Speech by Foreign Minister Tuomioja at international peace mediation conference in Brussels: Regional actors as vectors of peace - What role for the EU?
Conference organized by the Crisis Management Initiative and the European Parliament, 25 April 2012, European Parliament, Brussels
Concluding remarks by H.E. Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland
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I wish to thank the European Parliament and the Crisis Management Initiative for the organization of this important seminar, which has brought together an impressive group of experienced mediators and other stakeholders to discuss the role of regional organizations in mediation. The special focus has been on how the European Union could enhance its global role in mediation, which indeed should be a vital part of the EU’s global actions.
Let me thank the European Parliament for the strong interest it has shown in mediation and in strengthening the EU’s mediation capacities. A pilot project to enhance the institutional capacity of the European External Action Service in this field has been launched upon the initiative of the European Parliament. I am convinced that the active role of the European Parliament is needed also in the future to advance the cause of mediation in the European structures.
I am delighted to be here with you today for two particular reasons: First, mediation is very high on the foreign policy agenda of Finland. We have been active in promoting the use of international mediation and in bolstering its support structures at global and regional levels. Second, strengthening the global role of the European Union has been an important priority of the Finnish EU policy from the very beginning of our EU membership. This seminar connects these two themes, which both are very close to my heart. Mediation could and should be a key element in the soft power exerted by the European Union.
Strengthening international mediation and improving coordination
The importance of mediation in conflict prevention and resolution is widely recognized. However, its potential still remains untapped. At the same time the mediation field has become somewhat crowded, sometimes even competitive. New states have become active in mediation. Civil society actors abound. Regional organizations have significantly stepped up their efforts. These are all very positive developments, but improved coordination is called for.
It was against this background Finland and Turkey took the initiative to create the Friends of Mediation Group in the margins of the UN General Assembly in September 2010. To date, the group comprises 28 Member States and eight regional organizations active in mediation, among them the European Union. The particular strength of this group is that it brings together mediators form different continents and from different cultures to share best practices and to promote a culture of mediation. Its members share the view that mediation deserves more attention and resources, both in the United Nations and in regional organizations.
The Group of Friends achieved very concrete results already during its first year of action. The first-ever resolution on mediation in the whole UN system was adopted in the General Assembly by consensus in June 2011. The resolution entitled “Strengthening the role of mediation in peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution” has been described by the Secretary General of the United Nations as “ a groundbreaking development that positions the Organization as a standard setter for mediation”. We can be proud of that achievement. Cooperation with Turkey has been very fruitful given its important role as a linchpin between East and West, its active role in international relations and its capacity to reach out to different geographical groupings.
Role of regional organizations in mediation
For Finland, the United Nations should indeed be the international standard setter for mediation. However, also the role of regional and subregional organizations in mediation is invaluable. They often have the best expertise of the situation at hand. They are also able to proceed in a swift and flexible manner. Their active role can also contribute to a deeper sense of participation. In its recent efforts to strenghten international mediation structures, Finland has very much focused on supporting capacity building of regional organizations in the field of mediation.
Many regional organizations have made significant progress in systematizing their mediation efforts. Take the African Union. Its strong determination to take responsibility for preventing and managing conflicts on its own continent is commendable. Finland wants to be partner in this, and has been financing a project to support African Union mediation capacities.The project was launched by former President Martti Ahtisaari in Addis Abeba in March 2009, partly as a Finnish contribution to the implementation of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy. In a longer run, the project aims at setting up a mediation support unit in the AU Commission, pending the approval of the member states of the AU.
In addition to the African Union, regional economic communities play a vital role on the African continent. A recent example is the strong leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in reaching an early agreement for a return to civilian rule in Mali after a military coup which took place in March.
Also the Arab League and the largest regional organization in the world, the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, have been very active in the field of mediation. The OIC recently convened a conference in Jeddah to discuss the contribution of regional organizations to the guidance for more effective mediation, which is currently being prepared by the United Nations Secretary General, as mandated by the UN General Assembly resolution on mediation.
In Asia, a decision on the establishment of a ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation was taken in the ASEAN Summit in Bali in November 2011. The preparations are now well under way. In addition to the EU support, Finland has been happy to assist this process bilaterally as well.
Mediation as a tool of EU’s foreign policy
Now, we have to ask ourselves: where exactly does the European Union stand today in this global context of increasing regional mediation activities?
The European Union is in itself perhaps the most successful peace project in world history. It was established on the desire to prevent violent conflicts between its Member States, and as the EU has enlarged, the zone of peace and stability has expanded at the same time. The capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts and to support the stabilization and post-conflict state building is a central component of the global role of the EU. But has the European Union been really able to utilize its soft power resources to the full extent?
The European Union has played a key role in several peace processes. Many of them have been mentioned by the previous speakers. The EU also has a wide array of tools to respond to all phases of the conflict cycle in a comprehensive way. The EU Special Representatives have had a visible role in EU mediation activities. The Instrument for Stability (IfS) has funded projects related to mediation support, confidence-building. However, it can be argued that the European Union has not yet been very systematic in developing its own mediation capacities. Its actions have often been quite ad-hoc based.
In 2009, during the Swedish EU Presidency, a Concept on Strengthening EU Mediation and Dialogue Capacities was adopted by the Council. It contains several important ideas and concrete suggestions to strengthen EU mediation capacities. Its implementation has been relatively slow, though, and its existence is not very well known.
There are several shortcomings we still have to address in our mediation activities. One of them is the low number of female mediators and the number of women participating in peace negotiations on behalf of the EU. The present EU Special Representative for Sudan and the South Sudan, Rosalind Marsden, who is with us today, is the only female special representative in the European Union. This is a very unfortunate situation, also given the importance the EU has for a long time attached to the effective implementation of the Security Council resolution 1325 on “Women, Peace and Security.”
Given the vigorous mediation efforts of regional organizations outside Europe, the European Union may even risk lagging behind in the development of its mediation activities and structures. This is a situation we should definitely avoid. The EU should be able to participate in the global cooperation, under the UN umbrella and otherwise, on par with other regional organizations. They are also interested to increase the cooperation with the EU in order to improve mediation capacities, ensure coherence and perform professionally. The EU must be able to live up to these expectations.
The establishment of the European External Action service (EEAS) has provided an excellent opportunity for the EU to take further steps in mediation. A Division of Peace Building, Conflict Prevention and Mediation has been established at the Department for Conflict prevention and Security Policy. It is our common responsibility to make sure that the division has adequate resources and necessary support for its actions. I encourage the European Parliament to continue its watchdog role in this respect.
Finland and Sweden have made an initiative for establishing a European Institute of Peace. We have proposed that the EIP should be an independent think tank based on the common values of the EU. It could focus on mediation and dialogue in countries where the EU cannot be directly involved. The European Parliament has now requested the EEAS to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the establishment of such an institute.
Lot of work remains to be done in the field of mediation. Hardly anyone can bring all the necessary competences to a mediation process, since expertise in a variety of different areas is usually required. A combination of different actors, serving different roles in the process is often beneficial. The United Nations, regional actors and track two organizations can all have their added value. At the same time there should always be complete clarity of roles, in order to avoid forum-shopping and overlapping authority. The lack of coordination and the even the competition between various actors engaged in peace mediation can sometimes be a serious hindrance to success.
A significant step forward would be to nominate a lead mediator for each crisis situation. He or she can be an EU representative, representative of another regional organization or a UN representative- depending on who is the best for the job. In all cases, the UN with its vast experience can play a facilitating and legitimizing role.
I would also like to emphasize the importance of civil society in mediation. They play a vital role in situations where governments cannot act. Finland actually very seldomly acts as a mediator itself. Rather, we rely on partners like the Crisis Management Initiative, the organizer of this seminar. In conflict countries, civil society actors often have the best knowledge of the local situation and they can help identify concrete measures to address the root causes of the conflict.
We must make sure that there will be adequate structures within the European Union to fully cooperate with the UN, with the other regional organizations and with civil society organizations. There must be adequate mechanisms to support the activities of the EU mediators in the field. The United Nations has its Mediation Support Unit. The EEAS has to have corresponding, strong structures.
It is our common responsibility to ensure that the European Union is capable of bringing its full contribution to the ongoing peace processes, in cooperation and coordination with other actors. We must be able to live up to our global role in creating conditions conducive to the lasting peace everywhere in the world, also by means of effective mediation.