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Speech of the Secretary-General Mr Coel Thomas


By Sirpa Hildén - Posted on 07 August 2013

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Mr. President, honorable student officers, esteemed delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to the Helsinki International Model United Nations conference of 2013. The theme of this year’s conference is a very important one. Human rights, Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that all humans are entitled to They contain basic rights such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of speech and equality before law. Perhaps the most important right is the freedom of speech, which without democracy could not exist. However, at this moment only about 1.3 billion people have access to free, uncensored press. 3 billion people enjoy a partially free press, and the remaining almost 3 billion people don’t have access to free press at all. This might come as a shock to some people, because we live in a very free and open society, compared to other places.

The first time I truly understood the lack of freedom of speech in the world was just last year. Last year a film was made in the United States that offended Muslims all over the world. Provoked by this legal, yet ignorant film, many people protested and some radicals even went as far as burning an international school in Tunis. I have a friend that went to that school. She’s my old classmate from Kulosaari elementary school, from just across the street. Her school was burned just because the radical Islamists in Tunisia did not like the content of a video made somewhere where freedom of speech is taken for granted.

I have always taken my freedom of speech for granted, for it feels like such a natural right to possess.
It’s hard for me to imagine that someone could be so upset by a video or a cartoon strip that they wanted burn a school or harm another human being. Now some people here would most likely say that the people that made the video shouldn’t have made it and can be partially blamed for this incident.
I agree that it shouldn’t have been made, but I do not agree with the fact that they shouldn’t have been able to make it, or that they should be blamed for the violence

As President Barack Obama said in his speech at the UN last year: “The strongest weapon against hateful speech, is not repression, it is more speech.” This is something that you should all remember here at HELIMUN and in life. There will always be people who want to spread their hate, but it is your job to speak against them, to use your words. Then when the majority of people rally to defend those who are bullied, the voices of hate can be drowned out as they are every time a radical Christian offends a Muslim, or a politician speaks against marriage equality.

The UN is an organization that depends on this speech, conversation and compromise And that is what you delegates are here to do, to talk about issues, and solve them through mutual understanding.
Of course freedom of speech also includes the right not to speak, but that’s not what you are here to do.
Remember that HELIMUN is a learning experience.

We have people sitting on this stage right now that overcame their fear of public speaking here at HELIMUN. I still get nervous every time I speak in front of people, but HELIMUN taught me to deal with that fear. I’ll be watching you all today during debate and I hope to witness what I have already witnessed in previous years at this conference: Delegates breaking free of their fear of speaking by mustering up the courage to make that first speech, teams of delegates coming up with clever solutions for the problems that plague our societies.

And of course, everyone making some new friends in the process. I hope you all have a very progressive and educational conference and I can’t wait to see you all practice your freedom of speech.

Thank you, I yield the floor back to the President.