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Statement by Foreign Minister of Estonia, Mr. Urmas Paet at the UN Security Council Open Debate On "Peacekeeping Operations: The United Nations and Regional Partnerships and its Evolution"



Mister President, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,


At the outset, allow me to thank the Rwandan presidency for the initiative to convene this Security Council’s open debate. I highly value the open debates as a measure of greater transparency and inclusion of wider UN membership in the issues discussed by the Council.  I recommend every Presidency to follow suit. I congratulate the Council for the adoption of the resolution today and I would also like to thank the Secretary General for his statement. Estonia fully aligns with the statement of the European Union.


Mister President,


UN peacekeeping provides essential security and humanitarian support to millions of people in conflict zones, as well as supports fragile institutions in countries emerging from conflict. UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding help societies in desperate need of stability to return to the path of peace and development. UN peacekeeping facilitates the protection of human rights and strengthens democracy that I believe is the best way to ensure one’s stability and well-being.  


Estonia has actively contributed to international peacekeeping since 1995. Since then, there has not been a single day when an Estonian peace soldier, policeman or expert has not been on a peace mission. This spring, Estonian soldiers started their first mission on African continent, namely in Central African Republic where our infantry platoon is deployed as a part of the EU’s mission. We realize the importance of cooperation and mutual support in solving problems on international arena. By taking part in peace operations, Estonia firstly aims to protect civilians and achieve a peaceful outcome in situations with escalating tensions. But we also understand that all tensions, instabilities and conflicts, close or distant, will sooner or later have an effect on us. So, there is a link between peacekeeping and our own security.


Mister President,


Based on our own experience, please allow me to elaborate on some elements of the Presidency’s concept note, which I find comprehensive and forward looking.


Both politically and operationally, we do agree that there are comparative advantages to regional action. That applies to Africa but also to other regions where we have witnessed some positive results of joint regional action. Let’s recall operations and missions in the former Yugoslavia or in Afghanistan where the EU, NATO, OSCE and the UN worked together and shared the burden. The regional and sub-regional organisations sometimes have more knowledge and experience to handle local affairs, and they might also have better suited capabilities for regional action. Therefore, the complementary roles of for example the Regional Economic Communities (like ECOWAS) or the African Union, while speaking about Africa should be even reinforced in the future. In this respect, the experience of peace operations gained by the EU or NATO could be used.  Their increased cooperation with the UN, AU and REC-s could improve the overall capacity for carrying out the missions. Over the years, some progress has been made but the ongoing crises show that it is still not enough. Conflicts still continue to erupt and instabilities spring. Our response to them is still very often too slow or cautious.


It is understandable that even the UN has its operational limits and its capabilities have to be used first of all to counter the most serious crises. With regional organisations taking more responsibility, the excessive burden the UN is facing can be relieved. Regional organisations are very often better suited for preventive action since they can detect the rising tensions quicker and respond accordingly sooner, using their good offices and mediation tools. Political will is the first and foremost prerequisite to more regional action as are the existing decision making framework and operational capabilities. Here, joint planning and information collection capabilities but also pooling of troops and necessary expertise has great importance.


During the last decade, in the light of growing necessity for raising readiness and enhancing capacity to counter crises and take timely action, both the EU and NATO have worked to improve their toolbox in order to streamline their operational and planning capabilities but also their readiness for prompt action. The EU’s concept of Battle Groups or NATO’s Rapid Response Force could be used as good examples for other regions to follow. The Battle Groups, for example, are based on contributions from the member states and are manned and equipped in a rotational manner. It is a battalion-sized force reinforced with a combat support element. There are eighteen such groups and they are tasked to undertake military tasks of humanitarian, peacekeeping and peacemaking nature. And even more importantly, those groups are prepared in a unified planning and training framework.


Speaking about peacekeeping, we should not overlook what happens in a conflict zone after peace has been restored. The international community should keep looking for ways to facilitate the countries’ return to a peaceful and sustainable path of development. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) should be an integral part of the mandates for peacekeeping operations and for post-conflict peace consolidation. Comprehensive security sector reform (SSR) is vital to ensure the development of effective, efficient, affordable and accountable security institutions. In this regard, Estonia commends the work of the UN Peacebuilding Commission.


Mister President,


I would like to touch upon one important feature in peacekeeping, namely financing. We have seen the UN peacekeeping budget increasing year by year. Exceeding 8 billion USD, it lays an enormous burden on the member states, but especially on the financially contributing countries. Estonia welcomes the very last minute agreement of the Fifth committee to agree on the peacekeeping budget for 2014-2015, but allow me to remind everyone that the agreement was a hard compromise and was hindered surprisingly by strong unwillingness by many countries. Estonia has always taken its responsibilities to the UN peacekeeping budget seriously. In 1999 Estonia made a unilateral voluntary decision to contribute to the peacekeeping budget on the level B and has continued to follow that pattern since then. I would like to call upon the member states to follow that suit, especially upon those who have enjoyed considerable economic growth during the last 10-15 years and whose capacity to pay today is much higher than in the past.


I also have to emphasize that the peacekeeping budget is not the only resource we allocate to peace and stability. Estonia has contributed 75 000 € to the UN Peacebuilding Fund this year.  Funds are also allocated through different UN bodies such as UNICEF and UNHCR to name only some, conflict-torn countries.


Peace on the African continent is the prerequisite for a better future of the whole world and therefore, Estonia is ready to take on more international responsibilities and willing to contribute increasingly to African stability. To bolster African countries’ peacekeeping capacities, Estonia supported the EU decision (during the EU-Africa Summit on Apr. 2nd and 3rd, 2014) to commit to double spending on the African Peace Facility, a joint EU-African Union fund supporting African-run peacekeeping and conflict resolution missions. The EU will give € 800 million ($1.1 billion) to the fund over the next three years.


Mister President,


We highly value the role of international actors and international law in safeguarding peace and security. But there is also a need for stronger national and regional ownership by the governments of countries struggling for peace and stability. The societies must demand more from their elected leadership. We remain a devoted supporter of this principle.


Here I come back to prevention and its importance. One effective measure of prevention among others is the general comprehension that perpetrators are to be held accountable. Atrocity crimes have no justification and those who have committed them have to be brought before court and subjected to trial. Therefore, we all have to treat the International Tribunals and International Criminal Court with respect and dignity, to help and support them to carry out their tasks. Otherwise we will lose an important element of international justice and law and the already complicated peace efforts will become even more complicated.


Mister President,


To conclude allow me to stress that these issues should be brought to wider international attention. We should ask for more international reaction including by the Security Council. But at the same time there is no real alternative to increasing the local national and regional comprehensive approach to tackle protracted and violent crises. We stand ready to contribute and assist. The more we invest in prevention, the less we have to deal with consequences. But prevention can be successful only if we strive for it together. I am convinced that we will be successful in this endeavour. We shall commit ourselves here today to act together for the better, safer and more prosperous future of our children!


Thank you for your attention, and I wish us a lively continuation of the discussion.




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