Statement by the Under-Secretary of State of Finland, Mr. Jaakko Laajava made before the Commission on Human Rights, 59th Session
Geneva, 19 March, 2003
Let me, first of all, congratulate you on your election to the Chairmanship of this important Commission. I wish you and the other members of the Bureau every success in your challenging task.
Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for his nomination. The Finnish delegation can assure him of our full support.
In addition to what has already been said by Mr Tassos Giannitsis, the Alternate Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece, on behalf of the European Union, allow me to make the following remarks.
Human rights are universal. As we are this year celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, the consensus of the world community around this key concept is particularly relevant. Universality of human rights entails a right but also a duty of the international community to promote human rights and prevent violations in any part of the world.
In this context I would like to emphasise the importance of working together, in an atmosphere of openness and dialogue. This is the only way for all of us to achieve what we have gathered here for, that is to promote and protect human rights.
World is changing at an accelerated speed. Various phenomena that can be characterised by the wide concept of "globalisation" affect the lives of us all. In particular, these changes are highly relevant from the perspective of the full realisation of human rights for all
Concept of globalisation
Globalisation has certainly brought about various positive developments. However, not everyone has access to those advantages. We should be fully aware that globalisation involves positive prospects but also considerable risks.
In December, Finland organised what we called the “Helsinki Conference” bringing together Government representatives, civil society, private enterprises, academic experts as well as representatives of international organisations to discuss globalisation. Our aim was to promote the establisment of new global partnerships that could lead to lasting positive results of globalisation on the basis of equality and inclusiveness.
The task of the ILO World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation, co-chaired by Mme Halonen, President of Finland, and Mr Mpaka, President of Tanzania, is to recommend measures to incorporate the social dimension into the development of globalisation. These initiatives represent efforts to add dimensions related to democracy and human rights to globalisation.
With regard to the positive potential of globalisation, there is a growing sense of togetherness among people. From the point of view of human rights, this represents a major avenue forward.
For instance, consumers increasingly want to know that the goods they purchase are produced by enterprises implementing sound ethical norms. As a result, companies to an increasing degree apply strict ethical codes and promote enhanced accountability. Finland welcomes efforts made in the UN framework, including the Global Compact launched by the UN Secretary-General in 1999.
Another, related development is the technological revolution, especially in the area of information technology. It has become extremely difficult to hide human rights violations from public attention. Individuals care of what happens in the area of human rights. Through various kinds of networks, there are always ways and means to make sure information goes out. No government can afford to show a deaf ear to criticism of its human rights record. Therefore, transparency does matter.
Let me now address some challenges posed by globalisation that Finland finds particularly important from the point of view of human rights.
Studies conducted by the ILO , inter alia, point out that while globalisation has produced wealth and opportunities, the reality of rising inequalities presents a key challenge. Particularly the rights of women, children, minorities and indigenous peoples may be at jeopardy. Persons belonging to these groups often fall victim to discrimination. The rights of these groups are priority areas of Finland´s human rights policy.
For instance, positive developments such as new opportunities for travel sometimes have controversial effects. Trafficking in women and children is a major human rights concern, including in Europe. Each year, millions of people, the majority of whom are women and children, are forced into situations where they are exploited in various ways. The protection of the human rights of victims as well as efforts aimed at their rehabilitation are of primary importance. Concerted international efforts are also needed to combat trafficking. Finland welcomes the adoption of the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, that supplements the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Finland calls for the implementation of these instruments without delay.
All indicators show that the status of women is still inferior to that of men everywhere. Violence against women, which Finland regards as a human rights violation directed against women on the basis of gender, is still a wide-spread problem also in my own country. Whenever various thematic or country specific human rights issues are discussed, Finland emphasises the need to also look at the issue from the perspective of women. We must apply the gender perspective throughout the work of this Commission.
Both minorities and indigenous peoples face a risk of their status weakening. We need to take special measures to promote the rights of groups facing particular risks. Finland therefore warmly welcomes the establishment of the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues. We hope that its forthcoming session will be productive. Adequate resources must be made available for the new Forum.
Finland also supports efforts to render minority rights more visible. Minority rights are important for instance for conflict prevention. At the European level, Finland has proposed to establish a Roma Forum in the context of the Council of Europe in order to give the Roma a voice and a channel of participation in matters concerning them.
We should devote special attention to persons who may face multiple discrimination, that is discrimination on several grounds. Girls belonging to minorities or women with disabilities are examples of such cases.
Combatting patterns of discrimination in any society requires participation of persons concerned. Finland supports the rights of persons with disabilities and we expect that the work of the relevant Ad Hoc Committee will produce a draft for a legally binding instrument that would enhance the enjoyment by persons with disabilities of all human rights.
ESC rights and good governance
Economic, social and cultural rights have gained special significance as a result of the process of globalisation. They could add human rights -based tools to economically motivated activity. The fundamental duty of Governments to secure all human rights for individuals has not lost any of its relevance even in changing circumstances.
Finland emphasises the indivisible nature of human rights. To draw a line between civil and political rights on one hand and economic, social and cultural rights on the other is often impossible. Labour rights are a case in point in this respect. In addition, the enjoyment of a particular right in practice requires enjoyment of another one in order to be meaningful. For instance, the right to basic education and the freedom of expression are closely intertwined.
Finland therefore hopes that this session of the Commission will be able to take concrete steps to promote economic, social and cultural rights. These rights are based on existing international standards and built along the same lines as other human rights, as essential treaty-based rights of the individual. The element of justiciability is often debated in the context of economic, social and cultural rights. Finland sees no valid grounds to exclude their justiciability. Finland believes that this notion will gradually gain ground as the understanding of the nature of this set of rights develops.
One year ago the Commission on Human Rights decided to establish an open-ended working group to elaborate an optional protocol, containing an individual complaints mechanism to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Finland is looking forward to the first session of the new working group. The working group is expected to elaborate a new instrument, which we believe will improve the legally binding nature of economic, social and cultural rights and further clarify the content of these rights.
Poverty and human rights
Extreme poverty continues to be a major concern for us all. Studies on the topic of poverty alleviation highlight the importance of investments by Governments in the sectors of education and health. Basic education for girls is particularly important. Finland is fully committed to the implementation of the UN Millenium Declaration in its entirety including the Millenium Development Goals. We find the human rights perspective to be highly relevant in the context of poverty alleviation.
To meet all the important objectives mentioned above, good governance is essential. The rule of law
and transparency are certainly among key requirements in any solid human rights culture. Transparency
and good governance also provide clear comparative economic advantages.
As an example of what has been done in Europe, the European Union recently adopted a Charter on Fundamental Rights that includes provisions concerning both transparency and good governance. The Charter also includes, in the same instrument, provisions concerning civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights.
This session of the Commission takes place under exceptional international circumstances.While we face various difficulties, let us not lose sight of the perspective of working together. The problems we face, such as terrorism, are of an unprecedented nature. Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and emphasises that the fight against terrorism must take place in full conformity with the principles of the rule of law and human rights. The same principles of the rule of law and human rights are essential for an equitable process of globalisation. Finland is committed to working for these objectives together with other nations, through dialogue and on the basis of standards applicable to all.