Rome '08 Workshop

How to Deal with the Current Challenges: The Role of International Organizations 

Ambassador Kirsti Lintonen

Finnish Ambassador to the United Nations 

Ambassador Kirsti Lintonen

I would like to begin by quoting our Workshop Chairman, Dr Weissinger-Baylon: “in a world that is no longer unipolar, international organizations such as the U.N., OSCE, EU and NATO must play a strong role. The U.N. is especially vital because of the scope of its interests and because its involvement brings international legitimacy.” 

This is very true. We are now in a new historical era and we cannot protect ourselves by becoming gated communities. We have to be globally connected by engaging others in a give and take. There has been an unparalleled world-wide political awakening, making the global population more politically active than ever before. This has to be taken duly into account. 

Decision-making at the U.N. has its well known problems and is therefore often slow and cumbersome. However, the unparalleled legitimacy of its decisions goes a long way to make up for the hiccups in the process. 

It is also important to note that the United Nations, as a truly global actor, is not only able to, but also has a duty to address issues all over the world. This is reflected in the scope of the peacekeeping missions managed by the U.N. The geographical scope of peacekeeping covers countries from Haiti to Timor Leste and there are now a total of over 100 000 personnel working in 20 operations 

Much of the U.N.’s legitimacy derives from the fact that it is perceived as neutral. In this regard it is extremely worrying that there are signs of this perception changing. As the attacks in Baghdad and Algiers demonstrate, the U.N. has become a direct target for terrorists. This is very dangerous and troubling and everything must be done to reverse this development. 


The organizations I mentioned have achieved a lot during their existence—the U.N. for 63 years, the EU for 50 years, NATO since 1947 and the OSCE since 1975. Today, each of them is going through a reform process. This reflects the fact that the world has changed tremendously, and, as a result, the threats and challenges we face today are different. 

The pace of the change has surprised us all. Recent developments and the resulting interlinkages should make us adopt a much more shared and comprehensive approach. Take climate change, for example. Just as we had become fully aware of the acute need to combat climate change, we were also confronted with the interlinked issues of food crisis and energy crisis. 

The food crisis today may have developed as a consequence of several factors like 

  • climate change 
  • energy crisis/biofuels 
  • lack of access to land 
  • poor soil 
  • trade policies/agricultural subsidies 
  • lack of interest by the World Bank and others concerning food production in developing countries 

All these phenomena might lead to popular anger and create security risks in one way or the other 

It is therefore important to keep in mind that most of the challenges we face today are somehow interconnected. Climate change has severe implications for security. Human rights and and the rule of law have a crucial role in building sustainable peace. Development is essential for creating conditions conducive to lasting peace. Peace and security, development and human rights are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. 


A comprehensive approach has been the main theme of our workshop, and we have discussed it especially in the connection of NATO’s new strategy concept. For a comprehensive approach to work, the U.N., EU, OSCE and NATO should share a common vision and a common analysis of the situation, as the organizations should complement each other’s work in order to be maximally effective. 

However, during this workshop we have learned that coordination and cooperation is not functioning, one unfortunate example being Kosovo. UNMIK is not taking leadership, and NATO and the EU are not able to cooperate and complement each other’s actions. 

Why has it come to this in Kosovo? 

  • Is the mandate not clear enough? It is true that Security Council Resolutions are often a result of compromises. The now-famous resolution 1244 on Kosovo is not an exception. Clarity is therefore essential, especially on the operational level. 
  • Do the actors lack a common vision of the strategy and a shared starting position? If not, a comprehensive approach is badly needed, as well as a common understanding of the facts relating to the situation. 
  • Are the actors duplicating each other’s work or leaving things unaccomplished? If that is the case, coordination, leadership and a clear division of labour are needed. 

If the actors do not share a strategy in the beginning, how can they agree on timing and exit strategy? In today’s world, the issues we face are complex, and cooperation of various organizations is desperately needed. At the outset, the organizations need a common strategy, a mutually agreed division of labour and a clear exit strategy. 


As Finland has the Chairmanship of the OSCE during the year 2008, I take it as my duty to respond to some of the criticism towards the current work of the organization, as expressed here by some delegates. 

It is important to remember that decision-making at the OSCE is based on consensus. The results depend on Member States. In post-conflict situations in the region, it seems very difficult for the Member States to find consensus. As a result, we haven’t always been able to stabilize post-conflict situations without freezing the underlying problems. 

The OSCE has a comprehensive approach, which includes a politico-military aspect, a human rights-human security aspect, and an economy-environment aspect. 

Some of the problems we face in the OSCE are linked with the monitoring of elections—a very important area, in which reform is needed to make the monitoring applicable to every OSCE-country. 

Other problems stem from the implementation of treaties, like the one on conventional arms. 

But despite these problems, the OSCE has since its inception been an important instrument of peaceful change in Europe. It remains a valuable organization and has potential to be an important actor in defence of democracy, peace and human rights in the future as well. We need the political will to fully employ it. The future of the OSCE depends on the Member States. 

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