Foreign Minister Urmas Paet: In Human Rights Council Estonia Focusing on Rights of Women, Children, and Indigenous Peoples


No 68-E

At a high-level session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that as a member of the UN Human Rights Council Estonia’s main priorities are freedom of expression, including internet freedom, the rights of women, children and indigenous peoples, and the fight against impunity.

Paet stated that the rights of indigenous peoples are a priority for Estonia in its human rights-related activities. “We are especially concerned about the situation of Finno-Ugric peoples,” he noted.

Women’s rights are also a priority topic in the Human Rights Council. “Women’s status in a society shows the strength of that society,” Paet stated. He expressed hope that during the session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women that will begin soon, a consensus will be reached on positions regarding the fight on violence against women.

When talking about the rights of children, Paet emphasised that in fighting violence against children the most important thing is prevention. “Greater attention should be given to the suffering of children in armed conflicts,” said the Estonian foreign minister. “In the current Syria crisis, a majority of the victims are women and children.”

Paet mentioned that the International Criminal Court, whose Assembly of States Parties is led by Estonian Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, plays an essential role in the fight against impunity. “Already 122 countries have joined the International Criminal Court. I call on all other countries to join as well,” he stated.

Paet stated that Estonia feels open governance is important, so that people can contribute directly to the decision-making process. “Modern technological solutions help with this as well,” he noted.

Paet stated that the accessibility of the internet also plays a vital role in establishing good governance. “Internet freedom is one of the most important topics in the Human Rights Council for Estonia, since we consider freedom of expression in cyberspace to be as important as all other activities that protect and promote human rights,” he said. “Recently, however, there have been worrisome conversations in the council about internet freedom, as many countries support censorship and limits on freedoms.”

Paet added that countries should treat openness and access as an opportunity, not as a threat. “As a member of the Freedom Online Coalition, Estonia will organise an internet freedom conference in Tallinn in 2014,” he said.

In his speech, the Estonian foreign minister also gave an overview of Estonia’s development co-operation projects, which are largely tied to promoting human rights, and spoke in more detail about the human rights situations in Syria, Mali, North Korea, and Belarus.
Estonia became a member of the UN Human Rights Council on 1 January 2013.

Foreign Minister Paet will meet with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay and participate in the high-level event of the UN Human Rights Council “The Power of Empowered Women”.

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