Opening statement by Minister Toivakka at the Global Innovations for Children and Youth Summit

Opening statement by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Lenita Toivakka at the Start-up to scale-up: Global Innovations for Children and Youth Summit, organised by UNICEF and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Finlandia Hall, 9 November 2015.  

Dear innovators, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me welcome you to the first Global Innovations for Children and Youth Summit and to Finland.

In the course of one life time Finland has developed from a very poor country to a reasonably high income nation. Central elements in Finland becoming what it is today were innovations and an emphasis on equality – building a society for all. 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. Social innovations in child and maternal health, education, child nutrition etcetera played a crucial role. A good example of a Finnish social innovation is the free school meal. Finland was the first country in the world to serve free school meals to all pupils. You will share this experience during the Summit.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The challenges related to the well-being of children that Finland has faced are the same that UNICEF works with today.

UNICEF is Finland's long-term partner in our effort to improve the lives of children worldwide. When UNICEF started its mission to help the world's children, Finnish children were among the first to receive support. When after the Second World War Finnish children could not go to school in the winter without shoes, UNICEF provided more than 50 000 pairs. A few years later, Finland gave its first contribution to UNICEF to help children in other countries. We have remained committed ever since.

Today, Finland is commonly regarded as one of the most competitive and innovative countries in the world. This is reflected in top ratings in global rankings. We have been able to combine the Nordic welfare system with an open, knowledge-based and innovative economy. Long-term investments in education, research and innovation are also reflected in the Finnish development cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In September, world leaders committed to a new set of development goals. These universal goals focus on achieving sustainable development by 2030 and leaving no one behind. To achieve the ambitious goals, we need to think differently, work together and to invest in innovations. Every citizen can be part of the process.

I have been following with enthusiasm the increased interest in innovation by a number of United Nations agencies. UNICEF is in the forefront of this development.

Finland supports innovation for development through various channels. These range from small-scale support to bilateral and regional programmes and multilateral partnerships. In our bilateral cooperation, Finland engages in building innovation capacity and entrepreneurship, for instance in Tanzania, Vietnam and Southern Africa. I am happy to see many of our partner countries represented here, by official delegations, entrepreneurs and experts.

I also want to highlight our new Business with Impact Innovation Programme BEAM that was launched in cooperation with the Finnish Innovation Funding Agency, Tekes, this year. BEAM supports Finnish companies and other actors working with partners from developing countries in creating, piloting and scaling innovations that improve the well-being of the world's poor.

Dear innovators,

The themes of this Summit are exciting. We will be sharing how, for example, big data, new learning solutions, personalised health services, or youth engagement can have a life-changing or even life-saving impact. We are also addressing how to scale positive change: funding, partnerships and risk-taking.

Increased innovation requires risk-taking, and this means accepting occasional failure. The solutions we need will not emerge from the public sector alone. In my role as Minister for both foreign trade and development, I call for a stronger role for the private sector in development. This is what many of Finland's development partners are actually hoping for.

We need everyone's capacity and knowledge to achieve the ambitious Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Therefore it is important to promote gender equality and the empowerment and rights of women and girls – a priority for Finland and an issue to which I am personally very committed to.

Dear friends,

We wish to consolidate our innovation co-operation with UNICEF beyond this Summit. The UNICEF innovation programme and the UNICEF Innovation Fund are promising and exciting vehicles for taking the innovation agenda forward. I can proudly announce a pledge of 1,5 million Euros to the UNICEF Innovation Fund next year. I encourage everyone to join us in promoting global innovations for children and youth together with UNICEF.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by extending my sincere gratitude to UNICEF and to the Finnish National Committee for UNICEF for organizing this Summit with us.

It is exciting to have you all here - an impressive gathering of thought and action leaders from around the world. We have a common goal to advance innovations that will improve the lives of children and youth, especially the most disadvantaged and vulnerable. We need to share experiences, make new partnerships, mobilize resources and create action. I wish you all two very innovate days in Helsinki.

Thank you for your attention.