Mediation as a stronger priority in foreign policy

Conflicts result in great human suffering and major reconstruction needs. Directly or indirectly, they also affect the security of Finland and Finnish people.

 
 
 
Peace creates conditions for development. Photo: eddiedangerous/Flickr.com, cc by 2.0
Peace creates conditions for development. Photo: eddiedangerous/Flickr.com, cc by 2.0

 

Finland is a builder of peace

Mediation supports the achievement of a lasting peace by means of laying down foundations for the establishment of political, economic and social institutions.

As a more stable world would also benefit the Finnish people, Finland wishes to help parties to conflicts reduce violence and achieve lasting peace and stability. This work takes different forms: for example, we support grassroots actors, promote dialogical processes between parties, and strengthen international mediation activities.

A conflict can only be sustainably resolved by its parties. Permanent solutions to conflicts can only be achieved by addressing the underlying political, economic and social problems.

Mediation and conflict prevention have been a long-running theme in Finland's foreign policy. Over the past ten years, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has continuously bolstered the status of mediation at national and international level. The current Government Programme states that stronger priority will be placed on conflict prevention, mediation and peacebuilding in Finland’s foreign policy.

Finland has a great deal to offer in conflict prevention and resolution. Our national history and strengths make us a credible and reliable mediator. Finland has accumulated good experiences and examples of successful mediation. One of the things the world knows us for is emphasising the meaningful participation of women, young people and religious actors in peace processes. We have also been actively involved in developing the normative and institutional basis for mediation, for example in the European Union and the United Nations. We work together with such countries as Norway and Switzerland in mediation issues. Partnerships with NGOs are also highly important, as are activities in multilateral forums. In addition, Finland implements and funds projects that support mediation and invests in measures that strengthen its national mediation capacity and competences.

Mediation work has a long time span and it is fraught with plenty of risks and uncertainty. A conflict can only be sustainably resolved by its parties. Mediation is also a highly competitive field. Finland works to provide added value and support for finding a sustainable solution to a conflict.

The Centre for Mediation established under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ Political Department will strengthen Finland’s expertise and capacity in mediation matters as well as coordinate activities within the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and with other actors. The Centre’ operation was launched on 1 October 2020.

Finland promotes women's participation in peace processes

Finland is known globally as an equal society where women have been involved in political decision-making for a long time. Globally, however, the level of women's participation in the political processes of conflict countries remains rather low.

Women play a key role in achieving lasting peace. It is essential that they are offered places at negotiation tables as mediators and part of society. Women should be seen as crucial actors in peace processes rather than only victims of conflicts.

Finland has a strong focus on promoting women's ownership of and participation in peace processes in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security. The resolution seeks to increase women’s role in decision-making, the prevention and resolution of conflicts as well as peace processes, and to significantly promote the protection of women and the factors that affect it. Rather than only concerning mediation, Resolution 1325 thus also covers an extensive range of security-related themes. All in all, ten resolutions constituting the Women, Peace and Security Agenda have already been adopted.

Concrete action to implement the Resolution is set out in Finland's National action plan on Women, Peace and Security. The progress of the Action Plan is followed up by a 1325 monitoring group coordinated by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which reports annually to Parliament on the plan's implementation. Finland is currently implementing its third National action plan (2018–2021). Finland also supports the preparation and implementation of national action plans in other countries, including Kenya and Afghanistan.

Bringing up the 1325 theme in the work of various international actors is vital. This is why Finland is working in different ways to promote the implementation of Resolution 1325, for example in the EU, the UN and the OSCE. During the high-level week of the UN General Assembly in 2019, Finland launched the ‘Commitment 2025 on Women's Inclusion in Peace Processes’ initiative together with Spain. In this initiative, the participating countries undertake to increase women’s involvement in peace processes, in particular as mediators, negotiators and signatories to peace agreements.

Finland supports the participation and consideration of women in peace processes in conflict countries, such as Syria and Libya, through various projects. Finland's strengths include promoting mediation and combating impunity.

Women mediators’ networks

Finland's Women Mediators’ Network

Finland’s Women Mediators’ Network established by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 2015 consists of 16 leading peace and security professionals. Their expertise ranges from civilian crisis management and international law to diplomacy and mediation. The operative partner of the Finnish network is the Crisis Management Initiative CMI.

Nordic Women Mediators’ Network

Finland’s Women Mediators’ Networks is part of the Nordic Women Mediators’ Network. The Nordic network was established in 2015, and it comprises the national women mediators’ networks in all Nordic countries. The network aims to bring together Nordic women who have experience of mediation tasks or peace talks and to discuss different ways of training, mentoring and actively developing women's competences and ways of recruiting them to mediation tasks.

Global Alliance of Regional Women Mediator Networks

In recent years, several regional networks of women mediators have been established: the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FemWise-Africa), the Arab Women Mediators Network – League of Arab States, the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network, the Nordic Women Mediators’ Network and the Women Mediators across the Commonwealth. These regional networks contribute to women's meaningful participation in peace processes at all levels.

In 2019, regional women mediators’ networks launched a Global Alliance which aims to strengthen complementarity, cooperation and coordination among the networks and embody a 'collective voice'. The Global Alliance will not affect the member networks’ independence.

Young people's participation in peace processes is vital

Young people currently account for a larger share of the world's population than ever before. One in four young persons in the world – around 600 million in total – live in fragile or conflict-ridden countries. Whereas young people form a large part of the population in conflict countries and work actively for building peace, they are often excluded from peace processes. In order to achieve lasting peace, young people and youth organisations should be included in decision-making at all levels. Rather than only regarding them as victims or a security risk, young people should be seen as a positive resource in promoting and maintaining peace and security.

It is important to enhance young women and men's ownership of and participation in peace processes in keeping with UN Security Council Resolutions 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2018) on Youth, Peace and Security. These resolutions are important steps forward in recognising young people's positive role in conflict prevention and resolution and in post-conflict situations.

Implementing the principles enshrined in the resolutions at a concrete level is crucial. Finland engages actively in this work. So far as is known, Finland was the world's first country to announce that it would start preparing a national action plan on implementing Resolution 2250. A reference to this action plan is also contained in the Government Programme.

In March 2019, Finland hosted the first international symposium focusing on young people’s positive role and participation in peace processes (First International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes). This symposium organised by Finland initiated a process aimed at promoting the implementation of Resolution 2250 at the international, regional and local level. As part of monitoring its implementation, the operative recommendations of a policy paper published by the UN Security Council and funded by Finland will also be promoted.

In addition, Finland has bolstered the functional capacity of the UN Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth by recruiting a Finnish Junior Professional Officer (JPO) to work under it.

At a concrete level, Finland strives to build young mediators’ capacity in Myanmar by supporting a project titled 'Building the Next Generation of Mediators in Myanmar to Support the Implementation of Peace Agreements and Political Dialogue’ conducted by the United Nation's Population Fund (UNFPA). The objective of this project is to train young peacebuilders and give them opportunities to participate in Myanmar’s peace process at the local and national level. The project will be implemented by UNFPA in cooperation with the NGO Search for Common Ground.

Finland supports the role of religious and traditional peacemakers in peace processes

Religions shape society's values and are often an important element of people's identities. Religious actors who exert influence at different levels have a key role in societies. In conflicts, religion as a determinant of identity may divide parties or disguise the actual causes of the conflict. Religious and traditional actors can thus potentially play a crucial part in conflict prevention and resolution.

The significance of religions has not always been recognised, either in foreign policy or conflict resolution, or approaching them has been considered difficult. Finland strives to draw attention to the potentially positive and constructive role of religious and traditional actors in conflict prevention and to support their mediation and facilitation activities. We emphasise equal consideration for all human rights. In the context of religions, this means taking not only religious freedom but also gender equality into account as basic starting points. In this context, the importance of addressing inclusiveness in peace processes is emphasised.

Together with active NGOs, involving religious actors in mediation is an important mission of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Cooperation with universities and research institutes is also essential. Emphasis on the importance of religious and traditional actors in peace processes is additionally reflected in our cooperation with some UN actors and bilateral partners (including Switzerland and Germany).

Finland's willingness to participate in the discussion on the interface between foreign policy and religions has been welcomed. Regions prominent in Finland's activities have included Southeast Asia and the Central African Republic (CAR) in Africa, where efforts have been made to promote dialogue both within and between religions as part of peace efforts together with civil society mediators with a religious background.

Water diplomacy combines Finnish water expertise with conflict prevention and resolution

Water diplomacy refers to the prevention and resolution of political tensions related to water and water use by drawing on water-related expertise and the tools of diplomacy.

Climate change, human-driven environmental degradation and biodiversity loss are changing the living conditions on Earth at an unprecedented speed. Climate change multiplies the risks of conflict and forced migration. Today, climate change is not only an environmental and development issue but also a security threat.

Water, water availability and water management have become an increasingly evident source of potential conflicts. The scarcity of the world’s water resources is striking in the very areas where a large share of the global conflict hotspots are found. Climate change accelerates the risks associated with water availability.

Finland has long traditions in water sector cooperation. The need to organise water management in the border zone in cooperation with the Soviet Union during the Cold War contributed to the development of operating models and technical expertise. This competence can now be put to new uses. Finland's operating model and technical expertise have also had a prominent role in development cooperation projects around the world.

  • Water Diplomacy – Council conclusions (2018)
  • Water Diplomacy – Proactive Peace Mediation report (2019) (the development policy analysis was commissioned by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, produced in cooperation by Aalto University and the University of Eastern Finland, and administrated by the UniPID network. The work on the report also received support from the Winland project funded by the Strategic Research Council. The work was supported by Joseph Guillaume and Olli Varis from Aalto University, Johanna Kivimäki from UniPID, Emma Hakala and Marie-Louise Hindsberg from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Antti Rautavaara from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the project’s steering group. The report does not represent the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ official position.)

Normative work creates space for mediation

Finland's active and determined work in multilateral forums strengthens the normative and institutional basis of mediation. Mediation is a conflict prevention and resolution method referred to in the UN Charter. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has stressed the importance of conflict prevention in UN activities.

The Group of Friends of Mediation was established in 2011 on the initiative of Finland and Turkey. As one of the Group’s chairs, Finland has played an important role in the preparation of four resolutions on mediation and in giving mediation visibility. More detailed instructions have been developed to facilitate the work of mediators in the field and to create space for mediation. Among other things, the purpose of the Group of Friends of Mediation is to promote awareness of mediation in the prevention and resolution of violent conflicts. Finland also provides concrete support for the UN in its efforts to prevent conflicts. For example, we finance the activities of the UN's Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.

Regional organisations play an important role in conflict prevention and resolution. They are familiar with conflict situations and operate close to the conflict and its parties. Strengthening the activities of different regional organisations, mutual cooperation and cooperation within the UN is also important from the perspective of mediation. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is an important multilateral forum for Finland, which has access to a wide range of tools from early warning systems to crisis management and post-conflict response. Together with Switzerland and Turkey, Finland chairs the OSCE Group of Friends on Mediation. Finland has also provided long-term support for building the mediation capacity of the African Union.

In principle, the European Union has excellent opportunities to promote stability throughout the world. The Union has a unique range of tools for providing comprehensive support for peace processes at its disposal. The Global Strategy for the European Union's Foreign and Security Policy underlines the need to strengthen the Union' s capacity for comprehensive action in crises and conflicts. In particular, the Global Strategy emphasises conflict prevention and mediation as an important part of the EU’s toolbox. Implementing the principles set down in the Global Strategy is important for Finland, and we strive to promote this objective as the second chair of the EU Group of Friends of Mediation. Finland also supports in concrete terms the European External Action Service in its efforts to build mediation capacity, for example by strengthening the human resources of the Service's Mediation Support Team.

Potential of new technologies in mediation

New technologies are advancing, and the world is going digital at a fast pace. These changes create both challenges and opportunities for mediation. Interaction between people is essential in mediation, and it cannot be replaced by technology. However, innovations can improve the means of interaction, for example.

New technologies, including the social media, big data and AI, are expected to contribute significantly to the effectiveness of conflict prevention and resolution. For example, technical tools can be used to collect large volumes of data quickly, which may help conflict analysis. Technological innovations may make it easier to reach marginal groups of people. On the other hand, technology can be used to exclude people or to spread hate speech rather than to promote inclusion. Finland considers it important to encourage the harnessing of new technologies for constructive activities that support interaction.

Supporting dialogical processes as part of Finland's mediation activities

Finland supports dialogue between parties to violent conflicts in different ways. National dialogues can, for example, mean a situation in which the parties to the conflict negotiate on post-conflict social order. Bringing together all the parties whom the conflict has touched can make it possible to address the needs of different groups better and thus help build peace. For example, many of the projects implemented by our NGOs promote dialogue between parties.

Finland is also known for the National Dialogues Conferences (NDC) organised every two years with the aim of raising and strengthening awareness of national dialogue processes. NDCs are conferences funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and organised in close cooperation by the ministry and a consortium of NGOs (Finnish Mission Society FELM, Finn Church Aid KUA, Crisis Management Initiative CMI).

 

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