The UN Security Council (UNSC) held a discussion Thursday on the COVID-19 and its potential effects on peace and security. Estonia is a non-permanent UNSC member for 2020-2021.
"Estonia has driven the conversation on the UNSC on how it should address the rapid spread of coronavirus, and resulting instability which could affect international peace and stability," foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said, according to a ministry press release.
"Yesterday's meeting was the result of this work and it holds international significance," he added.
The meeting was held on Thursday via remote video link and at Estonia's initiative, the foreign ministry said. The meeting followed a briefing by Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres to members on the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and ways to prevent the crisis from potentially affecting peace and security.
Urmas Reinsalu said that civilians in crisis areas are in a particularly vulnerable situation.
"From a security and humanitarian perspective it is crucial to follow the Secretary-General's call for ceasefire. Whereas the humanitarian situation in, for example, Syria and eastern Ukraine was already very poor before the pandemic, innocent people are now in an extremely precarious situation," he said.
Estonian Ambassador Sven Jürgenson highlighted enormous pressure on healthcare systems, economies and societies as a result of the pandemic and which may subsequently affect peace and security.
"The impact of the pandemic underscores the need for all parties to comply with international humanitarian law to protect people in situations of conflict, whose vulnerability is exacerbated by COVID-19. We urge all warring parties to guarantee unimpeded access for humanitarian aid and ensure the safety of humanitarian workers," Jürgenson said in a statement issued Thursday on behalf of Estonia.
Jürgenson also emphasised that, in addition to addressing urgent life-saving humanitarian needs, preparations are needed for the global socio-economic impact the pandemic is likely to have in the long term, with identifying and overcoming gaps in digital development also an essential part of any long-term coronavirus exit strategy.
Estonia's statement also underscored the continued importance of peacekeeping missions in the current situation. Estonia and other EU UNSC members remain committed to participating in peacekeeping missions, the statement read, adding that it was crucial that human rights protection and fundamental freedoms be paid attention to throughout the crisis, as well as vulnerable social groups.
Jürgenson also noted concerns about domestic violence at a time when much larger numbers of people are staying at home than prior to the crisis.
"We support the Secretary-General's focus on the impact of the pandemic on women and girls and the call for measures to address the surge in domestic violence," Estonia's UN ambassador said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte