This interview was conducted by Pınar AKPINAR, Vice Director, Center for International Conflict Resolution at Yalova University during the II. Istanbul Conference on Mediation on April 11, 2013.
Dr. Erkki Tuomioja is Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland. He has been a Member of the Parliament from Social Democratic Party 1970-79 and from 1991 onwards. He was Chairman of the Grand Committee (EU affairs) between 2007 and 2011. He served for another term as Minister for Foreign Affairs between 2000 and 2007. He was Minister of Trade and Industry between 1999 and 2000. He was Vice-Chairman of the SDP Parliamentary Group between 1991 and 1996 and Chairman between 1996 and 1999.
Erkki Tuomioja worked as a journalist before being elected to parliament. He was Deputy Mayor in Helsinki 1979-91. He has a Ph.D. in political science, B.Sc. in economics and holds a lectureship in political history in the University of Helsinki. Erkki Tuomioja is author of 18 books, including Europe and the Nordic Fringe written in English and published in 1991.
How do you see the future of the Friends of Mediation initiative?
The Group of Friends of Mediation was launched in 2010. It was established in order to strengthen the position of mediation internationally and to bring different types of mediators and cultures of mediation together. In today’s world, there is a constant demand for conflict prevention. International community has, until now, concentrated on reacting and managing conflicts. More preventive action is needed. The most tangible achievements of the Group of Friends of Mediation have been the first ever UN resolution on mediation and its follow-up resolution. Furthermore, UN Secretary General has released a report on mediation and a Guidance for Effective Mediation. These achievements have increased the momentum for the initiative and the Group has been joined by many new members. Today the Group consists of 36 countries and 8 international organizations. A lot remains to be done in strengthening the role of mediation. As more countries join the Group of Friends of Mediation the chances to support international mediation efforts and to further improve the normative and institutional framework for mediation will increase.
One specific theme that is in the agenda of the Group of Friends of Mediation in the near future is developing funding of UN mediation. Today all the efforts of the UN Mediation Support Unit are funded by voluntary contributions. Effective mediation requires adequate resources and one option to guarantee this would be to get more stable and predictable funding through increase in the number of voluntary contributors. A long term option could be to get mediation funded by the UN regular budget.
How do you think Turkish-Finnish cooperation would contribute to peace?
The partnership between Finland and Turkey in mediation has been very successful. Our cooperation has already contributed to peace by strengthening the normative and institutional framework for mediation and the role of mediation as conflict prevention and resolution tool. The first ever UN General Assembly resolution on mediation in 2011, which was initiated by Finland and Turkey, was a major step in bringing mediation to the core of the UN. Our cooperation is a great example of new kind of partnership under the umbrella of the UN. The Group of Friends of Mediation brings different kinds of cultures of mediation and conflict resolution together to share their experiences and views on these issues.
The partnership between Finland and Turkey is not, however, only confined to the work of the Group of Friends of Mediation. Finland and Turkey support each other’s peace efforts through information sharing and bilateral cooperation as well. Finland is really happy for the partnership with Turkey.
What makes Turkey Finland’s partner?
Finland and Turkey share a common interest towards the use of mediation in conflict prevention, conflict management and resolution. This has been a cornerstone of the partnership. Finland and Turkey differ from each other in size, geopolitical situation as well as in history and this heterogeneity of the two partners has been an asset for the cooperation. The partnership between Finland and Turkey is based on mutual support. Finland is very happy and honoured to work in partnership with an active mediator like Turkey.
How do you think the Friends of Mediation initiative contribute to the sustainability of Turkey’s mediation role?
Turkey’s role as a mediator has further strengthened through the establishment of the Group of Friends of Mediation. There are 44 members in the Group that work in cooperation and share best practices in mediation. All the members contribute to the discussions within the Group; hence the Group is a great platform for creating new forms of cooperation and getting information on different situations. Through the Group of Friends of Mediation Turkey can contribute to the role of mediation at the UN level more effectively than it would all by itself.
Do you think that the EU could start a Somali initiative based on Turkish-Finnish cooperation?
It is extremely important that the international community supports Somalia and will help them to overcome the challenges not only in the field of peace and security but also for example by strengthening the rule of law and improving food security. EU and countries like Turkey give significant aid to Somalia; in this context Finland underlines the need to coordinate these efforts with the Government of Somalia. Right now, it would be necessary to enhance that coordination, and work together with the Somalis.
How do you think Turkey’s mediation initiatives would affect its relations with the EU? Do you think there could be a Turkish-EU mediation initiative?
Turkey has a unique regional position and it has worked actively in peace efforts in the Middle East and Africa. The EU highly appreciates Turkey’s role as regional mediator. In the Group of Friends of Mediation Turkey works in cooperation with the EU and with many EU member states, like Finland, Sweden, Austria, Germany and Spain. Hence it can be said that Turkey’s initiative with Finland on the Friends of Mediation has already fostered cooperation between Turkey and the EU since the EU is a member of the Group of Friends of Mediation.