Welcoming Remarks at Geneva Centre for Security Policy by Mr Pertti Torstila, Secretary of State

Geneva Centre for Security Policy
Alumni Meeting Dinner
Helsinki 5 June 2009

Ambassador Tanner, GCSP Alumni, Students, Distinguished Guests,

It is a pleasure to be here to host this dinner for alumni, teachers, and students of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. I also want to welcome other distinguished guests tonight, all of us being friends of the institution that is gathering so many people in Helsinki this weekend. Your presence here shows that the GCSP network is strong and active – and that in addition to your common interest and expertise in security policy you are also united by personal ties.

I am grateful for this opportunity to say a few words of the contacts between Finland and the Centre and also of the changing context and nature of security policy and the role of the GCSP amidst these changes.

The GCSP is a magnificent network that covers the whole of wider Europe and now extends as far as the United States, Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. The GCSP has proved to be flexible and capable of adjusting to new circumstances.

With its principal courses of varying lengths in Geneva and programmes being offered outside of Geneva, the GCSP has been able to reach hundreds of diplomats, military officers and civil servants from dozens of countries.

The GCSP network has expanded geographically to new areas of the world where immediate security concerns can be very different from those in Europe, but where the importance of the training the GCSP offers is clearly recognized.

We live in a world where security issues are global, today more than ever before. In Europe, we can't close our eyes from problems outside of our continent and think they don't affect us. On the contrary, we have to work together with others in building expertise and innovation in security policy thinking and analysis. This, I believe, is what the GCSP has done and is doing.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We Finns have long since recognized the importance of the expert training in security policy offered by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. Finnish civil servants from the MFA and the MOD as well as military officers have actively seized the opportunity to participate in GCSP courses for two decades now. Altogether some forty Finns have taken the long or short courses.

Two of our best experts, Ambassador Klaus Törnudd and Dr Tapani Vaahtoranta have served as members of the GCSP faculty. We are pleased to have both of them in our midst tonight. Also, here with us, is Colonel Hannu Aikio who serves as a third Finnish faculty member. Moreover, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is planning to second a diplomat to the GCSP faculty starting next year.

We are also facilitating contacts with the GCSP beyond the foreign and defence ministries to think tanks and centres of training and education, such as the Crisis Management Centre in Kuopio. These contacts are developing.

As a committed Foundation Council Member, we are especially pleased that the contribution of the MFA to the GCSP scholarship fund is now going to be used to support an Afghan participant to attend the ITC course 2009–2010. In a significant and targeted manner, it adds to Finland's engagement in state building in Afghanistan.

Distinguished Partners and Fellows in the field of international relations,

I already referred to the changing circumstances and the changing concept of security. Truly remarkable changes have taken place in a rather short time and it seems that the pace of change is accelerating.

In early 2009 the Finnish government published its report on security and defence policy, which you have received during your seminar. The previous such report was issued in 2004 and already you can perceive a shift in focus and priorities.

Challenges, risks and threats to security have become truly global. New types of risks and threats require new kinds of measures to prevent and manage them. First of all, effective multilateral - not just multipolar - cooperation is needed.

The constantly changing world puts pressure on policy makers to adapt and change their policies accordingly. But it also puts pressure on actors and institutions such as the GCSP to stay at the cutting edge. The concept of security doesn't change by itself – it is changed. We need capable and committed experts to perceive the new trends and provide policy makers with the insight and foresight that is required for sound and effective policy decisions.

The GCSP has managed to stay up-to-date and keep track of time amid continuous changes. The Centre lives by the time - knowing that you do not only have to have expertise but also maintain it.

The expansion of the GCSP network proves that experts in foreign and security policy find the training provided by the GCSP useful and want to take part in it. At the same time, they can benefit from the unique community of experts and institutes stationed in Geneva.

We in Finland value particularly the approach of the GCSP to security. Based on the traditional core content of security, including military aspects, your curriculum opens the wider vistas of the elusive concept for your students and partners. This pragmatic approach confirms the method we have here in Finland for keeping key persons from various walks of life up-to-date in national and international security.

The Geneva Centre for Security Policy is unique as a teaching and training institution. Here people with different views and opinions can come together to discuss questions of security policy. You as alumni meet at Annual Security Policy Conferences in different countries where you have the chance to network with experts and institutions and discuss security issues. This, I believe, is of vital importance.

Dialogue is a primary tool of security policy, but especially at times like these when the world is becoming more and more complex, it is not an easy tool to use. In a dialogue, you need to have a common space. You can't have a real discussion with someone you agree with completely. Neither can you have a true discussion with someone you disagree with a hundred percent. Both extreme cases are rare, but the complexity of the world takes us often to grey zones from where it is difficult to come out with clear decisions and agreements. For that, we need help from think tanks and institutions of training like the GCSP.

Dear Guests,

As the world is becoming more complex and at the same time more interconnected, creating a common space for discussion between countries, non-state actors and other security policy agents becomes more essential. Competent and capable experts are required in many different fields.

I am convinced that here GCSP alumni and students, teachers and experts as well as partners have a significant role to play and will continue to do so in the future.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the evening.