development the Government of Estonia approved A Strategy of Sustainable Development - Sustainable Estonia 21.

In environmental protection, more than in any other field, inter-state cooperation is important and regional organisations play a substantial role here. The Baltic Sea States have displayed remarkable initiative worth following by other regions of the world as well. The Baltic Sea regional sustainable development process, unique in the world ØC Agenda 21 for the Baltic Sea States - Baltic 21 - was launched in 1996. The parties to the process involve all Baltic Sea States and the European Commission who target the elaboration and implementation of sustainable development visions and an action plan for the entire region and key sectors.

As water - the Baltic Sea - joins together members of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) it is especially appropriate to speak about the protection of the Baltic Sea in the International Year of Fresh Water. Currently Estonia holds the CBSS Presidency and the protection of environment, first and foremost, of the Baltic Sea is among the top priorities of the Presidency. During our Presidency we would like to focus on new hazards arising from ever intensifying marine traffic on the Baltic Sea. Estonia is targeting its efforts to achieve an agreement between the member states to reduce the oil tanker pollution hazard to minimum. Estonia supports the initiative of the European Union to ban the traffic of single-hull tankers on the Baltic Sea and is committed to having the Baltic Sea classified as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA).

Mr. President,
Mr Secretary-General,
Distinguished Delegates,

I would like to conclude by stressing that although I have touched upon only terrorism and environment, Estonia fully shares all the EU priorities at the 58th General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation. In particular, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, peacekeeping, protection of human rights and combating HIV/AIDS pandemic.

However, also the future of the United Nations Organisation is important for Estonia. The UN needs improvement and restructuring. Estonia has been in favour of overall strengthening of our common organisation and welcomes the efforts by Secretary General Kofi Annan to "revitalise" the United Nations Organisation and, firstly, its General Assembly. In our opinion a reform of the Security Council should allow the UN to participate more efficiently in problem-solving and crisis resolution in the world.

The recent report of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of the United Nation's Millennium Declaration is a significant and important document, which deserves a detailed analysis and serious consideration. Hasn't the right time come for the UN family to stand behind the Secretary-General in his concern about the present and future of the organisation? Let's agree - both the larger and the smaller member states - what and when we would like to accomplish and let's move steadily ahead! Only a strong United Nations Organisation, having efficient decision-making mechanisms, can ensure global welfare and balance. Be this a target for us to accomplish!

Thank You!

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