Re-discovering UN Peacekeeping: Challenges, Trajectories and Prospects

Endast inbjudna · The Parliament Annex Auditorium · 13.05.2013 10:00 - 12:30
  • Endast inbjudna

Endast inbjudna

The UN peacekeeping system has witnessed a gradual but remarkable expansion during the first decade of the 21st century. The number of UN peacekeepers and civilian police deployed globally has peaked over 100,000 for the past years, and UN peace operations are performing increasingly complex and challenging tasks involving state-building, rule of law, security and justice sector reform. The purpose of this seminar is to explore the current challenges confronting UN peacekeeping and possible avenues to resolve them. What role does traditional peacekeeping play in contemporary UN conflict management? Is UN conflict management heading towards more agile operations and tailored solutions, including special political missions, from template solutions and large integrated missions? In which ways could Finland and other Nordic countries contribute to UN peacekeeping and thus renew their commitment to UN peace and security?

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is bringing up to date its UN strategy during the spring 2013. To support the strategy revision, a seminar series dealing with contemporary UN issues is held. This seminar – the fourth of these thematic seminars – is an opportunity to discuss topical challenges and pave the way for new ideas and initiatives.

Opening speech:
Erkki Tuomioja
, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Finland

Keynote speech:
Lisa Buttenheim, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP)

Marcus Rantala, State Secretary, Ministry of Defence
Sanna Haapala, Former participant in UN and EU led crisis management operations

Mika Aaltola, Programme Director, Finnish Institute of International Affairs

For more information,please contact:
Ms Eeva Innola, tel. +358 9 432 7710,


Summary of the seminar:

The seminar on 13 May, organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, considered topical challenges, trends and future prospects of UN peacekeeping. In his opening address at the event, Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja emphasised the importance of the UN as the cornerstone of Finnish foreign policy. Finland has also been and continues to be committed to UN peacekeeping, which is one of the basic UN means to maintain international peace and security. The speech by Foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja can be read in the bottom of this page.

For the first time, Finland deployed peacekeeping forces to Suez in 1956, after which more than 40,000 Finnish peacekeepers have served in over 30 UN-commanded operations. Peacekeeping activity has undergone some significant changes. The first UN operation was established when Egypt strived to nationalise the internationally important trade route, the Suez Canal. At that time, peacekeepers monitored, patrolled and safeguarded demilitarised zones and their integrity.

Peacekeeping operations changed and their amount increased significantly in the 1990s, partly due to the dissolution of the Cold War-era antagonistic world order. Currently, the mandates for operations take better account of the interconnection between development, peace and security, and human rights. In spite of the changes, the goals – securing of peace, protection of civilian population, and restoration of normal conditions – have remained the same, Minister Tuomioja summarised.

The main speaker of the seminar, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UNFICYP operation (Cyprus) Lisa Buttenheim pointed out that the operations have changed and they are facing new challenges. For example, the Mali mission (MINUSMA) has raised the issue of the stance of peacekeeping activity in relation to prevention of terrorism. In Mali, the mandate for anti-terrorist operations has been granted only to the AFISMA mission, commanded by France.

Similarly, the exceptionally extensive authorisation to use force given to the ”intervention brigade” in the MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has given rise to debate. This mission also uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), about which many member states have reservations.

In spite of everything, the key principles of peacekeeping have remained unchanged:

  • neutrality
  • approval of the receiving state
  • rules of engagement

When engaged in peacekeeping, one must take advantage of training and use the right tools – military measures alone do not suffice. ”Force has been used in UN operations, and the role of the use of force is central, but it can never replace the political process,” Buttenheim estimated.

Marcus Rantala, State Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, addressed the same theme. There is absolute demand for military activity in the operations, but it has a role to play only for a certain part of the time, when the international community is providing support for the conflict area. For this reason, a comprehensive approach is important in the conflict area; different auxiliary activities are mutually supportive and interdependent, so that a state or region can maintain lasting peace and develop. ”The role of the international community is to support this development.”

Reconciling the operations to new challenges is a demanding task for the UN and its member states. The intergovernmental and even internal threats concern several states at a time, so addressing them requires simultaneous efforts taken by several nations. Sometimes the affected states are not willing to accept international forces.

Reluctance to intervene in internal state affairs is also emphasised in the policies practiced by certain states with permanent seats in the UN Security Council. In case of Syria, Russia in particular has been reluctant to intervene in the situation. According to Foreign Minister Tuomioja, if ever implemented, the potential peacekeeping mission in Syria would be one of the most challenging and difficult operations in the UN history. In spite of this, the UN member states would be obliged to support implementation of the operation. Finland is also prepared to consider the possibility of participating in such an operation.

Financing and finding of resources are also challenges that concern peacekeeping. Lisa Buttenheim pointed out that there is a discrepancy between the donors and troop contributing countries. The biggest donors are western countries, and the largest financial contributions are made by industrial countries (the US, Japan, the UK, Germany and France), and the largest numbers of troops are contributed by emerging countries with large populations (Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Ethiopia and Nigeria).

The emerging states are demanding more influence on peacekeeping issues, but they have been reluctant to increase their shares in the financing of operations. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) hopes that also the EU would make a stronger commitment to supporting operations and contributing forces. The UN needs the support of all of its member states also in peacekeeping activities. As regards troop contribution, improved regional balance is needed. In addition, there is demand for various capabilities.

Researcher Paul Romita from the Security Council Report think tank highlighted the difficult and sometimes even hostile environment in which the troops are forced to operate. In many conflicts, civilian population has become a target of armed operations to an increasing extent. The methods of war have become crueller than they used to be.

Sanna Haapala, who has served in both EU and UN operations, addressed the same problems. In her opinion, the UN forces no longer enjoy similar respect as earlier and, for this reason, it is more difficult to win the trust of local population, and therefore peacekeepers become targets of hostile outbursts easier than before. Haapala emphasised that everyone working in the field should take into account the local culture and respect the modes of operation of the local people. This should be observed better in training as well.

Source: Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Speech by Foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja:

It is my pleasure to welcome you to today’s seminar on the important subject of United Nations peacekeeping.

It will come as no surprise, but I would like to once again express the strong support of Finland to the United Nations system. For us the United Nations is the cornerstone of global multilateral cooperation and the highest authority in the area of international security. Active participation in the work of the United Nations is very much in the interest of a small and open country like Finland. Our participation is motivated by our wish to advance and influence issues important to us. We also have a strong sense of collective responsibility and duty to contribute to the objectives of the United Nations in the areas of peace and security, development and human rights.

This occasion feeds into the revision of the Foreign Ministry’s United Nations strategy which will be completed this summer. I am very pleased to devote this morning to peacekeeping, a central part of the activities of the United Nations. It is one of the most visible expressions of the UN’s commitment to peace and security. When I have taken part in public discussions on UN matters here in Finland, the subject of Finnish participation in UN led peace keeping operations has often been brought forward.

In Finland UN Peacekeeping enjoys a good reputation and there are good reasons for that. Finland has been involved in crisis management efforts since the early days of UN peacekeeping. In addition to their direct contribution to peace and security, the peacekeeping operations we have participated in have provided valuable experience for our armed forces and experts as well as first hand information from various politically important areas of the world. They have also taught us something about the dynamics of conflicts, which has been useful in our later efforts to promote mediation and other forms of preventive diplomacy.

Our peacekeeping history dates back to the 1950s and the Suez crisis. Since then over 40 000 Finnish troops have participated in around 30 UN led or mandated operations, for instance in the Middle East and Kashmir, and in several African countries such as Chad, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Liberia and Namibia – and of course in Cyprus. I am happy to welcome among us today the UN Special Representative and Head of the Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Ms. Lisa Buttenheim. Cyprus has a particular place in the history of Finnish UN peacekeeping. Between 1964 and 1977 we had a Finnish battalion in Cyprus featuring up to 1000 peacekeepers and the last Finnish peacekeepers left the island in 2005. There is a piece of personal history here also; my father Sakari Tuomioja was invited by then Secretary General U Thant to serve as mediator in this crisis in 1963.

Today, we are committed to continuing our support to UN peacekeeping. The Finnish contribution in the Middle East increased about a year ago as we returned to the UNIFIL operation and 170 Finnish peacekeepers were deployed to Lebanon. We will further increase our contribution to this operation by taking the role of lead nation for the Irish-Finnish Battalion in November this year with up to 350 peacekeepers.

A lot has changed since the early days of UN peacekeeping operations. The first generation operations used to have clearly defined mandates to patrol, observe and report in a clear-cut demilitarized zone between two opposing parties. This form of peacekeeping based on military observers and troops began to change in the 1990s. Today’s United Nations is firmly based on the conviction that peace and security, development and human rights are closely interlinked. This is also reflected in peacekeeping, where soldiers have been joined by civilian units of considerable size, for example police units. Most peacekeeping operations today have a broad mandate with tasks such as protection of civilians, supporting the rule of law, disarmament of combatants and assisting in security sector reform. They also often assist in supporting inclusive political processes.

At the end of the day, however, the mission and the objectives remain the same: To provide peace, security and stability to areas of conflict and to give hope of a better future and a return to normal life to affected populations.

In today’s crises and conflicts there are often transnational threats and actors as well as different internal political, ethnic and ideological objectives. These factors contribute to a wide range of crises and it is often challenging for the UN to adjust to different situations in a swift and effective manner.

Partnerships have become a more and more important factor for the success of securing peace and security in today’s changing world. Crisis management rests all the more in the hands of different organizations including the EU, NATO, AU and other regional organizations. The United Nations needs to further develop its strategic partnership with regional organizations in order to maximize the impact of its efforts and to use its resources in the most effective way. The UN-AU hybrid operation in Darfur in Sudan is a good example. Increased effectiveness also implies close cooperation with civil society organizations, which often play an important role in the field and at local level.

When looking at UN peacekeeping today, it is important to keep in mind the picture of troop contributors and financial contributors. The top five of the former group are Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Ethiopia and Nigeria and the top five of the latter are the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and France. This constellation often makes it difficult to reach agreement on matters related to costs, compensation and other modalities for peacekeeping activities. When adding the complexities related to mission mandates, the missions’ relations to the governments and authorities of their host countries as well as their resources and abilities to communicate with the local population, it is obvious that there is a need to constantly develop the concept of peacekeeping.

Finland’s Crisis Management Strategy is based on a notion of comprehensive security combining civil and military activities. Along with soldiers and police also engineers, human rights experts, gender advisers, doctors and lawyers are needed. The conflict cycle has to be seen holistically from conflict prevention to long-term development on the ground. To take a particular example, we firmly believe that the participation of women in peace negotiations and in political processes needs to be enhanced in line with Security Council Resolution 1325 on women peace and security.

Strengthening civilian capacities is a key issue in UN peacekeeping and the UN Secretary General has rightly pointed out new horizons for civilian tasks. Finland has been a forerunner in developing civilian capacities. Annually around 130 Finnish civilian experts are sent to conflict areas to support peacekeeping and peace building efforts and around 40 % of them are women.

Finland contributes to the strengthening of civilian capacities by sharing our experience and knowledge from training and offering support to capacity building. The first peacekeeping centre was established in Finland in 1969 (today called FINCENT). FINCENT organizes United Nations Observer Courses and to this date, some 4500 military observers have been trained there.

Our Crisis Management Centre (CMC) specializes in civilian crisis management carrying out tasks related to capacity building. FINCENT and CMC have a joint Centre of Expertise in Comprehensive Crisis Management, combining both civilian and military training.

As an EU Member State, Finland supports the strengthening of cooperation between the EU and the UN. Enhanced coordination and synergies should be sought actively and continuously. While cooperation is already taking place on different levels, there is certainly still room for further intensifying this cooperation, for example concerning civilian tasks.

In the United Nations Finland cooperates closely with the other Nordic Countries; Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. We very much share the same values, which form the basis of the so called Nordic model. This cooperation also encompasses UN peacekeeping. Finland actively promotes deeper Nordic defense cooperation that aims at cost-efficiency and at ways of securing capabilities. We are currently considering more closely joint Nordic contributions to the United Nations peacekeeping activities. This could be a natural area for deeper cooperation since we all are strongly committed to the United Nations and have a long history of active engagement in the work of the organisation.

Given the challenges I just have outlined, it is my hope that in the years to come we will witness a trend where traditional peacekeeping missions will move towards perhaps smaller, but hopefully more cost-effective and flexible missions with a strong political dimension, focusing on mediation and conflict prevention, as well as peace-building and economic and social recovery. The issue of national ownership must be taken into account and the support and know-how of regional organisations will be crucial. Finland has taken an interest in further exploring ways to develop the concept of so called Special Political Missions in the UN system. There will undoubtedly, however, also in the future be situations where a traditional and robust UN peacekeeping presence remains the only viable option.

One place where this could be the case is Syria. The outlook for a quick end to the killing and a political resolution to the Syrian crisis remains bleak for the time being. Nevertheless we should be prepared for a situation – and the UN secretariat has been engaged in contingency planning for this – where a strong and robust UN peace-keeping operation can be mandated, based on a cease-fire and an agreement accepted by all parties. If this does come about it will be perhaps the most demanding and dangerous UN operation in history and it has to be adequately resourced and mandated from the beginning to have any chance of success. As awesome as the task may be, we cannot shy away from the challenge if called for, for the sake of the Syrian people as well as the credibility of the United Nations.

The challenge for all of us is to find the right ways to respond to different conflict situations. This requires both political will and knowledge as well as technical and financial resources. But above all it must be based on the conviction that we all have a role to play in responding to threats to peace and security in the spirit of the UN Charter. I hope that today’s seminar will provide us with some food for thought on how to better achieve this objective.