EGILS LEVITS, President of Latvia, said the current global challenge is to achieve the widest possible vaccination as soon as possible while addressing a range of new and emerging issues. Providing support to increase vaccine availability worldwide, Latvia continues to share them through the COVAX mechanism. However, this crisis has highlighted the need to continuously strengthen resilience, as the pandemic reveals the vulnerability of societies to disinformation. Latvia combats disinformation by strengthening public resilience, raising awareness and involving civil society. Yet, the lines between freedom of speech, accountability and censorship are thin and fragile. Such freedoms should not be managed by the global Internet platforms, but instead by democratic societies, he said, adding that combating disinformation globally requires even closer understanding and cooperation in international organizations.
Underlining the importance of investments in sustainable digital solutions to the pandemic, he said Latvia was among the first to develop such response tools. Such solutions have had an impact in other areas, including reducing the need to commute, which helps to limit emissions, but digital transformation and artificial intelligence pose new risks, requiring new legal principles to help nations make the best use of opportunities and avoid risks to human rights. Human autonomy, or free will, is being endangered, he said, pointing to recent innovations through global social platforms and the increasing use of artificial intelligence that make it possible to influence and manipulate thoughts and actions more effectively. The main challenge for the democratic world in the coming decades will be whether artificial intelligence or humans control decisions. Citing other important related issues, he said efforts are under way to protect linguistic diversity in the digital age, offer women and girls new skills through its Riga TechGirls project, and support the United Nations Technology Facilitation Mechanism.
Turning to other concerns, he underlined an urgent need to reach common goals on the environment, climate change and renewable energy, with the upcoming Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Glasgow marking an important milestone. Committed to achieving the Paris Agreement targets, Latvia has also adopted an ambitious development to minimize carbon production. On the Sustainable Development Goals, Latvia is committed to promoting peace, justice and good governance. He remained concerned about negative developments regarding basic human rights and security issues in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Tigray, Ethiopia. Strongly condemning the actions of the Lukashenko regime against civil society, independent media and journalists, he said the crisis in Belarus can only be resolved by new, free and fair presidential elections. Meanwhile, the Russian Federation’s military intimidation campaign against Ukraine continues, he said, calling for the international community’s broad engagement with the newly established International Crimean Platform. “Frozen conflicts”, including in Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, should be solved in accordance with international law.
Recalling that Latvia joined the United Nations 30 years ago, he said the country has contributed to international missions and its experience in strengthening statehood, rule of law and good governance provides a better understanding of similar efforts elsewhere. A new generation of Latvians is deeply concerned about the climate crisis and disinformation and wants to build inclusive societies where people of all generations, backgrounds and communities can feel included, not only formally but in practice. To meet the challenges of the modern age, the United Nations and its Security Council must show willingness to change and implement long overdue reforms. As a member of the Accountability, Cohesion and Transparency Group, Latvia would strongly support text-based negotiations on reforming the Council, which should ensure more equitable representation from African, Latin American and Eastern European countries. It is in the interests of every State to defend an international system based on rules and rights in order to maintain global security and sustainable growth, with the United Nations at the centre. “No State is big enough to resolve alone the complex challenges we face today; therefore, let each of us offer constructive solutions,” he said. “The need for an effective United Nations is now greater than ever.”
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