Civil society organisations had a discussion on Finland’s objectives and priorities at the UN Human Rights Council’s summer session with the Foreign Minister
On 18 May, representatives of civil society organisations met with Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto to discuss Finland’s objectives and priorities at the 50th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, which will convene in Geneva on 13 June–8 July 2022. Nearly 40 CSOs had sent their representatives to the consultation event organised at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The event was chaired by Ambassador for Human Rights and Democracy Rauno Merisaari.
Finland’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2022–2024 started in January. Before the regular sessions of the HRC, held three times a year, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs holds consultations with civil society organisations under the leadership of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. While a virtual consultation was held in February, representatives of CSOs and Foreign Minister Haavisto were now able to have a physical meeting to exchange views on the objectives and priorities of Finland’s work in the Human Rights Council.
At the second HRC session during Finland’s membership, held from 13 June to 8 July 2022, a wide range of thematic and country-specific human rights issues will be on the agenda. The session will focus strongly on the rights of women and girls and on gender equality.
Foreign Minister Haavisto emphasised the importance of defending women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality
At the beginning of his speech, Foreign Minister Haavisto stressed the importance of dialogue with civil society. Cooperation with domestic and international civil society is a key part of Finland’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council.
Haavisto also told about the first session held during Finland’s membership (28 February– 1 April 2022), which was strongly affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s aggression was widely condemned, for example in a Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council. Finland voted in favour of the resolution and advocated its adoption. According to Haavisto, it is important to bring Russia and individual perpetrators of international crimes to justice. The Commission of Inquiry, set up by the Human Rights Council, supports this work.
The Human Rights Council remained operational despite Russia’s aggression. According to Haavisto, the previous session had a thorough debate on the human rights situation in different countries and on various thematic issues, and important decisions were made.
Haavisto said that at the upcoming session, Finland would take an active part in the negotiations on women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality. Renewing the term of the UNHRC’s Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is also one of Finland’s priorities. The session will also discuss themes related to the freedom of speech, business and climate change as well as the human rights situation in several countries, including Belarus, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Myanmar.
Civil society organisations emphasised that the HRC session should discuss vulnerable people’s position
Representatives of civil society took an active part in the discussion and placed special emphasis on the importance of taking women and girls, persons with disabilities and young people into account in the Human Rights Council.
In their contributions, civil society organisations noted that crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s aggression, have further weakened the human rights situation of vulnerable groups. The participants in the event hoped that Finland would continue to influence the situation of minorities and vulnerable people in the Human Rights Council.
Foreign Minister Haavisto expressed his thanks to civil society representatives for their views and encouraged them to contact the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in matters related to the UN Human Rights Council. Close exchange of views and cooperation with civil society is important for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.