Speech by Secretary of State Torstila at University for Peace

Speech by Secretary of State Pertti Torstila at University for Peace, Costa Rica, 7 February 2013, on International crisis management: Finnish experiences


Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank for this kind invitation and the opportunity to speak to you. My topic today is international crisis management and I will share with you views based on the Finnish experiences in this field. It is a great pleasure to speak in Costa Rica and in this educational institution. Your host country Costa Rica is one of the best-developed countries in the region. The country has been able to channel the funds saved from military spending into other, more profitable fields. In these unique surroundings UPEACE is in a very special position in observing, analyzing and contributing to peace building efforts in the world.

The world today is more secure than before in the sense that the risk of a major confrontation between great powers seems remote. And yet the world has not stopped. Your hemisphere is at peace but not free from disputes and disturbances. During the past two decades the international security environment has been in constant flux. The globalization opens us new opportunities. It brings states, economies and people closer to each other. But it also leads to new shared threats and challenges. Our security is more than before affected by developments that transcend national borders and threats are multidimensional.

Security challenges can effectively be dealt with through international cooperation only. New challenges require new approaches as peace and security, development and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing. We need a comprehensive approach to crisis management. In this setting the international crisis management and peace building are indispensable.

Finland’s tale from the ashes of the II World War to become the “Nokia land” is a success story. We came out of a disastrous war as a free country, avoiding the Soviet occupation due to tenacious military resistance. We preserved our independence, our democratic system and our Scandinavian way of life. We endured the Cold War in a divided Europe and at the Helsinki CSCE Summit in 1975 we as the host country helped transform the European continent for the better and the Iron Curtain fell in 1989.

Finland’s peacekeeping history dates back to the 1950s, to the Suez crisis. In those times, peace-keeping operations had a more limited mission. They were to safeguard peace as agreed between the two opposing parties by establishing “a green line” to keep them apart.

Times have changed from the early days of United Nations first peace-keeping missions. Contemporary crises and conflicts often involve non-state actors and they are more complex. For those participating in crisis management, the environment can be extremely difficult, including situations where international troops become direct targets for hostilities.

Fortunately, the United Nations is not alone in dealing with crisis and peace building efforts. The implementation of crisis management rests more and more in the hands of different regional organizations, including the European Union and NATO and their partner countries. The African Union with its AMISOM operation in Somalia plays an important role and the Western African states are expected to take their role in supporting the stabilization efforts in Mali. In both of these cases also the EU is engaged in crisis management activities. Wide international partnerships under the auspices of the UN have become an important factor for the success of securing the peace building activities. In Latin America the UN has just one peacekeeping operation deployed. Your world is at peace but Latin America has much military, police and other civilian experience in handling conflict situations. The UN has an interest to attempt more peacekeepers and peacebuilders from your countries.

Although military crisis management is sometimes needed in acute conflict situations to prevent or stop the killing, it is hard to imagine a conflict nowadays which could be solved by military means only. In complex missions the civil-military relations, relations with NGOs and common training standards are coming to the fore. Today most peacekeeping operations have a broad mandate including a wide range of tasks, such as protection of civilians, support to inclusive political processes, strengthening rule of law and assisting security sector reform. The civilian component is indispensable. Civilian crisis management and civilian actors - police, human rights experts, gender advisers, judges - are needed to build sustainable peace and stability in the conflict torn country or region.

After the Suez crisis over 50 000 Finnish soldiers, men and women have participated in various international crisis operations. We have been contributing to the UNICYP operation in Cyprus, the UNTSO operation in the Middle East and the UNIFIL operation in Lebanon. We have been and we are a significant contributor to NATO-led international crisis management operations in the Balkans and we are in Afghanistan and Africa.

Currently, Finland is taking part in seven military and thirteen civilian crisis management operations. We have 380 soldiers in military crisis management operations, under the UN, EU and NATO, and about 100 civilian crisis management experts in the field.

In the EU civilian crisis management operations, Finland has been the biggest contributor per capita. What is more, around 40 % of the civilian crisis management experts, seconded by Finland, are women. This is a result of persistent efforts. Finland considers it very important that the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security be implemented effectively. This resolution acknowledges the disproportionate negative effects of war and conflict on women. It also acknowledges the influence women can and must have in prevention and resolution of conflict, as well as in reconstruction processes.

Finns have also been active in the sphere of mediation in many hotbeds of the world. The first Finn to serve as a UN mediator was appointed to Cyprus in the 1960s and since then Finns have participated in mediation processes in other parts of the world. Our former president Martti Ahtisaari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring peace in Kosovo, Namibia and Aceh. Lately mediation has been a sphere where Finland has with strong determination promoted cooperation and coordination. Mediation is a cost-effective diplomatic tool that can be utilized at any point of the conflict cycle.

Together with Turkey, Finland initiated a Group of Friends of Mediation at the UN in 2010. The Group consists of 42 members, states and organizations. The members of the Group share information and good practices with each other. Thy have committed themselves to developing concrete proposals on ways to improve financing of mediation. The UN Secretary General’s report on mediation and the guidance for effective mediation, which were published in the summer 2012, are excellent handbooks for mediation and we encourage everyone to promote them.

I am very happy that Costa Rica is an active member in our Group of Friends of Mediation. Costa Rica has played a key role in peace processes in Central America and promoted peace and stability in the region. The experience and engagement of Costa Rica in peace processes is highly appreciated in the Group. The Group of Friends of Mediation is a perfect example of a new kind of cooperation within the UN. The most tangible achievements of the cooperation in the Group are the two UN General Assembly resolutions on mediation. The Group’s work is based in New York at ambassadorial, expert and ministerial level but also the focal points of the capitals of the members have now organized their network. Finland hosted a Focal Point meeting of the Group of Friends of Mediation last month in Helsinki.

Conflict prevention, peace mediation and conflict management must take into account human rights and democratic aspirations of people. Human rights and democracy violations are often the root cause for a conflict. A just and lasting peace cannot be maintained without respecting human rights and democratic participation. We think that mainstreaming human rights in to all areas of foreign policy is crucial for the achievement of sustainable results.

Mainstreaming human rights policy into the foreign and security policy of the European Union has been one of Finland’s long-standing objectives. Finland has engaged in comprehensive efforts to integrate human rights into EU’s crisis management operations. Finland’s objective is to continue to enhance coherence in the EU’s human rights policy and promote the inclusion of human rights in all decision making in the EU.

While the primary responsibility for the protection and implementation of human rights lies with national governments, human rights must also be addressed on other levels. One of the keys to successful crisis management and mediation is a good and close cooperation between a variety of actors with different backgrounds and expertise, the civil society with its many players in addition to the United Nations, regional and other organizations and governments.

Societal changes stem from the civil society, and NGOs have an especially vital role to play in promoting human rights. Civil society often has access to first hand information and experience of the situation at the grassroots level. Civil society can also contribute through keeping a score of checks and balances, providing critical feedback to other actors on processes and the progress made. Therefore, civil society actors are crucial partners in the promotion of human rights.
Dear friends,

The international community needs to be active also in keeping peace before a conflict arises. The unique thing about the European integration was uniting a continent torn devastated by wars over several centuries, to build over adversities and divisions and to create a common future based on shared sovereignty and common institutions. This historical reconciliation was the prime motivation for according the Nobel Peace Prize 2012 to the European Union - and I think rightly so. When receiving the Nobel Prize, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council spoke of the EU having developed an unrivalled way of binding interests so tightly that war becomes materially impossible.

Indeed, rule-based international order and broad cooperation are the bedrock for better achievement of international peace and security, respect for human rights and economic development. Finland will continue to be an active player in efforts to promote these goals.

Thank you for your attention. It has been a privilege to speak to you today.