The Group of Friends of Mediation
Helsinki 17 January 2013
Speech by Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland
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It is my pleasure to address this meeting today. You are warmly welcomed to Finland and to our capital Helsinki. Finland and Turkey as co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Mediation put a high value on your membership in the Group and on your valuable work in the capitals. Although a lot of work of the group is done in New York it would not be possible without your support.
I will speak now about 20 minutes and after that we will have plenty of time for questions and discussions. Firstly I will speak about the achievements of our group of friends of mediation, then I will bring to light our Finnish efforts in mediation and in the end I will raise some ideas about the future work of the Group of Friends of Mediation to inspire our discussions.
However firstly I would like to thank our co-chair Turkey for organizing the first focal point meeting in Istanbul in February 2012 and for your outstanding efforts in mediation. Our cooperation is a good example of the value of partnerships within the UN.
The Group of Friends of Mediation
It is an honor to be a co-chair of a group as dynamic and committed as the group of friends of mediation. Our group was established in 2010 and since then a number of new members have joined the group. Today we have 42 members and the group keeps growing as more countries have shown interest in joining the group. The group brings together countries that mediate and countries that support mediation. It gathers traditional and new emerging mediators as well as regional and international organizations.
During the past two years the group has met actively at ministerial, ambassadorial and expert levels. Our most tangible achievements are two UN General Assembly resolutions on mediation and our extensive contribution to the Secretary General’s report “Strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution and to its annex UN Guidance for Effective Mediation. Secretary General’s guidance for effective mediation is an important toolkit for actors in mediation around the world. Our group is committed to disseminating and promoting the guidance as wide as possible.
Finland and Mediation
The significant value of mediation is recognised in the 2011-2015 Government Programme of Finland where an action plan for mediation was also agreed upon. The programme suggests that our development cooperation funding could be used in a more flexible way to finance mediation related activities. We have already taken this option into use and our experiences are positive.
As stated in the programme, Finland published an Action Plan for Mediation in December 2011. The Action Plan emphasizes that new resources and experts must be mobilized in addition to the traditional mediation activities. Cooperation with like-minded countries, organisations and civil society actors is essential for increased effectiveness in mediation. The same goes for raising global awareness. Finland stresses the need for the institutionalisation of mediation mechanisms, the strengthening of UN capacities and making use of regional and civil society initiatives. Strengthening the role of women in peace processes is the key to stable society. Sustainable peace and development cannot be achieved without active participation of women.
We need to ensure women’s high level participation in mediation. We would like to have more cooperation in implementation of UNSC resolution 1325 “Women, Peace and Security”. Coming from a Nordic country I want to emphasize this: based on our experience, full and equal participation of women at all levels of society is not only a prerequisite for democracy and human rights. It is also the key to sustainable development, economic success and social stability. If we look at the statistics we see that the better the position of women, the better the society is for everyone. In Finland, we issued our second National Action Plan for the implementation of resolution 1325 in the summer 2012. We truly appreciate Secretary General putting such an emphasis on the implementation of 1325.
At the national level, Finland will continue building on the mediation experience that it already has. Our experience with UN mediation goes back to 1960s when the first Finn served as mediator in Cyprus. In 2008, the efforts to bring peace in Aceh, Kosovo, Namibia and elsewhere brought the Nobel Peace Prize to the former President of Finland, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and its representations abroad play a significant role in building up our institutional capacity. Also we have two special representatives in the field of mediation, Doctor Kimmo Kiljunen and Member of the Parliament Pekka Haavisto. Mr. Kimmo Kiljunen is currently working to support the reconciliation efforts in Myanmar and Mr. Pekka Haavisto concentrates on the Horn of Africa. The information exchange between different ministerial departments as well as with civil society organisations will be continued and strengthened.
Civil society organisations play an important role in peace processes. Here in Finland we have a long tradition in working closely together with the civil society. We are proud of our active liaison and continuous, non-formal information exchange between the state and non-state actors. The Finnish society as a whole believes that this ensures social cohesion.
The added-value of working together with non-governmental organizations is especially great in the sphere of mediation. The ministry has called together a national Mediation Support Network that brings together all Finnish mediation related actors from different sectors of the society. The network provides a platform for sharing information and planning cooperation. It has met four times during its first year. In this context I would like to mention in particular the Finn Church Aid and the Crisis Management Initiative as examples of successful Finnish non-governmental actors in the field. These two organizations will also participate in our meeting and give their valuable contribution to it.
As some of you might already know we have launched an Ahtisaari Day in Finland that we have now celebrated twice. The purpose of the Ahtisaari Day is to make mediation related work more widely known by emphasizing the meaning of education, knowledge and communication in particular. Lots of the events during the Ahtisaari day have taken place at schools. Last year I had the privilege to visit a local high school in Helsinki and play a conflict resolution game with the pupils. We had an imaginary conflict case of Kurkum that the pupils were trying to solve. Everyone had their own role in the conflict and we were there with the Minister for Development Heidi Hautala to support them. The game inspired a lot of discussion about solving conflicts and contradictions in general and we had a good discussion about the meaning of peace. As I replied to one of the questions of the youngsters, peace does not mean the mere absence of violence, peace stands for being able to live without fear.
Training has an important role in strengthening mediation capacities. We have already started providing mediation-related training for young diplomats. Our intention is to include mediation-related modules in the training of Finnish civilian crisis management experts. We are also planning cooperation in training with the UN and Norway regarding gender and mediation. The promotion on mediation-related research is also essential.
In mediation cooperation and coordination between different actors is extremely important and therefore Finland is committed to support and strengthen mediation capacity building at international level. For example we are funding a project of AU’s capacity building in mediation and the activities of the Mediation Support Unit (MSU).
Future work of the Group
Recently mediation has attracted a lot of attention globally and rightly so. When taking the initiative to establish the Group of Friends of Mediation we wanted to strengthen the culture of cooperation. The activities of the Group promote synergy and prevent overlapping. The results have been impressive. We have also witnessed establishment of a regional mediation initiative by two members of the group, Spain and Morocco. We warmly welcome the initiative “Mediation in the Mediterranean Region”.
When the Group of Friends of Mediation gathered for the third ministerial meeting last September in New York, it was clear that there is a shared interest for more engagement and cooperation. All participants expressed their determination to promote Secretary General’s Guidance. The members agreed to focus on the question of improving the financing of mediation. It would be important to diversify the donor base so that also the emerging mediators would contribute more. In a longer term, financing mediation activities from the regular UN budget could be one option worth considering. Mediation Support Unit and the co-chairs of the Group are preparing a proposal in this matter.
The last meeting of the Group of Friends of Mediation was held in New York in November at the ambassadorial level. In the meeting the importance of lessons learned was discussed and using of lessons learned in the work of the group gained support.
In this Group we have wisdom and knowledge concerning best practices and also failures in mediation. As we all know mediation is not always a safe path and we have to accept certain amount of risk in this business. These risks make it vital not to learn only from our successes but also from our failures. I hope that in the future we can concentrate more in actual mediation cases. I see a possibility to start this approach with the lessons learned method. Maybe in the future we could even offer our knowledge in an actual case.
One thing I would like to stress here is the importance of Regional organizations. Regional organizations work closer to the conflict and their knowledge about the context, the parties involved and the roots of the conflict is invaluable. It is of the utmost importance to highlight closer cooperation with Regional Organizations and the UN. There are many examples that show this to be an effective way to operate. I can mention for example Kenya and violence after the elections in 2008.
Not only the cooperation between UN and Regional Organizations is important, but also the cooperation between different regional organizations. In these organizations there are many lessons identified and learned. This knowledge would benefit us all. In conflicts where the parties no longer communicate, the role of regional organizations becomes even more important.
We see that it is more and more important to strengthen the capacities of Regional Organizations, especially their mediation capacities. Finland has earlier supported ASEAN and at the moment we are financing AU’s capacity building in mediation. We also see the need to enhance EU’s mediation capacity further.
We as the members of the Group of Friends of Mediation could play even more active role in our respected regional organizations. The conflict prevention can be done best at the regional level.
The tighter the regional integration, the more peaceful the region and the more ways there are for peaceful dispute resolution. This takes me to the Nobel Peace prize that the European Union got last year. It is not only that integration has made us more peaceful and stronger, our enlargement and deepening of the integration has also made a difference in the neighborhood countries. I am delighted that so many of the regional organizations are present here today. I know we all eagerly wait for their upcoming presentations on their recent mediation activities.
The importance of Focal Points
Before opening the floor for open discussion I would like to once more highlight the importance of you all being here. The work done in the capitals by the focal points is essential. I see that in particular you are the key for mainstreaming mediation as a diplomatic tool in your ministries and the governments. Together with your colleagues in New York you coordinate the activities of the Group of Friends of Mediation and operationalize the principles we strive for.
It is of the utmost importance that you now have this network of Focal Points in headquarter level. This will strengthen your cooperation.
The foreign policy and most of the policy decisions are formulated at the headquarters. There is still a need to strengthen normative and operative framework in Mediation. In order to achieve this continued political commitment is needed. You are the key to make this happen.
As an example of mainstreaming mediation at the ministry level we have just conducted our own Finnish mapping exercise, where we have listed all our activities related to conflict prevention and mediation. By doing so we wanted to ensure that our embassies and different departments are aware of our activities in this field and the concepts involved. Thus the coordination and lessons learned will further improve.
This is the second time for the focal points to meet. We hope that this will become a regular platform and an opportunity for us to learn from each other. The short term aim of this meeting is to share information and draft ideas for the future steps of the group.
The long term objective is to establish an active network between the capitals and New York. Ultimately the aim is to strengthen the position of mediation internationally. Mediation is an effective tool that can be utilized in every step of the conflict cycle. Therefore it is important that everyone understands the value of it.
Once more it is a great pleasure to have you all here and I wish you a successful and productive meeting. Your participation in this meeting held in cold and dark Helsinki is already a sign of a true commitment to this group. As I promised in the start we still have time left, so if you have any questions or topics of discussions please feel free to take the floor.