Speech by Minister Tuomioja at seminar on Peace Mediation in Geneva

Key note speech by minister Tuomioja on symposium for peace mediationInternational symposium on Ninety years after the Åland Islands Settlement – Challenges and Prospects for Peace Mediation in Geneva on 19 June, 2012.


About mediation

Mediation is one of several diplomatic tools for the prevention and resolution of conflicts and confidence-building. Mediation is an effective tool to prevent, contain and resolve conflicts in all stages of possible conflict cycles. Third party mediation has indeed proved to be useful along the entire conflict spectrum.  

Mediation is more than preventing the emergence of imminent violence. If mediation can be employed as soon as early warning signs of conflict emerge, it has better chances to succeed. For the results to be sustainable, the mediation effort should also address the root causes of conflict. Of course, there is often an element of urgency when trying to prevent the conflicting parties from taking up arms. The mediation effort should continue beyond this goal and identify concrete measures to reduce the tensions permanently.

The role of a mediator is often crucial to reduce tension. Mediator is not meddling in others’ internal affairs, but assisting them to reconcile their differences through dialogue. It is about helping the parties to a conflict to reach a common vision for their future and agree to work together to attain it. Local ownership, inclusiveness, impartiality, accountability, legitimacy and reconciliation of peace and justice are the key words for any successful mediation. 

A good and skilled mediator can help the parties to overcome mistrust, assist in the search for solutions and to convince the parties of the benefits of a negotiated solution – and help them to make the negotiated solution acceptable to their own constituencies. Since the conflicts are different mediation processes need to be adapted to the circumstances. Mediators need a lot of different skills and support from a professional team to get to know the root causes and the conflict dynamics. 

Finnish action plan on mediation

Mediation is an integral part of the Finnish foreign policy.The 2011-2015 Government Programme of Finland gives an important role to mediation. The programme states that “development cooperation funds could be increased to advance comprehensive security in regions in which Finland supports peace mediation, peacekeeping or crisis management missions”. Moreover, “[a]n action plan on peace mediation will be prepared to strengthen Finnish capabilities and participation.”

As stated in the programme, Finland published an Action Plan on Mediation in order to strengthen Finnish expertise and participation in December 2011. The Action Plan emphasizes that new resources and experts must be found on top of the traditional mediation activities. Cooperation with like-minded countries, organizations and civil society actors is essential for increased effectiveness in mediation, and in raising global awareness of its importance. Finland stresses the need for the institutionalization of mediation mechanisms, the strengthening of UN capacities, making use of regional and civil society initiatives, as well as increasing the role of women in peace processes.

Networking is a key element in Finland’s mediation strategy. We see Finland’s role very much as a facilitator for peace. Finland acts very seldom as a mediator itself. Rather, we support the activities of Track Two actors and other partners in reconciliation and peacemaking. Very often, we support efforts based on a partnership between Finnish and local actors.

A key to successful mediation is often the effective cooperation between a variety of actors with different backgrounds and expertise: the civil society, the United Nations, regional and other organizations and governments. In our efforts to promote the use of mediation, Finland has very much focused on strengthening, and even creating, international, regional and local structures and on supporting the development of capacity at various levels.

National level

At the national level, Finland will continue building on the mediation experience that it already has. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and its representations abroad play a key role in building up our institutional memory. Training plays an important role in mediation. Therefore, more advanced mediation-related modules will be included in the training of Finnish civilian crisis management experts and in the Finnish diplomatic training. Here, the promotion on mediation-related research is also essential.

The information exchange between the different ministerial departments as well as with civil society organisations needs to be continued. At the beginning of this year, we established a national Mediation Coordination Group in Finland. Led by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the group comprises government representatives, civil society organizations, research institutions, universities and others involved in mediation. The group serves as a platform for sharing information and identifying new areas of cooperation in the field of mediation. The establishment of the coordination group was extremely well received. I can warmly recommend the establishment of a similar structure in other countries.

International level and Friends of Mediation

A few years ago, we decided to reinforce our efforts strengthening international mediation structures. Our partnership with Turkey, which led to the establishment of the Group of Friends of Mediation in 2010, has proved to be extremely fruitful. The aim of the friends of Mediation Group is threefold: to raise awareness within the international community of the importance of mediation as a means of conflict prevention and resolution; to help build mediation capacity both within the United Nations and also in regional organizations; and to enhance the level of coordination among different actors of mediation with a view to minimize unnecessary duplications and complications.    

The Group of Friends achieved very concrete results already during its first year of action. The first-ever resolution on mediation in the whole UN system was adopted in the General Assembly by consensus in June 2011. The resolution entitled “Strengthening the role of mediation in peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution” has been described by the Secretary General of the United Nations as “ a groundbreaking development that positions the Organization as a standard setter for mediation”. We can be proud of that achievement. The resolution has become a living document. The most tangible follow-up of the resolution is the preparation of the Guidance for more effective mediation. The UN Secretary-General is currently preparing the guidance.

To date, the Group of Friends of Mediation comprises 28 Member States, United Nations and seven regional organizations. The particular strength of this group is that it brings together mediators form different continents and from different cultures to share best practices and to promote a culture of mediation. It regularly interacts with civil society. The activities of the Group promote synergy and prevent overlapping. Its members share the view that mediation deserves more attention and resources, both in the United Nations and in regional organizations.

UN and regional organizations

The United Nations has international legitimacy which makes the organization best suited for mediation. However, sometimes the regional organizations are faster to respond and often have a better understanding of the root causes of the conflict. They often have the best expertise of the situation at hand. Their active role can also contribute to a deeper sense of participation. The United Nations can always offer broader support for those processes through good offices and rosters of experienced diplomats and experts. Partnership and cooperation is essential to maximize complementarity and minimize inefficiencies.

Many regional organizations have made significant progress in systematizing their mediation efforts. The strong determination of the African union to take responsibility for preventing and managing conflicts on its own continent is commendable. Finland wants to be partner in this, and has been financing a project to support African Union mediation capacities. The ongoing project was launched by former President Martti Ahtisaari in Addis Abeba already in March 2009, partly as a Finnish contribution to the implementation of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy.

In addition to the African Union, regional economic communities, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), play a vital role on the African continent.  The Arab League and the largest regional organization in the world, the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, have been very active in the field of mediation.  

In Asia, a decision on the establishment of an ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation was taken in the ASEAN Summit in Bali in November 2011. The preparations are now well under way. In addition to the EU support, Finland has been happy to assist this process bilaterally as well.

The EU has taken further steps in mediation. We want to ensure that the European Union is capable of bringing its full contribution to the peace processes, in cooperation and coordination with other actors. In 2009 a Concept on Strengthening EU Mediation and Dialogue Capacities was adopted by the Council. It contains several important ideas and concrete suggestions to strengthen EU mediation capacities.  A Division of Peace Building, Conflict Prevention and Mediation has been established. We are working on to have the division adequately resourced and necessarily supported for its actions.

To support the activities of the EU mediation activities Finland and Sweden have made an initiative for the establishment of a European Institute of Peace. We have proposed that the EIP should be an independent think tank based on the common values of the EU.

In the end of my presentation I will address our Nordic mediation cooperation.

Cooperation and inclusiveness

Lot of work still remains to be done in the field of mediation. Effective mediation requires a multi-stakeholder approach at various levels, each actor bringing their specific expertise to the joint effort. No one can bring all the necessary competences or roles to a mediation process. For example, a prominent individual can bring the necessary political weight with useful networks and resources to the process, whilst those closer to the conflict can bring the capacity to create a dialogue and the necessary in-depth expertise to find solutions to the situation. The better we combine our strengths, the stronger the chances are to reach sustainable peace. If we can rely on cooperation, each of us can focus on deepening our particular competences, instead of trying to master all areas.

At the same time there should always be complete clarity of roles, in order to avoid forum-shopping and overlapping authority. A significant step forward would be to nominate a lead mediator for each crisis situation. He or she can be an EU representative, representative of another regional organization or a UN representative- depending on who is the best for the job. In all cases, the UN with its vast experience can play a facilitating and legitimizing role.

One of the shortcomings in mediation is the low number of female mediators and the number of women participating in peace negotiations. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security acknowledges the disproportionate negative effects of war and conflict on women, but also the influence women can and must have in prevention and resolution of conflict, as well as in reconstruction processes. Women have to be fully involved from the very beginning of peace processes to enhance the sustainability of peace agreements. Implementing the Security Council resolution 1325 in all activities relating to peace- and state building as well as mediation is a priority for Finland. We welcome the efforts of the UN Secretariat to advance the implementation of 1325 with regard to mediation. 

Regardless of the context, an enhanced role for women will result in more sustainable results. While supporting mediation efforts, Finland has at the same time consistently emphasized and supported the inclusion of women in decision-making and women’s participation in future democratic society structures. Often the best results derive not through international pressure, but through genuine local ownership and long-term engagement.

Indeed, mediation would be very difficult without the active involvement of civil society actors. The first information of a threat of violence and the underlying causes come usually from the civil society. Early warning mechanisms rely heavily on local civil society actors to receive first-hand information from the ground and to analyze the significance of such information. Moreover, as civil society actors often have the best knowledge about the local situation, they can bring the necessary capacity to the mediation effort to help identify concrete measures to address the root-causes and reduce the tensions permanently.

Participation of a wide range of civil society actors in the mediation effort is an important objective in itself. We know that inclusiveness is of key importance, if the mediation process is to effectively address the root causes. Those who have been marginalized need to be brought to the center. Such groups can often get their voices heard through civil society organizations.

Nordic mediation and Åland Islands example

Nordic cooperation remains a cornerstone in Finland’s mediation programme. Last year I initiated the establishment of a Nordic mediation network. The network facilitates contacts and exchange of information among various Nordic actors involved in mediation and helps to identify possible areas of further cooperation. The network is very informal and flexible without any new structures. The network met for the first time in Helsinki in January at the Foreign Ministry experts’ level. Sweden will follow-up with the next meeting later this year. The Nordic countries have a common value base and a lot of resources to put to mediation efforts. Together we can have an even better impact for mediation efforts.

The Åland island solution is an example of successful conflict resolution. It can serve as an inspiration for other conflict areas. However, it is not a model to be used in general terms. All conflict situations are different and unique. There are different elements and components in the Åland island example which can be studied individually and could be applied to different situations by different actors.

Ålands Islands Contact Group

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs established already more than 10 years ago a Contact Group between the Government of Åland and the Ministry. One of the main purposes of the Contact Group is to increase and develop the use of the Åland example in international connections and occasions. The Contact Group has been active through several years and has organized various seminars and other events to promote the knowledge and experience of the different components of the Åland Islands example ─ autonomy, demilitarized and neutralized status and the cultural and linguistic safeguards of the Åland minority protection regime ─ all part of the historical settlement of the Åland Islands by the Council of the League of Nations in 1921 which have been basis for the development of the regime into a modern example that has received considerable attention as an example for the peaceful settlement of conflict.

The Permanent Mission of Finland in cooperation with the Åland Government and the United Nations office in Geneva organized in 1999 a seminar on “the Ålands Islands: An Inspiration for Contemporary Crises Management”. Furthermore, a historic exhibition on the Ålands Islands Solution was opened here in the United Nations premises in Geneva in June last year. An ambulating version of that exhibition has been in New York and Washington and continues its way to Brussels and St. Petersburg in autumn.

In the same spirit and in celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Åland Islands solution I am pleased to participate in this symposium and share views on mediation as a tool for peaceful settlement of disputes and the Example of Ålands Islands which may serve as an inspiration for other conflict areas.