In May, Estonia holds the presidency of the UN Security Council. Our presidency takes place during a crisis. COVID-19 affects global peace and the security situation. The Secretary-General of the UN has called for a global ceasefire. The pandemic has put people in crisis areas in a particularly vulnerable position. Already fragile societies, peacekeeping missions and humanitarian workers are under increased pressure. The UN Security Council, which handles these issues, is working remotely and for the first time in history, meetings are held by video.
Estonia’s plans to highlight several issues through various thematic sessions in line with Estonia’s priorities as an elected member: the connections between the pandemic and the security situation, European security, cybersecurity, the protection of the civilian population and the working methods of the Security Council [during the crisis].
PRIORITIES OF THE ESTONIAN PRESIDENCY
We base our actions on four priorities:
We will keep the coronavirus crisis in focus, as the crisis also poses a threat to the global security environment. From the perspective of peace and security, it is crucial to follow the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, continue peacekeeping missions and ensure full access to humanitarian aid in crisis areas. For several months now, Estonia has led discussions on the pandemic at the Security Council, and at our initiative, a council meeting was held on the issue for the first time on 9 April. During the presidency, it is Estonia’s continued aim to keep the Security Council focused on risks related to COVID-19. We would like to be briefed by the Secretary-General of the UN on the implementation of his call for a global ceasefire to allow countries to deal with the pandemic. We are also working to make sure that members of the Security Council are informed about important developments related to COVID-19. Human rights are critical for the response to and recovery from the pandemic.
Improving transparency and working methods during the crisis. We will ensure that the transparency and efficiency of the Council’s work are safeguarded to the maximum extent. We want to make sure that the virtual, video teleconference meetings of the Security Council are as similar to the regular Council meetings as possible. We strive to allow for the maximum participation of UN member states in the Council’s open meetings. Representatives of the civil society should have the possibility to brief the members of the Council where appropriate. In order to increase efficiency and transparency, Estonia will hold an open debate on the working methods of the Council on 15 May.
Principles of international law must be followed and violations should be highlighted. For Estonia, the most important principle is the prohibition of the use and threat of force. This month marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War on European soil. On 8 May, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu will host a high-level informal Security Council meeting on European security, which will focus on the lessons learnt for preventing future atrocities and on the responsibility of the Security Council. At the end of the month, with the Secretary-General attending, the Security Council will also discuss the protection of civilians and the importance of international humanitarian law; Estonia’s national statement is made by President Kaljulaid. International law, human rights violations and accountability are in our focus. In this context, the situation in Syria and the three tracks of the Security Council agenda (political, humanitarian, and chemical weapons) remain a priority for us.
We will also raise the issue of emerging security threats. At the initiative of Estonia and with the United Kingdom and the United States, the issue of cybersecurity was raised at the UN Security Council table for the first time on 5 March. As the president of the Council, we will continue raising awareness of emerging threats. Particularly now, when cyberattacks and cyber crime have increased during the pandemic, it is time to discuss the common rules for a stable and peaceful cyberspace. We will call an informal video meeting of the Council on this issue in a format that would enable other UN members to take part.
The high-level discussion remembered the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War on European soil. The event included talks on the lessons of post-war world order as well as future challenges. Discussions also covered the current security situation and conflicts in Europe. The meeting was moderated by Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu. Briefers: High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell Fontelles, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, and Professor of Yale University Timothy Snyder. You can rewatch the meeting from the Foreign Ministry’s Youtube and Facebook channels.
Friday 15 May
An open video session on the working methods of the Security Council
This year, the annual discussion on working methods is held at a historical time with temporary rules of procedure. Estonia is the Vice-Chair of the working group on the UN’s working methods. The discussion focuses on ensuring that the work of the Council is as similar to physical meetings as possible, as well as on ensuring a greater efficiency and transparency of the Security Council outside the crisis. The event will be livestreamed on UN WebTV.
The meeting focuses on conflict prevention, and ensuring a stable and peaceful cyberspace. The focus of the meeting is on raising the awareness of members of the UN Security Council about cyber threats against international peace and security, and the mechanisms supporting and regulating responsible state behaviour on the global, regional and national level. The meeting will allow states to share their experiences on the application of international law and cyber norms in cyberspace, on which regional cooperation formats have been successful in ensuring cyber stability, and on identifying shortcomings in dealing with cyber threats.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas will make an opening statement. Briefers: Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament; David Koh, Chief Executive of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore; and James Lewis, the Director for Technology Policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The event can be watched on the Foreign Ministry’s YouTube and Facebook channels, as well as the websites of the Foreign Ministry and the Estonian Mission to the UN.
Wednesday 27 May
High-level open meeting on the protection of civilians
Member states will discuss the Secretary-General’s annual report on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. In line with Estonia’s priorities, the discussions will focus on compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights norms, as well as new threats, such as the impact of COVID-19. The Estonian national statement is made by Kersti Kaljulaid. Briefers include Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer; we will also invite a representative of the civil society as a briefer.
Thursday 28 May
Open meeting on the cooperation of the UN and the European Union
The meeting will cover the cooperation of the UN and the European Union, present the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union and look at current crises what both the EU as well as the UN are helping to resolve. In recent years, cooperation between the two organisations in peace missions and crisis management has become increasingly important. The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell will brief the Security Council.
WORKING METHODS OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL DURING THE PRESIDENCY OF ESTONIA MAY 2020
On May 1, 2020, Estonia assumes the Presidency of a Security Council that continues its work despite extraordinary circumstances.
The restrictions currently imposed by the Governor of New York with relation to COVID-19 will be in place in New York until at least May 15, and the The Secretary-General has issued measures aimed at limiting the presence of United Nations staff within the United Nations premises until 31 May 2020, and the limitations on holding large in-person meetings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to be continued until the end of June 2020.
After consultations with the Secretariat and all Council members, during the month of May Estonia plans to utilize the following guidelines that are aimed at continuing the work of the Council to the greatest extent possible.
The present guidelines build upon and enhance the guidelines provided in the letters dated 27 March 2020 from President of the Council addressed to the Permanent Representatives of the members of the Council (S/2020/253) and 2 April 2020 from the President of the Council addressed to to the Permanent Representatives of the members of the Security Council (S/2020/273).
The Council members have assessed the measures outlined in the letter dated 27 March 2020 from President of the Council addressed to the Permanent Representatives of the members of the Council (S/2020/253), and have agreed that the procedure for the adoption of resolutions outlined in the above mentioned letter will remain in place for the duration of the restrictions on movement in New York due to the COVID-19 pandemic to enable the Council to discharge its mandate. The implementation of the aforementioned procedure will be assessed at the end of May, and it might be reviewed, adjusted or discontinued, subject to agreement among all members.
The present guidelines respond to the current exceptional and unprecedented circumstances and will be revised, should circumstances change during the course of the Presidency of Estonia in May, in close consultation with all Council members and in the light of updates to and developments in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Informal programme of work of the Council
In the spirit of transparency, the Presidency intends to issue an informal programme of work (hereinafter iPoW) after consultations with Council members during the first working day of its presidency. The iPoW will include all the activities of the Council that will be conducted mostly through VTC meetings or through written procedure for adoptions.
The iPoW will be circulated by the Permanent Mission of Estonia to the United Nations to the wider membership of the Organization and published on the Security Council’s website, as well as on the website of the Permanent Mission of Estonia.
The virtual discussions held during the Presidency of Estonia will be designated as “open video teleconference meetings on [item on the agenda to be discussed]” and “closed video teleconference meetings on [item on the agenda to be discussed]”.
With the assistance of the Security Council Affairs Division (SCAD), the Presidency plans to work in the spirit of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure, ensuring that all Council members participating in a virtual discussion are represented by appropriately credentialed delegates, consistent with rule 13; that the agenda is adopted at the outset of the VTC meeting, consistent with rule 9; and that any other rules are observed, as appropriate, under Chapter VI, entitled “Conduct of business”.
The President of the Council may invite Member States, members of the Secretariat or individuals who are not members of the Council to participate in an open video teleconference consistent with rules 37 and 39 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.Until technical constraints are resolved, the VTC meetings will be conducted in English.
Announcement of video teleconference meetings
The day before an event, the Presidency of the Council will share with the wider membership of the United Nations and the media, through e-mail, a message from the President of the Council with the announcement of the VTC meeting. The Presidency will inform the public of the same day’s programme ahead of the meeting(s) on social media.
Information on the daily agenda of the Council will also be available to the wider membership and the general public on the website of the Council in the section of the programme of work.
Records of video teleconference meetings
Until the situation changes, verbatim records of the events will not be published. Records and other information of the VTC meetings are published on the website of the Council in the section “VTC meetings and outcomes”.
The Presidency will encourage briefers, where appropriate and according to their practice, to share their presentations with the Presidency of the Council. Special representatives of the Secretary-General, special envoys of the Secretary-General and department heads may wish to publish their statement to the Council on the web page of their mission or department on the United Nations website.
The President of the Council will circulate as a document of the Council a compilation document within 48 hours from the end of the meeting containing the interventions of the briefers and those of the members and non-members of the Council participating in the VTC meeting who ask for the inclusion of their statement in the document. To that end, members and non-members of the Council are invited to send their statement to the Presidency as soon as possible, and no later than the day of the meeting. Circulation of a compilation document will not apply to the closed video teleconferences of Council members.
Live feed through United Nations webcast, participation of non-members
Open VTC meetings will be streamed by United Nations webcast in full. Closed VTC meetings will not be webcast.
United Nations member states not members of the Council will be invited by the Presidency to submit written statements to be included as part of the compilation document for the following select Security Council open VTC meetings on: working methods (May 15) and protection of civilians in armed conflict (May 27). Non-members of the Council may be asked to deliver statements orally in the above- mentioned meetings if it becomes technically feasible.
Recordings of open video teleconference meetings
In coordination with the Secretariat, the President requests that the webcasts of the statements delivered during the open VTC meetings of the Council continue to be made publicly available and archived as United Nations webcasts.
Outcomes of VTC briefings followed by VTC consultations
To the extent possible, and in agreement with Council members, the Presidency will facilitate the negotiation of elements of the press for every Council discussion. The President will orally deliver any agreed elements of the press through United Nations webcast.
Adoption of resolutions
The Presidency will apply the agreement reached by Council members under the leadership of China as President of the Council for the month of March 2020 and outlined in the letter dated 27 March 2020 from the President addressed to the Permanent Representatives of the members of the Council with regard to the written procedure for the adoption of resolutions, if necessary.
In the absence of objections, the adoption of presidential statements that have been electronically agreed upon by consensus following a non-objection procedure of no less than 24 hours will be announced by the President during an open VTC meeting. The statements will have the same status as those adopted in the Security Council Chamber. They will also be published as an official document of the Council.
Conduct of video teleconference meetings by the members of the Council
In order to make the discussions as efficient as possible, the Presidency requests all participants to see to it that both principal and alternate delegates are logged in at the same time, thereby ensuring that, if a principal’s connection is dropped, an alternate can take his or her place immediately. The procedure will minimize the need to suspend the event if participants lose their connection.
It is highly recommended that all principals, alternates and briefers test their microphones and video equipment 30 minutes before the beginning of a video teleconference, including by connecting through the links provided, and follow the technical guidance provided by United Nations technicians.
Following general practice, the order of speakers for the VTC meetings of Council members will be established by a draw.
Subsidiary organs of the Council
The Presidency expresses its support for the continuation of the work of the subsidiary organs of the Council to the greatest possible extent.