Formal and institutional cooperation that assumes a WGA-like approach is most pronounced in the field of crisis management. However, it is also increasingly evident in development policy, and its link to broader economic relations is often highlighted.
Parliament’s propositions to the government to address shortcomings in the planning, coordination and monitoring of Finland’s comprehensive crisis-management in 2008 were addressed in the comprehensive crisis management strategy of 2009 (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland 2009). Its implementation led to the formation of a strategic coordination group for comprehensive crisis management. The group includes representatives from the MFA, the MoD, the Office of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Finance.
While the establishment of the coordination group has been valuable in many respects, particularly with regard to information-sharing at the higher levels of the ministries and agencies, its role in advancing coordination has been deemed as being somewhat limited (National Audit Office of Finland 2013). Relatedly, even if (as noted above) the official narrative has changed from one of ‘aspirations towards’ to the ‘actual implementation of’ the comprehensive approach, the structural and institutional changes enabling its genuine operationalisation are still lacking despite the stated commitment to this approach (Suonio 2018).
Other interesting institutional innovations in Finland relate to crisis-management expertise, recruitment and training. For example, the Crisis Management Centre Finland was established in 2007 to be “a governmental institution and a centre of expertise in civilian crisis management” (CMC Finland 2019a). Its main duties are training, recruiting and equipping Finnish experts for international missions as well as conducting relevant research and development work. It also acts as the national head office for all seconded Finnish civilian crisis-management professionals.
Furthermore, the Finnish Defence Forces International Centre (FINCENT), founded in 1969, is “a nationally and internationally recognised forerunner, expert and active participant in crisis-management education and training” (FINCENT n.d.). It organises military crisis-management training for command and expert personnel in crisis-management operations led by the UN, NATO, the African Union and the EU, and it has been granted several international quality certificates.
Together, these agencies established the Finnish Centre of Expertise in Comprehensive Crisis Management in 2008, which was joined in 2018 by the Finnish Police University College. The centre “aims at developing common and joint training in crisis management as well as promoting overall understanding of comprehensive crisis management” (CMC Finland 2019b).
Furthermore, a task force set up by the Ministry of the Interior has recently suggested a transition towards a comprehensive operational logic by setting up a new cross-sectoral, comprehensive crisis-management centre into which the current CMC Finland would be merged. The new centre would implement Finland’s comprehensive crisis management. Special attention is supposed to be devoted to collaboration between civilian and military crisis-management bodies as well as to peace-mediation, development policy and humanitarian aid. It is, however, an open question whether this proposal will be acted upon.
When zooming out from crisis management to the broader context of responding to external crises and conflicts, informal mechanisms as well as political steering from the top of the government are often underlined. In addition to formal mechanisms of coordination, informal and ad hoc WGA coordination also takes place on various administrative levels within and among the ministries. This is often highlighted in terms a ‘common’ and ‘everyday’ practice of addressing external conflicts and crises. The particular membership makeup of these various groups depends on the type of crises and the envisaged response(s) needed.
In terms of general administration and policymaking, the Prime Minister’s Office has overall responsibility for making WGA happen, so to speak. It also manages many inter-administrative projects and bodies. Importantly, the WGA is part of the mandate of officials in the Prime Minister’s Office. For example, they are tasked with ensuring that the WGA has been taken into account before policy proposals reach the political level (i.e. that of government decision-making). This also applies to Finland’s responses to external conflicts and crises. Detected shortcomings in policy planning usually result in requests for further coordination activities within and among ministries. The general working method of the government, based on various permanent ministerial configurations, is also seen as being helpful for the WGA and is credited with providing political leadership and steering for it.
This assessment of Finland’s WGA has been rather positive. However, that is not meant to imply that there would not be some difficulties and needs for further enhancement of the WGA to external conflicts and crises. While the civilian and military crisis-management components seem to be operating under clear WGA structures, the next steps – including development, humanitarian aid and human rights policies as well as economic relations – are still somewhat of a work in progress. Bureaucratic power struggles among and within ministries continue to create some obstacles for the WGA. Even if a move towards joint funding and programming instruments has featured in recent discussions on the operationalisation of comprehensive crisis management, the current system based on clarification of responsibilities and allocation of resources in different ministries seems to continue to be firmly in place.