Peace cannot be achieved alone
The third National Dialogues Conference held in Helsinki brought together 250 mediation actors. The main theme was the impact of regional and local actions on national dialogues.
“We must intensify international efforts for peace and preventive diplomacy. The Third National Dialogues Conference held in Helsinki is a unique global forum, and with it Finland is sending a message saying that peace cannot be achieved alone. There must be broad-based participation and dialogue between different societal actors, the civil society included, to achieve peace,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini says.
The Conference, held in the House of the Estates in Helsinki on 5–6 April, brought together 250 mediation actors, representing governments, the civil society and the research community. Keynote speakers included Former President of Namibia Hifikepunye Pohamba, Former President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza and Minister of Ukraine Vadym Chernysh. The panellists from Finland were, among others, Pekka Haavisto, Erkki Tuomioja, Astrid Thors and Under-Secretary of State Anne Sipiläinen from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
The organising committee for the Conference is an example of collaboration between different operators in Finland. The Conference was hosted by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs together with a consortium of NGOs consisting of Crisis Management Initiative, Felm, Finn Church Aid and Common Space Initiative.
This third Conference focused on how regional and local actions can influence national dialogues. Especially the session discussing the Middle East highlighted the impacts of power politics and regional dynamics: these must be accepted but they can also be utilised in peacebuilding.
Regional NGOs can be important support actors, a good example being the African Union Mediation Support. For local actors, dialogues can be the only way to get their voices heard. Therefore, it is important to ensure that there is a functioning link between local and national dialogues.
The discussions also emphasised the importance of national ownership and popular support in peacebuilding. An example of less effective methods is government-led dialogues where the purpose is to strengthen the existing power relationships. It is important that women take part in dialogues at all levels and on all topics. A topical problem is that while women in conflict-ridden countries are active in NGOs, they are not active in national or local politics.
The past and its different interpretations often play a central role in conflicts. Interpretations of history are abused as fuel for conflicts, which is why it is important that the past is processed as part of reconciliation and social cohesion. Historians, too, can support conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
More and more technology is harnessed for mediation purposes, for example in building consensus and broad-based participation. In the Conference, technology was used to canvass the participants for their views. When the Conference participants were asked whether the National Dialogues Conference should be organised again, 76% agreed strongly, 24% agreed and 0% disagreed.
The author works as a Mediation Coordinator in the Unit for UN and General Global Affairs.