Statement at Security Council reform GA debate

78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Agenda Item 121 Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Security Council

Statement delivered by H.E. Rein Tammsaar, Permanent Representative of Estonia

17 November 2023, New York

 Mr President,

I thank you for convening today’s important debate.

I thank the Permanent Representatives of Austria and Kuwait for leading the intergovernmental negotiations on the Security Council reform during the previous session of the General Assembly and look forward to working closely with them during this session.

Mr President,

Estonia continues to regret the lack of meaningful substantive progress on the reform of the Security Council — the body that should bear the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, as stated clearly in the UN Charter. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case.

I would like to make a few points:

The main goal of the reform endeavours should be a strengthened multilateral world order based on international law, with UN and the UN Charter at its core. We should use the momentum to restore the political relevance of the United Nations Organisation. For this we need a fit-for-purpose, transparent, open and accountable Security Council with a strengthened decision-making capacity.

To ensure that the Security Council can carry out the tasks set by the UN Charter, we need to adjust the structure and working methods of the Council. The central issue regarding the efficiency of the Council revolves around the use of the veto right. The Veto Initiative is an important step towards ensuring accountability within the United Nations system that has also strengthened the role of the General Assembly on addressing the peace and security matters. If we cannot agree on all the reform ideas, let’s concentrate on commonalities, let’s make the small steps that we can take already today.

We would need further discussions on the respective roles of the SC and GA, as well as the relationship between the two. We, in the General Assembly should be able to collectively overcome the veto in the Security Council if the Council itself cannot uphold the international law and principles of the Charter. We have also seen the relevance of the Uniting for Peace Resolution.

But more has to be done

Adherence to the principles of the UN Charter, full and unequivocal support for the international law, UN Charter and the ICC should guide us when addressing the Council reform.

There should be no veto right if there is a suspicion that the one who uses it may have acted against the international law. Estonia supports the French-Mexican initiative on veto restraint and the Code of Conduct by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency group on not voting against resolutions aimed at ending mass atrocities, including the crime of aggression. We encourage all 130 signatories of the Code of Conduct – who for many years have constituted a procedural majority – to work together to initiate relevant discussions and products.

UN Charter stipulates in paragraph 3 of Article 27 that “a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting” in the Security Council. I call on the Council to strictly and always implement this clause as foreseen in the Charter and as it has been done in numerous cases after the UN was brought to life.

As of the future composition of the Security Council – it must adequately reflect the current world. We advocate for a fair distribution between continents and regions. Small, medium and big states should all have a chance to be represented.

Estonia advocates for a meaningful, results-oriented process to reform the Security Council. Therefore, Estonia supports moving to text-based negotiations.

Thank you!