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News, 1/10/2011

Haavisto: A good start to the referendum in South Sudan

Pekka Haavisto, the Foreign Minister’s Special Representative who has just returned from a trip to Eritrea and Yemen, congratulates the parties on the good start of the referendum in South Sudan on 9 January. The situation following the referendum, however, will mean challenges for both South Sudan and North Sudan.

Member of Parliament Pekka Haavisto was named the Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb’s Special Representative to African crisis areas, especially the Horn of Africa, in January 2009. In an interview granted to, Pekka Haavisto spoke about his impressions of this work and his views of Finland’s position as a peace mediator.

Finland’s role in Africa, according to Haavisto, has been more active in the past two years. As indications of this he points out various ministers’ participation in summits of the African Union, President Ahtisaari’s visits to the African Union and support for the African Union’s peace mediation efforts. In this regard, Finland’s visibility has been good.

The mandate of Somalia’s interim government due to expire

The situation in Somalia has remained fragmented. In spite of this, Haavisto has kept in touch with different groups. The mandate of Somalia’s present interim government ends in August. The need for a broader-based government will figure prominently in future governance arrangements.

Haavisto says that security and development agendas compete in Somalia. The security agenda is pivotal in Southern Somalia while the development agenda is foremost in Puntland and Somaliland. Has hope for Southern Somalia and Mogadishu been abandoned?

Finland’s cooperation with the UN has deepened in recent months. The UN has a new Special Representative for Somalia, who is well acquainted with Finland and the country’s strong points.

Sudan: Haavisto hopes the African Union will react quickly

According to Haavisto, the question of Darfur has been in the background recently while South Sudan has prepared for the referendum. Unity – which in accordance with the spirit of the Southern–Northern peace agreement should have become an attractive alternative – never appeared so to Southern Sudanese.

The situation following the referendum creates a tremendous challenge not only for the two parties but also for the international community. If the majority of Southern Sudanese decide in favour of independence, the international community, in Haavisto’s opinion, should react very quickly.

Haavisto especially hopes that the African Union will react rapidly to meet the region’s development and security needs. Finland, too, has much to give in support of the South, in both the NGO sector and through official channels. Opportunities might also open for Finland in the justice sector and in weeding out corruption.

Finland and peace mediation

The domestic objective is good, but a superpower isn’t created through announcements. Capacity should be developed systematically. Expert institutes? According to Haavisto, Finland’s rise to a mediation superpower would require an increase in financing.

For comparison purposes, Haavisto points out that Norway spends about one hundred million dollars a year for peace mediation operations. If Finland strives to be identified as a peace mediator, the NGO sector should be prepared for this and training should be improved. In line with the Norwegian model, Haavisto would also include retiring ambassadors – age is a merit in peace mediation. In Haavisto’s view, one of Norway’s secrets is the use of senior ambassadors.

Haavisto emphasizes that, in all religions, peacemaking is linked with blessing. It is important that a peace mediator evokes trust that the opposite party is heard. Communication must be brought under control, in the right way. No matter how difficult the situation is, communication doesn’t end. Difference of opinion cannot be grounds for ending discussion.

When the Security Council period begins?

If Finland is elected to the UN Security Council, it is important to give weight to the core of security policy, the initiation of peace processes and the active search for solutions. This, according to Haavisto, is the role Finland must take should Finland’s period on the Security Council begin in 2013.

Finland should also look after the country’s network of diplomatic missions in areas where there is special demand for peace mediation. At present there are areas in Africa that clearly lack coverage, such as Libya and Uganda and, in future, also South Sudan. Additional input would also be needed in Western Africa. Haavisto suggests that consideration be given to a lighter structure for representation offices in countries where Finland may not have strong bilateral ties but a need to follow developments more closely.

With regard to the Security Council, Haavisto sees room for improvement in the EU’s internal coordination. What is given weight in Brussels does not necessarily correspond to everyday reality in New York.

China and Africa

Haavisto considers it symptomatic that we invariably warn Africa about China, saying that “China is making the same mistakes as the colonial powers.” Africa laughs at us, and so do the Chinese, Haavisto states. In Haavisto’s opinion, the main point is that we ourselves have failed in our efforts to be an important partner for Africa. Other countries have come in our stead. The answer to the problem that has arisen is to seek genuine partnership based on equality with African countries. rhaps we can also learn something from Africans and Chinese. China carries out cooperation on a more equal basis, introducing Asian solutions that might prove to work in Africa.


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Updated 1/10/2011

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