Speech at the High-Level Seminar on Gender and Mediation, Helsinki, 9.10.2013,



Let me start by thanking the organizers of this event for the opportunity to address such an experienced group of mediators.  I am delighted to welcome you all in Finland. The topic of this High-level seminar combines two themes which are both very close to my heart:  gender and mediation. They both are very high on the agenda not only in our UN policy, but in the Finnish foreign policy on the whole.  

Resolution 1325 and mediation

Promoting women’s effective participation in mediation is extremely important. The role of women and girls in armed conflicts was recognized already in the Beijing Declaration and Plan of action, nearly twenty years ago. This can be seen partly as a belated reflection of the fact that armed conflicts have placed an increasingly high toll on civilians, particularly on women, children and girls in particular.

Five years after Beijing, the UN Security Council approved the landmark resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. This normative momentum has been kept, and the Security Council has since then passed five more resolutions to complement 1325 addressing different aspects of the issue of women, peace and security. The Security Council holds an annual discussion on 1325. The next one is next week on ”Women, Rule of Law and Transitional Justice in Conflict-Affected Situations”. It is very important to continue these thematic discussions on different aspects of the issue.

Resolution 1325 has three parts: protection, participation and prevention. What has gained momentum in discussions and to some extent also in action is protection. Violence against women and girls in conflicts has been widely condemned. And such things like the G8 declaration and the declaration given in the side event organized by the British Foreign Secretary during last week in the General Assembly draw attention to protection of women and girls in conflicts and to ending impunity and violence against them. Secretary-General’s Special Representative Ms Bangura, whom I met last week, has also made impressive work in this respect.

But we haven’t seen same kind of drive and momentum behind women’s participation in peace processes and mediation. One of the biggest gaps in the implementation of the resolution 1325 is the participation of women in peace processes. Many high-level mediators, like Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson last week at the Ministerial Breakfast of the Group of Friends in New York, have pointed out that they have never encountered a woman at a high-level mediation table.

The narrative that women’s effective participation is a matter of peace and security does not seem to have very much of an effect, although the resolution emphasizes the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for maintaining and promoting international peace and security. The statistics are rather depressing: in the past two decades only 2,4 percent of chief mediators were women and only slightly more women, that is 4 percent, participated formally in peace processes as signatories and 9 percent as part of negotiating delegations.

Research indicates that including women in a negotiating group makes the group smarter, smarter groups make better decisions, and better decisions pave the way for a more sustainable future. Women’s participation is also very important in preventing the recurrence of the conflict and it makes peace more lasting and durable. One of the difficulties is also how to sell prevention effectively. You just cannot know what kind of conflicts and atrocities you have prevented when they do not occur.

I would like to challenge you to think about this dilemma. You, as envoys, mediators and senior mediation experts, have a wealth of experience in different fields and in different conflicts and regions. I would like to hear your opinions on how to change the narrative on making women matter more in peace processes, in peace negotiations and in mediation efforts so that Mary Robinson would not be the only shining example of a female mediator as the Secretary-General’s special envoy to the Great Lakes’ region. We should have more women both as high-level mediators but also in negotiating teams of conflicting parties. Women’s participation is necessary both from an instrumental perspective as well as from normative perspective. This needs a change in attitudes and actions. How can we do that?

Group of Friends of Mediation, Finland’s UN activities

Dear Participants,

Finland has been active in promoting mediation and in bolstering its support structures at global and regional levels. Together with Turkey we initiated the Group of Friends of Mediation that now consists of 37 member states and 8 international organizations. The group brings together mediators from different continents and from different cultures to share best practices and to promote a culture of mediation.

In our ministerial meeting last week in New York we agreed to work on a General Assembly resolution on cooperation between UN and regional organizations in mediation. The General Assembly has already adopted two resolutions on mediation. They have strengthened the normative basis for mediation.  They have also helped pave the way for mediation in conflict areas in a concrete way. They have created new space for mediation by convincing belligerent parties that there is a UN mandate for mediation. The 2011 resolution had strong language on the participation of women in mediation.

One of the concrete results of Finland’s activities in the field of mediation is this High-level seminar on Gender and Inclusive Mediation in the organization of which we have the great pleasure to cooperate with the Department of Political Affairs, Mediation Support Unit, Crisis Management Initiative and Norwegian PRIO. I am delighted that the DPA took this important initiative and that Finland was chosen as a partner.

Gender equality in Finland, 1325 National Action Plan

In Finland we take gender equality seriously. Gender equality is a significant societal goal in Finland. It must be taken into account in all aspects of public decision-making and activities. If asked to give only one reason for Finland’s status as the least failed state in the world I would answer that it is gender equality and the empowerment of women. But being least failed does not rule out the need to do better, and one of the areas that needs special attention also in my country is violence against women which continues to be a severe problem.

Empowerment of women is a crucial factor in sustaining long term development. Finland supports and promotes the comprehensive and balanced implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 and the five other resolutions related to it. Finland has adopted her second National Action Plan to implement Security Council resolution 1325. It covers years 2012 to 2016. The Government Programme 2011 states that “Finland emphasizes the participation of women in crises management and peace building.  It strives to promote the status of women and girls in armed conflicts, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1325”. Gender is also a cross cutting issue for Finland in mediation. Finland promotes female candidates to international posts in crisis managements. We have been particularly successful in recruiting women in civilian crisis management


Finally, I wish you a very successful seminar and fruitful discussions on gender and mediation. Even more important than training, however, is to put into action the lessons learnt. All of us must shoulder our responsibility: We, the governments, must appoint more women as peace envoys and special representatives. And you, mediators in the field, must harness the added value women can bring to further sustainable peace. Together we will succeed.

And once more, a warm welcome to Finland.