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Estonian Ambassador to UNESCO: Virtual Freedom of Expression is an Inseparable Part of Human Rights


On Friday, 8 November, Permanent Representative of Estonia to UNESCO Ambassador Marten Kokk spoke at the 37th UNESCO General Conference taking place in Paris about the importance of internet freedom, education, and cooperation with UNESCO.

When speaking about internet freedom, Estonian Ambassador Marten Kokk emphasised that virtual freedom of expression is an inseparable part of human rights for Estonia. “Therefore, we find that everyone must have the opportunity and right to express themselves freely online – it is a human right,” stated Ambassador Kokk.

According to Kokk, cooperation with international organisations, representatives of civil society, and businesspeople is important for supporting and defending internet freedom. “UNESCO also has an important role in the advancement of virtual freedom of expression in the UN and other cooperation formats,” said Ambassador Marten Kokk. He also expressed contentment regarding cooperation between UNESCO and the Freedom Online Coalition.

Ambassador Kokk also discussed UNESCO’s activities concerning the protection and development of cultural heritage and reforms to transform the organisation and make it more contemporary and effective. Ambassador Kokk also highlighted that Estonia considers it important to fight against the politicization of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

In his speech, Ambassador Marten Kokk also spoke about the Millennium Development Goals, the quality of education, international standards, and the importance of focusing on sustainability. “The constantly increasing mobility of academics and professionals is offering new opportunities for studies and scientific work all over the world,” stated Ambassador Kokk.

The UNESCO General Conference is taking place in Paris from 5-20 November and is organised every other year. In addition to the regular agenda items, such as topics related to the organization, its development, and the elections of its various committees and other bodies, this year’s conference will also include elections for the position of Director-General of UNESCO. The UNESCO Executive Board has submitted the candidacy of the current Director-General, Irina Bokova from Bulgaria, to the General Conference for re-election.

Estonia became a member of UNESCO on 14 October 1991. Estonia is represented on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1997 with the Tallinn Old Town and again since 2005 with the remains of the structures built for the Struve Geodetic Arc that was jointly presented by 10 countries. In 2009, the events of the Baltic Chain were also entered into the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. The Seto polyphonic singing tradition, the Kihnu cultural space, and the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian song and dance festival tradition have become part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

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