Finland became a member of the United Nations in 1955. During this Cold War era, acceptance as a member strengthened the international position of a small country. From the very beginning, the United Nations became an important part of Finland’s foreign policy. In light of her historical experience, Finland felt it important to support an international system based on multilateralism and the Charter of the United Nations.
During the 50 years of membership, Finland’s role in the UN has been more significant than her size might lead one to expect. Early participation in peacekeeping, which began in 1956, earned Finland the title of a peacekeeping superpower at one point. Finland has also participated actively in the development of public international law, multilateral disarmament negotiations and multilateral development cooperation, among other issues.
Finland became a donor country in development cooperation towards the end of the 1960s, and the UN goal of spending 0.7 percent of Gross National Income on Official Development Assistance (ODA) was reached for a while in the 1980s and 1990s. The present Government will ensure the advancement of appropriations that will take Finland towards the UN target.
Finland has twice been a member of the Security Council of the United Nations - in 1969-1970 and again in 1989-1990 – and has already announced its candidature to the Council for 2013-2014. At the turn of the millennium, Finland assumed an important role as the Co-President of the Millennium Summit, a position held by President of the Republic of Finland, Ms. Tarja Halonen. Subsequently, former Prime Minister of Finland, Mr. Harri Holkeri, became President of the 55th Session of the General Assembly in 2000-2001.
In 2004, for the first time Finland assumed the presidency of the ECOSOC, a role held by Ambassador Marjatta Rasi, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations. This was also the very first time a woman has led the ECOSOC. Deputy Permanent Representative, Ambassador Jarmo Sareva, chaired the First Committee (disarmament and international security) of the 58th General Assembly.
Several Finns have also held important positions in the United Nations Secretariat. The first high-level nomination for a Finn was that of Ambassador Sakari Tuomioja in 1957 who for three years worked as Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva. Following, Mr. Tuomioja acted as the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General in Laos. In 1964 he was called to mediate the conflict in Cyprus.
As the Assistant Secretary-General, Helvi Sipilä helped place the issue of women’s rights on the UN agenda. Ms. Sipilä was the first woman ever to achieve the position of UN Assistant Secretary-General (1972-1980).
Former president of Finland, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, held several high level positions, including that of Under-Secretary-General for Management and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General in Namibia.
Also important for Finland was the election of Ambassador Erkki Kourula, Doctor of Laws, as Judge of the International Criminal Court for the term 2003-2006. In January 2006 Kourula was re-elected to the ICC for another 9-year period.