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Address of the President of the Republic to the Conference "Women, Peace & Security" of the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association 9 March 2017

10.03.2017

Dear participants,

In 2000, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and set the goal that the international community must always consider the gender perspective in the resolution of conflicts.

Yet I find that when we discuss women in national defence and security, this discussion should first and above all be based on understanding what national defence in Estonia is like.

National defence in Estonia is comprehensive in essence. The Estonian security policy is based on a broad approach. This is a concept that covers the entire society. It is the understanding of security as the capability of a state and its people to defend their inherent inner values and goals from various external political, military, economic and social threats and risks.

Our usual thinking pattern of national defence links it to iron, men in uniforms and ammunition. But national defence actually starts with our values and our will to defend. It starts with us appreciating the value of being ourselves. Estonia's approach to security is based on the belief that the purpose of security is to protect human rights, fundamental liberties and main human values. These values determine our way of life and Estonia also stands for them on a broader scale.

Women also have their natural place in national defence. Everyone – men and women, boys and girls, the young and the old – is needed to protect and maintain this state. Everyone has a place. It could be as an infantry soldier, a person who evacuates children, a news reporter, a communications officer, a teacher, a doctor, a fighter in the cyber unit of the Defence League.

National defence is a joint effort made by all citizens and the whole society, which is why men and women are expected to contribute equally. The Constitutions does not stipulate any gender-based differences in national defence or other areas of life. This is why the Defence Forces, like other state agencies and organisations, values the creation of equal public service opportunities for all citizens of the Republic of Estonia irrespective of their gender, ethnic origin or other congenital characteristics.

We should not be looking for a place for women in national defence. We know that they already have a place, because everyone has a place. We must find different ways of taking them there.