Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me at the outset express my gratitute to the the Finnish Intitute of International Affairs for giving me the opportunity to open this seminar, arranged by the Institute in cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
I wish to welcome you all to Helsinki and hope that you will find your stay here and the seminar itself a stimulating experience. We are honoured by the presence of such a distinguished group of participants, both scholars and practitioners.
The Institute has chosen to hold this seminar now on a subject concerning the Security Council of the United Nations, obviously in order to benefit from the interest raised and the experience gained in Finland from our current membership in the Security Council. At the same time the subject is topical due to the role the World Organization and the Security Council have reassumed in recent years.
We all know that the question of strengthening the Security Council and developing its potential has been discussed many times at various international meetings. New books and articles continue to appear on this subject.
In Finland we often emphasize that it is in our own interest that the United Nation is a strong and effective organization. Smaller states like ours feel particularly strongly that the United Nations is needed for the sake of the security and well-being of all.
We are pleased that Finland has been able to serve the international community for example by providing personnel for United Nations peace-keeping activites. I shall not go through the whole history of our experience of cooperation with the world organizaton in this field. I only wish to recall that this has been a very far-reaching and continuing experience, putting Finland at present on the top of the list in terms of manpower provided for current peace-keeping operations.
Those who criticize the weaknesses of the United Nations often begin by contrasting the realities with the audacious ideas spelled out in the Charter. Today we know that we must begin by looking at the realities, well aware of course that the opportunities offered by the Charter are still there.
Peace-keeping is maybe the most prominent example of a succesful UN activity that has developed as something new, without direct inspiration in the Charter itself. It is only natural that many of the ideas concerning the strengthening of the Organization seek to go further from this solid experience, for example by seeking to develop peace-keeping into a preventive function or in widening its application into new fields.
At the same time we must recognize that there are many problems and difficulties related to peace-keeping as we know it. Often the peace-keeping operations have become lengthy and practically semi-permanent arrangements, instead of just helping to create or maintain the conditions for political solutions during a short period. The United Nations and the Member States must learn from such experiences.
The peace-keeping operations need mandates which have to be decided by the Security Council. They also need resources, financing, equipment and personnel as well as continuous attention by the Secretary-General and his collaborators.
The availability of resources is crucial. How much more is it even physically possible for the United Nations to undertake, how many activities of peace-keeping or attendant mediation or other forms of peace-making can the United Nations engage in at the same time?
We are convinced that the Security Council has the capability to devote more time and energy to international problems. At the same time we must be aware of the fact that the Security Council cannot be effective, unless the supportive resources are available in implementing decisions on the settlement of disputes, preventive diplomacy, peace-keeping and peace-making. Therefore the work of the Security Council must be seen in its interaction with the Secretary-General and the relevant parts of the Secretariat.
We know that the Security Council is in many respects a conservative body, which is much attracted to its established practices and procedures. To me it looks quite fruitful to contrast this established tradition with new and innovative ideas that have emerged among those who have studied its work and analyzed both its achievements and shortcomings. It is also noteworthy that the Secretary-General in many of his recent annual reports has indicated his own interest in strengthening the preventive functions of the Organization. This would, indeed, affect the work of the Security Council.
In Finland we feel that all these questions are so important that they deserve fresh examination from time to time. We realize that the work of the Security Council is facilitated if tension is minimized in the international political atmosphere and if the relations between the permanent members of the Security Council are good.
International tension may not disappear completely. However, it gives us great satisfaction to see the permanent members presently collaborating so well. Yet, this collaboration should be geared to the efficient functioning of the Security Council as a whole. The beginning of the 1990's should therefore be an auspicious time to look at the tasks and opportunities of this principal organ for international peace and security.
With these words I welcome you once more to Helsinki and to this seminar and wish your deliberations every success.