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Alexander Stubb: Conflict resolution is a skill we can all learn

Published on Wednesday, 18th of April 2018

Our new Chairman of the Board, Alexander Stubb, shared some of his views on CMI’s work in our annual report. Stubb reminds us that peace is not a passive process: we must all take responsibility for actively solving conflicts wherever they occur

CMI’s Chairman of the Board Alexander Stubb. Photo: Riku Isohella

The ability to resolve conflicts is not some mystical gift for only a select few. It is a skill we can all learn.

My predecessor, CMI’s founder President Martti Ahtisaari, often notes that there is nothing inevitable about war and conflict. They are not natural catastrophes but man-made ones. And as President Ahtisaari puts it, what people have started, people can end.

These are wise, but also binding words. Peace is not a passive process; we must all take responsibility for actively solving conflicts wherever they occur. This message also has an optimistic tone, one that is typical of both President Ahtisaari and myself. The ability to resolve conflicts is not some mystical gift for only a select few. It is a skill we can all learn, develop, and apply in everyday life and in politics. My predecessor’s insight again comes to mind: peace is a question of will. We at CMI know that solving conflicts takes time, perseverance and a wide range of skills. And this is what we are good at. Our business is peace and mediation.

In the short time that I have chaired the Board, the following three things have struck me most about CMI.

First, CMI prevents conflicts. As is true in many areas of life, preventive measures are usually cheaper and easier than corrective measures. Whereas the economic cost of full-blown war is measured in the billions of euros per day, a CMI peace negotiation meeting costs about 40,000 euros. Despite this solid economic argument, conflict prevention is too often seen as meddling with the internal affairs of countries. Hopefully this mindset will change now that the United Nations and many other international organisations are starting to prioritise conflict prevention. Simply put, peace is a sound investment.

Second, CMI stands out for its work as a peace mediator. CMI has 18 years of experience in solving violent conflicts around the world. Our teams work hard in Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa to bring conflicting parties together to make peace. The figures from 2017 speak for themselves: with a highly professional staff, we are involved in 11 peace processes in 12 countries, with 16 projects around the world, 13 informal dialogue platforms, and last year we organised 229 workshops or dialogue meetings, 904 meetings with conflict stakeholders, and 606 meetings with international peers. This is an impressive record of CMI’s efforts and progress.

Third, CMI places a strong focus on women in peacemaking. Unlike many other organisations in the field, we have invested in a five-member team to bring their expertise related to women in peacemaking to all of CMI’s work, both at home in Finland and abroad. Including women in peacemaking is essential for building more democratic and equitable societies.

These three characteristics make CMI distinctive, and one of the world’s leading conflict resolution organisations. But our ambitions go even further. We want to be at the cutting edge in understanding the significance of artificial intelligence and modern technology. Cyber attacks, the manipulation of information, and meddling with democratic processes are all parts of a megatrend that has emerged through the digital revolution. But technology also has great potential for good. There is no such thing as a Peace Machine just yet, although there are many efforts being made in this direction. Peace and technology is an area where smart alliances could bring significant results. We build partnerships and invest in internal learning to be part of this development. Machines and computing power will not solve our wars for us, but they can condense masses of information that we can use to support our own decision-making and broker peace.

Though 2018 will not see the end of war or conflict, our annual report for 2017 does show that we at CMI are steadily and patiently continuing our work. Peace by piece.

Alexander Stubb

You can read the whole Annual Report 2017 here