Minister Tuomioja's speech at the Istanbul Conference on Mediation
Istanbul Conference on Mediation, 25 February 2012
Enhancing Peace through Mediation: New Actors, Fresh Approaches, Bold Initiatives
Statement by H.E. Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland
“Prioritizing prevention – Mediation and early warning”
Mediation as a tool for prevention
I wish to express my gratitude to my colleague, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoğlu and his team for organizing this Conference. I have understood that the discussions have been open and thought-provoking, giving inspiration for future work.
I congratulate you for having gathered together such a broad and experienced group, representing various roles in mediation processes. A key to successful mediation is often the effective cooperation between a variety of actors with different backgrounds and expertise: the civil society, the United Nations, regional and other organizations and governments. In our efforts to promote the use of mediation, Finland has very much focused on strengthening, and even creating, international, regional and local structures and on supporting the development of capacity at various levels.
Mediation constitutes one of several diplomatic tools for the prevention and resolution of conflicts and confidence-building. Third party mediation has indeed proved to be useful along the entire conflict spectrum. Today, I would like to highlight the importance of mediation in conflict prevention. We have positive examples of situations where a mediator has helped to ease the tension before it has turned into violent conflict, or to stop the escalation of violence. But unfortunately there are many more examples of situations where the opportunity to prevent was not seized.
As the Secretary-General of the United Nations has said: Let’s make 2012 as the year of Prevention. We can support the Secretary-General’s call by identifying concrete ways in which mediation can more effectively contribute to conflict prevention.
Why is the role of a mediator often so crucial to reduce tension? Those holding the key to prevent violence from breaking out are often each others’ enemies with deep mistrust and even hatred against each other. Getting out of such situations calls for strong political will and readiness to make compromises.
Compromises are easily seen by hard-liners as a sign of weakness. It takes enormous efforts to convince one’s own constituencies of the necessity to make concessions. A mediator can help the parties to overcome mistrust, assist in the search for solutions and to convince the parties of the benefits of a negotiated solution – and help them to make the negotiated solution acceptable to their own constituencies.
The objectives of preventive mediation should be more than preventing the emergence of imminent violence. For the results to be sustainable, the mediation effort should also address the root causes of conflict. Of course, there is often an element of urgency when trying to prevent the conflicting parties from taking up arms. The mediation effort should continue beyond this goal and identify concrete measures to reduce the tensions permanently.
As recent experiences from a number of countries show, the time of elections is often prone to violence. Mediation efforts should be used much more to prevent election violence.
Early warning and mediation
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) organized in 2009 a seminar on strengthening the mediation and conflict prevention aspects of the African Peace and Security Architecture. One of the key recommendations of the conference was that early warning systems should form an integral part of the mediation and conflict resolution process. It further recommended the establishment of a unit within the African Union structures to monitor and evaluate evolving dynamics of a conflict. It is very encouraging that also other organizations are building early warning mechanisms, such as the Crisis Room of the Arab League.
Early warning mechanisms are necessary for the mediation actors to respond rapidly to potential or escalating violence. If mediation can be employed as soon as early warning signs of conflict emerge, it has better chances to succeed in preventing violence.
The challenge is how to ensure that the mediation actors receive the information early enough, and most importantly, how to ensure that the information leads to concrete action.
This is an area that I would like to look into more detail within the group of Friends of Mediation, established by Finland and Turkey at the UN. I believe it would be useful to see how mediation actors have been able to use various early warning mechanisms and analysis of potential sources of conflict.
The role of civil society in preventive mediation
Civil society plays a key role in mediation processes. Preventive mediation would be very difficult without the active involvement of civil society actors. The first information of a threat of violence comes usually from the civil society. Early warning mechanisms rely heavily on local civil society actors to receive first-hand information from the ground and to analyze the significance of such information.
Moreover, as civil society actors often have the best knowledge about the local situation, they can bring the necessary capacity to the mediation effort to help identify concrete measures to address the root-causes and reduce tensions permanently.
Participation of a wide range of civil society actors in the mediation effort is an important objective in itself. We know that inclusiveness is of key importance, if the mediation process is to effectively address the root causes. Those who have been marginalized need to be brought to the center. Such groups can often get their voices heard through civil society organizations. However, this is not enough. It is important that all relevant population groups get a seat around the negotiation table.
I would like to highlight the importance of increasing the role of women in mediation processes. It is positive that track II conflict resolution mechanisms have provided women with more entry-points for engagement in many mediation processes. However, women should be part of the formal negotiation teams on equal footing with men, and act as mediators themselves.
This message was also highlighted at a panel discussion on “Women, Peace and Security in Afghanistan” last week. The event was organized by the Embassy of Finland and the United States Institute of Peace in cooperation with the State Department, the USAID and the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington D.C.
I will repeat what I said in Washington: the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security acknowledges the disproportionate negative effects of war and conflict on women, but also the influence women can and must have in prevention and resolution of conflict, as well as in reconstruction processes. Women have to be fully involved from the very beginning of peace processes to enhance the sustainability of peace agreements.
On cooperation and coordination
I understand that it was widely discussed yesterday that the mediation field is being crowded and competitive. There is so much work to do and so much untapped potential that we should not see each other as competitors. We should encourage each other to do more and to share relevant information with each other whenever possible to be better equipped to prevent conflicts.
Hardly anyone can bring all the necessary competences to a mediation process, as they usually require expertise in a variety of different areas. Moreover, a combination of different actors, serving different roles in the process is often beneficial. For example, one actor can bring the necessary political weight with useful networks and resources to the process, whilst another may bring the capacity to create a dialogue with particularly difficult party. I am convinced that the better we combine our strengths, the stronger the chances are to reach sustainable peace. If we can rely on cooperation, each of us can focus on deepening our particular competences, instead of trying to master all the areas.
When taking the initiative to establish the Group of Friends of Mediation we wanted to strengthen the culture of cooperation. The group brings together traditional and new emerging mediators as well as regional and international organizations. It regularly interacts with civil society. The activities of the Group promote synergy and prevent overlapping.
As you know, the UN Secretary-General is currently preparing guidance for more effective mediation. In the contribution that my Government sent to the Secretary-General for the process, we underlined that there should be clarity in who is responsible for what and how to avoid overlapping authority. A significant step forward would be to nominate a lead mediator for each crisis situation. The mediator should be given the authority and power to coordinate different actions if several third party actors are involved in the mediation process.
The importance of enhanced coordination and conveying a unified message was also underlined in the meeting of the Foreign ministers of the Group in September 2011. The UN should have a central role, at least in coordinating among different mediation actors, even though it may not always be the lead mediator. There was a clear consensus that interaction between the UN and regional organizations should be further enhanced.
The Foreign Ministers expressed clear willingness for more engagement with track II actors, whose increasing and valuable role in mediation was recognized.
A few words on Syria / Friends of Syria conference in Tunisia
I warmly welcome the decision to appoint the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, as the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis.
The Special Envoy will provide good offices aimed at bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations, and promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. The willingness of the parties to reach a political solution is the most vital element for the process to be successful.
To conclude, let me once again express my sincerest thanks to the Government of Turkey for hosting this excellent conference. My Turkish colleague, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, and I, together with the Group of Friends are deeply committed to promoting the use of mediation. I was delighted to see so many members of the Group of Friends here in Istanbul.
I am also thankful for the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, Antonio Patriota, as well as the President of the UN General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nassar, for their strong personal commitment to promote peace and support the work of the Group of Friends. It is most valuable that the President of the General Assembly has chosen mediation as one of the key priorities of the current session.
I also wish to extend my gratitude to all participants from the civil society, regional and other organizations for having shared their expertise for the benefit of enhancing the effectiveness of mediation.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the United Nations, particularly to the Department of Political Affairs and its Mediation Support Unit, for their efforts to develop UN’s capacity to better serve and conduct mediation. We are committed to continuing our support to these efforts.