Dear Open Government Partnership community,
Welcome to the 8th Open Government Partnership Global Summit here in Tallinn.
Estonia is honoured to host the wide OGP community – relentless, creative, and inspiring people from governments and civil society, and deeply committed reformers from all around the world striving to make a difference.
Our common vision is clear: a world where governments act in partnership with civil society and the people. We work for a stronger democracy. We aim for open and resilient societies.
We are in this together!
In its first decade, the Open Government Partnership has fostered hundreds if not thousands of reforms to make governance more transparent, participatory, inclusive and accountable. Thank you for your passion and commitment in initiating, negotiating, and implementing these reforms across the world.
But our work is not yet done. Actually it is a never-ending story, this striving towards a better world.
Democracy is never ready, it needs constant care. It is more and more challenged by governments whose value system is completely different. Of course, it is not something new. History has seen authoritarians destroy democracies, often by destroying individual rights and excusing it with „protecting” national security and economy. Even in established democracies, there can be elected leaders who erode the balance of power and democratic institutions. This way, democracies can also die slowly from within. So, our democracies need to be protected and cared for every single day.
As we speak, there is war in Europe: Russia has engaged in aggression against Ukraine, creating grave human suffering and trying to destroy the rules-based world order. For the Kremlin, democratic governance in its neighborhood is a threat that it tries to destroy. It sees liberal democracy as its biggest enemy.
What is at stake in Ukraine are the fundamental principles of the UN Charter and international law: including territorial integrity and sovereignty – that is, the right to exist as a country. Make no mistake: in Russia’s vision for security, it is acceptable to conquer and colonize another country. Its vision for security is completely non-compatible with principle of equal rights of states. Russia does not accept a role for the smaller ones. It does not accept their sovereignty nor their decision-making power. This all illustrates that Russian colonialism and its war against Ukraine is also a question about the possibility of a democratic future. It’s a matter of global security not to let a colonial vision succeed – otherwise, we would all wake up in a more dangerous world.
Much of the free world is now inevitably focused on conventional war against Ukraine, and rightly so. The aggressor must be defeated on the battlefield, but there is also war against our democracies – an energy war, an information war, a cyberwar. Democracies need to take steps to defend themselves in all these areas, as well as holding the line to defend a world where rules still apply, and where technology works for, not against the people.
We in Estonia, at the front line of democracy, have long been aware of hybrid tactics against our democracy. Many of such tactics are taken straight from Soviet Russia’s playbook. They try to influence political and social choices and undermine trust within free societies. And not only within, but also between our societies – one of Russia’s long-term goals is also to undermine the unity between partners.
In light of all this, what should democratic nations do? There will be important elections in a number of democracies in the near future, so countries must be extra vigilant against any potential threats. The most important thing is to be aware and prepared – part of it is discussing these issues openly, like we do today.
In the field of cyber security, we must all be prepared for cyber-warfare to continue even after the conventional war ends, and to invest appropriately. We need to have a well-protected digital infrastructure in place. Here, Ukraine has lessons to teach us all – its digital backbone has enabled the state to keep delivering services online even when the war is going on. Many Russian cyber-attacks have failed because Ukraine had spent years in preparing for it.
Authoritarianism is on the rise. And bad dependencies can harm our open societies. Be it in the field of energy, technology, economy, raw materials, or a mixture of all of them. Hence, we must be alert and make considered choices. And we must make sure that we are connected to friends.
We need a global human-centered digital society that is based on democratic principles, and human rights. The digital world should also be a beneficial, secure and frankly a good place for all countries and people. Estonia is an example of how digital transformation has allowed us to achieve much greater transparency, efficiency and given citizens better access to government services.
An open and free digital realm can also help to expose malign influence activities. It can function as a central tool in educating audiences to improve the level of media literacy.
The key to tackling disinformation and hybrid threats is cooperation and sharing information. To fight polarisation, dependencies and disinformation, we have to strengthen digital and physical connections that can be trusted. Therefore, we need rules designed in a way that basic rights are built in and protected.
The security environment has changed, and we must all adapt accordingly. A strategy of deterrence against cyberattacks or disinformation has not been sufficient. Our focus must be increasingly on resilience, giving our institutions and people the skills to cope in a high-risk environment.
This is the reason we gather here today. To act together and share experiences between each other.
Yesterday, I was honoured to host Tallinn Digital Summit. There I stressed how new ideas and innovation can best thrive in open and free societies. It is very difficult to innovate by command. Suppressive fear and the need to fulfill artificial plans drown out sustainability and competitiveness. Freedom is worth fighting for because it generates prosperity and security.
Dear OGP community,
We have chosen the kaheksakand – the eight-sided star – as the symbol of this year’s OGP Global Summit as it signifies protection, hope and faith, and is known across geographies and cultures. As a symbol of the North Star, it points in all eight directions of the world and welcomes all the OGP current and future members. As a Morning Star, kaheksakand symbolises good luck and new beginnings.
And this is my wish to you all as well: do not be afraid of new beginnings when customary solutions no longer work.
Let’s use this Global Summit as a platform to ask each other what we have done right and what must be done next. Allow me to leave you with these two questions to address:
What is the state of democracy and how can we make sure that openness is understood as a strength, not a weakness?
How should we act within our own societies as well as in international co-operation to secure the future of open democracy – and with that the well-being of all our citizens and the world we live in?
So, I wish us all an inspiring discussions and conversations in this thought-provoking Global Summit!