Statement by H.E. Mr. Andres Rundu, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Head of the Delegation, at the 72nd plenary session of UNHCR’s Executive Committee, 4 – 8 October 2021

Dear Co-Chairs, Excellencies, colleagues,

As we have all witnessed in 2021, many crises have unfortunately intensified and humanitarian needs are at all-time high. Estonia remains worried about the ongoing tensions in Afghanistan and violence in several parts of Syria and Yemen, which continue to influence civilians and contribute to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation. In these challenging times, we welcome in particular the UNHCR’s focus on longer-term durable solutions that would bring the humanitarian, development and peace actors to work closer together, as working apart is no longer an option.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the existing crises and placed especially women and children in even worse situations. Protection of the most vulnerable such as women and children has been Estonian humanitarian aid priority over the years. Following our Global Refugee Forum pledges, we place special significance to education of internally displaced and refugee children to avoid “lost generations”.

Estonia also remains very concerned with regards to instrumentalisation of migrants and refugees and attaches utmost importance on preserving the integrity of EU’s external border. Exploitation of vulnerable people for political motives and orchestration of their flow across the borders is a very worrying trend which must be prevented and discouraged.

Estonia believes that digital innovative solutions can increase the efficiency and timeliness of the response to different crises. Better and more secure identification and registration of people in need leads to improved access to the services that save lives. Interoperable databases, innovative identification and registration tools with reliable data protection solutions, can help predict large population movements and contribute to leaving no one behind. In the spirit of digital innovation, Estonia has seconded a national expert to the UNHCR’s Global Data Service team and is ready to continue working together with the UNHCR on that goal.

Mr.  Chairperson,

Estonia commends the UNHCR for fulfilling its mandated lead role for the provision of international protection to refugees and forcibly displaced persons in complex humanitarian contexts. Estonia is committed to assisting the UNHCR as a flexible donor and UNHCR can count on Estonia’s support also in the future.

Thank you.