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Tuija Talvitie

Tuija Kristiina Talvitie
Born August 29, Lapua

Master of Arts (English philology) 1987, University of Helsinki

Executive director 2009–, Crisis Management Initiative (CMI)
Executive director 1997–2009, British Council Finland
Exchanges Officer and Assistant Librarian 2 1987–97, British Council Finland

Board member 2005–, CMI
Steering group member, Counterpoint
Board member 2015­–, Demos Helsinki
Board member Think Tank e2
Delegation member of the University of Helsinki Alumni Association 2015–

Photo: Tuomo Manninen
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by Matthew Billington

From Board Member to Executive Director

Chance had a hand in Tuija Talvitie becoming the Executive Director of Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) in 2009. She had been a member of the board since 2005 and was involved in looking for a new Executive Director. The right person seemed nowhere to be found. Finally, other members of the board suggested that Talvitie should apply for the position.

– After discussing the matter with my family, my answer was ‘yes!’. I have always been the type that is eager to experience new things. If something interests me, I will give it a try.

During her time as the Executive Director, CMI, which was founded by President Martti Ahtisaari, has grown into one the world’s leading conflict resolution organisations.

– It has been fantastic to work together with intelligent and talented colleagues to widen the reach of CMI. The role of independent organisations that work to resolve conflicts is growing because all the required progress cannot be achieved through official channels alone. There is a lot that we can do.

Tuija Talvitie and President Martti Ahtisaari. Photo from CMI.

When experts on conflict resolution gather officially, much hard work has already been done behind the scenes. Talvitie says that CMI can focus on solving problems because it takes no part in politics.

– We are a support organisation. We help by examining matters from all points of view. We offer a platform where participants can speak freely and off the record on possible solutions. Peace is made by the parties themselves.

Developmental and business collaboration in a region can only start when the conflict in the area has been peacefully resolved. The resolution has to be political in nature to last.

– CMI aspires to help the parties involved in a conflict turn an armed confrontation into a political process. The ways to achieve this can include, for example, establishing communication, and offering the parties equal support, conflict analyses and mediation. In addition to this, there are many things that can be done at the grassroots level that have a significant impact on the everyday life of those living in conflict areas. These are issues related to health care and education in particular.

CMI is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that currently employs about 70 experts from over 20 countries. CMI is strongly focused on field work in different parts of the world, and it currently has about 15 long-term projects in some of the most challenging regions of the world, including Yemen, Ukraine, South-Sudan and the Caucasus. Through Martti Ahtisaari the organisation has a clear vision that these conflicts can be resolved.

– It takes expertise as well as political will and action. People have started these conflicts and people are the ones who can stop them.

Talvitie’s task is to lead the organisation and make sure that everything is working as intended. She follows a wide range of societal issues and international organisations. She also meets with people and holds discussions with various parties. It is also important to forge new collaborative partnerships.

– You have to look at the operative side to see whether we have all the necessary pieces in place. I visit the countries we are working in to meet the parties involved in conflicts and create credibility for the organisation. My task is to ensure that we have enough of the right kind of resources—funds to conduct operations and people who know how to carry them out. It is also important to remember that nothing can be accomplished alone. Partnerships are the key to success.

The past six years as the Executive Director of CMI do not feel like a long time to Talvitie.

– I don’t have to wake up in the morning wondering if my work is meaningful. What we do and the community we have at work is an enormous source of inspiration for me. I have always enjoyed challenges, and there is no shortage of those in this line of work. On the other hand, this is also work that cannot exactly be finished overnight.

A tough blow to the operative ability of CMI was dealt in late summer of 2015 when the Government of Finland decided to cut funding to the organisation by nearly 40% within the following six months. The organisation was not given any time to adjust, and it became necessary to downsize.

– At the beginning of 2016, the funding for CMI will be cut by about 1.7 million euros. Our ability to operate in places like Ukraine, Africa and the Middle East will be significantly diminished. This is the situation we have to deal with and we will do our best to get through it and minimise the damage. Going forward, we have to move resources from our principal work to fundraising.

Talvitie also mentions what they could have done differently.

– It seems that the results of our work were not seen clearly enough. The meaning and achievements of developmental collaboration should be communicated more clearly. This is work filled with long-lasting processes. It is difficult to speak of trust building in monetary terms.

Fortunately Finland is not the only source of funding for CMI. Six other states are among their primary funders, as is the European Union. In future they will attempt to secure their finances with the help of foundations, collaboration with businesses and private donors.

– Funding from the Finnish government is important to us because we are a Finnish organisation. CMI is one of the world’s leading organisations focusing on conflict resolution. Our organisation offers the kind of Finnish expertise that should be highlighted. We want the Finnish government to see the value of our work.

Photo from CMI.


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