Nordic countries are superpowers in mediation – expertise and impartiality are their strengths
The Nordic countries' special strengths include high-quality expertise, a neutral position in relation to most conflicts, and independence of the great powers.
Successful peace diplomacy leads to new requests for mediation. A seminar on Nordic peace diplomacy was organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on 9 March.
Mediation as a priority in Finland's foreign policy
According to Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini, mediation is among the strategic priorities of Finnish foreign policy. Finland and Finnish people have been engaged in significant mediation tasks. More effective ways of mediation are sought by means of training and developing the skills and competencies of Foreign Service officials working in these positions. Finland's diplomatic and consular missions abroad play an important role when the grounds of Finland's participation in mediation is discussed.
"Our approach to mediation is holistic. It includes conflict prevention as well as the promotion of national dialogues and the inclusive participation of civil society actors in peace processes. We emphasize full participation of both women and youth and traditional and religious leaders in mediation processes," Foreign Minister Soini stated.
Nordic countries experienced in mediation
The keynote speech was held by Peter Wallensteen, Senior Professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research in Uppsala University in Sweden. Professor Wallensteen and Professor Isak Svensson have co-authored a book entitled Fredens diplomater: Nordisk medling från Bernadotte till Ahtisaari (Santérus förlag 2016), which discusses Nordic peace diplomacy after the Second World War.
The book concentrates on the role of diplomats in mediation and analyses about fifty crises and conflicts, which were mediated by a representative of one of the Nordic countries.
Challenges of mediation
Wallenstein considers that the diversity of conflicts will become a challenge in the future. According to him, religious argumentation, for example, has surfaced in the discussion in the 21st century. Understanding of women's diverse roles in conflict resolution has become clearer. Although it is now generally accepted that they must be involved in peace processes but in practice, this seldom takes place. Aggravating relations between the great powers also complicates mediation.
According to Wallensteen, in negotiations, mediators must more than before take care that agreements are sufficiently comprehensive and detailed and that they provide guidelines for the actual implementation phase. Peace processes never end when an agreement is signed. It is important to develop more effective instruments to support the implementation of peace treaties. This is also a challenge encountered by international organisations.
Under-Secretary of State Anne Sipiläinen moderated the panel discussion about mediation between Professor Wallensteen, former Minister Elisabeth Rehn, Doctor Pertti Joenniemi and Ambassador Heikki Talvitie.