Last updated: 21.11.2011
- The promotion and protection of human rights is Estonia’s national priority and an integral part of Estonia's foreign policy. Estonia’s international efforts are aimed at strengthening security, development and human rights in the world. As a part of these efforts, Estonia is presenting its candidature to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the period 2013 – 2015 in order to more actively contribute to the Council’s work for the promotion of human rights.
- Estonia supports the human rights institutions of the United Nations (UN) and the integration of human rights to all UN activities. Estonia believes the UN Human Rights Council represents the goal of UN member states to advance the protection of human rights and is fully committed to ensuring the effectiveness of the Human Rights Council that would lead to tangible improvement of human rights across the world. Estonia pledges it will work with all Council members in an open, constructive and cross-regional manner to achieve this goal. Estonia believes that the Human Rights Council should be able to respond, in a timely and responsible manner, to all urgent human rights questions, but also to advance and develop universal human rights issues.
- Estonia cooperates with and supports the bodies and mechanisms of the Human Rights Council. It will continue to support the functioning of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and has issued a standing invitation to all UN special procedures. It will work to enhance the dialogue with the Special Procedures to discuss and disseminate their work. Estonia advocates the promotion of an open dialogue with civil society and attaches great importance to the principle of open governance which entails the equal participation of all people in the elaboration and implementation of the policies and this way contributes to the advancement of human rights.
- Estonia values highly the role of the UN as a multilateral forum for the promotion of peace and security, development and human rights. It has actively contributed to the work of all UN bodies, including through its membership in the UN Economic and Social Council (2009-11), the Commission on the Status of Women (2011-14), the Executive Board of the UN Development Programme (2010- 2012), the Executive Board of UNICEF and the Executive Board of UN Women (2011-12). Estonia has played an active role, including with regard to strengthening cooperation in humanitarian affairs during its Vice-Presidency of ECOSOC in 2009 and its role as a co-facilitator of the inter-governmental negotiations in 2010 that led to the establishment of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
I . International Contribution
1. Adherence to human rights instruments
- Estonia acceded to eleven United Nations human rights instruments already before the entry into force of the Constitution in 1992. To date, Estonia has acceded to most of the international and regional human rights agreements, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
- Estonia regularly submits reports on implementing the conventions. In 2010 Estonia has presented its reports on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In 2011 Estonia presented its reports on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
2. Cooperation with special procedures
- Estonia has issued a standing invitation with regard to all the special UN human rights procedures and has received visits from the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (2007), as well as the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2008). Estonia has also recognised the competence of the Human Rights Committee and, recently, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to receive and hear individual complaints. Estonia is also considering recognising the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
- Estonia pledges to continue to submit regular reports on implementing the human rights instruments and maintain and promote the system for distributing the conclusions and recommendations made by the treaty bodies and special procedures to the relevant authorities, non-governmental organisations and the general public in Estonia.
3. Universal Periodic Review
- Estonia was examined in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2011 and has undertaken a coordinated effort to implement the recommendations and voluntary commitments it has accepted within the framework of this procedure. Estonia considers the Universal Periodic Review a unique process by its terms and by its aim to improve the human rights situation throughout the world, and will continue to be actively involved in the UPR debates.
4. Contribution to international initiatives for the promotion and protection of human rights
- By regular voluntary donations made within multilateral development cooperation, Estonia has since 1998 provided support to increasing number of UN programmes and funds aimed at protecting human rights, including promoting the situation and rights of women and girls: Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)/UN Women, and the UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). Estonia started this activity as soon as economic conditions after regaining independence made it possible, and the donations have been continued also throughout the recent economic crisis.
- In addition Estonia has provided consistent support in the field of humanitarian assistance to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In addition to regular donations, Estonia has made targeted contributions in support of victims of specific humanitarian crises with the focus on the most vulnerable groups including children and women.
- Under the Estonian development cooperation and humanitarian assistance strategy for 2011-2015, one of the goals of Estonia’s development cooperation is supporting human development and increasing the availability of education and health care in developing countries, focusing on women and children. According to this document, Estonia aims to improve the situation of women and children living in poverty in developing countries through its bilateral development activities, mainly in priority partner countries Afghanistan, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.
- Estonia will continue to provide contributions for activities aimed at the promotion and protection of human rights, including contributing to the UN funds supporting the development and the promotion of the situation of indigenous peoples and facilitating the participation of the representatives of indigenous peoples in the UN discussions (UN Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues and UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations).
5. Cooperation with OHCHR and other United Nations human rights agencies, programmes and initiatives
- Estonia will maintain its annual contribution to support the activities of the OHCHR, and continue its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
6. Women’s rights
- Estonia actively participates in the United Nations intergovernmental discussions on implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform in the General Assembly, ECOSOC and the Commission on the Status of Women, being a full member in the latter from 2011 to 2014. In 2007-2009 Estonia held the chairmanship of the Consultative Committee of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and, as one of the co-facilitators, led the negotiations on the UN system-wide coherence reform in 2009-2010, resulting in an agreement for the creation of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).
- Estonia supports the principles and implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and the successive resolutions on women, peace and security. Estonia adopted a national action plan for the implementation of resolution 1325 (2010), aimed at advancing and systematising efforts to promote the situation and participation of women in Estonia’s activities related to conflict management and its peace-building efforts.
7. Commitments through regional organisations
- Estonia is also a member of the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Council of Europe and the European Union and participates actively in the human rights related activities of these organisations, with special emphasis on the rights of women.
II. National contribution, pledges and commitments
- The generally recognised principles and rules of international law, including those pertaining to human rights, are an inseparable part of the Estonian legal system. International agreements are directly incorporated into domestic law by ratification. Fundamental rights scrutiny is carried out throughout legislative process and any legal act not consistent with the duties arising from a ratified international agreement can not be applied and may be declared invalid by the Supreme Court.
- Established under the Constitution, the Chancellor of Justice is an independent official who reviews legislation of the legislative and executive powers and of local authorities for conformity with the Constitution and the laws. An important function of the Chancellor of Justice is to act as an ombudsman. The Chancellor must monitor whether state agencies comply with the principle of guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms and the principle of good administration. Since 2007, the Chancellor also functions as the national preventive mechanism established under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention for the Elimination of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and since February 2011 as Children's Ombudsman pursuant to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Estonian Government will continue to provide support and cooperate with the Office of the Chancellor of Justice with a view to ensure its full compliance with the Paris Principles.
- Under the Equal Treatment Act and the Gender Equality Act the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner receives applications from individuals and expresses opinion on possible cases of discrimination, as well as assists individuals with submission of complaints concerning discrimination. Another task of the Commissioner is to introduce and promote the principle of equal treatment among the general public. Finding additional financial resources for this is one of the main obligations for the Estonian state in further developing the institution of the Commissioner.
- Estonia will step up its efforts in the area of equal treatment and gender equality, especially with regard to the rights of women, and in improving the guarantees in the administration of justice, first and foremost by reducing the length of judicial proceedings and improving the compensation mechanisms in case of mistakes made in the administration of justice.
- Over the years Estonia has adopted close to 70 national strategies and development plans, most of which also address the implementation of human rights. The Development Plan for the Reduction of Violence for 2010-2014, including measures to combat trafficking in human beings, Estonian integration programme for 2008 - 2013, supporting the principle of equal treatment, National Civil Society Development Action Plan for 2010-2014 and the Development Plan for Children and Families for 2012-2020 are just some of them. Estonia will continue to implement and develop further state’s strategies and action plans with the special emphasis on protection and promotion of human rights.
- Various interest groups are consulted in drafting development plans and strategies. In 2005, the Government in cooperation with NGOs drew up the document “Good practice of involvement”. The purpose of involvement is to improve the quality of decisions and their social legitimacy by involving NGOs as well as the private and public sector in the decision-making process. For this, a government agency, NGO or a representative organisation drafting a document should involve all stakeholders in the decision-making, thus helping to ensure balance and consideration of public interests. The Government initiative is on the way to make the use of a internet forum for such consultations a compulsory part of the elaboration of any government legislative proposal. Thus the Estonian Government pledges to continue the dialogue and further enhance the cooperation with civil society.
- Estonia will start preparations for ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the International Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances, the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and considers the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education.