President Karis to focus on Security Council reforms, global partners and support for Ukraine at UN General Assembly

  • 2023-09-18

From today until Thursday, President Alar Karis is attending the high-level opening week of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. At the heart of his meetings and addresses will be the need to reform the UN Security Council so as to remove voting rights from aggressor states, continued support for Ukraine as a victim of Russia’s aggression and enhanced cooperation with countries further from the transatlantic axis.

President Karis will be speaking at the General Assembly on behalf of Estonia late on Wednesday evening (Estonian time). He will raise the explicit need to reform the UN Security Council and amend its working methods regarding veto rights in the face of Russia’s ongoing war of aggression in Ukraine. The council’s inability to resolve conflicts and Russia’s abuse of the right of veto are making it impossible for the council to fulfil its remit, which is to prevent and bring to an end conflicts and to guarantee lasting peace.

“Estonia has always championed a world order based on international law and where the same rules apply to everyone,” the head of state said. “At the heart of that is respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as promoting the rule of law and preventing impunity. The reality we are faced with is one of a world in which Russia is flagrantly violating all of these rules. The UN Security Council is responsible for global peace and security, but Russia’s status as a permanent member and its abuse of veto rights renders the council incapable of responding to the Kremlin’s aggression and to the destruction of Ukraine and its people. We must find ways of extricating ourselves from this impasse. One concrete way of achieving this is for countries involved in a dispute to abstain from voting, as set out in the UN Charter.”

President Karis added that since many countries consider Russia’s aggression and its impact perfectly understandable, broader support for Ukraine among UN member states is not something that can be taken for granted. “More work needs to be done in this regard,” he said.

While in New York, the Estonian head of state will be attending the UN SDG Summit and Leaders’ Dialogue, which will focus on science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals. He will likewise be attending the Climate Ambition Summit and the US-Baltic Strategic Investment Summit.

President Karis will also be speaking at a UN Security Council public debate on Ukrainian peace and security, and Estonia is organising a high-level side-meeting with the Ukrainian, American, Belgian and EU delegations at which President Karis will be giving the opening address. This meeting will focus on the situation of Ukrainian children in the war of aggression instigated by Russia and on the issue of the forced deportation of children to which Estonia has consistently drawn international attention.

Also planned for President Karis’ time in New York are a meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres; discussions between the presidents of the Baltic States and Poland organised by Estonia; a meeting with President of the 78th Session of the General Assembly Dennis Francis; and a reception being held by the Clinton Global Initiative. He will furthermore be attending a number of bilateral meetings with other heads of state focussing on global partners to discuss cooperation within international organisations and support for Ukraine.

While in New York, President Karis will also be participating in a World Cleanup Day event taking place in parallel with the UN General Assembly. Estonia is lobbying for World Cleanup Day to be declared one of the UN’s International Days.

Finally, President Karis will be attending a reception being held by US President Joe Biden and, on the invitation of his Slovak and Czech counterparts Zuzana Čaputová and Petr Pavel, taking part in an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment and UN membership of Slovakia and Czechia.

The head of state will be returning to Estonia on Friday.