Press Release 133/2013
10 June 2013
Today, on June 10, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs published the first human rights strategy of its own. It complements the human rights report the Government submits to Parliament once during each Government term.
The strategy and the related action plan have two goals: on one hand, to mainstream human rights as a more coherent part of Foreign Service operations and, on the other hand, to increase the effectiveness of Finnish international human rights activity by specifying the overarching objectives and spearhead projects for human rights policy.
The strategy steers the operations of the Foreign Service in the areas of security policy, external economic relations as well as development policy. Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, who spoke at the event, underscored the special meaning of human rights in the Finnish foreign policy: “Human rights are an important part of our foreign policy in all areas of operation. In the future, we will strive to further increase human rights competence in the Foreign Service. The purpose is to intensify and systematise human rights training of our civil servants and to utilise the expertise of human rights activists and researchers more efficiently than before,” Tuomioja pointed out.
The Foreign Service’s human rights strategy defines openness, eradication of discrimination and promotion of inclusion as the overarching goals. These goals will steer the operations for the entire duration of the strategy, in other words, for at least five years.
The action plan linked with the strategy defines three spearhead projects for international human rights policy for the next two years: the human rights of women and girls; economic, social and cultural rights; and increasing inclusion. In connection with all these projects, Finland will lay special emphasis on the rights of discriminated groups.
Other new features in the strategy include the method of implementation and the follow-up mechanism. The Advisory Board on International Human Rights Affairs, consisting of human rights organisations and representatives of Finnish parliamentary parties, has participated in the preparation of the new policy since the very beginning. The Advisory Board plays a key role in the follow-up of the implementation of the strategy and action plan.
In the publication event, Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala emphasised the role of human rights advocates in the monitoring and promotion of human rights. According to Hautala, it should be considered in collaboration with NGOs how Finland could act directly for prevention of violence and harassment directed against human rights activists and, in the last resort, provision of protection in countries where Finland is involved in development cooperation. The Finnish development policy is based on human rights.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja also underscored the importance of NGOs in the development and effectiveness of the Finnish human rights policy. Tuomioja hoped for close cooperation with the civil society. Criticism is also important for further development of the policy.
In connection with the launch of the strategy, the Advisory Board on International Human Rights Affairs celebrated its history, spanning 25 years. The Advisory Board has played a central role in strengthening the status of human rights in the Finnish foreign policy. MP Astrid Thors acts as the current chair of the Advisory Board, and previous chairpersons have included Nils Torvalds, Tarja Kantola, Kristina Stenman and Peter Stenlund.
Additional information concerning the Foreign Service’s human rights strategy: Adviser Rauno Merisaari, tel. +358 40 838 2960
The Foreign Service's human rights strategy will publish soon in english.