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The New Structure of Finland"s Peace Support Operations

Finland has participated in Peace Support Operations (PSO) since 1956. More than 43,000 peacekeepers have been involved. In early 2003, about 1,000 Finnish troops were part of ten operations. The clear focal point of the activity is on the Balkans, where almost 900 peacekeepers serve.

Background of Peacekeeping

Finland has participated in traditional UN-led Peace Support Operations main­ly in the Middle East and on Cyprus for decades. The end of the Cold War in the early 1990’s resulted in the sharpening up of operations led by the UN. Operations of a new kind were UNTAG (United Nations Transition Assistance Group) in Namibia, UNPREDEP (United Na- tions Preven­tive Deployment) in Mace­donia, UNIKOM (United Nations Iraq Kuwait Observer Mission) on the bor- der between Iraq and Kuwait, and UN­PROFOR (United Nations Protection Force) in the area of the former Yugo­slavia. In addition to the new tasks, troops in these operations were also authorized to apply more extensive rules of engagement than before. However, only UN-mandated NATO-led opera­tions created the necessary prerequisites for real crisis management.

Today peacekeeping has developed into varied Peace Support Operations in which the consent of the parties to the conflict is not always asked before launching an operation. Instead of being deployed between two parties in order to monitor a cease-fire signed by the governments concerned, it is pos­sible to become engaged between warring parties in a civil war, in which all parties cannot even be identified. Showing the flag has changed to the use of force, if necessary.

The sharpening up of peacekeeping into crisis management emphasizes how important the performance of the forces participating in the operations is for the accomplishment of the mission. This has a direct effect on the development of unit training and equipment. As early as in 1995, Finland outlined the objec­tives for the purpose of reconsidering the composition, training and basic readiness of the forces to be sent on operations. The Government clearly expressed its opinion on crisis manage­ment in the 1997 White Paper submitted to Parliament. Somewhat earlier, the training of reservists to be deployed in the crisis response (rapid deployment) force had already been included as part of conscript training. The first objective was to train a battalion by the end of 1998.

The Chain of Command and Principle of Action in PSO

The development in Peace Support Operations also increased the need to reorganize the domestic system. The Finnish Ministry of Defense (MoD) has by tradition been responsible for the materiel and financial admi­ni­s­tration of peacekeeping personnel and has also followed the development of the ope­rations. The peacekeepers and the UN Training Center, established in 1969, were subordinated to the MoD.

After a thorough investigation, the system underwent a significant change that came into force on 1 January 2001. The change required amendments to the Act on Peace Support Operations and the Act on the Defense Forces. After the amendment, the MoD and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs are res­ponsible for the decision-making in defense policy in matters concerning Peace Support Operations.

The MoD is also in charge of the Finnish policy in PSO, supervises the activity, and procures resources. The Defense Staff of the Finnish Defense Forces is responsible for the practical execution of Peace Support Operations. The UN Training Center was transformed into an independent unit subordinate to the Defense Staff, the Finnish Defense Forces International Center (FINCENT). FINCENT is in charge of the practical organization of PSOs and commands the activity of the peacekeeping force, military observers and individuals in matters concerning national admi­nistration and main­tenance.

The Act on the Peace Support Operations 2000, in which some amend­ments were made in the reform, deter­mines the grounds for Finnish partici­pation in PSOs. Under the Act,

  • an operation in which Finland par­tici­pates must have an UN or an OSCE mandate,
  • Personnel must be volunteers,
  • at the same time, no more than 2,000 personnel may participate in PSOs,
  • the President of the Republic of Finland decides on Finnish partici­pation in an operation and on the repatriation of the troops, and
  • the operation must have clear rules of engagement.

The Act also provides that Finland may not participate in coercive military measures governed by Articles 42 and 51 of the Charter of the United Nations (such operations as the Korean War and the Persian Gulf War).

The Act on the Defense Forces provides for, among other things, the tasks of the Finnish Defense Forces. One of them is the participation in Peace Support Operations, as in­structed by the MoD. In addition to these Acts, the Government White Papers of 1997 and 2001 and the Helsinki Headline Goal provide guidelines and further grounds for the participation in crisis response operations.

Finland’s Offer to Develop the EU’s Crisis Management Capability

The Finnish crisis management/response force was named in the White Paper of 2001. In the same year, the quality and number of the force were looked over as the troops were notified to the pool of forces of the Helsinki Headline Goal. In early 2003, Fin­land’s contribution to the European Union’s crisis management capability (Helsinki Force Catalogue) was as follows:

  • 1 Mechanized Battalion;
  • 1 Engineer Battalion;
  • 1 Transport Company;
  • 1 CIMIC Company;
  • the core of the CIMIC organization such as battalion;
  • staff officers and military observers;
  • minelayer to be used as a command and support vessel in an MCM (Mine Counter Measures) unit;
  • command, control and logistic capa­bility for a brigade (in the role of a coordinating nation).

Tasks of FINCENT

In the reform, the UN Training Center was changed from a training center subordinate to the MoD to an inde­pendent unit under the Defense Staff. The role and tasks of FINCENT have been thoroughly changed from the beginning of 2001. Its main tasks are:

  • to manage the PSO budget and finances;
  • to command and control Finnish peacekeeping units in administrative, logistic and training matters;
  • to arrange international courses as ordered;
  • to support civil Finnish PSO efforts;
  • to deploy, maintain and repatriate peacekeeping units and individuals;
  • to co-operate and to carry out re­search and development projects in Peace Support Operations.

The most prominent parts of the activity are the rotation of the troops in the operations, the course activity and the recruiting of personnel. As the Finnish peacekeepers are volunteers, they independently seek admission to international duties through FINCENT each year. Annually, the center deals with approx. 5,000 applications and maintains a register on the peace­keeping reserve. Another central acti­vity is the organization of international courses. These are either arranged as NORDCAPS courses (Nordic Co­ordinated Arrangement for Military Peace Support) or NATO courses. FINCENT was granted PfP Training Center status in 2002. Nordic activity had already been started in 1968, when the responsibility to arrange courses was delegated. FINCENT organizes three to four Military Observer Courses an­nually. More than 3,300 officers from 50 different countries have attended these courses.

Training and Formation of Units for New Operations

Traditionally, Finland has sent units trained and formed of regular personnel and reservists to Peace Support Operations. The training of volunteer con­scripts for peacekeeping duties was started in 1997 by extending their term of service initially from six to nine months and finally, in 2001, to 12 months. Today all volunteer conscripts looking for international service get training for 12 months. During that service period, they also receive training for NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) and reserve officer ranks. The last four-month training consists of service in Peace Support Operations.

From a political decision to parti­cipate in a crisis response operation, it takes 30 to 60 days for a Finnish unit to be ready for the mission. The per­sonnel of a unit consist of regular personnel (10 to 20 per cent) and volunteer enlisted personnel with a civilian occupation and 12 months of military training during their national service. Most of the enlisted personnel have NCO rank in reserve and all have a strong motivation to join the force as volunteers.


Despite the development in crisis management, the principles of peace­keeping have not lost their signi­fi­cance. The UN’s role as the only global peace support organization is still important though it has been changed. The changes made in Finland during the last few years have clarified the relations between the MoD and the Defense Forces.

Management has been organized as simply as possible. The costs are paid from outside the Defense Forces’ budget. The training produces army units of professional level whose personnel, thanks to their voluntary character, are motivated and skilled, and who compete well with any other unit participating in a Peace Support Operation. Thanks to the credibility of our performance, especially in SFOR and KFOR operations, Finland as the first non-NATO country will take over the role of "Coordinating Nation” in MNB(C). Since the first of May in Kosovo, Finland provides the com­mand­ing officer and brigade C3-system for the MNB(C).

Author: Major General Juha Heikki Holma, born 1945. Military Academy 1966 to 1969; UNMOC 1975; War College 1981 to 1983; Senior Command Course 1987; UNSOC 1983; National Defense Course 1992; High Command Course 1999.

Main Assignments: Karelia Artillery Regiment 1969 to 1976 and 1977 to 1979; Military observer, UNTSO 1976 to 1977; Tam­pere Eastern Military District HQ 1981 to 1982; Organization Section at the Defense Staff 1983 to 1985 and 1986 to 1992, Military Observer, Iran UNIT-T and UNTSO 1985 to 1986; Commander of the UN Finnish Batt/UNDOF 1993; Chief of Office, Eastern Command HQ 1994 to 1995; Deputy Chief of the Operations Division, Defense Staff 1995 to 1997; Chief of the International Division, Defense Staff as of 1 April 1999.

Eigentümer und Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung | Roßauer Lände 1, 1090 Wien
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