Messages from civil society to Minister for Foreign Affairs an important element of Finland’s preparations for autumn session of UN Human Rights Council

Representatives of civil society organisations met at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in early September to exchange views with Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto on Finland’s objectives and priorities in the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Consultation events under the lead of the Minister for Foreign Affairs prior to the UNHRC sessions is an integral part of Finland’s preparations for its membership in the Council.

The UN Human Rights Council has a regular session three times a year. Finland supports the participation of civil society actors and human rights defenders in the Council’s work and cooperates with them. Before each session, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs under the lead of the Minister for Foreign Affairs hears the views of civil society organisations on Finland’s objectives and priorities. The consultations are an essential element of Finland’s preparations for the sessions.  Nearly 40 representatives of civil society organisations attended the consultation in early September. The event was chaired by Ambassador for Human Rights and Democracy Rauno Merisaari.

Foreign Minister Haavisto emphasised consistency and perseverance in key human rights issues 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Haavisto emphasised the significance of the dialogue with civil society and the value of the opinions of a free civil society. He thanked the civil society representatives for their input in the previous consultation on the promotion of the rights of women and gender equality, among other matters.

Haavisto talked about the second session of Finland’s membership in the Human Rights Council that lasted from 13 June to 8 August 2022 where Finland advocated for the promotion of women's rights and gender equality and for a better status for sexual and gender minorities. Finland will continue to defend gender equality and the rights of women and girls despite the increasing dominance of conservative values. The mandate of the UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity was renewed successfully. The Council sent a strong message in favour of improving the human rights situation of Afghan women and girls. Haavisto appealed to Belarus for the release of all political prisoners in an address(Link to another website.) he held on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries. Finland will continue to stand firmly by Ukraine.

Haavisto explained that in the upcoming session Finland will be active in the discussions on a number of country situations and promote commitment to the rights and participation of indigenous peoples globally. Finland, too, will be receiving feedback when Claudia Mahler, serving as Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, presents her report and recommendations on the situation in Finland. In addition, Finland is planning to host a side event on the status of intersex people together with the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

Civil society representatives concerned about country situations and the rights of vulnerable people in crises

Civil society representatives expressed concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in many countries and highlighted the importance of considering the needs of indigenous peoples, refugees, asylum seekers, persons with disabilities and young people. They were troubled by the shrinking space for civil society and human rights defenders around the world.

The civil society representatives talked about how Finland can help those in distress when human rights are undermined by different kinds of crises, such as wars, conflicts, food crisis, climate change and biodiversity loss. They hoped that Finland would continue to influence the rights of women and girls and the situation of minorities and vulnerable people in the Human Rights Council.

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto thanked the civil society representatives for their views and reminded that close exchange of views and cooperation with civil society is important for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. A strong civil society is Finland’s strength.

The third Human Rights Council session of Finland’s membership focus on country-specific and thematic human rights issues

The Human Rights Council will hold its 51st session from 12 September to 7 October. The session will discuss resolutions on a number of country situations, including the situations in Afghanistan, Burundi, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka. Of the thematic issues on the session agenda, Finland is particularly interested in the rights of indigenous peoples, the right to water and sanitation, questions of freedom of speech, efforts to eliminate racism, and business and human rights.

This is the last session of the year. The next civil society consultation will take place in spring 2023.