Mr. President, distinguished briefers, dear colleagues,
Let me first express my sympathy and solidarity with all the people and nations of the world suffering from the coronavirus. It is almost a year since the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic. New, more transmissible coronavirus variants indicate that the crisis will last longer than expected. We must make sure that no-one is left behind by vaccination programmes. Therefore, I wish to thank the United Kingdom for convening today’s very relevant and timely debate.
There are three aspects Estonia would like to highlight today.
First – ensuring unhindered humanitarian access to conflict areas is vital
Enabling full, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance remains crucial for the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines. It is equally important that other immunisation programmes would not get side-lined due to the global attention to coronavirus.
In this regard, I reiterate Estonia’s unwavering support to Secretary- General’s call for global ceasefire. Let me also stress that it is unacceptable how coronavirus is being used as a pretext for trying to lift restrictive measures. Both EU and UN sanctions include the possibility of humanitarian exemptions and do not obstruct the fight against the pandemic.
Secondly – multilateral response is the only way out of the global crisis
Investment in vaccines and securing their delivery in fragile environments is not only moral but also a very practical step. We will not be able to restore international trade, travel, prosperity and security, until COVID-19 is under control everywhere in the world. The European Union has been at the forefront of the multilateral response in the field of global and equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments.
Estonia remains committed to equal and fair distribution of vaccines globally. As a manifestation of our solidarity, we have made a pledge to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment to support access to vaccines to those most vulnerable. We are ready to further discuss how we can help.
We must also address the so-called infodemic that continues to undermine our joint global response. To overcome the virus we need to promote facts and science and avoid manipulating with information.
Protection of human rights, including freedom of expression, is equally critical for the response and recovery from the pandemic. We condemn all attempts of using COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext for disrespecting the rule of law, curtailing human rights, restricting civic space. We must secure free, independent and pluralistic media, both online and offline.
Third – we must make use of the full potential of digital technologies to overcome the crisis everywhere
As the world continues its fight against COVID-19, our reliance on technology has increased. Many of our everyday functions and operations have moved online. It is therefore all the more pressing that we protect our essential infrastructure from cyber threats. Unfortunately, we have seen vaccine producers and those involved in vaccine distribution targeted by cyber criminals while the sole focus should be on delivering the vaccine. Holding the perpetrators accountable and working together towards a more stable and secure cyberspace is the best way to resist the efforts of malicious cyber actors. Cybersecurity and the applicability of existing international law in cyberspace are also amongst the issues that Estonia is raising awareness around in the Security Council.
Building on twenty years of experience in developing a secure and trusted digital governance infrastructure, Estonia is undertaking a global public health collaboration with the World Health Organisation. The first step is to build and pilot an interoperability framework – the Global Trust Framework- for smart vaccination certificates. We trust it will become a significant piece of global digital public good, enabling WHO to build any kind of cross-border digital health data services in the future. To allow the validation of vaccinations, a secure and privacy- preserving smart vaccination certificate solution has been developed in Estonia that could be put into use also in more fragile and complex environments.
To conclude with, the current crisis and past pandemics have shown that it takes a coordinated global effort to roll back a global suffering. If COVID-19 is left to ravage those with weaker healthcare systems or population groups in conflict situations the virus will soon spread back to other countries. This is the reality. We are only as strong as the weakest link in the global health system.
Thank you very much!