Grybauskaite urges ‘free will’ at UN meeting

  • 2013-09-27
  • From wire reports

VILNIUS - Free choice, democracy and fundamental human rights are key to tackling poverty, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite has told the United Nations. In her statement to the 68th General Assembly debate on Sept. 26, Grybauskaite stressed that “Development cannot be imposed, development must be promoted.”

She noted that the international community has an obligation to offer support, based on principles of ownership and empowerment, but instead, there are still member states who seek to enforce a specific course of development on others by “economic pressure, energy levers or cyber tools, by distorted information, or threats.”

Addressing heads of state and government and other high-level officials, Grybauskaite called for an end to power games. “The 21st century must be the age of solidarity, equality and sustainable development. It cannot be an age of power show-off, zero-sum games or buffer zones.”

Turning to the experience of Lithuania and the Baltic States, she said that for many years, these countries worked hard to reach national agreement on reforms. A path that would have been easier if their free will had been respected and their decision supported in good faith and with encouragement by those who could provide such support, Grybauskaite said, instead of facing trade restrictions, bans on goods, price manipulation for energy supplies, the use of pressure and open disrespect displayed in the information space.

Meanwhile,  President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia stressed how modern information and communication technologies drive development, while he urged the importance of Internet freedom, in his speech to the United Nations on Sept. 25.

“The main driver of sustainable development is inclusive and responsible policies in economics,” President Ilves told the General Debate of the Assembly’s 68th session.

“Freedom of opinion and expression - online or off - is a cornerstone of every democracy and constitutes a fundamental human right.”

He added that the UN Group of Government Experts affirmed that international law is essential in promoting an “open, secure and accessible cyberspace.”

Ilves added that modern ICT solutions are a key enabler to foster such growth, leading to better governance, access to public services, job creation, transparency, accountability and civil society participation.

The president also called for the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria while he praised recent governmental elections in Mali.

The Baltic leaders are among scores of leaders to speak at the annual UN session at which heads of state and government will present their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance.

This year’s theme focuses on accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and on laying the foundation for an ambitious post-2015 development agenda. The General Debate wraps up on Oct. 1.