Speech by Minister Soini at the Civilian Crisis Management Seminar

Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Mr. Timo Soini, Civilian Crisis Management: Its priorities, successes and challenges, Helsinki 8.6.2017.

You all know that we in Finland have been keen to promote the EU as a security community and strengthen the tools for Civilian Crisis Management. For us, this is about global responsibility, about maintenance of international peace and security, about the EU and its role in foreign policy, about the security of the EU and our own security.

During the last 10 years we have witnessed the use of force by Russia, with consequences on the security situation in Europe. We have witnessed the destabilization of much of North Africa and Middle East. We have seen devastating wars in Iraq and Syria.  ISIL or its followers are spreading their disgusting terror, in the Middle East but also in Europe.

Terrorism and organized crime feed conflicts and exploit conflicts. Civilians are pushed into the hands of smugglers and traffickers. We have seen irregular migration flows into Europe. We have seen foreign fighters, citizens from European countries, also from Finland, fighting in ISIL.

We are highly reliant on the internet, vulnerable to the threat of connection interruptions or interference, and rely on digital transactions. We have become aware of new kind of threats – cyber-attacks, hybrid threats. And the global challenges, including climate change and its effects, are part of the security policy scene that we are facing.

Old beacons of stability and prosperity are challenged by internal and external forces. In short, the world has become more unpredictable.

We all are making efforts to find right kind of responses to the current challenges - all countries, whether small or big; international organizations, the UN, the EU, Nato, OSCE, African Union and many others. What is needed is co-operation and concerted effort.

It is also clear that Europe, and the European Union, needs to do more to promote security in its neighborhood and also at home.

The adoption of the EU´s Global Strategy last year was an important step, and currently a lot of effort is being done by way of follow-up, also in the field of security and defense. Finland is actively participating in this work and we hope that the coming European Council will give strong guidance for ongoing work.

The nature of crisis management has changed a lot since those times Finland first sent soldiers for peacekeeping in Suez.  We all know that the circumstances today are more risky and more volatile – Afganistan, Eastern Ukraine, Irak, South Sudan and many other difficult places.

I wish to pay tribute to all those Finns serving in crisis management operations in difficult and challenging circumstances, sometimes in harm´s way. They are doing great work, and they carry on the message that "blue helmets" have had for 60 years: crisis management is a brand name of Finland´s foreign policy, even today.

Today´s crisis management is increasingly focusing on building local ownership, activities that help to build rule of law and administrative capacity, police and judiciary in the countries in which crisis management operations are implemented. This highlights the role of Civilian Crisis Management.

The aim in all crisis management operations is to complete the mission successfully, to have a smooth exit, and to have sustainable results so that people in their countries could life their lives in peace and seek to build prosperity without fear of continuing violence. Without local ownership, and support for building local capacity, the prospects for having sustainable results through international crisis management would be questionable.

We all know that there are no easy solutions to longstanding conflicts. One timely example is Afghanistan. International community has continued to support the country through crisis management means for more than a decade, the military operation (ISAF) was terminated, and military presence was scaled down.  After all those efforts, the security situation has deteriorated and the country clearly is in need of continued international support.

Finland has today over 130 civilian crisis management experts serving on foreign missions. Many of them are policemen, but we also send human rights, gender and legal experts. They are true professionals. The CMC Finland, Crisis Management Center Finland, has a demanding task in implementing Finland´s participation and in training the experts. 

Just yesterday an inter-governmental expert group presented a report to Minister of Interior, Mrs Risikko, with recommendations on developing the CMC Finland further. I hope the new report provides useful input for discussion.  The goal should be to step up our own homebase activities so that the output – Finland´s active participation in Civilian Crisis Management missions – would be even better that today.  That is a toll order because already today Finland is an outstanding contributor to Civilian Crisis Management.

The EU has now almost two decades of experience of Civilian crises management.  Finland has been in the forefront developing the EU concepts, policies and tools for Civilian Crisis Management. And we have always been one of the big contributors of personnel to EU missions. 

Currently there are some question marks over EU´s continued commitment:  during last three years the EU has not started a single new civilian mission even though there surely is need for them in the world. There is no one else but the Member States to be blamed for this – we need firm political commitment of Member States for Civilian Crisis Management, and willingness to contribute personnel for missions.

Comprehensive approach is constantly a challenge in crisis management.  Often in one conflict area several international organizations are doing crisis management, and many other activities. Many countries carry out bilateral programs to support the country in question. There are various non-governmental organizations, both domestic and international. And most importantly, there are the local political leaders and decision making structures that will have a crucial role in order to reach positive and lasting results. The key in promoting comprehensive approach is to strengthen co-operation and to enhance dialogue between different actors. 

I would also underline the importance of women in efforts to promote peace and security.  That´s half of population, women are needed for building peace and sustainable development.

Looking ahead, it would also be useful to enhance cooperation with non-governmental organisations, many of them are heavily involved in helping countries of conflict, at same areas where crisis management tools are utilized.

We need to figure out how to prevent conflicts more effectively. Prevention is the simple, most humane, and the cheapest, way to address conflict. Early warning signals should lead to action. We should not close our eyes when we see worrisome trends in human rights situations.

We are here to find new and innovative solutions to develop Civilian Crisis Management – how to be more effective at the time when countries are struggling with budgetary constraints.  Finland has been a longstanding and active supporter of Civilian Crisis Management and our commitment remains firm.

I hope that the seminar today will assist us in moving Civilian Crises Management one step further. Let me conclude by thanking the organiser's for putting this event together, and I wish you all a productive day here in Helsinki.