Importance of mediation is growing in the world

Finland is known around the world as a promoter of human rights, equality, democracy and the rule of law. But how is mediation reflected in the handling of Finland's external relations? We asked Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto for his thoughts in the third part of the “Sustainable Foreign Policy” series.

Haastattelussa mainitut henkilöt istuvat pöydän ääressä.
Tuomas Lähteenmäki interviewed Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Finland has played a long-standing role in international mediation. Consequently, conflict prevention and peacebuilding have become Finland’s foreign policy priorities with an ever-growing emphasis.

"Finland takes responsibility for promoting international peace and wants to make a genuine contribution to maintaining and increasing it. In mediation, we are known as a realistic and solution-oriented partner,” says Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto in his office at the Government Palace.

Haavisto has a long track record in international affairs. He has chaired the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Task Forces on the environmental impact of war in many countries, such as in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, and worked as the EU Special Representative for Sudan and as the Special Representative to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in African crises.

“In mediation, Finland emphasises inclusion. In other words, we keep the key players in society involved in the peace process. This is the way to guarantee sustainable peace. We have evidence-based data that engaging women and young people in particular ensures that the voice of the civilian population is heard in the peace negotiations, which in itself is reflected in how sustainable peace will be,” says Haavisto.

“Young people currently make up a larger share of the world's population than ever before, and some 600 million of them live in fragile or conflict-affected countries. It is important to recognise and identify young people's potential and active role in conflict prevention and resolution and in situations where the population is recovering from a conflict,” Haavisto continues.

Mediation is a part of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). In the European External Action Service (EEAS), the Peacebuilding, Conflict Prevention and Mediation Unit is responsible for mediation matters. Finland supports the EEAS’s efforts to strengthen its mediation capacity.

“Mediation has also been promoted during Finland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union. I have visited Sudan twice in the role of the European Union Special Representative. Finland played a prominent role in facilitating discussions between regional parties and in enabling the signing of the peace agreement,” says Haavisto.

“It is good to bear in mind that the European Union itself can be seen as a successful peace project. The EU Global Strategy (2016) made mediation one of the EEAS’s key instruments. The EU's mediation efforts benefit from extensive networks with other organisations in the field, such as the UN, the African Union and civil society organisations,” Haavisto points out.

Over the past decades, Finland has built a strong role in mediation. In addition to the prominent contribution by Nobel Peace Prize winner President Martti Ahtisaari, this expertise has been enhanced by people such as Sakari Tuomioja, who acted as a mediator for the UN Secretary-General in the Cyprus conflict in 1964. Harri Holkeri was a member of the Northern Ireland Peace Commission when the Good Friday Agreement was concluded in spring 1998. Elisabeth Rehn also had many important tasks related to conflict prevention, such as serving as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Sarajevo in 1999.

“Finland's general strengths, such the ways in which we promote equality, also provide us with expertise in matters related to mediation. We have excellent knowledge and skills in supporting religious and traditional peacemakers and, for example, in today's highly topical water diplomacy,” says Haavisto.

“Finns also share a special characteristic suitable for mediation work. In negotiations, we are very good at engaging with all parties on an equal playing field. “It helps that we don't have a colonial heritage,” Haavisto continues.

When discussing mediation, it is impossible not to look at the existing crises and conflicts, or the turbulent state of world politics.

“It's obvious that peacemaking has still a long way to go. There are ongoing conflicts around the world that require active mediation. These include the crisis in Eastern Ukraine, the unrest in the Horn of Africa and the difficult situation in the Middle East, Syria in particular. We should really consider what more the EU could be doing in places such as Latin America, especially in Venezuela,” Haavisto says and continues with a message:

“I consider it very important that in Finland there is tangible interest in mediation, not only among professional public officials or individuals working with civil society organisations but also among young people and students. Youth organisations have been active in the UN, for example in promoting the theme of Youth, Peace and Security. Such action paves the way for future mediation work and keeps our strong peacebuilding tradition alive.”

See Pekka Haavisto’s video interview:

The “Sustainable Foreign Policy” video series discuss the priorities of Finland's foreign and security policy and the key themes of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. The parts that have been published can be viewed below:

Hybrid Influencing, Satu Mattila-Budich

In the first episode of this series of interviews, Satu Mattila-Budich explains her work as Ambassador for Hybrid Affairs and tells what Finland has done in its capacity of President of the Council of the European Union to bring hybrid threats to the agenda of EU meetings.

Common Foreign and Security Policy?

In the second part of the series, Ambassador Hanna Lehtinen, Finland's representative to the EU Political and Security Committee in Brussels, tells about the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy.