Finland has introduced whole-of-government approaches (WGAs) in responding to external conflicts and crises, most notably in the field of crisis management and under the rubric of a comprehensive approach. Mutual coordination and complementarity of military and civilian crisis management, as well as development policy and humanitarian aid, have formed a key narrative and a policy objective for consecutive Finnish governments. Given the objectives of the EU’s foreign, security and defence policies, the scope of the comprehensive approach has been steadily broadening in Finland to also include peace-mediation and broader economic relations.
Finland has an extensive track record of participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations since 1956. As an EU member state since 1995, developing and contributing to the EU’s crisis-management efforts have constituted an important feature of Finnish foreign and security policy. Finland has also participated in NATO’s crisis-management operations in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo. However, as Finland does not belong to NATO or any other military alliances, contributing to international operations has been framed in terms of Finland’s aspiration to emerge as a security provider rather than a security consumer. In any case, participating in international operations has also been viewed as contributing to Finland’s national security and defence.
Finland’s success in introducing WGA into its foreign and security policies also owes something to its specific national characteristics. On the one hand, the country’s limited resources have made it eager to strive for efficacy and impact – i.e. to hit above its weight, so to speak – in its engagement in international operations, and the comprehensive approach has been understood as being beneficial in this regard. It has also opened up new possibilities for different types of contributions by EU member states in the Union’s responses to external crises and conflicts.
On the other hand, the relatively small size of Finland’s governmental administration has porous bureaucratic and cross-sectoral administrative boundaries. Relatedly, actors in Finland’s security sector have a long tradition of collaborating with the government on issues related to comprehensive security thinking in national security doctrines. In the postwar era, the aim has been to bring together all the resources of Finnish society, both civilian and military, in defence of the country in different crisis scenarios.