Ministeri Virolaisen puhe YK:n innovaatio- ja teknologialaboratorion avajaistapahtumassa

Ulkomaankauppa- ja kehitysministeri Anne-Mari Virolaisen puhe YK:n innovaatio- ja teknologialaboratorio UNTIL Suomen virallisissa avajaisissa 5. joulukuuta 2018.

“Role of technology innovation in advancing the progress towards the 2030 agenda”

Dear Assistant Secretary-General Riazi, Dear Assistant Secretary-General Hochschildt, 
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honor to address this side event organized jointly by the United Nations Technology Innovation Lab and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. I want to thank Assistant Secretary-General Riazi and her team for their leadership and hard work in creating the UNTIL network. Your work demonstrates that the UN can indeed stay relevant and make a difference. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world is facing a set of unforeseen and interdependent challenges. Since the 1990s, the international community has recognized the nexus between development, security and human rights. We also have an increasingly good understanding of the implications that climate change has for the sustainable development of all countries.

However, at the same time we also have access to a number of solutions, giving us hope for a better future. What is common to most of these solutions is that they result from technological innovation. The speed of innovation is tremendous, fueled by exponential advances in digital technologies. 

But today’s change is not only exponential. It is disruptive and it often leads to societal dislocation, stress and even violence. Yet, it also gives us opportunities for the better - if we can only harness these innovations and technologies as our servants rather than as our masters.  

Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals through innovation for development is a collective objective. It has to involve not only the United Nations and its member States but also the private sector, civil society, the academia, and others. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We Finns sometimes think of ourselves as loners and introverts. Nevertheless, we also value highly collaboration. We are pragmatic problem-solvers, and, most importantly, have a strong sense of social responsibility.

We also have a strong tradition in science and engineering. Add to the list a top-notch educational system, improved access to risk capital, a well-functioning public sector and livable cities – yes, even in early December this is a pretty exciting place – and it is no wonder that you find here a growing mass of startups and impact entrepreneurs in digital technologies.

We are actually very aware of the fact that technological innovation is now driving our economy and our exports. And more and more of our companies – big and small – want to disrupt the status quo, push the world forward and create businesses that are ethical and transparent.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is therefore befitting that Finland is the first European country to host a UN Technology Innovation Lab or UNTIL. The Lab has already opened its doors at Aalto University Campus in Espoo, a veritable hub of Finnish and international innovation. A formal ribbon cutting will take place later today. 

UNTIL Finland will form part of a larger network of Labs. It will put together the Finnish innovation ecosystem and the global reach of the UN in creating scalable and open-source technological solutions in four important fields. They are 1) health, 2) education, 3) peace and security, and 4) circular economy. 

These four areas reflect Finland’s strengths, our comparative advantage. We firmly believe that the UNTIL network will bring about much needed innovative solutions for meeting the 2030 agenda. We are proud to collaborate with the UN to make this a success.

To conclude, I want to stress that technological innovation can and must serve the values of the United Nations. A small country like Finland is highly dependent on collective security envisaged by the UN Charter. However, we are also dependent on free trade, open borders, and the free flow of ideas, without which innovation and entrepreneurship become stifled. Moreover, for innovation and entrepreneurship to continue to flourish, we have to defend our core values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish you a most productive and innovative discussion during this side event. I hope that you have gained new insights and made plenty of new contacts in Slush. I also want to thank, once again, the organizers of this event. For those attending from outside Helsinki, I wish you a safe journey back home, and to everybody, I wish a very happy 101st Finnish Independence Day tomorrow.