Speech ”Mediation – European and North East Asian Perspectives”, Round Table at the ASAN InstituteASAN Institute, Soul, South Korea


Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start by thanking the ASAN Institute, President Hahm and his team, for organizing this Round Table discussion. It is a great honour for me to speak at one of Asia’s most distinguished foreign policy think tanks. I am especially delighted that the topic of today’s discussion is mediation, which is one of the topmost priorities of the Finnish foreign policy and one of my favourite subjects

Importance of mediation, enhancing the role of the Security Council in preventive diplomacy

Ladies and gentlemen,

In our interdependent world, preventing conflict and building peace has become increasingly important. The significance of peace and security as a prerequisite for sustainable development is widely recognized. I firmly believe that there is vast untapped potential for mediation and for other forms of preventive diplomacy.

Mediation has a clear definition by the United Nations: it is a process whereby a third party assists two or more parties, with their consent, to prevent, manage or resolve a conflict by helping them to develop mutually acceptable agreements. Mediation can be used either as a means of conflict prevention – at the early stages of a conflict cycle – or for reaching a peaceful settlement to a violent conflict.

Mediation is firmly anchored in the Charter of the United Nations, notably its Chapter VI, which has been often referred to as an underutilized Chapter of the Charter. Promoting Chapter VI and preventive diplomacy does not mean questioning the relevance of the other Chapters. Although measures under Chapter VI of the UN Charter deserve more attention, it is clear that action under Chapter VII is sometimes also needed.

The Republic of Korea being an elected member of the Security Council – and today being coincidentally the day of the Security Council election in New York – I would like to highlight the importance of preventive diplomacy in the work of the Security Council. The Security Council bears the greatest responsibility for the international peace and security. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that the Council is little more than the sum of its disagreeing parts. In the case of Syria, the Council’s inability to act lasted too long.  However, the Security Council has also left a trail of success stories, and it hopefully continues to develop its working methods. For instance the horizon scanning sessions could be instrumental in bolstering preventive diplomacy.

Mediation as a foreign policy priority of Finland

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mediation has become a foreign policy priority of Finland during recent years. This is natural, as Finland is a country with a strong track record in mediation. Also our traditional emphasis on peacekeeping and civilian crisis management has given a solid background for mediation activities.

During the Cold War, Finland played an important role in the Helsinki process that led to the signing of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in Helsinki, in 1975. I shall return to the CSCE in a while. Finland has also had her own mediators with high-profile tasks. Our former President Martti Ahtisaari was a key person in the independence process of Namibia already in the late 1980s. Finland has been involved in peace processes, inter alia, in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Western Balkans, Aceh, the Horn of Africa and South Caucasus.

We also have our own experiences of conflict and reconciliation. After gaining independence from Russia in 1917, Finland went through a tragic civil war in 1918. That war caused deep rifts in the nation. Through inclusive national development and the progress of equality in society, Finland was able to have a successful reconciliation process, which, however, took decades.

We also had our own territorial dispute with Sweden regarding the status of the Åland Islands. This dispute was effectively arbitrated by the newly-established League of Nations in 1921. Åland has since then had a broad autonomy as a part of Finland. The status of Åland, with very strong provisions for linguistic rights, is a model nowadays studied by many mediation experts.

An important impetus for our present activities was the Nobel Peace Prize of former President Martti Ahtisaari in 2008. After that, we started to advance mediation in a more systematic way. In 2010, Finland together Turkey convened the UN Group of Friends of Mediation in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs subsequently launched an Action Plan for Mediation. Since then, we have focused on building up our capacities, in terms of expertise, institutions, conflict analysis, and networking with the leading actors in the field. One of our strengths is a close cooperation with civil society organizations.

The legitimacy and credibility of Finland as a strong promoter of mediation is backed up by the fact that Finland has for two years in a row been rated in the Index of failed states as the least failed state in the world.  A strong commitment to equality, a fair and inclusive society, and a carefully built consensual political culture have produced a high level of social capital and trust, which are the keys to our success story, and they guide our mediation efforts too.

If further pressed to name the single most important reason for our relative success I would answer that it is gender equality and the full empowerment and participation of women in all spheres of society. I will return to gender and mediation later.

The role of the United Nations, Friends of Mediation

Finland has always been a strong supporter of the United Nations. For my country, the UN has always held the promise of a more peaceful and rule-based international society. The UN is the bedrock of international cooperation on peace and security, and it has a central role in the field of mediation.

As I mentioned, Finland and Turkey convened the UN Group of Friends of Mediation in 2010. The particular strength of the Group is that it brings together both emerging and traditional countries active in mediation, regional organizations and the United Nations. The Group now comprises of 37 countries and eight international and regional organizations, among them the European Union, the African Union, OAS and ASEAN The most recent member is the United States.

The group has made a substantial contribution to strengthening the normative basis of mediation in the United Nations by initiating two UN resolutions on the topic. The first-ever resolution on mediation adopted in June 2011 clearly positioned the United Nations as a standard setter for mediation. We have got very encouraging feedback from the field telling that the resolutions have helped pave way for mediators in a very concrete way.  As a result of this process, the status of mediation has been clearly strengthened in the UN system.

Developing the normative and institutional basis of mediation can be described as the Finnish niche in mediation. We have taken the role of a convener of interested parties, and we continue to work hard to mobilise international support for mediation. This includes also developing the UN funding for mediation, which at the moment is based on voluntary contributions only. It is of utmost importance that funding for mediation will be more sustainable and predictable in the future. As more countries have become active in the field of mediation, it would be natural that the donor base of UN’s mediation efforts would also be broadened. In the long run, UN mediation activities should in my view be funded from the regular budget of the organization.

The role of the Secretary General

Speaking here in Soul, I would like to commend the work of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. He decided to choose prevention as one of the five priorities of his second term. And Mr. Ban has taken a courageous, principled, and active role in dealing with today’s most dangerous conflicts, particularly in Syria.

The Charter and the established UN convention give Secretary General a broad mandate and room for manoeuvre in the field of mediation.  We very much encourage the Secretary-General to make full use of his good offices mandate also in the future.  Finland, together with the UN Group of Friends, strongly supports the key role of the Secretary General in mediation and will do so in the future as well.

Regional Organizations, CSCE/OSCE

Ladies and gentlemen,

The role of regional organization in mediation is extremely important. They work closer to the conflict, and their knowledge about the context, the parties involved and the roots of the conflict is invaluable. They may also bring their own instruments to bear on mediation.

The European integration remains the ultimate success story of regional security. It received an apt recognition when the European Union itself was given the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Today, violent conflicts among EU member states are difficult even to imagine, and the EU performs a stabilizing role in the broader European neighbourhood and through its Common Foreign and Security Policy. Finland is actively supporting the development of the EU’s own mediation structures.

The EU is not the only case of regional cooperation in Europe, though. The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe generated positive developments in Cold War Europe. I have taken note of the interest by the President and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea in this process.

In 1975, 35 states gathered in Helsinki to sign the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. The ’Helsinki process’ not only offered the Cold War blocs channels of communication, but ensured that human rights were no longer a taboo subject. The CSCE then developed from a diplomatic Conference that helped to break down the barriers of mistrust between East and West into an international Organization – the OSCE – whose numerous institutions and field operations have provided stability in the post-Cold War world.

The OSCE has its roots in the Helsinki Accords. It is the world’s largest regional security organization promoting security, cooperation and stability from Vancouver to Vladivostok. The Republic of Korea has been an OSCE Partner for cooperation in Asia since 1994. The OSCE is actively engaging in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict rehabilitation – as well as other activities related to security, co-operation, human rights and more. Finland is now actively looking for ways to develop the organisation’s mediation capacities.

A Helsinki-like process for the Korean peninsula could be an avenue to explore, in order to find a way for establishing human rights, peace and stability in the region. The OSCE model builds relations between countries on the core principles of security, cooperation and respect for human rights. These principles are implemented by all the participating states through a consensus-based decision-making process, open dialogue, regular review of commitments, and engagement with civil society.


There is one important aspect related to mediation I would like to highlight today: gender. Promoting women’s effective participation in mediation is extremely important. Research indicates that including women in a group makes the group smarter, smarter groups make better decisions, and better decisions pave the way for more sustainable futures. However, in spite of many regional and global commitments, most notably Security Council resolution 1325, the number of women and gender experts involved in formal peacemaking processes has remained frustratingly low. Only very few peace agreements address gender-related issues or harness the added value women can bring to further sustainable peace.

Finland is committed to promoting womens’ involvement and gender aspect in peace processes. I would like to commend the decision of Secretary-General Ban to appoint Mary Robinson as the first female UN chief mediator.  There should be more women also in negotiating teams of conflicting parties.

Finland is currently partnering with the United Nations to carry out a high level gender and mediation training, which aims at training high level mediators, like Special representatives of the Secretary General and their teams to include women in peace processes. The training is partly organized by the Crisis Management Initiative, a Finnish civil society organization founded by the former president Martti Ahtisaari. 


I would like to conclude by saying that mediation is a risky and challenging business. Mediation processes are time-consuming and sometimes frustrating.Even the most experienced and skillful mediator faces an impossible task unless the parties have the political will to reach an agreement and the international community gives its full and united support.  This is what for instance Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi needs in order to succeed in his efforts and to bring peace to Syria. Yet, we have to continue our efforts to strengthen mediation as a foreign policy tool. In the future, we have to be better equipped to prevent violent crises and the enormous human suffering caused by them.

I look forward to an interesting discussion with you.

Thank you.