According to a cross-party report backed by the country’s foreign minister, conflicts on the African continent have a major effect on Europe in general and Finland in particular.
Finland should boost its participation in the increasing number of crisis management operations in Africa, as conflicts in the area affect the whole of Europe, a cross-party report by the Finnish parliamentary crisis management committee said.
According to the committee’s chairwoman, Johanna Sumuvuori, who is also the state secretary of Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (both of the Green Party) there is a “significant reason” to increase Finland’s participation in crisis management especially in Africa due to its vital role in making Europe’s immediate vicinity safer.
The report suggested that conflicts on the African continent have a major effect on Europe in general and Finland in particular.
Africa was described as a constantly evolving continent, with large potential for problems to grow. Climate change, population growth, poor governance, lack of future prospects, migration, and terrorism are some of the issues named in the crisis management report..
Haavisto suggested that comprehensive crisis management was particularly needed in the Sahel region and Mali, to name a few. Haavisto’s take was also backed by fellow MPs in a foreign and security police report published in 2020.
As of today, Finland has only 360 soldiers stationed across the globe. This is the smallest number since the 1970s, with the exception of a short stretch in 2011. At the turn of the millennium, there were as many as 2,000 Finnish soldiers taking part in international operations.
Most Finnish soldiers are currently stationed in the Middle East, where Finland participates in “conflict resolution” operations in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan to name a few. These vary in nature: while the mission in Lebanon happens under the UN flag, the Iraqi mission is US-led, whereas the Afghan operation is led by NATO.
Worldwide, the focus of international missions has pivoted to Africa, where eight out of the UN’s ongoing 13 operations are currently active.
At present, fewer than a tenth of Finnish soldiers are stationed in Africa. However, the report stressed that circumstances have become more demanding. The report describes the missions more and more often as being linked to civil wars, where the problems are complex and many different armed groups are involved.
The crisis management committee also argued that more women are needed in the field. Seen internationally, Finland has a high proportion of women in international assignments (40 percent), yet the proportion of female soldiers is currently very low, the report noted, calling for more even gender distribution.
The Finnish armed forces have an active personnel of some 8,000 staff and some 25,000 conscripts, but boasts 900,000 reserve personnel.