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The UN: Small States interests and support for Finland

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Small countries, such as those in the Caribbean, depend upon an efficient and well balanced Security Council at the United Nations to help to safeguard them from adventures by larger and more powerful states.

For this reason, Caribbean countries cannot afford not to take candidatures for membership of the Security Council seriously, especially in circumstances where the permanent members of the Council act and use their veto mostly to further their own interests.{{more}} The resolve of the United States, under the previous administration of George W Bush, to invade Iraq without a clear mandate from the majority Security Council is a case in point.

The Security Council should always be seen as a restraint on excessive behavior by countries that threaten the security of other nations and peace in the world. The composition of its membership is, therefore, extremely important.

There has been talk for years now about reform of the Security Council. In particular, proposals have been made to rid the five permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – of their veto powers and to ensure that the Council is made up of regional representation from around the world. This is most unlikely to happen in the near term.

In this context, the non-permanent members of the Security Council assume a great importance. This is why, despite the small size and scarce resources of small Caribbean countries, they have made considerable efforts to get themselves elected to the Council from time to time. This is also why small countries pay careful attention to the election of other non-permanent members from other regions of the world. The policies and practices of the countries that are elected have a bearing on the fortunes of small states, and, therefore, on their peoples.

In 2012, at the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly, elections will be held for non-permanent seats on the Security Council from several regions for the term 2013-2014. Among the regions will be the Western Europe and other States Group, and within that group Finland, a Northern European State on the Baltic Sea with a population of 5.2 million people, is vying with two other states for a seat.

During a recent visit to Finland, I met a man who, in many ways, symbolizes the values and beliefs for which Finland stands. He is Finland’s former President and Nobel Peace Laureate Marti Ahtisaari. In him, many developing countries found a real champion in the international community. For instance, he served as UN Commissioner for Namibia in 1997-1981 and was in charge of the UN operation that led to Namibia’s independence in 1990. Although, he has now demitted office, Ahtisaari is active on the world stage pursuing the twin goals of peace and development.

The quest for global peace and development infects the Finnish nation. It is almost institutionalized in the State and has arguably evolved because of its peculiar geographic position in Northern Europe, caught between two big neighbours, Russia and Sweden, both of whom have had some form of dominion over Finland in the past.

The country’s international vision are also evident in the global outreach of its major technological companies Nokia, Wartsila and Vaisala.

Finland’s contribution to development worldwide has been significant. But, because it programmes its assistance through multilateral agencies, the breadth of its contribution is little known even by recipient countries. As one example, Finland has funded a US$15 million project in the Caribbean in the crucial area of meteorology. However, the programme is administered by the World Meteorological Organization, which gets the credit.

More than 1.3 million people in Ethiopia have access to clean water because of a water supply programme Finland supports in the Amhara region, and Vietnam has benefitted from health-related infrastructure such as a sewage disposal system.

More than 2000 million cubic meters of Finland are forest reserves – the fourth largest in Europe after Russia, Sweden and Germany. Bilateral cooperation programmes exist with countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America for sustainable and fair use of forest resources. There are opportunities for Caribbean countries such as Belize, Dominica, Guyana and Jamaica in cooperation agreements with Finland which has developed sophisticated machinery for dealing with climate change and sustainable harvesting of forests.

It is well known that, amongst others such as distinguished Caribbean Economists, Norman Girvan, Clive Thomas and Havelock Brewster, I have strongly criticized the terms of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed with the EU by Caribbean countries. Finland played no great role in the negotiations leaving it to the European Commission and the bigger EU players. However, the Finnish government is aware that, at the insistence of Guyana’s President Bharat Jagdeo, a clause was included in the EPA providing for a review within five years of its coming into force.

Given its past role in September 2000 as Co-Chair of the Millennium Summit and its commitment to the achievement of the Millennium goals, Finland might be persuaded to play an active role in any review of the EPA to ensure that a better balance of benefits is achieved for Caribbean economies. This is work that Caribbean governments and the Secretariat of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) countries, as well as the Dominican Republic, should be undertaking persistently. The Caribbean needs to build allies and sympathizers in the EU beyond the countries, such as Britain, France and Spain, to which it has been traditionally linked.

Finland would very likely lend a listening ear and a supportive hand. It is now an open secret that Finland intends to make a contribution to the Caribbean Development Fund that is so important to the realization of the Caribbean Single Market.

Given Finland’s history of respect for international law, its support for the United Nations as a guardian of the security of states and the evidence of its commitment to development of developing countries, small states would be acting in their own interest to support Finland in its quest for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Responses may be sent to, and previous commentaries read at, www.sirronaldsanders.com

Sir Ronald Saunders is a business consultant and former Caribbean diplomat.
(responses to: ronaldsanders29@msn.com)

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