Two tragic events some fifteen years ago galvanized the international community into taking new steps towards more effective crisis management. These were the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the massacre of Bosniak men and women a year in Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In both cases these atrocities were witnessed at first hand by international peacekeepers who with neither a mandate nor sufficient force did not intervene and stop the killings. The UN took steps to beef up its peace-keeping operations while for the EU this was the decisive impetus to build its military crisis management capabilities, including its now operational Battle Groups for rapid deployment in demanding peace-keeping tasks.
Two immensely important background changes have to be taken into account when discussing how the international community’s approach to crisis and conflicts has evolved and the direction it will take.
One is the fall of the Berlin Wall the end of the Cold War. Obviously this was welcomed by the vast majority of the world’s peoples, in the East, the West as well as the South. A collective sigh of relief greeted the receding of the threat of nuclear annihilation which hade been hanging over the world since the Cold War began. But those who expected this to mean the beginning of a new era of disarmament, peace and security for everyone were to be disappointed.
World military expenditure did, in fact, drop from c. 1500 billion dollars at the end of the Cold War to about a 1000 billion ten years later, but has since the grown back to 1600 billion, or more than during the Cold War. The US and China together account for about 80 % of the increase during the last ten years.
Nuclear disarmament has not made any significant progress either: the old nuclear powers have done little to fulfil their obligations under the NPT and two presumed new nuclear powers, Iran and North Korea, are now topping the list of international concerns.
While ending the enmity and direct Cold War competition between the East and West did allow for some longstanding conflicts to be addressed and resolved, it has had no effect on the Palestine-Israel conflict in the Middle East for example. In many parts of the world the end of the Cold War may even have encouraged some long-simmering conflicts, which had been contained by the Superpowers who did not want them to escalate to direct confrontation, to flare up again.
It can hardly be claimed that people are, or at least feel, more secure than during the Cold War, but their security concerns are different today. While threats associated with traditional war between nation states have receded, they have been replaced by threats to what is referred to as the broad concept of security. These do include the use of weapons in conflict, but more in Civil war type situations and so-called asymmetrical conflicts, where one or more non-state actors are involved, often in situations created by, or leading to, failed states which cannot guarantee the security of their citizens.
The broad concept of security also includes non-military threats, such as drugs, the spread of communicable diseases, cross-border crime, trafficking in human beings, environmental hazards and catastrophes, the effects of climate change, uncontrolled migration of people trying to flee from war, human rights violations, environmental degradation or just plain poverty; terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
I deliberately include terrorism in the list of non-military threats, because one of the costliest mistakes that we have all suffered from has been the adoption of war-rhetoric in combating terrorism. This is not to say that the use of military means is never necessary in meeting the threat of terrorism. It can even be necessary in dealing with the other new threats to broad security, as for example when navies and military personnel are used to safeguard the delivery of relief to victims of natural disasters or famine, but these are threats that can never be successfully dealt with only through military means and use of war rhetoric.
Indeed, not only are these threats not susceptible to military solutions, they are also of the kind that cannot be dealt with unilaterally or by domestic solutions. They all, I would say almost by definition, call for multilateral efforts and cooperation on the broadest possible basis.
This brings me to the other mega-factor behind all change and challenges in today’s world, i.e. population growth. The growth of the world’s population has irrevocably changed the world and is the most obvious reason why interdependence – whether we like or not, in both thing good and bad, is a reality that no-one can escape. This applies to all and any countries, big or small, armed with nuclear weapons or not, and irrespective of whether they embrace globalisation or would want to opt out of it.
The world’s population has during my lifetime grown threefold from 2,3 billion when I was born after WW2, to around seven billion today. And although it is now true that this growth has begun to even out, the number of people on earth will reach at least nine or even ten billion before we can attain zero population growth.
It should also be remembered, that as the world’s total population grows, the number of people on the move – as immigrants, displaced person or refugees – has grown at an even faster rate and is also an element contributing to many conflicts.
All this has enormous consequences for how mankind interacts with its natural environment. It may be that, even at best, we have only a few decades time in which to adapt our behaviour to the exigencies of ecologically, socially and economically sustainable development. We have, of course, no absolute certainty that this can be achieved.
I stress all three aspects of sustainability. Ecology is in one sense the most important one, because what happens to the other two is irrelevant if ecological sustainability is not achieved, but it is also true that ecological sustainability will not be achived without social and economic sustainability too.
What was still possible and workable in a world with a few hundred million or even 2 billion people is no longer valid in a world with seven billion people, let alone with more than 9 billion. This undermines one of the defining features of the Westphalian order, namely the use of power politics, including resorting to war to further you national interest to and gain advantage at the cost of other nations or the environment.
This also sets the agenda for global governance. Interdependence means, that not only is everyone facing the same common challenges, we also need common solutions. Moreover, also the challenges themselves are interlinked. ”No development without peace, no peace without development” is already a generally accepted conclusion, which can be expanded to cover also Human Rights and democracy and all other elements which contribute to human security.
The conclusion is, that while crisis management capabilities ranging from observers, arbitrators, mediators to traditional peacekeeping, civilian crisis management and also increasingly demanding crisis management operations are needed, and while there is also a record of successes to show for these efforts, they are not enough if new conflicts emerge continuously. Even old conflicts can erupt again unless the underlying root causes are successfully addressed. A frozen conflict remains an unresolved conflict and may be again unleashed by global warming – in some cases even literally through the effects of climate change.
Thus the international community – and it should be understood as mainly referring to the United Nations and its special agencies, even if regional organisations can and indeed should take more responsibility for various operations – must continue to develop and refine a comprehensive approach to all aspects of conflict prevention and crisis management.
To what degree has this taken place? We can point to some very important new approaches incorporating new principles for strengthening the rule-of-law in international relations and which answer to thee need of a Post-Westphalian world order.
These include the ”Responsibility to Protect”, which, after the Rwanda fiasco was developed and incorporated into the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit of the UN.
The responsibility to protect can be defined as a set of three principles. First, all states have a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing (mass atrocities), second, if the state is unable to protect its population on its own, the international community has a responsibility to assist the state by building its capacity. This can mean building early-warning capabilities, mediating conflicts between political parties, strengthening the security sector, mobilizing standby forces, and many other actions, and thirdly, if a state is manifestly failing to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures are not working, the international community has the responsibility to intervene at first diplomatically, then more coercively, and as a last resort, with military force.
Another important milestone has been the withering of impunity and the enhanced probability that perpetrators of human rights violations and other crime will be brought to justice. The agreement setting up the International Criminal Court is arguably the most important single milestone in strengthening the international rule-of-law since the Second World War.
Thirdly we can note the creation of the UN Peacebuilding Commission which was established in 2005 on the basis of the recommendations from the High-Level Threat Panel set up up UNSG Kofi Annan. The main task of the new Commission is that of taking care of post-conflict actions to be adopted and enforced in countries emerging from conflicts, whose Governments choose to ask for relief from the International Community. It is up to the PBC to collect all available resources and funds directed to support recovery projects in those countries, and to draft long-term strategies in order to guarantee reconstruction, institution-building and sustainable development.
Fourthly we should also note how the International Community has in recent years moved on from traditional peacekeeping to taking on more demanding crisis management operations. As such it has to be welcomed, but at the same time one can point to a growing discrepancy between enhanced efforts to deal with crises and too little progress on conflict prevention and our ability to deal comprehensively with all relevant aspects of what could be called the conflict cycle.
Well and good. But at the same time we should be realistic about the real degree of adherence in the international community to all these principles and it’s the will and ability to use these instruments and institutions. One can namely also perceive a hardening in the attitudes of and increase in support for what could be called the ”traditional sovereignty school” of states, who, for a variety of reasons, are reluctant to condone any erosion of sovereignty and international intervention. In the Security Council Russia and China incline in this direction, as do a number of emerging countries, particularly those with an authoritarian bent.
To their credit, these countries also accepted the UN resolution creating the No-Fly Zone in Libya and the mandate to protect civilians in the Libyan crisis.
It should also be noted, that neither is the role of the United States always as clear as we would wish it to be. While the present administration has renewed the American commitment to the UN and multilateral cooperation and acceptance of international agreements that restrict its sovereignty, this is by no means anchored in any solid support among the American electorate (or the media, or those who finance elections) and the country may revert to the kind of unilateralism which sought to impose its will on other nations without accepting any restrictions on its own sovereignty.
At this point I want to expand the field of observation to include also non-state actors which, in a globalizing world, have begun to wield real influence which is not directly linked to any material resources at their disposal.
Such non-state actors as transnational corporations engaging in trade, manufacturing or other business on a global scale are not new phenomena, and they have wielded concrete political influence, most of it malevolent rather than beneficial, in many instances of the 20th century history. This said, I do not want to demonize transnational corporations in any way, certainly not as instigators of wars and conflicts. While there certainly have been and still are examples of such negative influences – mostly from the Arms industry and the core of what President Eisenhower termed the Military-Industrial complex – this has changed in the era of globalization.
The first generation of multinational companies were not really ”multinational” and remained closely integrated into the national economies and policies of their home countries, even if their business was conducted and their profits earned on a global scale. Moreover they were also closely allied with their home governments and took it for granted that these were obliged to look after their interests abroad which, in former times, did not exclude resorting to gunboat diplomacy and other forms of intervention.
Today’s generation of multinational companies are beginning to be more genuinely worth their name, as regards both their ownership and methods of operation. They have a genuine interest in promoting a comprehensive rules-based world order, and have much less possibilities to turn to any home government for support. And with the possible exception of the arms industry and the burgeoning private security industry they have no interest in fomenting conflicts or war; on the contrary they are ardent supporters of a stable, nonviolent and secure world where they can concentrate on doing business. But of course they are not engaged in peacekeeping, crisis management or conflict prevention even if they can, at best, contribute to these ends as well.
Turning to other non-state and non-profit international actors, or what today are called CSO:s – Civil Society organisations, which include NGO:s, international grass-roots campaigns and movements as well as international elite organisastions suchs as the Bildeberg group or the ECFR – we also have a wide variety of actors, whose contributions to these ends may be negative or positive. Civil society does not only include beneficial and philanthropic aid organisations and charities or campaigns seeking to redress this or that wrong, but can also include for example religious fundamentalist organisations or publicity-seeking self-appointed crisis mediators who can be part of the problem rather than any solution. And sometimes the sheer numbers of different organisations dispensing aid and advice with the best possible intentions may because of turf rivalries or mere lack of coordination aggravate critical situations rather than alleviate them.
But on the whole the CSO’s are welcome ne international actors, and whatever their shortcomings they may have are not necessarily worse than what many governments have, and CSO:s annoy governments it is more often in a good cause rather than not. One reason why governments may distrust CSO:s is that they are also competitors when they challenge state’s monopoly as sovereign actors on the international scene.
Some recent examples of what a civil society campaigns can achieve are the scuttling of the draft MAI-agreement negotiated between governments in the OECD, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1997 and campaigns to stop the trade in ”blood diamonds” and to grant debt-relief to the poorest countries.
Wise governments will seek to build alliances and coalitions with CSO:s, as, for example, the Finnish Government did in initiating together with Tanzania the Helsinki Process on Globalisation and Democracy, through which we managed to bring together a variety of actors including those identified with the World Economic Forum (Davos) and the World Social Forum (Porto Alegre), which have been perceived as opposite poles of the spectrum on global economic governance.
Finland is a small country with limited resources but we have since the 50’s consistently worked, together with our Nordic neighbours, to support the United nations and its endeavours in conflict prevention and crisis management. Since we first sent Finnish troops to join the UNEF operation set up after the Suez crisis in 1956, we have become something of a great power in peacekeeping having contributed more troops in relation to our population then any other country.
We have also been able to provide the UN with an array of Finnish diplomats who have made significant contributions to efforts at mediating and resolving conflicts. Nobel Peace prize laureate President Martti Ahtisaari, with experience from Namibia, former Yugoslavia, Aceh and many other places, is of course the outstanding example. He is still going strong, having created the Crisis Management Initiative as an NGO engaged in many aspects of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, which is also supported by the Finnish government.
Finland enjoys good relations with the NGO community. Representatives of NGO:s are, for example, regularly included in the Finnish official delegations to international conferences. They are also partners in many concrete development and peacebuilding projects.
While peacekeeping of the traditional kind has been our trade-mark we have enlarged our repertoire both to civilian crisis management – where we together with Sweden were initiators in getting the EU to set its headline goals also for civilian crisis management capabilities – as well as more demanding military crisis management operations. Thus we continue our participation in the ISAF operation in Afghanistan, even if there are increasing and well-founded questions being asked whether our military resources are in that country are any longer used in an optimal or even acceptable way.
We also are now considering how to best contribute to alliviating the sufferings in the Libyan conflict and help bring about democratic change. The Finnish government has solid public and parliamentary support for its decision not to send fighter aircraft to the Mediterranian as participation in direct war-like operations is not the kind of cirsis management Finland should practice. At the same time we should make it clear, that if UN ”blue beret” forces are needed on the ground in a post-conflict situation in Libya, this is the kind of operation where are particular experience and skills should be employed.
A recent example of a Finnish initiative for managing the conflict cycle is the proposal we have prepared jointly with Turkey for a UNGA consensus resolution on supporting the UN role in conflict meditation. Finland, Norway and Sweden are good examples of what small countries can contribute, together or separately, to peacebuilding and managing the conflict cycle, but obviously there are limits to what small countries can do.
I would therefore want to conclude by stressing the role the European Union could and should have as a sui generis kind of international actor, which is also unique in its capacity to bring to international crisis-management tasks a comprehensive variety of different instruments which no other international organisation or nation state can match: its military crisis management capabilities continue to be enhanced, but at least as important and in many instances more important are its wide-ranging civilian crisis management capabilities, which have been developed on the basis of a similarly adopted headline goal for civilian crisis management, including police, rescue teams, judiciary experts, and the resources available for economic aid, trade and so forth; capabilities which need to be deployed together and be well coordinated.
This said, it has also to be admitted, that this is describing the theory of EU crisis management rather than its practice. Subjected to critical close-range scrutiny the picture looks much less encouraging. Not because the EU does things badly – and it has some good and even outstanding if limited achievements in crisis management – but rather because it is, all its noble pretensions notwithstanding, still very much a learner in how to deal with all phases of the conflict cycle, reactive rather than proactive, and often hampered by disunity and its own cumbersome decision-making procedures.