Pandemic shocks world, reinforces need for multilateralism: Estonian prez

President Kersti Kaljulaid (on screen) of Estonia addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth session. — courtesy UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
President Kersti Kaljulaid (on screen) of Estonia addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth session. — courtesy UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

NEW YORK — The COVID-19 pandemic gave the world “a thorough shock” and taught several lessons on the realities of climate change, the president of Estonia said to the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

Pointing to the “loss of diversified ecosystems, risks of the co-habitation of people and all other species in crowded towns”, President Kersti Kaljulaid underscored the need to bolster multilateral organizations to avoid “global fights” over limited resources.

Speaking in a pre-recorded video address to the Assembly’s annual debate, which is being held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, she also warned against restrictions on human rights and freedoms “for the survival of the fittest”.

Digital solutions

Turning to technology and digital solutions “to avoid health related risks and to stop unnecessary pollution of our planet”, the president noted: “Estonia is the world’s first digitally transformed State, where all public services run online”.

This limited pandemic disruption to upscaling education and distant working. “We saw less scramble than any other country to move everything online which previously ran on paper,” she added.

The Estonian president credited high penetration rates of digital technologies in society and equal access to digital services promoted by both public and private sectors combined with strong, legally protected digital IDs with helping the country to cope with COVID-19.

“We want the same for the rest of the world”, she said.

Other threats

In tackling the pandemic, President Kaljulaid observed that conventional and unconventional threats “have not disappeared”.

Noting conflicts, disasters and human rights violations, she asserted, “the world around us is as unpredictable and unsecure as it was before”.

Moreover, the pandemic has reinforced some of the consequences of war and has been used as a pretext to lift sanctions or restrict humanitarian aid.

“New divisions have emerged,” said the Estonian leader, adding that this “is unacceptable”.

Best option: UN

In its 75th year, the organization has remained “the cornerstone of our multilateral world order”, the president told the virtual gathering, calling the UN “the best possible forum to address global issues from peace and security to new emerging threats”.

“From here in Estonia, I can promise you that we shall continue standing for multilateralism and international law, imperfect as it feels for those impatient to resolve the crisis’ of our world”, she upheld.

“There is no better option than the UN, and we remain a responsible and active partner to all other UN Members during this crisis and beyond”, President Kaljulaid concluded. — UN News