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Articles and Columns, 12/10/2008

Ahtisaari: Observing the human rights will ensure sustainable peace

Today, the central message of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is as topical as it was at the time of its adoption: the human rights belong to everyone. Human rights are an important part of crisis management, peace negotiations and reconstruction. Finland, too, has participated actively in crisis management and the building of sustainable peace in areas undergoing a crisis by means of a comprehensive approach, the new Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Martti Ahtisaari writes.

Address by the Laureate of the Nobel Prize for Peace Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations on 10 December 2008

Martti Ahtisaari. Photo: Christopher Herwig/UNMIL.Martti Ahtisaari. Photo: Christopher Herwig/UNMIL.

The international security environment is becoming more and more global and society is faced with rapidly changing threats difficult to foresee. The nature of crises has changed: crises between States have given way to crises within States, motivated increasingly not only by power political reasons but also by ethnic and religious tensions, economic and social privation, competition for the right to use raw materials and energy sources, and the disintegration of State structures. Climate change and natural catastrophes, terrorism as a form of war, organized crime, sudden downturns and disequilibrium of the economy, uncontrolled movements of populations and contagious diseases represent in several cases the most serious threats to human security. Corruption, illegal immigration and human trafficking are global phenomena. A comprehensive approach is called for to be able to respond effectively to the challenges of the time.

The concept of security has become wider, and today, in addition to the military dimension, the components of economic, environmental and human security are also attached to it. The concept of human security puts emphasis on the security of the individual and encompasses, in addition to physical safety and economic and social wellbeing, the realisation of human rights, too, both in the field of civico- political rights, and economic social and cultural rights. To pursue human security, emphasis is placed on preventive action which is implemented not only by development cooperation but also by different kinds of measures taken to promote democracy, good governance, the rule of law and human rights.

In recent years, the United Nations, too, has underlined the relation of human rights to development and security. Human rights, development and security are so strongly interrelated that the implementation of one of the dimensions presupposes commitment to fully observe and promote the other two as well.

The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights precisely 60 years ago on 10 December 1948. Today, the central message of the Declaration is as topical as it was at the time of its adoption: the human rights are universal and undivided and they belong to every single human being in the world on an equal basis. The political and moral authority of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is considerable: all the international human rights conventions concluded later have been founded on it.

A great deal of work remains to done to implement the human rights conventions in full. This work is important because the human rights situation and the human rights violations suffered in a State may bring about the outbreak of conflicts. The creation of a culture of peace, for example through human rights education and training serves the goal of prevention. Inversely, human rights violations may also result from conflicts. This year, too, one cannot but conclude that glaring human rights violations take place whenever there is a war going on. Women and children remain categories particularly vulnerable. I find it shocking that sexual violence against civilians continues to be used a strategic means to conduct war.

Treading on human rights may contribute essentially to the emergence of conflicts, but, on the other hand, human rights may also play an important role in crisis management, peace negotiations and reconstruction. Civilian crisis management is gaining importance in the building of sustainable peace, which entails a wider range of related tasks. Civilian crisis management operations are implemented in areas undergoing crises and in regions where external support is called for so that the key functions of society can be maintained. The goal of civilian crisis management consists in the development, among other things, of the functions of the police, justice, the coast guard system, customs, prison administration and administration in other sectors as well. Generally, several providers of assistance operate in the same crisis area, so it is important for the different actors and operations of assistance involved to be complementary and mutually supportive. Peacebuilding should contribute to the consolidation of the structures of society by means of a comprehensive approach to ensure that the results achieved rest on a solid basis.

Finland has participated actively in crisis management and the building of sustainable peace in areas undergoing a crisis by means of a comprehensive approach. Finnish strengths have involved long-term commitment to peacekeeping which could on some occasions be attached to the leading of peace negotiation processes. Finland has been a forerunner in the development of civilian crisis management education and training. It is important for us to keep on developing them in order to have the capacity needed to effectively respond to new challenges.

Addressing global challenges calls for counteractions in the form of increasing cooperation capacity and new types of partnerships and modes of operation both at a national and international level. Effective multilateral cooperation is key to responding to new security threats.

The realisation of sustainable peace calls for equality and non-discrimination as concerns the actors of society. It is important for women and men to have equal opportunities to participate in decision making and implementation. Finland has recently adopted a national implementation plan for the integration of Resolution 1325 of the Council of Security. In the spirit of this Resolution as well, I have made personal efforts to emphasize equality within the peace processes under my leadership, in particular by taking into consideration the role of women in peacemaking.

 

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