Estonia in the UN Security Council

Estonia’s election as a member of the UN Security Council 2020-21 demonstrates the maturity of Estonian diplomacy: we are ready to take part in solving global problems and managing conflicts. The Security Council membership will also allow us to bolster Estonia’s security.


Find out more about the UN Security Council as well as our objectives and guiding principles as an elected member of the UN Security Council.




What is the UN Security Council?

  • The Security Council is the centre of global crisis diplomacy – for Estonia, the UN Security Council membership means, above all, responsibility. However, it is also an opportunity – a chance to make sure that international law and common agreements are respected, that national borders are not arbitrarily shifted and commonly agreed norms are also valid in the cyber realm.
  • The Security Council can alleviate human suffering and save lives. It is a chance to keep the world’s attention on grave violations of human rights.

Estonia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Sven Jürgenson is also heading the Sudan and Iraq sanctions committeesWhy is Estonia an elected member of the UN Security Council? 


  • Participating in the work of the UN Security Council also reinforces Estonia’s security. Our tragic recent history has shown the importance of international law when it comes to the fate of small states. Our success story after the restoration of independence has affirmed the fact that international cooperation is the guarantee for freedom and development. Membership experience is like an investment – Estonia’s broader foreign policy reach, raised profile and new contacts will allow us to protect Estonia’s national interests even more efficiently.
  • We have begun two years of intense work on finding compromises. In most cases, members of the Security Council find common ground and vote unanimously in favour of agreements (resolutions). For example, in 2018, around 84% of the Security Council’s resolutions were adopted unanimously. It is a little known fact because the news usually cover the disputes where a permanent member uses their veto right, that is, votes against the text of the resolution.
  • Cooperation and the art of negotiation in international organisations comes naturally to us. Our diplomats have great skills and experience, which they have acquired over the years in NATO as well as the EU and the UN itself. This is a great position for also acting as a compromise-oriented negotiator at the UN Security Council.
  • Estonia’s objective at the Security Council is to reinforce the security of Estonia and other countries of the world. Our membership increases the experience and prudence of our diplomacy and raises Estonia’s profile in the world.


Estonia’s actions are guided by the following principles On 1 January 2020, Estonia became a member of the UN Security Council with four new elected members: Niger, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


  • We base our actions on international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights, and the rule of law.
  • We will protect fundamental values, including human rights and human dignity. We highlight the connection between international security, international law and human rights, as well as the importance of conflict prevention. We wish to make sure that the rights of women and children are protected in conflicts.
  • We wish to increase awareness among Security Council members on the applicability of international law and cybersecurity norms.
  • We will highlight aspects of currently valid international law and its development that are essentially connected to the birth of the Republic of Estonia; we will underscore the importance of the policy of non-recognition.
  • We support limiting veto rights in situations that concern genocide or other crimes against humanity. We consider it important for the international community to condemn crimes that are motivated by anti-humanitarian ideologies and committed by criminal regimes.


International law and the protection of international peace and security, including the norms-based order


International law as the guarantor of international peace and security 

Deputy Permanent Representative Gert Auväärt speaking (Photo credit: UN)

  • As a small state, Estonia is interested in a world order based on common rules and international law – this is also the prerequisite for stable relations between states.
  • For a small state, it is particularly important that all countries should respect international law. As a country that has survived an annexation that violated international law, Estonia considers it to be in its interest that the most important norm of the UN Charter endures – the prohibition against using armed force and threatening to use arms in relations between states.
  • It is also important to adhere to the principle of the equality of states – the UN is founded on the principle of complete equality of all of its members. For Estonia, the aspects of international law and its formation that are essentially linked to the birth of the Republic of Estonia and the right to self-determination hold particular importance. This is why we consider it especially crucial to follow consistently the policy of non-recognition when it comes to illegal occupations and annexations.
  • Following international law, including the international legal order based on the rule of law and the universal recognition of human rights is the foundation of Estonia’s foreign policy. We are convinced that protecting peace and managing conflicts can be based on respecting all aspects of the UN Charter as well as human rights and international humanitarian law. The task of the Security Council is making sure that this is respected. 

Fighting impunity

  • The credibility of the Security Council depends on how consistent it is in responding to grave violations of international law. The Security Council holds a special role and responsibility in fighting impunity.
  • We support the work of international investigations, international courts and arbitration, including obligating countries to cooperate with the International Criminal Court.
  • We call on all countries and the Security Council to cooperate with the International Criminal Court because no international crime should go unpunished.
  • We maintain and expand international condemnation of crimes that are motivated by anti-humanitarian ideologies and committed by criminal regimes. We support blocking or limiting veto rights on agenda items that concern genocide or other crimes against humanity.


  • Estonia prioritises issues related to our region and the neighbourhood of the European Union (EU). The problems of the European continent rarely appear on the agenda of the Security Council. However, the situation in Ukraine is a special case. When it comes to the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and Russian aggression in Ukraine, Estonia and other EU states are advocating the position that is based on international law.
  • The consistent non-recognition of illegal occupations and annexations is the cornerstone of this policy. Estonia is the consistent voice that keeps the Security Council focused on the events of Ukraine in various ways.
  • We are doing this out of our conviction that ensuring the territorial integrity of Ukraine and solving humanitarian problems in the occupied areas of Crimea and eastern Ukraine must be achieved peacefully and in accordance with the UN Charter and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.  


  • Based on the principles of respect for sovereignty, borders and fundamental rights, Estonia as a member of the Security Council will keep the Security Council members focused on ensuring the territorial integrity of Georgia and implementing the cease-fire. Military reconstruction and restricting the freedom of movement and other fundamental freedoms in the occupied territories of Georgia prevent a peaceful resolution of the situation.

Human rights and conflict prevention


Conflict prevention Negotiations during the COVID-19 crisis. Discussion on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.


  • The aim of the UN Secretary-General Guterres is to ensure that in addition to ongoing conflicts, the Security Council would also cooperate more actively with the Secretary-General and other UN institutions towards preventing conflicts.
  • UN conflict prevention focuses on three main activities: protecting peace and security, human rights and human dignity, and sustainable development.
  • Secretary-General Guterres underscores the need for a better integration of these three conflict prevention policies. Estonia supports an approach to conflict management that considers the root causes of crises. The working methods used in peace processes must also be more flexible: a more efficient inclusion of women, more cohesion between the different activities of the UN, including the countries concerned more extensively in peace building.
  • According to Estonia’s position, this is the kind of broad approach that is required when ensuring peace. We support the Secretary-General in his ambitions.

Human rights


  • Advancing and protecting human rights is one of the objectives and principles of the UN. Ensuring rights such as human rights is a prerequisite for international security and stable relations between states.
  • As early as the late 19th century, the Pärnu-born professor of international law Friedrich Martens (1845-1909) noted that, "the internal and political structure and general way of life of countries have /.../ a decisive effect on a state’s relations with foreign countries. /.../ The more recognisant the government is of its responsibility towards all of its subjects, the more respectful it is of their rights and legal interests, the stronger the internal structure of the state and the more solid the peaceful and legal development of international life".
  • Increased tensions in the global security situation have created a need for a more open outlook when analysing the root causes of problems, and more inventiveness in international prevention activities.
  • Grave violations of international law often occur in conflict zones, with women and children too often subjected to the greatest injustice. Sexual violence continues to be used as a common instrument of warfare. Recruiting and using children in conflict, as well as blocking humanitarian aid is sadly still a daily occurrence in armed conflicts.
  • We consider it crucial to include women in all stages of conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction efforts both on local as well as UN level. The rights of children should also be protected during and after conflicts.
  • As an elected member of the Security Council Estonia would take part in discussions on human dignity and human rights. We will boost the image of Estonia as a country that advocates human rights.

Ensuring cybersecurity On 5 March 2020, for the first time in the history of the Security Council, Estonia raised the issue of cybersecurity. Estonia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Sven Jürgenson reading a joint press statement.


  • The Security Council must also deal with challenges threatening international peace and security that are only starting to make their way onto the agenda of the Security Council. In this context, the central question concerns the role of the Security Council in ensuring responsible state behaviour in cyber space.


  • Estonia considers it vital to support the validity of international cyber norms and international law in cyber space. We have extensive experience in shaping cybersecurity policies in international organisations, the EU and NATO in addition to the UN.


  • Estonia has also engaged in notable bilateral cooperation with the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. We wish to start a cybersecurity discussion among the members of the Security Council with the aim of raising their awareness of cybersecurity norms and how to apply existing international law in cyberspace. In launching these discussions, we base our actions on the consensus reached at the UN General Assembly with the 2010, 2013 and 2015 reports of the UN group of cyber experts.

The connection between climate change and the international security environment A discussion on the climate and security marked the 50th International Earth Day. This informal meeting was organised by France with nine like-minded Security Council members that included Estonia.


  • International security is increasingly affected by issues with a geographic background that extends beyond state borders. Climate change and the concomitant rise in global sea levels threatens to submerge small island states, the fight for natural resources feeds conflicts in regions such as the African Great Lakes region. Resolving these issues requires coordinated cooperation between states across the world.
  • Climate change has a direct effect on the preservation of the territories of several states, and the provision of water and food to many regions. Natural disasters and extreme weather events can bring on widespread migration, cause impoverishment, and increase pressure on the use of natural resources in a way that would also make the international security situation more precarious.
  • Debates on the effect of climate change on international security have also began in the context of the Security Council, with some Security Council resolutions already explicitly mentioning the condition of the climate as a factor that affects international peace and security.
  • To understand the connection between climate change and the security environment (including in specific regions), in-depth analysis on knowledge accumulated so far is required, and the information must be available to the UN, its agencies and member states.
  • We consider it important for the Secretary-General of the UN to pay increasing attention to the links between the international security situation and climate change. To this end, we support the continuation of discussions at the Security Council, including with the aim of expanding the mandate of the UN Secretary-General in this area.

Improving the working methods of the UN Security Council


  • The world has undergone considerable changes since the founding of the UN, however, the structure and working methods of the Security Council have remained the same. Estonia supports a broad view of security.
  • We think that the Security Council should reflect the interests of the world’s states in a balanced way. This would also make it possible to use the contribution of small states more efficiently for peace and security.
  • The position of most UN member states is that it is in everyone’s interests to have a more efficient Security Council with more transparent working methods. The number of countries supporting change is growing. One of Estonia’s objectives as an elected member is to promote greater transparency and openness in the work of the Security Council.
  • It is important to have an active dialogue between the members of the Security Council as well as the countries that are on its agenda, including those contributing to peace operations and non-governmental organisations.
  • We wish to strengthen the ties between the Security Council and the UN General Assembly, including ensuring a prompt and substantive reporting by the Security Council. We also consider it important to have an exchange of information between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.
  • Estonia supports increasing the transparency of the veto procedure and restricting it in certain cases: we support blocking or limiting veto rights on items that concern genocide or other crimes against humanity.


Last updated: 16 September 2020

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