Finland: Building bridges amid rising tensions

Published on Tuesday, 15th of June 2021

The newly-established Centre for Mediation aims to strengthen Finland’s role in advancing peace. Due to increased international tensions, there is more scope for Finland to act as a bridgebuilder.

Inaugural retreat between CMI and the new Centre for Mediation took place in November 2020.

In 2020, Finland put more emphasis on peace mediation in its foreign policy and in October a new Centre for Mediation was set up at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The Centre aims to strengthen Finland’s expertise and capacity in peace mediation work, coordinate the activities of the Ministry more systematically and coordinate collaboration with other actors in the field. 

“Since 2010, Finland has worked persistently to strengthen the role of mediation as a foreign policy priority. This new Centre is clearly a step forward. Finland has a lot to offer globally in promoting peace,” says Ambassador Teemu Turunen who heads the new Centre.  

He reflects on the fact that leading the new centre is his dream job. Some 20 years ago, he wrote a master’s thesis on peacemaking and especially on the collaboration between unofficial and official actors in mediation processes.  

The Finnish peacemaking model is rooted in the close cooperation between the state and independent organisations, such as CMI. The model has become one of Finland’s key assets in mediation, says Turunen. And expanding and deepening such cooperation is integral to the work of the new Centre.  

“It’s impossible to resolve increasingly complex conflicts without building coalitions that have a range of actors, working on different levels and complementing each other. The better we work together, the better we succeed,” says Turunen. 

There aren’t many countries that can effectively give peace a chance” 

Turunen thinks that Finland’s profile contains much added value for peace mediation. The country is widely viewed as a sufficiently impartial, pragmatic, trustworthy and discreet actor. 

“We are an honest broker without a predominant agenda of our own. Our interest is to see how we can best help the conflict parties.”   

In many conflict-ridden countries, the Finnish story inspires hope. After an exceptionally brutal civil war and subsequent conflict, Finland developed over the course of a century into one of the most stable and well-functioning countries in the world. Equality, one of the cornerstones of Finland’s success, is very visible in the approach that highlights the role of women and youth in building peace.  

Increased great power competition gives new momentum to Finland to act as a problem solver or a bridge-builder. Due to international tensions, there are fewer and fewer locales like Finland that would be seen as providing sufficiently impartial and safe space for dialogue. In recent years, Finland has hosted several important meetings between major powers. This advantage is also tangibly reflected in the work of the CMI when searching for meeting places for negotiations.   

“I think this role as a problem solver could be seen as a continuation and complementation of the historic bridge-builder role Finland has had in the past. There aren’t that many countries in the world that can effectively give peace a chance,” Turunen observes.

This article was published in our Annual Report 2020