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News, 1/16/2009

Pekka Haavisto appointed Special Representative for African crises

MP Pekka Haavisto, Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb and Head of Information Group Juha Vänskä.Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb has appointed Pekka Haavisto, Member of Parliament, to serve as his Special Representative to African crisis areas. At a press conference held on 15 January, Minister Stubb stated that the appointment supports this year’s Finnish foreign policy emphasis on the African region.

Haavisto’s mandate as Special Representative covers the areas of Sudan and the Horn of Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. He will handle his tasks as Special Representative alongside his work as an MP.

Foreign Minister Stubb has announced earlier that Africa is a focal point of Finnish foreign policy during 2009. “The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is currently compiling its Africa policy, the purpose being to update our image of Africa and also to assess what possibilities and challenges Africa presents for Finland and how Finland should react to them. The departure point is that Africa should not be seen only as a poor continent and development cooperation partner,” Stubb continued.

On his first trips to Africa this spring, the Foreign Minister will visit Ethiopia, Egypt and Chad. In March, a seminar aiming to promote peace mediation will be held in Addis Ababa, organised jointly by the African Union and the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), a civil society organisation. President Martti Ahtisaari will also attend the is seminar.

Haavisto to continue President Ahtisaari’s efforts for peace

In Minister Stubb’s opinion, it is important to continue the efforts for peace in Africa started by Ahtisaari. The Foreign Minister explained Haavisto’s appointment, among others, on the grounds of his knowledge concerning the situation in Africa and the interest shown by the UN in Haavisto’s activities. By appointing a Special Representative of its own, Finland also raises the country’s profile in its campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Haavisto was the EU Special Representative to Sudan in 2005–2007 during the Darfur peace negotiations. Thereafter, Haavisto has been a UN advisor in various peace processes and has led the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) research groups in conflict regions.

Haavisto faces a challenging task in striving for peace. The situation in Darfur continues to be difficult, and there are two million refugees in the area. In Somalia, various peace talks have not yielded results and the humanitarian crisis in the area has deteriorated.

Peace talks are hampered by the parties’ differing views of the situation in Somalia and Somalia’s future. “I see no resolution to the situation in Somalia other than gathering the parties round the same table and building all-encompassing dialogue,” Haavisto said in describing the challenge.

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Updated 1/16/2009

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