Speech by minister Toivakka at Demo Finland's 10th Jubilee Seminar 

Speech by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Lenita Toivakka
at Demo Finland’s 10th Jubilee Seminar 15th September, 2015

Democracy and political parties in Finland’s development policy

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Firstly, I would like to congratulate Demo ry for the honorable 10 years of work to support democracy in developing countries!

Demo Finland, represented by all political parties in the Finnish Parliament, is a unique democracy support organisation even on a global scale. The broad representativeness of the political sphere is also one of the strengths of Demo Finland. I would also like to highlight the importance of the volunteer work by the different political party members to the work of Demo Finland.

During the past ten years, hundreds of Finnish politicians and political party members have contributed to the work of Demo by participating in training seminars, mentorship programmes and exchange visits. I have myself, as a Member of the Parliament, had the opportunity to host different Demo delegations. Therefore I believe I know what I am talking about when I say that these experiences are valuable also for us in Finland as we pursue the public discussion on global development and challenges to democracy worldwide.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Democracy is again receiving growing international attention. One of the goals of the new 2030 sustainable development agenda, to be adopted later this month, is peaceful and inclusive societies.

Political parties have a central role in democracy in so many ways. They are the agenda setters and key actors in different debates in our societies. They are both makers of the public policies and demanders of accountability. And, most importantly, they can inspire people to participate in public affairs.

There are, however, many challenges to democracy – from violent conflicts to authoritarian tendencies. The current migration situation is in part grounded in situations where people cannot freely act in their countries.

Therefore, Finland will strive to increase the number of stable, functioning democracies in the world. I have set promotion of democracy, rule of law, and free media, countering corruption, and strengthening the tax base in developing countries as one of the priority areas of Finland’s development policy.

In Finland we have good experiences of multiparty dialogue and consensus building. We believe they are worth sharing and can help others. The results of the first decade of the work of Demo Finland speak for this well. Demo has utilized the experiences, the idea of sharing and mutual learning as well as the notion of multiparty action.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Gender equality will also remain as a top priority, including the promotion of women’s participation in decision-making.

Gender equality is truly a core Finnish value. One of the ways in which Finland was transformed from a very poor country to a reasonably high income nation was that both girls and boys have been educated and both women and men have actively participated in the economy, in public life and society at large. 

Only countries that make full use of all their talent will remain competitive and grow. This requires that girls and boys, women and men – have equal access to education, economic opportunities - and political decision making.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are very encouraging examples of ground-breaking work in planting seeds of culture for multiparty dialogue in countries facing democratic transitions, such as Tunisia or Myanmar, or establishing bases for gender equality in political participation in Tanzania and Zambia.

But this is only the beginning. The art of building democratic culture is long-term work that comes with remarkable and far-reaching results, but sometimes faces setbacks that may require changes in tactics and strategies.

Dear participants,

We are currently facing a difficult economic situation in Finland. We must reform Finland so that it will be a prosperous and caring society also in the years to come. These reforms will cut across the public sector, including development cooperation. Now we are aiming to focus our funding more strategically so that we can achieve even more change-making results and impact. This will also challenge us in finding new ways of working together and develop our partnerships further. I encourage you all to take part in this exercise and come forward with innovative ideas for change!  

Ladies and gentlemen,

Once again, let me congratulate Demo Finland for the success during its first decade. Let us continue the efforts for democratic development globally.

Thank you.