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Speeches, 5/19/2014

Gender and Inclusive Mediation Processes - Remarks by Minister Tuomioja

Remarks by Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Gender and Inclusive Mediation Processes
14 May, 2014
Långvik, Kirkkonummi

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Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,
I wish you a warm welcome to Finland, and to the high-level seminar on Gender and Inclusive Mediation Processes. This course represents the state-of-the-art on this key topic. As participants you have an important role in shaping and refining our present knowledge and tools for integrating gender in mediation. I would like to thank the organisers of this seminar for setting up this inspiring occasion. Finland is very pleased to support this seminar series together with Norway.

Finland and mediation

Finland has a strong track record in mediation, and even stronger as a champion of gender equality. We are certainly not perfect on either account, but we always work to improve our performance. It is much easier to promote gender equality abroad if one's action on starts from home.

Finland herself has benefitted greatly from the progress of gender equality. More than one hundred years ago, Finland was the first in the world to permit women unrestricted rights to both vote and stand for parliament. Since then, women's engagement and influence in politics, economy and other sectors has been an indispensable part of building our society. It was no small task for Finland to reconcile from the civil war of 1918 and the devastation of the II World War. Full participation of both women and men is a cornerstone of democracy, consensus building and good governance of which Finland is known and respected for worldwide.

In recent years, Finland has worked hard to reinforce the international normative and institutional basis of mediation. This means acknowledging the role of mediation in the international toolbox for peace and security; and equipping the field of mediation with better skills, knowledge, institutions, partnerships, and material support that are needed to prevent and solve conflicts.
Finland and Turkey co-chair the UN Group of Friends of Mediation at the United Nations, and this spring we have established Friends' groups in the OSCE and the EU, too. We have initiated two UN General Assembly resolutions that put the United Nations as a standard setter for mediation, and helped mediators in the field by reinforcing their mandate to act. Currently we are negotiating the third resolution with a special focus on regional and subregional organisations. It points out to the need for more partnerships in mediation. We promote the integration of global mediation community to optimise the use of mediation in solving conflicts.

The first UN resolution on mediation in 2011 already recognized "the importance of equal, full and effective participation of women in all forums and at all levels of the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution," and pointed out to the need for gender expertise in mediation and deplored the lack of women as lead mediators. The resolution was followed by the Secretary General's report and the UN Guidance for Effective Mediation. In the third resolution, we will defend the existing language and also aim further.

How to engage gender and include women in peace efforts

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ever since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action in 1995, and the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security five years later, Finland and others have been campaigning worldwide to make the case for women's participation in the matters of peace and security. It is sometimes difficult but also rewarding: the relevance of gender issues and women's participation is today more widely understood even if not yet universally cheered.

Women's participation is then based on international norms and universal human rights. It has also a practical dimension. Women's full participation makes mediation more efficient and effective, and peace more inclusive and sustainable. Both principles and practical aspects may be useful in convincing conflict parties to accept women in peace talks.

Now we are gradually moving the focus, from asking the question 'why' to increasingly asking 'how'. How do we integrate gender in our blueprints for peace? How do we ensure that women are sitting at the negotiating tables and their voices are heard in the broader consultations?
You have brought here experiences of success in inclusive mediation, and probably lessons of failure, too. Both are important in refining our approaches.

The benchmarking study on women's participation by the UN Women concluded that the number of women as peace negotiators and delegates and as signers of peace deals has been marginal. Women's participation has been hindered through many different ways: systematic and blunt exclusion, lack of education and training opportunities, lack of resources or formal position, threats of violence, traditions of inequality, and so on.

Different reasons call for tailored solutions. The normative work by the UN and others has created guidelines, such as the UN Guidance for Effective Mediation. The fundamental principles outlined in the Guidance underline the importance of gender and inclusivity. Today, professional mediation demands a gender-sensitive approach. The starting point is that gender and women's participation are in different ways relevant to each and every conflict.

At this point, I want to commend the UN for its leadership in women's participation. This was again demonstrated by the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon himself when he recently appointed Ms. Hiroute Guebre Sellassie of Ethiopia as his special envoy to Sahel. Ms. Guebre Sellassie is the second woman as special envoy, following Mary Robinson.

Besides leadership positions, the question of using quotas for women in peace talks has been raised. In Yemen, the recommendation for women having at least 30 % of the seats in the national dialogue conference was largely achieved. Moreover, women chaired three of the nine working groups in the conference. Quotas are generally proposed as a temporary measure to better ensure the inclusion of the discriminated party. There are both supporters and opponents for using quotas. I challenge you to think and argue whether they should play a part in empowering women.

We welcome the fact that all mediation support teams that the UN deployed last year included women. While this is not yet a sign of full equality, ii sets an example. The mediators should always take advantage of the power of example. They could also call for renowned and experienced women mediators, negotiators and activists from other contexts to come forward as role models and mentors for local women and men. This would be an adequate way to commend their courage and share it to others.

Participation and inclusivity is not just about numbers, but about quality, representation and legitimacy. Participants to peace negotiations and dialogue processes, men or women, should have meaningful role and liberty to act in their full capacity. Their composition should reflect and represent all relevant sectors society. We know that more inclusive peace process takes more time and organising effort, and more funding too. However, the benefits include stronger ownership and more sustainable results.

Training of the conflict parties is often necessary to make the case for women's participation. Both governments and especially rebel groups may benefit from expert training on mediation, negotiations and formal peace agreements. Women's participation should always be included in such training. Training also helps to fight the illusion of "gender-neutral" peace agreements.

In some cases the women activists in conflict areas need support primarily to become accepted to the negotiating table. They know the issues and objectives, and how to negotiate them. In other cases, support and empowerment through capacity building, training, or organising local women is needed. Local dialogues may be as important as national dialogues and Track 1 peace negotiations, but these levels should be linked so that grassroots voices are really heard in the chambers of power. In Syria, for example, women are active on the local level, but their efforts have not been carried to the high level negotiations as strongly as they should. International organisations, states and NGOs must support local actors in a coordinated manner.

I suggest that the series of seminars on Gender and Inclusive Mediation Processes present yet another instrument for us, namely an extensive, resourceful and well-placed network of mediators who take gender seriously. This series will by itself form a network of expertise. We should consider if we might take the opportunity and use this network consciously as a resource in the future. Being not only participant but also among the alumni to this seminar series might then benefit each of us.

There are a lot of other ways in which gender issues may be taken up and women's participation guaranteed. This seminar is all about them. We should use different techniques in different situations, but the essential objective is always to use all the potential that individuals and societies possess, whether it is present in men or women.


Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have shared some thoughts with you on the way forward, and I count on you to come up with more fresh ideas. When you will be doing mediation on the field, you may use the tools and ideas gained here and the network that this seminar brings to your disposal. You can trust that Finland will support your efforts towards gender-sensitive mediation and your work to help women to act for sustainable peace. Thank you.

This document

Updated 5/19/2014

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