MP Talk: Dialogue is key to enhancing mutual trust

MP Talk gives members of parliament the opportunity to share their views on Finnish society with an international audience. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Helsinki Times.

Fundamental principles of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as individual freedoms and rights, have been brutally violated – both in areas of conflict and individual participating states.

New conflicts have emerged and solutions are not in sight to the protracted conflicts in the OSCE area. Human suffering and frustration have grown, while new tensions have emerged.

Security is composed of several elements; the functioning of democratic institutions, respect towards basic principles of the law, and, not least, the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

I would like to underline the point that dialogue is one of the keys to enhancing mutual trust. It is helpful to recall that dialogue is not only about talking and listening. Dialogue should also be an attempt to understand different viewpoints.

As parliamentarians, my fellow members of the OSCE Assembly and I are well aware of the fact that power and positions of trust are never permanent – or at least should not be. Politicians who are in power today may be in opposition tomorrow. The change of power is an essential part of democracy. Therefore, it is important to listen to the voice of the opposition and allow it the opportunity to present its opposing views in a constructive manner. This is an important part of the political dialogue at national level.

It is obvious that we need to find new tools in solving conflicts and crises. In peace mediations, it is particularly important to engage all concerned parties in discussions and dialogue. It is obvious that solutions to a conflict or crisis can only be sustainable when they respect individual freedoms, human rights and other OSCE principles. But, in addition to that, maybe we also need to engage more partners in this dialogue – namely, those persons or groups that are directly concerned and affected by disputes and armed conflicts. I am thinking of the local authorities and NGOs that represent the persons directly and most concretely affected by the crisis.

When looking at the root causes of many of today’s conflicts, we have seen that the underlying reasons are almost always tied in some way to the region’s history, whether that be in the near or not-so-near past.

History – and the interpretation of selected historical events – is increasingly being used in the dialogue between nations to justify their actions. It is important to be familiar with history and to try to understand the background to historical events and human behaviour.

However, history should not be abused. Nor should it be used to increase tension and distrust between or within nations. The study of history should guide us in finding peaceful solutions. It should not be used to increase tensions and disagreements. Durable and sustainable solutions can only be based on the truth.

Aila Paloniemi represents the Centre Party in the Finnish Parliament. She is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairperson of the Finnish Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and Chairperson of the Development Policy Committee. Currently serving her fourth parliamentary term, Paloniemi has previously served for 20 years as a journalist in the Finnish Broadcasting Company, working in both TV and radio.

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