President Karis: No country should have the right of veto on the UN Security Council if there is any suspicion that it has contravened international law

  • 2023-09-22

Speaking to world leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York, President Alar Karis has urged member countries to reform the UN Security Council. “The time for change has come,” he said, “because the world is out of joint. The need for reform is more acute than it has ever been. The Security Council is at an impasse in regard to the war instigated by Russia, unable to act or make decisions in the biggest conflict we have seen in the heart of Europe since World War II. According to the UN Charter, the aim of the United Nations is to prevent and eliminate any threats to peace and to quell any acts of aggression. Russia has repeatedly breached these core principles.”

The Estonian head of state remarked that guaranteeing international peace and security was the Security Council’s very reason for being. “But instead of taking action, it has been crippled,” he said. “The ramifications of this are being felt all over the world, be it in the council’s inability to offer solutions to conflicts or ensure food security. This dangerous tendency did not start with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, but has certainly been reinforced by it. We must work together to defend international law based on the UN Charter. Both the membership of the Security Council and the way it operates must be comprehensively reviewed.”

President Karis says the near future will show the sort of world in which our children will be living. “Will barbaric violence and criminal destruction carry the day?” he asked. “Or does a just world await, one in which rules and law and order are respected? What can we learn from Russia’s aggression? How can we show future generations that aggression is never acceptable? Those responsible for aggression and conflicts must be brought to justice – including those who have the right of veto on the Security Council.”

The Estonian head of state says that Russia’s imperialist and neo-colonial ambitions are to blame for its aggression against Ukraine. “Russia wants to destroy Ukraine, to occupy it, so as to fuel its ideology of Russian greatness,” he said. “But how can there be anything great in the colonisation of another nation?”

President Karis highlighted veto rights as the core issue in the reforming of the Security Council. “No country should have the right of veto on the council if there is even the slightest suspicion that the country using it has contravened international law,” he recommended. “If the issue at hand is war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression, the use of veto rights must be restricted.”

The Estonian head of state noted that in accordance with the UN Charter, any party to a conflict must refrain from voting on the Security Council. “I call on the council to implement this clause at all times, as was done during the early decades of the UN’s existence,” he said. “We cannot accept a situation in which an aggressor uses its right of veto and the Security Council is rendered incapable of acting.”

President Karis added that the membership of the council should be fairly distributed between continents and regions. “Small, medium-sized and large countries should all get a chance to have their say,” he said. “Only in this way can we ensure a balanced council that is capable of resolving the problems that arise around the world. A more open and transparent council would also be much more effective and provide greater conviction that it is capable of preserving international peace.”

Finally, the Estonian head of state said that we must all ask ourselves a question: “Do we need yet another wave of global destruction in order to create a new and better world order which is capable of fulfilling its remit? Or are we smart enough and prepared to be guided by international law in resolving conflicts so as to maintain peace and security? Is it darkness that we face, or a golden age?”