From Crisis Management to Conflict Prevention. Is the EU up to the Task?Speech at the Royal United Service Institute, London 18.1. 2011


The genocide in Rwanda in and the massacre of Bosniak men and women in Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina some fifteen years ago galvanized the international community into taking new steps towards more effective crisis management. In both cases these atrocities were witnessed at first hand by international peacekeepers who with neither a mandate nor sufficient force did not intervene and stop the killings. The UN took steps to beef up its peace-keeping operations while for the EU this was the decisive impetus to build its military crisis management capabilities, including its now operational Battle Groups for rapid deployment in demanding peace-keeping tasks.
 
Two immensely important changes have to be taken into account when discussing how the international community's approach to crisis and conflicts has evolved and the direction it will take.
 
One is the fall of the Berlin Wall the end of the Cold War. But those who expected this to mean the beginning of a new era of disarmament, peace and security for everyone were to be disappointed. World military expenditure did, in fact, drop from c. 1500 billion dollars at the end of the Cold War to about a 1000 billion ten years later, but has since the grown back to 1600 billion, or more than during the Cold War. The US and China together account for about 80 % of the increase during the last ten years.
 
Nuclear disarmament has not made any significant progress either. The old nuclear powers have done little to fulfill their obligations under the NPT and two presumed new nuclear powers, Iran and North Korea, are now topping the list of international concerns, not to mention Pakistan.
 
While the end of the Cold War did allow for some longstanding conflicts to be addressed and resolved, it has had next to no effect in the Middle East, for example. In many places it may actually have stoked up some long-simmering conflicts, which had been contained by the Superpowers who did not want them to escalate to direct confrontation.
 
If people to day do not feel more secure than during the Cold War it is because their security concerns are different today. While threats associated with traditional war between nation states have receded, they have been replaced by threats to what is referred to as the broad concept of security. These do include the use of weapons in conflict, but more in Civil war type situations and so-called asymmetrical conflicts, where one or more non-state actors are involved, often in situations created by, or leading to, failed states which cannot guarantee the security of their citizens.
 
The broad concept of security also includes non-military threats, such as drugs, communicable diseases, cross-border crime, trafficking. environmental hazards and catastrophes, climate change, uncontrolled migration of people trying to flee from war, human rights violations, environmental degradation or just plain poverty; terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
 
I deliberately include terrorism in the list of non-military threats, because one of the costliest mistakes that we have all suffered from has been the adoption of war-rhetoric in combating terrorism. This is not to say that the use of military means is never necessary in meeting the threat of terrorism. It can even be necessary in dealing with the other new threats to broad security, as for example when navies and military personnel are used to safeguard the delivery of relief to victims of disasters or famine, but these are threats that can never be successfully dealt with only through military means and use of war rhetoric.
 
Indeed, not only are these threats not susceptible to military solutions, they are also of the kind that cannot be dealt with unilaterally or by domestic solutions. They all, I would say almost by definition, call for multilateral efforts and cooperation on the broadest possible basis.
 
The other mega-factor behind all change and challenges in today's world is population growth. This has irrevocably changed the world and is the most obvious reason why interdependence whether we like or not, in both things good and bad - is a reality that no-one can escape. This applies to all and any countries, big or small, armed with nuclear weapons or not, and irrespective of whether they embrace globalization or would want to opt out of it.
 
The world's population has during my own lifetime grown threefold from 2,3 billion when I was born after WW2, to almost seven billion today. And although it is now true that this growth has begun to even out, the number of people on earth will reach at least nine or ten billion before we can attain zero population growth.
 
It should also be remembered, that as the world's total population grows, the number of people on the move - as migrants, displaced person or refugees - has grown at an even faster rate and is also an element contributing to many conflicts.
 
All this has enormous consequences for how mankind interacts with its natural environment. It may be that, even at best, we have only a few decades time in which to adapt our behavior to the exigencies of ecologically, socially and economically sustainable development. 
 

What was still possible and workable in a world with a few hundred million or even 2 billion people is no longer valid in a world with seven billion people, let alone with more than 9 billion. This undermines one of the defining features of the Westphalian order, namely the use of power politics, including resorting to war to further you national interest to and gain advantage at the cost of other nations or the environment. 
 
This also sets the agenda for global governance. Interdependence means, that not only is everyone facing the same common challenges, we also need common solutions. Moreover, also the challenges themselves are interlinked. "No development without peace, no peace without development" is now a generally accepted conclusion, which can be expanded to cover also Human Rights and democracy and all other elements which contribute to human security. 
 
The conclusion is, that while crisis management capabilities, ranging from observers, arbitrators, mediators to traditional peacekeeping, civilian crisis management and also increasingly demanding crisis management operations are needed, and while there is also a record of successes to show for these efforts, they are not enough, if new conflicts emerge continuously. Even old conflicts can erupt again unless the underlying root causes are successfully addressed. A frozen conflict remains an unresolved conflict and may be again unleashed by global warming - in some cases even literally through the effects of climate change.
 
Thus the international community - and it should be understood as mainly referring to the United Nations and its special agencies, even if regional organisations can and should take more responsibility for various operations - must continue to develop and refine a comprehensive approach to all aspects of conflict prevention and crisis management.
 
To what degree has this taken place? We can point to some very important new approaches incorporating new principles for strengthening the rule-of-law in international relations and which answer to the need of a Post-Westphalian world order.
 
These include the "Responsibility to Protect", which, after the Rwanda debacle was developed and incorporated into the Outcome Document of the 2005 UN Summit. The responsibility to protect is defined by a set of three principles. First, all states have a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing (mass atrocities). Second, if the state is unable to protect its population on its own, the international community has a responsibility to assist the state by building its capacity which can mean building early-warning capabilities, mediating conflicts between political parties, strengthening the security sector, mobilizing standby forces, and many other actions. And thirdly, if a state is manifestly failing to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures are not working, the international community has the responsibility to intervene at first diplomatically, then more coercively, and as a last resort, with military force.

 
Another important milestone has been the withering of impunity and the enhanced probability that perpetrators of human rights violations and other crime will be brought to justice. The agreement setting up the International Criminal Court is arguably the most important single milestone in strengthening the international rule-of-law since the Second World War.

In this context we should also note the creation of the UN Peacebuilding Commission in 2005. The main task of the new Commission is that of taking care of post-conflict actions to be adopted and enforced in countries emerging from conflicts, when their Governments to ask for relief from the International Community. It is up to the PBC to collect all available resources and funds directed to support recovery projects in those countries, and to draft long-term strategies in order to guarantee reconstruction, institution-building and sustainable development.
 
And finally we should also note how the International Community has in recent years moved on from traditional peacekeeping to taking on more demanding crisis management operations. This is  welcome, even if there is now a growing discrepancy between enhanced efforts to deal with crises and too little progress on conflict prevention and our ability to deal comprehensively with all relevant aspects of what could be called the conflict cycle.
 
Well and good. But at the same time we should be realistic about the real degree of adherence in the international community to all these principles and it's the will and ability to use these instruments and institutions. One can namely also perceive a hardening in the attitudes of and increase in support for what could be called the "traditional sovereignty school" of states, which, for a variety of reasons, are reluctant to condone any erosion of sovereignty and international intervention. In the Security Council Russia and China incline in this direction, as do a number of emerging countries, particularly those with an authoritarian bent. 
 
Norr is the role of the United States always as clear as we would wish it to be. While the present administration has renewed the American commitment to the UN and multilateral cooperation and acceptance of international agreements that restrict its sovereignty, this is not anchored in any solid support among the American electorate (or the media, or those who finance elections) and the country may revert to the kind of unilateralism which sought to impose its will on other nations without accepting any restrictions on its own sovereignty.

The Role of Non-State Actors
 
In today's world we have also to take note of the growing role of non-state actors which can wield real influence which is not directly linked to any material resources at their disposal. Such non-state actors as transnational corporations are not new phenomena. But whereas the first generation of multinational companies were closely connected with their home governments and took it for granted that these were obliged to look after their interests abroad which did not exclude resorting to gunboat diplomacy and other forms of intervention, today's multinationals are more genuinely worth their name, as regards both their ownership and methods of operation.

Today's multinationals have a strong interest in promoting a comprehensive rules-based world order. And with the possible exception of the arms industry and the burgeoning private security industry they have no interest in fomenting conflicts or war; on the contrary they are ardent supporters of a stable, nonviolent and secure world where they can concentrate on doing business. But of course they are not engaged in peacekeeping, crisis management or conflict prevention even if they can, at best, contribute to these ends as well. 
 
Other non-state and non-profit international actors or Civil Society organisations, which include NGO:s, international grass-roots campaigns and movements as well as elite organisations such as the Bildeberg group - have made positive as well as negative contributions to these ends. In addition to philanthropic organisations and charities or campaigns seeking to redress this or that wrong, they also include, for example, religious fundamentalist organisations and others which, even if their intentions are noble, may contribute more to making problems rather than solving them.

But on the whole the CSO's are welcome ne international actors, and whatever their shortcomings they may have are not necessarily worse than what many governments have, and CSO:s annoy governments it is more often in a good cause rather than not. Rrecent examples of what civil society campaigns can achieve are the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1997 and campaigns to stop the trade in "blood diamonds" and to grant debt-relief to the poorest countries. But of course evaluating the role of these actors is very much based on value judgments. A particularly challenging case of such an actor wielding great influence is Wikileaks, on whose activities I will refrain from commenting in this connection.

The Finnish government has systematically sought to build alliances and coalitions with CSO:s. One example is the Helsinki Process on Globalisation and Democracy which we initiated together with Tanzania and through which we managed to bring together a variety of actors including those identified with the World Economic Forum (Davos) and the World Social Forum (Porto Alegre), which have been perceived as opposite poles of the spectrum on global economic governance.
 
Finland is a small country with limited resources but we have consistently worked, together with our Nordic neighbours, to support the United Nations in conflict prevention and crisis management. Since we first sent troops to join the UNEF operation set up after the Suez crisis in 1956, we have become something of a great power in peacekeeping having contributed more troops in relation to our population then any other country.
 
We have also been able to provide the UN with an array of Finnish diplomats who have made significant contributions to efforts at mediating and resolving conflicts. Nobel Peace prize laureate President Martti Ahtisaari, with experience from Namibia, former Yugoslavia, Aceh and many other places, is of course the outstanding example. He is still going strong, having created the Crisis Management Initiative as an NGO engaged in many aspects of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, which is also supported by the Finnish government.
 
While peacekeeping of the traditional kind has been our trade-mark we have enlarged our repertoire both to civilian crisis management - where we together with Sweden were initiators in getting the EU to set its headline goals also for civilian crisis management capabilities - as well as more demanding military crisis management operations. Thus we continue our participation in the ISAF operation in Afghanistan, even if there are increasing and well-founded questions being asked whether our military resources are in that country are any longer used in an optimal or even acceptable way.
 
The most recent example of a Finnish initiative for managing the conflict cycle is the proposal we have prepared jointly with Turkey for a UNGA consensus resolution on supporting the UN role in conflict meditation. Finland, Norway and Sweden are good examples of what small countries can contribute, together or separately, to peacebuilding and managing the conflict cycle, but obviously there are limits to what small countries can do. 

The Role of the European Union
 
So far I have made only a passing reference to regional organisations. Among them the European Union is in many respects a sui generis kind of international actor. The EU is of course capable of mobilizing great emotions, both in circles Pro- or Anti-EU. In this respect Finland is rather a boring case. Even though the question of whether or not to join the EU did split the Finnish electorate almost down the middle with 57 % saying Yes and 43 % No in our referendum back in 1994, and even if about a third of the Finnish voters continue to believe we should not be members of the EU, this split has since then played almost no role in Finnish politics nor affected the way we conduct our EU policies.

 
In Finland we tend to have a very pragmatic and consensual approach to the European Union, with neither EU flag-waving enthusiasm nor visceral EU-bashing being much in evidence. Of course the EU does arouse passions from time to time with many people being fed up with the EU all of the time and all of us at some of time. At these moments I remind people, that whatever the shortcomings of the EU it can be argued, that it has been perhaps the most successful peace project in history, which put an end to the centuries old enmity in the heart of Europe which gave us two world wars and scores of lesser ones. 
 
This is almost universally recognized in Finland. It is also a reason why the enlarging the EU's sphere of peace and stability and welcoming all and any European countries, Turkey included, who wish to join the EU meets no real resistance - provided they fully meet all the criteria.
 
Interestingly the growing euroscepticism in almost all EU member states has not affected popular support for strengthening the EU's Common Foreign and Security policy. This is true also in Finland, where popular opinion regarding Finnish membership in Nato has remained remarkable stable over the last fifteen years, with 60 % or more saying no to Nato and about 25 % yes to membership, but where strengthening the EU's CFSP - including European Defence and Security policy - has an about 80 % approval rating.
 
Obviously it is not difficult to come up with a long list of the EU's failures in its Foreign Policy, particularly in cases where the EU has not even seriously tried to come up with a common policy. On the other hand its successes are easily overlooked too. The challenge for enhancing the CFSP is all the more demanding given the fact that the EU can only work on the basis of unanimity. This is difficult, but not impossible, and I would argue, also on the basis of my personal experience, that there is also a growing recognition that no-one is going to take the EU seriously as a global actor or even listen to it unless it learns to speak with one voice. There will inevitavly be national differences, but member states are increasingly vary of letting these prevent the EU from taking action when necessary.

Finland has consistently supported the CFSP and has also been active in developing the EU's various crisis management capabilities. Already the EU
is unique in its capacity to bring to international crisis-management tasks a comprehensive variety of different instruments which no other international organisation or nation state can match: its military crisis management capabilities continue to be enhanced, but at least as important and in many instances more important are its wide-ranging civilian crisis management capabilities, which have been developed on the basis of a similarly adopted headline goal for civilian crisis management, including police, rescue teams, judiciary experts, and the resources available for economic aid, trade and so forth; capabilities which need to be deployed together and be well coordinated.
 
Again it has to be admitted that this looks and sounds better in speeches and resolutions than in real life. Subjected to critical close-range scrutiny the picture looks much less encouraging. Not because the EU does things badly - and it has some good and even outstanding if limited achievements in crisis management - but rather because it is, all its noble pretensions notwithstanding, still very much a learner in how to deal with all phases of the conflict cycle, reactive rather than proactive, and is still all too often hampered by disunity and its own cumbersome decision-making procedures.

 
The Lisbon Treaty which came into force in December 2009 has not had much direct impact on the EU's CFSP. The decision making procedures remain more or less the same and all the new instruments for effective crisis management in the framework of the ESDP such as the enhanced capabilities including Battle Groups and the European Defence Agency, were established irrespective of the Lisbon Treaty.
 
What is new is the merging of the offices of High Representative for CFSP and the Commission Vice-President for External Relations. This was obviously a welcome step to put an end to the unseemly (but fortunately mostly behind-the-scenes) turf war between the two, as is the creation of the External Action Service. These changes are not as far-reaching and clear as they should have been. It seems that some of the former rivalry between the HR and CION is still going on inside the Commission, and while the merger eliminated on telephone number for calling Europe the Treaty also created a new one for the permanent President of the European Council.
 
The Lisbon Treaty also introduced the provisions for Permanent Structured Cooperation for developing Defence capabilities, but so far nothing has happened on this front. Even less attention has received the new article 42-7 of the treaty stating:

 "If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States."
 
In most members states this article aroused little if any discussion and debate, but in Finland it became the subject for detailed analysis and its importance was emphasized much more than in any other member state. If the minimalist view of the article regards it as a political declaration of solidarity which does not create any binding commitments, the most far-reaching Finnish interpretations of the article have presented it almost as akin to the mutual defence commitment of Nato's Article 5. But few in other member states have shared this view, even if the motives for not subscribing to it may have been quite different in Nato and non-Nato countries.
 
There is, thus, no agreed interpretation of the article or, in most instances, any pressure to reach one. The EU has not been active regarding the article either, because it seems to explicitly rule out any role for the Community institutions and places whatever the obligations it entails on the member states acting on their own interpretation of the article. I'm not sure we should be content with this.

Nordic cooperation on defence and security
 
The Nordic countries in the EU have a specific interest in taking up the issue. The Nordic foreign ministers commissioned the former Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg to present a report on how to develop and deepen Nordic cooperation in Security and Defence policy. The report was presented in February 2009. Its thirteen proposals were for the most part uncontroversial and were greeted positively, including strengthening Nordic capabilities for crisis management and cooperation in arctic areas.

The emphasis on Arctic issues and the High North in Stoltenberg's report reflected the particular interests of the author's home country, and had the report been commissioned from a Swedish or Finnish author there might well have been relatively more emphasis on the Baltic region. This reflects geography rather than any real divergence of views: all the five Nordic countries are, together with the US, Canada and Russia, members of the Arctic Council and share a keen interest in the region, including security concerns. Here too, they are less of a direct military nature and are more concerned with environmental and maritime safety issues.

Other proposals in the Stoltenberg report sought to enhance already existing Nordic cooperation in Defence issues, including training, logistics, procurement and air and sea surveillance, where there is considerable scope for getting mutual valued-added for all countries involved. The report also proposed, i.a., the creation of a Nordic amphibious unit, based on already existing cooperation between Finland and Sweden. This was proposed as a contribution both to the Nordic countries' arctic cooperation as well as their international crisis management capabilities, where already in 1997, the Nordic ministers of defence have established the Nordic Coordinated Arrangement for Military Peace Support (NORDCAPS) to coordinate their contributions to peacekeeping operations.

Nordic cooperation in peacekeeping and crisis management is long established. It was also quite natural that the other of the two EU Battle Groups Finland has joined was set up together with Sweden, as a "Nordic group", where the Irish and Estonian contributions fit in without any problems.

Here I want to take a few moments to try and explain why Finland is increasingly the odd man out in the European family which retains an army based on universal conscription and continues to train and equip an army of reservists which can mobilize up to 350 000 men. It is no secret that such an army was originally conceived as a small non-aligned country's defence against a potential large-scale invasion from its Great Power neighbour. As this kind of threat has become increasingly obsolete the popular support for retaining conscription and a mass reserve, while still strong, has also started to erode in Finland.

I count myself among those who doubt the relevance of our defence doctrine, but so far do not openly question it. This has something to do with cost-efficiency and whether we wish to stay outside military alliances or not, but also with the fact that a conscripted army has proven its worth in peacekeeping and crisis management operations. The troops we contribute are composed up to 90 % of reservists, who bring with them to our operations their civilian training and experience which we seek to employ as broadly as possible. One example I usually quote is the case of the Finnish Major, a basketball coach in civilian life, who brought together and coached a multiethnic basketball team in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to which country he returned as a development cooperation worker after his tour in the IFOR forces ended.

It is no accident that Finnish peacekeepers have particular expertise in CIMIC, or civilian-military cooperation, engaging, sometimes literally, in bridge building to and between local communities, the kind of tasks which professional armies are not particular good at or even keen on. No-one, however, has questioned the military proficiency of our peacekeepers.

Nordic and European Solidarity

The last of the Stoltenberg proposals was the most problematic one. On the basis of the proposals concerning enhanced military cooperation the report concluded, that this "development would make it necessary to base the cooperation on a formal security policy guarantee. If the Nordic countries are to be dependent on each other militarily, they must also be able to rely on having access to the military means they require to defend themselves, should the need arise. To achieve this, the Nordic governments could issue a mutually binding declaration containing a security policy guarantee. In such a declaration, the countries could clarify in binding terms how they would respond if a Nordic country were subject to external attack or undue pressure."
 
This is easy to welcome as a general declaration of solidarity - or poetry, as the Icelandic Foreign Minister put it at one meeting, or as "dreams in Polar fog" as the US Ambassador to Norway put it according to Wikileaks. But, like with poetry, deconstructing the text and reconstructing it into any sort of legally binding agreement is very difficult, and the beauty of the poem will inevitably be lost, as the Foreign Ministers who still are trying to do this have discovered. 
 
One question is, what relationship would this have to other commitments the Nordic countries have taken on, which do not apply equally to all the Nordic countries, such as Nato's article 5 or the EU's article 42-7? At least in Finland, where we tend to interpret the EU's new article 42-7 as a "mutual security guarantee" commitment, this is a serious matter. Would it mean, that there would be a different and not as far-reaching or binding degree of solidarity from Sweden and Finland, if for example Portugal or Greece came under attack or pressure than if Iceland or Norway experienced the same; and/or vice-versa? And how to justify different degrees of Swedish or Norwegian solidarity vis-a-vis Estonia and Finland, for example? 
  
For these and other reasons it is unlikely that the Nordic Foreign Ministers could come up with anything more than a vague declaration that would not be subjected to parliamentary ratification procedures. There is, however, another possibility. Instead of creating yet another partially overlapping new commitment why not eliminate any potential conflict of interest by amalgamating the Nordic and European commitments.

This would, of course, take place were Iceland and Norway to join the EU. While they should be welcomed to do so this does not look like being reality anytime in the foreseeable future. While keeping the door open for these countries, the EU could proceed by integrating Iceland and Norway through a separate agreed arrangement to full and mutual coverage of the EU's article 42-7 obligations.

There are precedents in other fields for such an arrangement. Iceland and Norway are parties to the Single Market through the European Economic Area and they are also in the Schengen area through a separate agreement. There could also be a separate agreement extending the rights and obligations of article 42-7 to cover Iceland and Norway.

The obvious advantage is that instead of creating potential uncertainty about the article which a separate Nordic solidarity clause would do, it could clarify the situation and eliminate any potential divisions in the EU. This would not, understandably, be possible without the EU at the same time coming to some sort of minimum understanding of what the article actually entails. This might not be easy as no-one in any official position has yet prepared this, but forcing the EU to do the hard and concrete thinking on the subject which so far has been avoided should be regarded, not as an obstacle but, as a welcome opportunity for the EU to complete some unfinished business.