Madam President, Madam High Commissioner, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to address the United Nations Human Rights Council today. Finland wishes to join this Council as a full member during the 2022–2024 term. I am proud of our candidacy.
For Finland, a strong rules-based multilateral system is of fundamental importance. The Human Rights Council is a cornerstone of this system that plays a key role in upholding our dignity and human rights.
The COVID-19 pandemic affects us all. The need for solidarity and resilience has once again become very concrete.
Based on our experience, inclusive societies are better able to adapt to change and overcome crises.
Finland’s own history is telling. Our development from a poor agrarian country into a stable, equal and prosperous nation has not always been easy. Gender equality and quality education for all have made our success possible. We have built our society by including everyone, and by placing human rights, fundamental freedoms and equality at the very centre.
Today, I want to focus on the rights of women and girls, climate change, and digital space and human rights.
We have seen a pushback on women’s and girls’ rights in many countries. Discrimination and violence have increased. We all must do more to fight against the trafficking of women and girls and offer better support to victims, in each of our own countries and globally.
Sexual and gender-based violence is still used as a weapon in conflicts, repression and ethnic cleansing. We are deeply concerned about what we are hearing from the Uighurs, the Rohingyas and from Tigray.
The COVID-19 pandemic is worsening the situation of countless health and social workers who are mostly women. Intimate partner violence has become the so-called shadow pandemic.
In Finland, too, we have seen an increase in domestic violence. Globally, sexual and reproductive health and rights are more and more at risk.
At the same time, women are a powerful force for change and recovery. This Council is key in ensuring progress on women’s and girls’ rights and in building back better.
Second, I want to underline the severe impacts of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights.
We have a duty to prevent the negative effects of climate change. We must work to achieve a just and fair transition. In doing so, we must pay special attention to the rights of persons in the most vulnerable situations – including persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples.
In order to combat climate change, we need everyone on board. Globally, empowering women and girls can be decisive in making a real change at every level.
Third, I want to focus on digital space and human rights.
Digitalisation must become a force for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as it is changing the way the world works. With this in mind, it is essential that we bridge the digital divide.
Finland wants to promote a safe digital space for all and to enable everyone to use their voices without the threat of violence, harassment or hate speech.
Freedoms of expression, assembly and media are essential for democratic government. Further, the accountability of decision-makers lies at the very heart of democracy, as does the rule of law.
I am deeply concerned about the recent attempts in many countries to limit citizens’ right to peacefully express their views, both online and offline. I am particularly worried about attacks against human rights defenders, LGBTI persons, and members of civil society.
We cannot allow authoritarian governments to use internet and media shutdowns as a political tool. We are extremely concerned about the shrinking space for civil society in many authoritarian countries, including on our own continent. Finland also strongly condemns the mistreatment of representatives of the political opposition and other peaceful protestors we have witnessed recently.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
No country has a perfect human rights record. We all have work to do.
Finland attaches great importance to the Universal Periodic Review process and the other mechanisms of the Council. We need a Council with a broad mandate, from prevention to addressing human rights violations.
We support the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office, and wish to continue our excellent collaboration with increasing voluntary contributions.
Our foreign policy is human rights-based. Finland works for human rights, gender equality, peace and security, and the fight against poverty globally. If elected, we would bring our contribution to the Council – to ensure the fullest respect for universal human rights in our diverse world.