Minister Tuomioja's speech at High-level Event on the Sahel

Speech by Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland at High Level Event on the Sahel in New York on 26 September 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Colleagues,

In the Sahelian region, the simultaneous multiple crises, in both socio-economic and political have become recurrent phenomena. The situation in Sahel poses a considerable undertaking for the Sahelian countries and peoples and for the international community. Multi-faceted challenges require comprehensive approach.

Finland welcomes and supports new UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel which aims at(i) enhancing inclusive and effective governance: (ii) strengthening the capacity of national and regional security mechanism. (iii)integrating development and humanitarian interventions to build resilience. A holistic approach based on new partnerships and improved coordination between different international, regional and local actors is needed to tackle the inter-related root-causes for conflict in the Sahel region. A timely implementation of the strategy is crucial.

Only political solution negotiated and agreed by all stakeholders at all levels can bring lasting peace and stability in the Sahel region. In the midst of our political considerations, we should maintain a focus on the plight of the civilian population. Some Sahelian children have missed one part of their childhood and been forced to become child soldiers. Many women and elderly have lost their normal survival strategies and need to rebuild them again. A great number of refugees still remain in the neighboring countries or internally displaced. The region´s own civil society organizations are able to understand the local conditions and to raise developmental and security concerns at the local level. Therefore, the civilian population should not be seen only as victims, but as a resource. It’s equally important that the civil society organizations themselves build their own coordination structures and follow the principles of accountability.

Special efforts should be made to ensure that the voices of women from the Sahel are heard and that their their perspective is taken into account when addressing the challenges in the sub-region. The women of the Sahel will be instrumental in putting the region on a path to stability.

In the case of Mali, I would like to congratulate the Malians for conducting peaceful elections and, as the next step, encourage Mali and its international partners to seize the moment for national dialogue to avoid renewed political and security crises. I encourage the newly-elected Malian Government to promote development and national reconciliation throughout Mali. I would like to emphasize also the necessity to advance human rights and the rule of law as they are the foundation of a just and functional society. A functional society needs to be inclusive and needs to be backed by an active and empowered civil society.

The regional bodies of ECOWAS and African Union merit credit for their determination and leadership in bringing peace in Mali. ECOWAS and its Member States engaged into mediation without any delay and they still hold an important role. As a co-chair of the group of Friends of Mediation, Finland highlights the importance of regional organizations and actors in mediation efforts. They hold the knowledge of local circumstances and particularities, which paves the way to find a tangible, multisectoral solution. We should learn more from the African viewpoints when planning our activities in the Sahelian region.

Finland continues actively to support the developments in the Sahelian belt both bilaterally and through the European Union. In 2013 Finland provides 8,5 million euro for humanitarian aid to assist the Sahel.

And finally, the situation in the Sahel is one more proof of the need for a strong Arms Trade Treaty to prevent the kind of disastrous proliferation of small arms and light weapons which has contributed to the crisis.