Estonia completes its first UN Security Council presidency

On 1 June, Estonia completed its one-month presidency of the UN Security Council and passed the baton to France.

According to the Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, Estonia’s presidency was successful.

“The month of May put Estonia’s foreign service at the heart of crisis diplomacy during one of the greatest global crises – we handled this challenge well. Despite the complicated circumstances and novel working conditions, we attracted widespread attention and managed to bring together an unprecedented number of countries on issues important to us,” Reinsalu said in a statement.

The Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, at the ministry’s hall. Photo by the Estonian foreign ministry.

“Our capable diplomats in New York deserve particular praise, as they prepared for and led discussions on Libya, Syria, Venezuela and other regions literally from their living rooms. The pandemic-ravaged New York and the resulting teleworking arrangements forced them and their families to face unexpectedly complicated working conditions,” he added.

The voice of small states can be heard by many

Estonia made its digital mark on the UN with two major events – on 8 May on European security and on 22 May on cyberstability.

“We demonstrated that the video diplomacy of a period of crisis still makes it possible to bring together a large number of UN member states and thanks to smart solutions, the voice of small states can be heard by many. The event on 8 May was the largest high-level event of UN member states since the start of the coronavirus crisis, bringing together nearly 50 foreign ministers and almost 80 UN member states. On 22 May, 60 states discussed issues of cyberstability as a separate topic for the first time in Security Council history,” Reinsalu asserted.

Estonia made its digital mark on the UN with two major events, held online – on 8 May on European security and on 22 May on cyberstability. Photo by Jüri Kartul/Foreign Ministry.

According to Estonia’s permanent representative to the UN, Sven Jürgenson, many colleagues have recognised Estonia for its smooth presidency. “During an unusual time, we represented a voice at the Security Council that was innovative and strived to include as many countries as possible. Our special events have already been cited as examples at various meetings and it is clear that this presidency will be remembered,” Jürgenson said.

The European spring in New York

Other important discussions led by Estonia looked at the working methods of the Security Council, the protection of civilians in conflict zones, the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and the cooperation of the European Union and the UN. All discussions were also notable for their level of expert participants.

At Estonia’s invitation, the Security Council was briefed by academics from the top universities of the world, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a former president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Fernando Arias, and the European Union’s High Representative, Josep Borrell.

The current presidency period is being called the European spring in New York: Estonia (May), France (June) and Germany (July) are holding the presidency consecutively.

Estonia will take over the presidency again in the summer of 2021. The exact month depends on which countries are elected members in June and begin their membership for the 2021-2022 period.

Cover: Estonia is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council until 2021. Photo by the Estonian foreign ministry.

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