Puheenvuoro ”Peacekeeping – peace building -preparing for the future” -seminaarissa, Helsinki, 29.5.2006


The Suez Crisis broke out in autumn 1956. This created a new and challenging situation also for the Finnish foreign policy. Finland was then a fresh member of the United Nations. The General Assembly finally, after eight years adopted a decision on Finland’s membership in December 1955. In Finland, an exiting presidential election campaign was over and the new president, Urho Kekkonen, had started his first term in office in March 1956.  Observers kept a close watch on whether the direction of the Finnish foreign policy would change or not. And international tensions also rose again because of the events in Hungary. The Security Council was paralyzed, and the decision on a peacekeeping operation in Suez, UNEF I, was then made by the General Assembly in November, using the Uniting for Peace formula. In that context, Finland’s decision to send a Finnish contingent to Sinai was an audacious one. It marked the beginning of a historical process, which was perhaps not so intentional at the time but which, over time, grew into one of the most well-known Finnish trademarks and success stories.

Over the years, we have gained more experience and Finnish peacekeepers have proved their real capabilities. The conscription system, good civilian education system and professional skills combined with a high-quality military training for the volunteers have contributed to troops who can interact smoothly and calmly with all parties and the local population in the conflict area. The Finnish system of using reservists, who voluntarily apply for peacekeeping tasks, produces troops which stand any international comparison. An almost unique feature is the combination of  the wide-range civilian professions of the reservists and the military expertise which generates true added value.

The Finnish neutrality fitted well in the evolving peacekeeping concept of the United Nations. During the Cold War, traditional peacekeeping operations were based on acceptance of the parties to the conflict. Soon Finland became a great power in peacekeeping, whose services were really needed. And soon participation in the UN peacekeeping operations, the exercise of a policy of active neutrality, became something very natural in our otherwise not so global foreign and security policy.  Cooperation between the Nordic countries intensified. National decision-making, financing and legislative procedures started to gradually develop. So conflicts in the Middle East, especially the Sinai, Golan and Lebanon, became familiar to thousands of Finns, and so did Cyprus. Dispatching peacekeepers to Namibia also showed that when the sense of solidarity is strong enough, national obstacles can be won. Sending experienced military observes to various parts of the world, like to Kashmir since 1961, became an essential part of our peacekeeping activities.

Since the 1990s, the scope and nature of the Finnish participation has expanded. The European Union launched its first two military crisis management operations in 2003, and NATO has become active in global crisis management as well. The wars in the Western Balkans in the 1990s made a stronger international presence unavoidable. Also Finland focused attention to the Balkan operations. Today Finland contributes 180 peacekeepers to the EU operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and 400 peacekeepers to the NATO-led KFOR operation in Kosovo. In 2003, NATO took over the international operation in Afghanistan, ISAF, where Finland has now about 100 peacekeepers. The importance of civilian crisis management has grown rapidly, and about 100 Finnish experts are serving in various missions every year.

In the past 50 years, peacekeeping has thus had a prominent role in the Finnish foreign and security policy. First and foremost, it has been based on the security concept according to which enhancing  security in the neighbourhood or even more broadly in Europe is crucial but not enough. Peacekeeping has also served as a central tool in our UN policy. It has opened up a channel to extensive participation and a more active international role than what would otherwise have been possible, and it has also been useful for the development of the capabilities of the Finnish defence forces. Our peacekeeping efforts have also enjoyed broad political support among the political parties.


Today, crisis management is one of the key assets in our foreign and security policy. In the global security environment of the 21st century, the demands are more challenging than earlier and crises are more complex. At the same time, we have acquired a deeper understanding of the broader factors affecting security and causing conflicts.  Our security interests are genuinely global.  Strengthening the United Nations and the multilateral system as well as international law is a basic goal of the Finnish foreign and security policy also in 2006. The principles of the UN Charter are as valid as ever. It is the responsibility of the international community to prevent crises and to protect civilian populations.

With membership of the European Union, a sense of global responsibility has increased in Finland. We have been active in preparing the civilian and military crisis management concepts, and historical decisions were made in Helsinki in December 1999 during Finland’s first EU Presidency.  The Common European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) has been a success. Within a few years, we have been able to put all the necessary structures in place, develop the required capabilities and launch solid operations. Finland has always been prepared to do its share or even more. We have participated in almost all of the EU operations conducted so far, and our expertise and the level of participation have been highly valued. Also in the future we will participate fully in the development and implementation of the common security and defence policy of the Union. Developing national civilian and military capabilities further is therefore indispensable.

NATO has also upgraded its military crisis management capacity and readiness. Participation in the UN-mandated and NATO-led operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo is an important element of our Partnership with NATO.  In the present process to enhance the NATO Partnerships the main objective for Finland is thus an improved access to information and decision-shaping in the operations in which we participate.


History and the present we know but what about the future?  The nature of conflicts has changed after the Cold War; even if there are fewer unresolved conflicts than earlier, the need for international involvement is perhaps greater than ever before. The European Union and NATO as well as various regional organisations, such as the African Union, are building up their capabilities and serve as an answer to this need of international actors.

All key international actors are now striving to solve the multiple challenges of conflict prevention and resolution. Two goals seem to rise above others: to become capable of both rapid response and coherence. In the European Union, Finland has been active in developing the Battlegroup concept. During our EU Presidency, the work will be finalized and the full operational capability will be reached on 1 January 2007. Finland will participate in two battlegroups: the first one is with Germany and the Netherlands in the first half of the 2007, and the second one with Sweden, Norway, Estonia and possibly also Ireland in the first half of 2008.

Rapid response involves also responsibility. The international community must be able to reach decisions rapidly – capabilities will not help if there is no willingness to use them. For example in Sudan, it has been very difficult to get the promised military and police resources from the EU Member States. Now, with the peace agreement on Darfur, we have to seriously consider what the optimal contribution of the EU and its Member States is.

Rapid response is an even more important – and more challenging – aspect of civilian crisis management. Civilian expertise should be employed at a much earlier phase of operations than takes place at present. Sometimes a timely civilian crisis management operation can reduce the need for or at least the length of a massive military operation. The European Union is now mobilising its first crisis response teams with the task of rapid fact-finding, and Finland is also participating in that activity.

Optimal and timely use of civilian and military resources will be a huge challenge in the coming years. We shall put greater emphasis on it both nationally and in the European Union. The best way to respond to the need for increased civilian-military coordination would be to make a coherent approach an integral part of  the planning phase of operations, and ever earlier than that, an essential element of training and exercises. This would also have implications on distribution of resources.


But the challenges ahead of us in the future peacekeeping and crisis management activities do not end here. In our foreign and security policy, we have already accepted the need for greater coherence and active use of all instruments at our disposal when confronted with new conflicts. Now we need to elaborate this principle and translate it into concrete action. We need more focused policies in conflict prevention. We need determined post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction measures in order to prevent new outbreaks of conflict. Targeted measures, such as a reform of the security sector and reintegration of the fighters and disarming them are needed also. Human rights aspects need to be mainstreamed in crisis management – in operations as well as in training. Women and children in conflicts should be a special concern. Overall, more attention on human security is needed.  All these aspects are essential when defining the concrete interlinkages of security and development. With targeted development policy instruments we can markedly contribute to the enhancement of sustainable peace.

Already in 2004, the need for a human security approach was highlighted by Dr. Mary Kaldor who, with a study group, issued a report proposing a Human Security Doctrine for Europe. The objective of the human security is a broad and challenging one: not only freedom from fear but also freedom from want. The focus of our action and policy should be on achieving security and development for human beings, not just for states. And the security in its true meaning covers not only the physical aspects of security, but also the material side. The European Union with its unique set of external policy tools at its disposal, be it crisis management, development or trade policy, is well-suited in responding to this challenge. Increasing coherence among all actors and all levels is the best way ahead.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With these new demands for global security the question remains – can we be as brave and innovative in our response in the future as we were in 1956?