From Finnish police force to restoring order in Cyprus 

After 34 years in the Finnish police Satu Koivu has been serving the last two years in Cyprus, as Senior Police Adviser at UNFICYP, the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. Satu Koivu is the first Finn to hold a peacekeeping police leadership position at the United Nations.

With policing experience including public order, organized crime, criminal investigation, first in line supervision, duty officer, teacher, chief of staff and chief of human resources development, she has a long and diverse career that includes EU civil police assignments in Palestine. 

A woman in a helicopter
Satu Koivu has a work history of over 30 years in the Finnish police force. Photo: UNFICYP

When UNRIC reaches her in Cyprus Satu Koivu has recently agreed on a third optional year of serving in Cyprus, partly to ensure continuity at the duty station, where a general sensitivity is characterizing the situation in Cyprus. The UN mission’s mandate comes from a UN Security Council decision from 1964, and the main tasks for UN are maintaining peace and restoring public order, safety and security, and restoring normal conditions between the island’s population groups. As Senior Police Adviser Satu Koivu has a lot on her table at the moment, living busy days. 

My day is filled with operational briefings, command and control of operations, leadership meetings, consultations, planning, decision-making and recruitment, Satu Koivu explains. I am continuously also engaging with local police services. 

A woman on duty in a helicopter
Perseverance, negotiation skills and the ability of being fair are some of the characteristics that has served Satu Koivu through her career. Photo: UNFICYP

Calming down conflicts 

Due to the unstable political situation in Cyprus, a lot of the general work consists of maintenance of law and order and calming situations down to prevent them from escalating. In her position, Koivu acts as the Head of UN Police Component and supervisor of the UNFICYP operation’s 69 international police officers. Her location is Nicosia Headquarters and the domain is the so-called Buffer Zone between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot population of the island. Satu Koivu explains that small things quickly can develop into conflicts if not calmed down effectively. 

– Very small things, like a farmer being to close to the ceasefire line can cause a situation and soon media and political level is involved and phones ring all over, including in my office.

When asked about what abilities and strengths she brought to Cyprus from Finland, Satu says her long leadership experience and in-depth understanding of police work gives her confidence and emphasizes that Finnish people in general have a good reputation in the international field work.  

– Perseverance, negotiation skills and the ability of being fair and reasonable are some of the characteristics worth mentioning, Satu Koivu explains.  

A woman in official peacekeeping police uniform
Finnish people in general have a good reputation in the international field work, Satu Koivu says. Photo: UNFICYP

New thoughts and perspectives 

During her years in Cyprus she has had several female colleagues, she especially mentions Norwegian Major General Ingrid Gjerde as an important confident, reluctant to draw any negative attention to specific challenges linked to gender. She feels she is respected as a professional and a trustworthy colleague.  

When asked about the other way around, what she will bring from Cyprus when time comes to move back to Finland, she puts on a positive note.  

– Working in a multicultural environment inspires you to new thoughts and perspective.  

UNFICYP is one of the longest-running UN Peacekeeping missions. It was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island and bring about a return to normal conditions.  

This year the United Nations celebrate 75 years of Peacekeeping, read more here, here and here 

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