Statement of the Republic of Estonia at General Debate of the UNGA 75th Session of the First Committee, 15 October 2020

Delivered by H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson, Permanent Representative for the Estonian Mission in the UN

Mr. Chair,

 

  • Allow me to congratulate you on assuming the Chairmanship of the 75th Session of the First Committee. I assure you my delegation’s full support and cooperation. Estonia aligns itself with the statement of the European Union, but we will highlight some issues in our national capacity.

 

 

  • Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the United Nations this year gives us an opportunity to reflect. For Estonia, the UN is the best possible forum to address global issues from peace and security to new emerging threats. The UN gives everyone a voice. We believe that commonly agreed international rules, effective and inclusive global institutions are essential to ensure peace, security, human rights, prosperity and sustainable development. The Covid-19 pandemic has vividly demonstrated that we need effective multilateralism, with a strong UN at its core, to be able to address current and future challenges in a coordinated way.

 

 

  • The First Committee takes place in a challenging international security environment. There are several concerning development that require our concerted efforts to uphold and strengthen the international rules-based arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation architecture.

 

 

  • One of the most worrying developments is the re-emergence of the use of chemical weapons. In recent years, chemical weapons have been used in Syria, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and now in Russia. Estonia strongly condemns the use of a military chemical nerve agent of the Novitschok group to poison the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The use of a nerve agent has been confirmed by the OPCW and three independent national laboratories. This is a matter of utmost concern for the international community since the use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances is not acceptable and poses a threat to international peace and security. We call on the Russian Federation’s authorities to fully cooperate with the OPCW to ensure an impartial international investigation and to bring those responsible to justice.

 

 

  • Earlier this year, the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team confirmed in its first report that the Syrian regime had used in 2017 in three instances chemical agents sarin and chlorine against its people. These grave violations of international law must have serious consequences. Impunity will allow the norm against the use of chemical weapons to erode. Estonia reiterates its full confidence in the professionalism, impartiality and independence of the OPCW Technical Secretariat and its investigative mechanisms. Deliberate efforts to discredit the OPCW and undermine its authority are regretful and unacceptable.

 

Mr. Chair,

 

  • This year marked the 50th anniversary of the NPT. The NPT remains a cornerstone of the global efforts to pursue nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy. Considering the NPT’s achievements and the significant contribution it has made to international peace, security and stability, it is crucial to reinforce the Treaty´s viability and further strengthen its role as a major multilateral instrument of international security. We hope that the circumstances allow conducting the NPT Review Conference at the earliest possible date and that a constructive and good faith engagement from all States Parties enables to achieve its successful outcome. Estonia shares the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons and continues to advocate for the “Progressive Approach,” pursued in a realistic and responsible way.
  • Estonia welcomes the strategic stability dialogue between the Russian Federation and the United States and hopes it will lead to the extension of the New START Treaty, as well as to negotiations of broader follow-on agreements. We urge China to contribute actively to this process.

 

 

  • Estonia regrets that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has still not entered into force. We support all international efforts towards this end and urge all States, particularly Annex II countries, to sign and ratify the CTBT without further delay. We note with concern, that the proliferation of ballistic missiles, especially those capable of delivering nuclear weapons, remains a serious challenge. In this regard, we believe that the Missile Technology Control Regime and The Hague Code of Conduct play an important role in preventing missile proliferation. Estonia also supports the commencement of the negotiations within the Conference on Disarmament on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.

 

 

  • Estonia continues to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the International Atomic Energy Agency´s long-term mission of verifying and monitoring Iran’s nuclear related commitments. We strongly urge Iran to refrain from any further actions that are inconsistent with its JCPOA commitments and return to full compliance with the agreement. The role of the IAEA´s system of safeguards in strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime and promoting the responsible development of peaceful applications of nuclear technology is essential. We urge Iran to continue collaboration with the Agency in resolving all pending questions regarding its safeguards obligations.

 

 

  • We are concerned that the DPRK continues to develop its missiles and nuclear weapons program in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions. We call on the DPRK to refrain from provocations and take concrete steps towards complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. Until then, the sanctions must remain in place and fully implemented.

 

Mr. Chair,

 

  • The Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention represents the global norm against anti-personnel mines. Estonia welcomes the outcome of the Oslo Review Conference last year and supports the implementation of its conclusions and action plan. We need to continue with our collective efforts in achieving further progress in the destruction of stockpiled anti-personnel mines, the clearance of mine contaminated land, assistance to mine victims, as well as pursuing universal adherence to the Convention. Estonia continues contributing to humanitarian demining and mine action. This includes support to the United Nations Mine Action Service, as well as to the humanitarian projects in bilateral and international frameworks.

 

 

  • We support the efforts to universalize and strengthen the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Regarding emerging technologies in the area of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, we welcome the agreement on the 11 Guiding Principles last year and the start of the 2020 Group of Governmental Experts on LAWS. We should aim to elaborate on how international law, in particular international humanitarian law, applies to weapon systems with autonomous functions, explore how states can implement mechanisms of command and control, individual accountability, and verify that LAWS are used in accordance with international law. Ahead of the 2021 Review Conference of the CCW, Estonia supports the GGE’s work on the clarification, consideration and development of aspects of the normative and operational framework for emerging technologies in the area of LAWS. We are convinced that the CCW is the appropriate forum for such discussions.

 

 

  • Estonia continues to advance global understanding of the cyber stability framework through its active engagement at the UN Open Ended Working Group and the Group of Governmental Experts. Despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the two processes have already enhanced the global understanding of the cyber stability framework. We hope that the two consensus reports that will emerge from these two processes in 2021 provide further guidance on how to implement the framework. Estonia strongly supports continuation of the discussions on cybersecurity in the First Committee after the successful conclusion of the two processes. The already agreed upon voluntary norms of responsible state behavior, together with applicability of the existing international law, regional confidence-building measures and capacity-building mechanisms, provide the structure we need for an open, free, and secure cyberspace where the fundamental freedoms and human rights are protected.

 

  • To conclude, Estonia is determined to contribute to the global efforts to strengthen the international law and rules based order, and to the implementation of existing disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation instruments. As an elected member of the UN Security Council for the period of 2020-21, Estonia demonstrates its long-term commitment to take more responsibility in promoting international peace and security.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.