Speech by Mr Jukka Valtasaari, Secretary of State: Towards the community of democracies, Warsaw 26 -27 June 2000

Intervention of Mr. Jukka Valtasaari, Secretary of State,
on behalf of the Government of Finland

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to thank Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek and the Government of Poland for organising this Conference and for offering the magnificent facilities at our disposal. The convening countries have also made a significant contribution to the success of this conference. I am confident that we will keep democracy high on the international agenda at the beginning of the new millennium.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to recall another important international event a decade ago: the adoption of the Charter of Paris for a New Europe at the OSCE Summit in 1990. After decades of division, Heads of State undertook there to uphold a common standard of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, economic liberty, and security throughout a newly united Europe. They further affirmed that governments would, as their primary responsibility, protect and promote their citizens’ inalienable human rights and fundamental freedoms. Observance and full exercise of these rights form the foundation of freedom, justice and peace throughout the Euro-Atlantic community.

Today, the widespread promotion of these values is ever more important. Globalisation and the information age have increased our resources and improved our capacity to advance each other’s well-being through peaceful, sustainable structural change. Open and pluralistic societies, governed by rule of law and characterised by respect for political and civil liberties as well as economic, social and cultural rights, are peaceful and stable. They make good neighbours and welcome economic and strategic partners.

We have gathered here to reinforce democracy throughout the globe. Democracy means many things to many people. In order to give meaning to our effort, we improve our common understanding of democracy, and permit this understanding to govern concentration of our resources towards a limited number of ends. I think that the key issues on which we, as government representatives, might concentrate our attention include the following: promoting constitutionalism, including the rule of law and respect for human rights and the rights of minorities; advancing good governance by championing democratic accountability, transparency, and decentralisation; and encouraging a culture of public participation in political life. An overall objective within these priority areas should be the promotion of equality and, in this context, the advancement of women´s rights and participation in society.

If we hope to achieve concrete results we must establish specific, realistic and achievable objectives. Our activities should draw on the strengths of governments as well as global and regional organisations, including the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and other organisations world wide. Government institutions and organisations that have recently experienced political transition themselves can be instrumental in supporting reform in other countries. Such co-operation should be inspired by recently approved decisions and platforms on different continents. We should also build our activities on local capacity, and make use of non-state expertise wherever possible.

Mr. Chairman,

I have put forward some ideas that could be addressed as a starting point. I would like to conclude by referring to President Martti Ahtisaari´s comments on the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the OSCE Helsinki Final Act. President Ahtisaari noted, "The Helsinki Final Act enshrined the principles for interaction between states and respect for human rights. From a longer term perspective, the OSCE process has paved the way for profound change in Europe." The Warsaw Conference should give a new global dimension to this work. Let’s seize this opportunity to work together to expand and strengthen democracy through our pragmatic and focused co-operation.

Thank you.