Estonian Member of Parliament and Former Minister of Justice, Mr. Ken-Marti Vaher, addressed the VIII UNPO General Assembly, sharing Estonia's valuable experiences as a founding Member of UNPO.
Estonian Member of Parliament and Former Minister of Justice, Mr. Ken-Marti Vaher, addressed the VIII UNPO General Assembly, held this year in Taipei, Taiwan, from 27-29 October. He shared with the Assembly many of Estonia’s valuable experiences as a founding Member of UNPO, as well as greetings from Professor Linnart Mäll, the first Chairperson of the UNPO General Assembly.
Statement to VIII UNPO General Assembly
By Mr. Ken-Marti Vaher
Member of Estonian Parliament, and Former Minister of Justice, Estonia
27 October 2006
Dear Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentleman,
It is really a great honour to be here in Taiwan. It is not the first time, I was here in 2005, and so have already experienced the incredible hospitality of this nation living on a tiny island. Thank you Mr. Chairman, you were very precise in your introduction. I was Minster of Justice of Estonia for 2 years. Last year our government resigned, and I am at the moment acting as a Member of the Parliament of Estonia. I have also had the opportunity to host a UNPO conference in August 2004, it was a very academic and very interesting conference. We had interesting guest speakers, and just to jump to the future, we continue to hold such events every year. The next national seminar will be on December, 8 or 9, and there is also an academic seminar focusing more or less on the actual rights of nations and peoples. I am really very proud to be here with you today.
This is the first General Assembly I have been able to attend, and the mission of UNPO has always been most important to our nation - one of the smallest nations in the world to have its own state. There are no more than 1 million Estonians in the whole world, some of them living in the Diaspora, most of them living in Estonia. Our nation has lived in this country for over 5000 years. We only gained our state in 1918, which means 4950 years later than we situated in our land, more or less. So the mission of UNPO is really important, and as we are looking at history, I might share with you some glimpses because, as Mr. Chairman already said, UNPO has meant a lot to Estonia. In fact, the history of UNPO more or less started in 1990, when two nations which had suffered extremely under Communist regimes, Estonia and Tibet, met in Tallinn whilst the Foreign Ministry of Tibet was visiting our country. It was Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mr. Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, who proposed that there should be something done to cooperate in founding the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.
The Estonian Congress at that time appointed Mr. Linnart Mäll as responsible for these actions. Already in September 1990 the first meeting was held in Tartu, the University city of Estonia. The second meeting was held already in January of 1991, where the first Covenant was adopted. In February 1991, as you all know, the Founding Assembly of UNPO took place in The Hague. The first Chairman was elected as Professor Linnart Mäll, along with the first General Secretary, Mr. Michael van Walt. In February 1991 a UNPO Coordinating Centre was also founded in Tartu, and from this year, over 20 meetings have been held in Estonia uniting all those suffering nations and peoples from the former Soviet Union. Estonia got lucky in August 1991, when we were able to regain our independence. But we have remained from that date on a supporter of UNPO, and we will definitely continue to do so also in the future. Starting from 1998, the Declaration of the Rights of Peoples was prepared, and finally adopted at the 6th UNPO General Assembly in February 2001, also held in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. I have to say that in 2003, the activities of the UNPO branch in Estonia have been somewhat transformed. Professor Mäll founded an Institute for the rights of peoples, which is the main active organization in Estonia responsible for many of the issues within the framework of UNPO. Our government and Parliament has also supported, as much as possible, their activities, and from 2003 the activities of UNPO in Estonia have been supported directly from the state budget.
This all has sounded quite well, and it is a proud history that the UNPO has. There are however always problems. But we are of course not gathered together to speak about the problems which we face, but rather of challenges. One of the challenges, of course, is to be more vivid, to be more seen. I have one piece of bad news for you today, and also several pieces of good news. Starting with the bad, I regret that standing here in front of you today, I am not officially representing the Estonian Parliament. I am only unofficially a Member of Parliament here in Taiwan today; the reason is the so-called “Unified China Policy”, which Estonia has, along with many other European countries. It is one of the big obstacles to the process of making unrepresented peoples more vivid. The good news, of course, is that I am here with you today.
And I can also say that as I am really unofficially here today, there are many politicians in Estonia, both in Parliament and outside, who strongly support this event. We understand that the rights of peoples and the rights of nations are much more important than many things which matter today in world politics, and in the relations between different states. I have another piece of good news for you today; I have for you a greeting from Mr. Linnart Mäll, the UNPO’s first Chairman of this General Assembly. I would like to read the whole address:
“Esteemed delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very sorry that I cannot today be with you in beautiful Taipei. Still, it is my great pleasure and responsibility to address you on this important event, the 8th General Assembly of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. I have participated in all previous General Assembles and on this occasion let me present some reminiscences.
I recollect well the Founding Assembly in February 1991, where the UNPO Covenant was adopted. Undoubtedly, it was a document of extraordinary importance in those days. By now it is out of date and I am very happy that at this General Assembly, hopefully, the new Covenant will be adopted. In such a dynamic organization as the UNPO, the permanent development that comes with substantial changes is self-evident. The development and change have been witnessed in previous General Assemblies as well, and also in the interim periods when the UNPO was covered by the Steering Committee. In the last, 7th General Assembly, the Steering Committee was replaced by the Presidency, whose task was organizing this General Assembly. Previous General Assemblies have been held in Europe, the Netherlands, in Estonia, and Switzerland, and now for the first time the UN General Assembly has moved to the soil of Asia. It is a very gratifying development. I personally am especially glad for the General Assembly being held in Taiwan. The role and importance of Taiwan in the development of the UNPO cannot be overestimated. It has been magnificent and fantastic. With pleasure I recollect my several meetings with the several representatives of Taiwan with the UNPO.
To Ms. Annette Lu and Mr. Parris Chang, I would like to forward my best regards. Their contribution towards the work of the UNPO has been enormous indeed. But of course all the UNPO members have contributed to the growth and the strengthening of UNPO. Therefore, I would like to forward my best regards to all of you that are gathered here in Taipei, as well as those who, like myself, for one or another reason have not been able to go there. As one of the founders of UNPO, I would like to address my special thanks to the General Secretary, Mr. Marino Busdachin, and the Director of the Secretariat, Ms. Kim Maureen Delvalle, who has been responsible for all the enormous organizing work. I wish you all full success and responsibility in this important General Assembly.
Professor Linnart Mäll
Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Statement delivered by Mr. Ken-Marti Vaher, Former Minister of Justice, Estonia, to the VIII UNPO General Assembly, on 27 October 2006, in Taipei, Taiwan.