Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto at the UN Human Rights Council

Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto at the UN Human Rights Council, 49th session High-Level Segment on Monday 28 February 2022

Mr. President, Madam High Commissioner

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to address the Human Rights Council - as a Member State. The Council has a unique, strong and global mandate to promote and protect human rights. Also the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has Finland’s unwavering support.


Mr. President,

Finland stands with Ukraine.  Russia has brought war into Europe by its aggression on this sovereign state. A flagrant violation of the UN Charter, on which this very Council builds upon. By its illegal actions, Russia causes immense suffering for the Ukrainians. Civilians have died; have had to flee their homes. There is no justification for this. Neither for the violations committed during the past eight years. 

Finland strongly condemns violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by Russia.  This Council must hold Russia accountable.


Mr. President,

The international community’s capacity and will to defend human rights are put to test. The implications of the actions of authoritarian states, conflicts, the COVID19-pandemic, growing inequalities, climate change and loss of biodiversity are among our challenges.  People across the globe need the determination of this Council more than ever.

Finland will work together with all stakeholders to ensure that the Council lives up to its important mandate. We trust that there is a shared commitment to fulfil our international obligations.  Recently, the Council has shown leadership on the human rights situation in Afghanistan and by acknowledging the right to environment. Together we can build on such positive examples.

Women and girls – in all their diversity – deserve our full attention. We must protect all women, including indigenous and LGBTIQ women as well as those with disabilities. We must also address the shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls urgently. One in three women worldwide experience violence. Such violence has a devastating impact on the victim and her rights. It has also widespread societal consequences. Men and boys must be positively engaged to ensure change.  The Human Rights Council can make a difference and Finland works towards that end.


Mr. President,

An open debate culture, with the possibility of raising criticism and differing opinions, is a cornerstone of democratic societies and supports sustainable development. Human rights defenders, political opposition and journalists must be able to work without fear of reprisals. This must be a part of building back better after the COVID19-pandemic. We are deeply concerned about the developments in many countries, including in our own neighbourhood.

The crackdown on civil society in Russia, China and Belarus as well as the shrinking space for journalists in Hong Kong are among situations of concern. Human rights activism in the midst of severe restrictions requires courage. I want to welcome the braveness of Sudanese and Afghan women who have claimed their rights in difficult situations.


Mr. President,

Everyone needs to contribute to the work against racism. I am pleased to inform that we continue steadfast work in this regard at home as well. Last fall, my Government adopted an Action Plan for Combating Racism. Finland is committed to fighting antisemitism in all fora. We support the definition of anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Education, awareness-raising and training of public officials are among our key efforts in ensuring the enjoyment of human rights of all persons belonging to minorities.

Finland is always open to discuss its own human rights situation. We look forward to our Universal Periodic Review in November. The UPR has proven its political significance in human rights promotion; complementing the work of other UN human rights mechanisms.


Mr. President,

You can count on our commitment and cooperation in keeping human rights at the forefront.

Thank you.