Ulkoministeri Timo Soini
Alkuperäinen kieli

Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini at Tampere Paasikivi Society on 19 October 2016

Keeping the Peace

Around 100 Finnish soldiers are currently in northern Iraq training and advising the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Region. The Peshmerga are participating in military action against ISIL and are also involved in efforts to liberate Mosul. The overthrow of ISIL is the common objective, but the protection of civilians in Mosul must also be ensured.

In Afghanistan, Finland is continuing its participation in military crisis management. For Finland, and perhaps the entire international community, this has been the most challenging and most dangerous crisis management mission to date.

We have travelled a long road since the first Finnish peacekeepers joined the UN mission in the Suez Canal – 60 years ago. Already at that time – in the bleak economic conditions of the 1950s – we showed that we are ready to bear responsibility for safeguarding international peace.

The nature of conflicts has changed and the risks of the operating environment have increased. The mix of tools and methods have also changed. The number of actors in conflict areas is greater than before – there are organisations, coalitions of states, and non-governmental organisations. In the case of fragile states, there may be numerous armed forces or groups of various kinds in the operating area. Terrorist attacks are a daily occurrence. Official security structures are often weak. Governance structures are ineffective or have collapsed.

Hybrid influence hinders the understanding of the nature of conflicts and their resolution. Both state and non-state actors use social media and cyber attacks in conflicts for their own ends.

Crisis management has become more dangerous, and forces are equipped accordingly. The price tag, therefore, also rises. Although every effort is made to promote security, risks cannot always be avoided. This also applies to Finnish forces.

Overall, the number of violent conflicts is falling in the world, but at the same time more people are dying in individual conflicts. States and governments are still involved in conflicts, but for a long time now the most severe crises have been within states. Demand for crisis management exceeds the international community’s available resources. The UN remains the largest actor and rightly so. But crisis management is also undertaken by the EU, NATO, the OSCE, the African Union and many other regional organisations.

In Syria, the civil war has continued for years, and unfortunately there is no end in sight. The situation in the city of Aleppo is catastrophic. Civilians are at the centre of the fighting. For this, the primary responsibility lies will the al-Assad regime and Russia, which supports it. The extremely violent ISIL, which misuses religious symbols, creates fear both in the region and globally. Entangled in the web are oil, arms trafficking, superpower games, regional competition and migration.

The ringing of church bells will not stop the violence, but it is an audible message that we care.

This must now be expressed in more concrete form to the leaders of the countries of the region and the major powers. A political solution can be found for all conflicts, if there is a desire to do so.

The key issue in crisis management is how to achieve lasting results. There have been positive results – in Afghanistan, for example. More girls are going to school. The main responsibility for security was transferred years ago to the Afghan security forces – the police and the army. On the other hand, violence has increased and the country’s economy is not on a sustainable foundation. Governance is ineffective and politicking undermines credibility. We should not turn a blind eye to the fact that the situation in Afghanistan is serious and the country will still need international support for a long time to come.

For crisis management to achieve lasting results, two basic conditions must be strengthened:

Firstly, an increase in local ownership. The goal must be for local authorities and security structures, after a reasonable period of time, to take responsibility for the country’s security and stability. Conflicts are not solved by implanting from outside foreign models on how states should handle their affairs. Ultimately, every state must eventually be able to take responsibility for the future of their own country. Training and support of local authorities, armed forces and the police are also increasingly important. There is a significant emphasis on cooperation with local actors. Finland works in this way in northern Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Mali, for example. Training, advice and capacity building are at the forefront of activities.

Secondly, crisis management must be comprehensive. The international community must apply a wide range of tools – military crisis management, civilian crisis management, humanitarian aid, development efforts and also, of course, political processes. Finland has strongly advanced this comprehensive approach. We make every effort to ensure that the comprehensive approach is also implemented in the field. In this, there is still much to be done. In the background, there is unwillingness and ineptitude, but also the pursuit of self-interest. The fact is, however, that there is no development without security, and security cannot be strengthened sustainably without development.

At present, there are around 650 Finns serving in 13 military and 21 civilian crisis management missions. Our largest force, around 300 soldiers, is in the UN’s UNIFIL mission in Lebanon.

The significance of civilian crisis management has grown in recent years. It is largely for this reason that we want to strengthen comprehensive action. Thousands of civilians – police, judges, gender equality experts – have participated in civilian crisis management missions. For this strong contribution, Finland receives much praise from around the world. There are also risks in civilian crisis management, however. Nearly 30 civilian experts are currently in Ukraine, engaged in OSCE monitoring missions. Finnish experts do important work in difficult conditions.

I am particularly pleased that four Finnish women are leading crisis management missions: In Afghanistan, the EU’s police mission is headed by Pia Stjernvall; in Nigeria, Kirsi Henriksson heads the EU’s training and capacity building mission; the Head of the OSCE Mission in Macedonia is Nina Suomalainen; and recently Tuula Yrjölä was appointed Head of the OSCE Office in Tajikistan.

From time to time, I am asked why Finland is involved in crisis management nowadays.

As a person, my starting point is simple. In times of distress, one has to help. Near and far. Few people still remember that the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF fed over 100,000 Finnish children in the late 1940s, and assistance still continued on a small-scale well into the 1960s.

As a politician, I assess the bigger picture. Finland is a responsible actor in the international community. Active participation in crisis management is established as an element of Finland’s international image. We receive recognition for this and it strengthens the effectiveness of Finland’s foreign and security policy.

In terms of Finland’s national security, it is also important to support stability in geographically remote areas. Threats neither begin nor end at our external borders.

Finland is an open country dependent on international networks – whether they concern raw materials, trade or the state of the environment. Ideas, goods and people move across borders – including Finland’s. The best course is to support people and stability in their own countries, so that no one is be forced to leave their homes because of conflict, for example.

A few decades ago, crises in Africa might have seemed remote, perhaps. Now we are aware of the situation in regions of conflict on a 24/7 basis. Regional conflicts spread, and their ramifications are also felt among us – as terrorism, refugee flows etc. If, through crisis management, we can contribute to curbing violence, it is also in our own interests. Participation in crisis management truly serves our own security.

Participation in international military missions also strengthens national defence. Cooperation and interoperability as well as our own competence are tested in difficult conditions.

Even so, we must consider carefully where we participate and where we can contribute and add value. We do not have sufficient resources for everything. Finland’s participation in international crisis management is based on comprehensive consideration. Policies are made jointly by the President of the Republic and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy. Parliament has a strong role in decisions.

In connection with the approval of the Government Programme, there was some public concern as to whether Finland’s participation in crisis management would be weakened. Perhaps some people overlooked the clear entry in the Government Programme – "Finland will continue its active participation in international crisis management”. And this we have done.

We have strengthened our participation in the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon as well as in Ebril, northern Iraq, and a decision has also been made to increase participation in Mali. We will increase the number of police involved in UN peacekeeping activities; preparations are under way to send police to Somalia, Mali, Liberia and South Sudan. Finland’s strong role in crisis management will continue.

When the nature of conflicts is in profound transition, it is worth considering what Finland’s role would be like in the future.

Promoting dialogue and mediation has been an important priority for Finland’s foreign policy for a long time now. It is also my own priority as Minister for Foreign Affairs. My personal objective is that in the future we will invest more in prevention. I have sought to ensure that we play an active role in supporting and achieving various dialogue processes. The role of civil society is central to the search for solutions. A good example of this is the mediation network of religious and traditional leaders supported by Finland. As partners, we have dozens of significant organisations that support local mediation work in conflict countries around the world. One of the key issues that the network is able to influence is the fight against and prevention of violent radicalisation.

Another important initiative of Finland is the Helsinki Policy Forum. This is a series of discussions aimed at building mutual understanding and trust between the civil societies of countries in the Middle East and North Africa and at creating conditions for joint solutions to the problems of the region. We have also organised two Conferences on National Dialogue and Mediation Processes in Helsinki; and a third conference is planned for next spring.

My goal is also to strengthen the role of women and girls. In conflicts, those that suffer most are those who are otherwise in a weaker position than others – often girls and women. We strongly support the goals of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. The participation of women in peacebuilding, peace negotiations and conflict prevention is a prerequisite for lasting peace. Finland seeks through its own actions to raise women into a more central role. In Afghanistan, for example, an effort has been made to include women as part of society – as participating actors, so that women do not remain passive onlookers.

In June, the Government submitted to Parliament a report on Finland’s foreign and security policy. The report presents the key priorities for Finland’s foreign and security policy in the coming years. The report lays the foundation for continuing Finland’s active role as a peacebuilder.

In the European Union, participation in crisis management has been an important means of developing the common security and defence policy. For Finland, participation in EU missions is logical because we have been involved in deciding on these missions. The Union will simultaneously implement small military and civilian crisis management missions. A topical example of the EU’s missions is the mission in the Mediterranean to tackle smuggling of refugees and migrants.

This operation has made a positive – if limited – contribution. In the long run, however, the key question is how the economy and situation of the countries of origin can be improved so that their people are not compelled or have a desire to leave. To summarise, one can say: either we accept these countries’ products or their people.

In crisis management, the UN has a central role. The situation in Syria shows, however, that when it really matters the UN Security Council may not necessarily be able to implement its basic role as the guarantor of international peace and security. This was evident at the beginning of the month when Russia blocked with its veto the resolution aimed at halting the bombing of Aleppo.

Finland, too, must ask again what we expect from the UN in the management and prevention of crises. The selection of the new Secretary-General will, I hope, bring a new dynamic to the UN. It is extremely important that the Secretary-General is proactive in developing prevention and peace missions.

Although member states, via the General Assembly, and particularly the permanent members of the Security Council play key roles in the UN, the Secretary-General has power, and should be able and bold enough to exercise it. Finland’s primary objective was the selection of a competent and strong Secretary-General. This objective will be realised through the selection of Guterres. It is worth stating in this context that as well emphasising competence, Finland has been active in promoting female Secretary-General candidates. The Secretary-General also has a prominent role in relation to how vigorously he strengthens the position of women in YK activities.

The UN is clearly the largest organiser of peacekeeping missions. Guterres inherits from his predecessor responsibility for over 100,000 UN peacekeepers. Of the organisation’s missions, more than half are located in Africa, where they operate in extremely demanding conditions. The UN must be able to develop its performance. This requires air transport fleet, combat helicopters, intelligence resources as well as high-level field hospitals. The UN is exploring means to enhance its peacekeeping activity. Finland actively supports these efforts. It is good that the UN is increasingly seeking to implement crisis management in cooperation with regional organisations, such as the EU and the African Union.

At the same time, as the UN’s peacekeeping has intensified, the number of women involved is also increasing. This is a positive development. As early as 1975, Assistant Secretary-General Helvi Sipilä noted that "lasting peace requires the full involvement of women”. The UN’s goal is to double the number of female peacekeepers by 2020. In this Finland, too, has much room for improvement – currently, around one per cent of our peacekeepers are women.

In a class of its own – and as such highly reprehensible – is peacekeepers’ involvement in sexual abuse. Against all of the UN’s values and rules, protectors have abused those whom they should protect. The UN – or anyone – cannot be implicated in even a single case of this kind.

Former Chief of Defence and peacekeeping veteran Gustav Hägglund has stated that the Finnish peacekeepers’ strengths in the Suez mission were calmness and confidence. These same strengths we have still. And these strengths are valued in the world. Nowadays, we can add to them good preparedness and high expertise. Moreover, attitude is important when one wishes to earn the trust of the local population and develop cooperation with local security actors. The Finnish uncomplicated way of working has been a strength for decades.

A total of around 50,000 Finnish men and women have kept and brought peace in Europe, Africa and Asia. When the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988 was awarded to the "Blue Berets”, it was for many veterans a valuable – and visibly moving – experience.

Those who have served in crisis management missions can be proud of this valuable work, and we can learn much from the experiences and memories of those who have served. But it is also true that for many peacekeepers their participation has left them with unwelcome memories, injuries and traumas. This, too, is a part of peacekeeping work that should not be forgotten. Personnel must also be cared for after their service. The Government has therefore granted veteran status to those who have participated in crisis management, and is improving their right to health care.

In many areas of the world, crisis management continues from one decade to the next. It is important, however, that we do not sink into cynicism. There is evidence to show that conflicts can be brought to an end. And, similarly, that international support measures mitigate conflict. Then, human lives are saved, the spread of the spill-over effects of conflicts is avoided, and conditions for development are created in areas of conflict.

Tämä puhe on tulostettu Ulkopoliittisen instituutin ylläpitämästä EILEN-arkistosta.

Suositeltava viittaustapa:
Timo Soini: Ulkoministeri Timo Soinin puhe Tampereen Paasikivi-Seuran tilaisuudessa 19. lokakuuta 2016, 19.10.2016, (24.5.2018)

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