Your excellences, ladies and gentlemen,
My name is Satu Haapanen and I am a member of the Finnish Parliament. I have the pleasure and great honour of representing the Government of Finland and representing the Nordic Council where I work as a vice chairperson of the Citizens’ and Consumer Rights Committee.
The government of Finland has from the very beginning strongly supported the objectives and the actions of the UN Alliance of Civilization to act as a soft power tool to improve the dialogue and cooperation between cultures and religions. Crisis and conflicts in many parts of the world tragically demonstrate that the need for dialogue and cooperation has maybe never been greater than in today’s world. During the last years, Finland has been actively striving to strengthen the standing of mediation in the sphere of international relations and international organizations and supported various mediation and dialogue processes. We therefore, also strongly support the role of the Alliance in conflict prevention and mediation and welcome a more focused discussion on this topic in the Global Forum.
During conflicts, young people unfortunately often pay the highest price and are much too often mobilized to fighting rather than to peace building and mediation. Moreover, security concerns often override other issues such as opportunities for youth. We have not yet fully realized the potential of the predominately young populations in many conflict ridden countries. They can be important agents of change in their societies if given the right educational tools and opportunities to actively participate in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Finland therefore, welcomes all efforts of the Alliance to seek ways to increasingly incorporate young people in various mediation and peace-building efforts and processes.
Most conflicts today are very complex and involve multiple issues. Religion is rarely the principal cause but it can be a contributing factor to conflicts and instability. At the same time, religion can be invaluable in promoting understanding and reconciliation between the conflicting parties, it can open a window of opportunity and provide a basis for mediation and peacebuilding efforts. Recently, the potential of religion has been increasingly recognized as a positive force in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution. Although religious leaders or other faith-based actors may not be able to resolve the conflict alone, they can significantly contribute to the official mediation and other more formal methods of settlement.
This is one of the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General’s report from 2012 on mediation which highlights the enhancement of partnerships with religious and traditional leaders and encourages systematic work with them in conflict resolution. Finn Church Aid was invited to coordinate the establishment of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. The setting up of the Network, supported by the Finnish Foreign Ministry, has received positive feedback but it has also raised high expectations.
It is clear, however, that the Network can succeed in bringing expected grass-root support to wider mediation efforts only if it receives full support from other international actors and partner organizations. Finland also believes that more can and must be done to fully engage women in conflict resolution and mediation and looks forward to strengthening the participation of women also in the newly established Network.
I would like to tell you also what we have done in the Nordic Council to promote the aims of the Alliance of Civilization. The early initiative to create a regional strategy within the frames of the Alliance of Civilization was proposed as early as in 2011. Now we are at the point the Nordic Council has become a member of the Groups of Friends. We have realized in the Nordic Council that learning from each other’s experiences helps everyone to develop best practices. After joining the Group of Friends, the co-operation between the Nordic countries in the field of human rights can be expected to become even closer and more intense. While no specific finances have been allocated by the Nordic Council to the initiative itself, there has been a strong political recommendation from the Nordic Council to the governments to take part and exchange the experiences from the UNAOC initiative. By joining the Alliance of Civilizations the Nordic Council wants to promote the areas of mediation, human rights and freedom of expression and to encourage the Nordic governments to gather and distribute good practices in the field of intercultural dialogue. As Nordic Countries have long traditions in promoting equity and equality between its citizens, belonging to the group of friends of the Alliance of Civilizations naturally highlights this aspect of Nordic societies.
It is up to – and even a responsibility – of each member of the Alliance of Civilizations to promote the values of the Alliance and to give the contents to these values. Finland is willing and committed to continue the work and co-operation within the Alliance of Civilizations. As we are all respectively concerned about the rising tensions and uncertainty, and witness tragic conflicts in almost every continent, the Alliance’s work is no doubt needed today more than ever before.