Ever heard of Economic and Social Council? Maybe not. This UN body is one of the main UN organs designed to steer UN development related activities and to make recommendations concerning human rights. For the first time ever Estonia is serving as member of this 54-member body and the Estonian Permanent Representative has also been elected to serve as Vice President of the Council. This year the main session of ECOSOC took place in beautiful Geneva and lasted for almost all of July. As a consequence the New York based mission migrated to the shores of Lac Léman.
There was not much time to enjoy the scenery. As a country holding Vice Presidency, Estonia was tasked to handle discussions of humanitarian affairs. Over years Estonia has acquired quite a solid reputation in UN humanitarian affairs community. As an established donor ready to advocate for humanitarian assistance and mobilize other potential donors, as a country always in permanent readiness to send specialists to disaster stricken areas of the world, as a country who has recently been asked to co-chair a group of major donors to UN humanitarian affairs we may be proud to have so many dedicated and selfless people who contribute to saving lives and restoring dignity of people affected by sudden floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters the frequency of which is rising as a result of global warming.
The discussions in ECOSOC revealed once more deep divisions in approaches towards humanitarian assistance among different countries of the world. It is regrettable that we still need to call for respect for and adherence to the core humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. It is horrifying that we need to talk about an ever increasing number of attacks on humanitarian workers across the globe. It is worrying that the struggle for full and unimpeded access in some instances remains the main focus of humanitarian workers, rather than the delivery of much needed life saving assistance.
Against this background it is close to a miracle that as a result of politically charged and often divisive discussions member states were able to agree to a decision that stressed the importance of granting access to humanitarian workers, highlighted the agreed principles of humanitarian activities and gave direction to UN activities in this field for the next year.
Permanent Representative of Estonia to the United Nations, New York
*picture on the right: From left to right: Denny Abdi (Indonesia) and Cathryn Yarlett (Australia) with the Estonian expert Priit Turk, the man behind the promotion of the Estonian humanitarian agenda in the past years
left: From left to right: Denny Abdi (Indonesia) and Cathryn Yarlett (Australia), two humanitarian experts who played a crucial role during the session, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Sir John Holmes and Estonia’s UN Ambassador Tiina Intelmann at the closure of the session