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Foreign and security policy in international organisations

Exercise of foreign policy influence through international organisations is important for Finland. Finland is an active member of many organisations, such as the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations (UN). Finland has also joined the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) and is engaged in cooperation with the organisation in, for example, crisis management.

The United Nations is the most central channel of multilateral cooperation for Finland. Photo: UN Photo
The United Nations is the most central channel of multilateral cooperation for Finland. Photo: UN Photo

Council of Europe

The significance of the Council of Europe for foreign and security policy is essentially based on its geographical coverage and capacity to prevent crises.
The Council's core idea is that a state governed by the rule of law that respects democracy and human rights is stable and capable of solving even serious conflicts without falling into a crisis or a war. Finland wants to develop the Council of Europe as an umbrella organisation for the whole Europe, which works in close cooperation with the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The organisation has decided that all its functions must support the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This is fully in line with Finland's objectives.

Finland endorses the fact that the Council of Europe concentrates on its core tasks and has consistently sought to strengthen the organisation's human rights role and to contribute to the operation of the European Court of Human Rights.

Finland supports measures that ensure the proper functioning of the Council of Europe's independent monitoring mechanisms and the activities of the Commissioner for Human Rights.

Finland has been among the ones in the front line in nearly all topical human rights issues that have been raised in the Council of Europe, especially in the promotion and development of matters related to the most disadvantaged groups, women, children, the Roma, and sexual and gender minorities. Finland has also supported these specific sectors in the Council of Europe's activities by means of voluntary contributions.

Furthermore, Finland has underlined the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) and better opportunities for them to take part in the activities of the Council of Europe. Finland defends the Council of Europe's active role in the resolution of the Ukraine crisis.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is one of the largest regional security organisations in the world with 57 participating States spanning the geographical region from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

The OSCE's strength lies in its wide concept of security: the organization emphasizes not only politico-military security but also the critical significance that human rights and democracy and economic and environmental issues have on security. The activities of the OSCE are based on the Helsinki Final Act, signed in 1975.

Finland has been known for its support of the OSCE since the creation of the organization. According to Finland, the organization can effectively promote European security and stability, respecting the jointly agreed commitments and principles. In the recent years, Finland has played a prominent role in the promotion of mediation and the improvement of women's position. In addition, Finland is active in matters related to arms control and supports the OSCE's strong role in the efforts to resolve the Ukraine conflict.

Finland is a notable provider of project funding to the OSCE. The most central themes in recent years' project cooperation have been, among other things, support of civil society and democracy development and the promotion of minorities' and women's position. Geographically, the focal areas have been the poorest countries in Central Asia (Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan) and in East Europe (Ukraine in particular).

Finland is one of the biggest voluntary contributors to the OSCE's most important human rights instrument, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Finland seconds staff to OSCE field operations and positions in its Secretariat in Vienna and, annually, sends 25 to 40 election observers to the OSCE election observation missions. The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities is Astrid Thors and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President is Ilkka Kanerva.

The United Nations

The United Nations (UN) is the most central channel of multilateral cooperation for Finland.  As a Member State of the UN, Finland is committed to participating in the maintenance of international peace and security and in a peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Commitment entails cooperation aiming at the resolution of economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and work to promote human rights and to develop international law. In accordance with the concept of comprehensive security, all these principles support international peace and stability.

Finland joined the UN in 1955 and, over the years, has played a more important role in the world organisation than its size would suggest. Finland has participated in the UN's peacekeeping operations starting from the late 1950s and is called a great power in peacekeeping. In addition, Finland has taken an active part in other activities in the UN, including development of international law, disarmament diplomacy and multilateral development cooperation. Human rights policy is a key element of Finland’s activities in the UN.

The UN's role among international crisis management actors is central. Finland will support the UN also in the future by means of participating in operations led and authorised by it. Finland supports the development of the UN's peacekeeping operations also by means of training.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization

NATO is a multilateral political and military alliance. Its cores tasks are collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security together with other organisations and states.

Finland has been in partnership with NATO since 1994, when the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme was established. The most pivotal area of the partnership is the development of military performance and interoperability to serve international crisis management and national defence needs. The partnership also involves cooperation in the civil sector, for example in the areas of security of supply and rescue service.

From NATO's perspective, the partners have a significant role as creators of stability and security. The partnership policy was reformed at the NATO Wales Summit in 2014. The purpose of the reform was to ensure that the partner countries' response to global security concerns will be possible in changing environments.

The reforms have streamlined different partnership programmes trying at the same time to increase flexibility so that the partner countries' diverse backgrounds, needs and targets can be taken into account. The NATO partner countries or countries that belong to its other cooperation arrangements number about fifty at the moment.

The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), which was established in 1997, has not convened at the political level for years. In practice, Finland and many other partnership countries have conducted dialogue at the political level via NATO's other cooperation forums. Central among them have been especially meetings discussing crisis management operations, to which the countries have deployed staff.

In Finland's PfP cooperation, it is important that we can participate in crisis management operations and contribute to the development of the required military performance capabilities.  Linked with this, Finland takes part, for example, in the activities supplementing NATO's Rapid Response Forces and in the crisis management exercises that are open to the partner countries.  Through this cooperation, Finland upgrades its interoperability internationally and acquires know-how and experience to be able to develop its national defence.

Deployment of Finnish civilian and military personnel to positions in the NATO headquarters and command structures and training are also part of the cooperation.

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