Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja: Globalisation, a new challenge for human rights

Globalisation and crisis management bring new challenges to the implementation of human rights, said Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja in Helsinki on Tuesday. He encouraged multinational corporations to become involved in efforts to strengthen human rights.

Mr Tuomioja talked about the drafting of a new human rights report in a meeting with representatives of non-governmental organisations. The foreign minister will submit the report on the government´s human rights policies to the foreign affairs committee of parliament later this autumn. The first report was submitted by the previous foreign minister, Tarja Halonen, in November 1998.

According to Mr Tuomioja, the principles and guidelines of the first report, such as transparency and dialogue with the civil society, are still valid. The main points of focus are still correct. Those include the rights of women, children, minorities and indigenous people. These groups are more easily discriminated against than others.
-These policy guidelines of ours do not require readjustment, but we are now facing new challenges, such as globalisation and crisis management.

Globalisation provides great opportunities, but its management is only just emerging. The responsibility of multinational corporations is growing in importance with regard to human rights. Nations are impelled by international treaties to respect human rights, but it is difficult to regulate the activities of major corporations.
- Countries of residence can naturally influence in the way the multinational corporations take human rights norms into account, but in practise the options of the states are often limited.
- It is gratifying to note that international organisations and companies have themselves developed ethical codes and standards. They are not legally binding, but they can contribute to the implementation of human rights.
- Consumers are more and more conscious which can make a commitment to human rights an asset to a company.

The role of human rights in the different stages of conflict resolution is widely acknowledged. In practise, there is plenty to analyse, said Mr Tuomioja. For example, various field workers involved in civil crisis management, peacekeeping and election monitoring require human rights education.

Mr Tuomioja said he has placed the promotion of human rights high on his agenda. Human rights gain more and more momentum in foreign policy.
- Human rights have come to stay, both on the working agenda of the international community as well as in Finnish foreign policy.