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Welcoming address by Minister Virolainen at the Think development - Think WIDER Conference

Welcoming address by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Anne-Mari Virolainen at the Think development - Think WIDER Conference. Helsinki, 13 September 2018.

Director of UNU-WIDER Finn Tarp,
Distinguished Experts and Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor to welcome you all to the UNU-WIDER conference in Helsinki. In this conference, we will be witnessing world-leading experts providing views and results on the themes that UNU-WIDER research has focused on for more than 30 years. I am convinced these will be valuable days in many ways.

For the last ten years professor Finn Tarp has worked as the director of UNU-WIDER. This has been a period of very active and productive research. UNU-WIDER has recently been ranked as one of the topmost think-tanks and research institutions in the field of development in the whole world. This is a major achievement. Let me start by congratulating you, Finn, for the inspiring and forward-looking leadership.

Let me also emphasize that this success is not an achievement of only one person. It is an achievement of the various networks of experts that are truly global. As we can see here today, when we look around, UNU-WIDER has gathered the most distinguished and academically honoured researchers on development in the same room. We are now harvesting, so to speak, the fruits of your work.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

What is UNU-WIDER? For more than 30 years, UNU-WIDER has been associated with some of the most advanced thinking in development economics. Since the Institute’s start in 1985, UNU-WIDER has undertaken research on all the principal themes of development economics. It has created a global network of thousands of researchers from all over the globe.

Helsinki has become the hub of this network, producing knowledge of real value to policy makers and practitioners in the developing world, across the UN, and to the international community more broadly.

The Institute has undertaken cutting-edge research on topics such as poverty, inequality, economic transformation, development finance, climate change, gender and food security, to mention just a few.

However, I look at UNU-WIDER from a particular perspective. Top quality research is important but even more important is that the research results are valuable for the development community. I want to see the impact. As a minister responsible for development policy and development cooperation, I want to see that research results can be used for the benefit of the developing countries.

I think this vision has been very much shared by UNU-WIDER.

First, research is more useful when the publications are available free of charge to experts in developing countries and developed countries alike. UNU-WIDER’s publication policy has been very open. The publications are available on the website, which is one reason why they are so very well read and cited.

Second, providing opportunities for young researchers to present their initial work in the same networks with very prominent researchers is a special accomplishment. It is noteworthy that UNU-WIDER has been able to recruit many young female economists into its research teams. This is remarkable, considering how much the field of development economics is dominated by men.

Third, research cooperation is useful when it creates databases – like databases on inequality and on government revenues. These databases can be used by both researchers and administrators in the developing countries.

Distinguished Experts and Colleagues,

Finland has had the honor to host UNU-WIDER for 30 years. We think that UNU-WIDER has grown during this period to a remarkable institution. It has also shown its relevance for the future. UNU-WIDER is very well positioned to undertake policy-relevant research on key themes of the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Agenda.

Finland has over the years supported UNU-WIDER’s thematic research including the most pressing concerns of our time alongside like-minded donor countries such as Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. More recently, Finland, and in particular its Ministry for Foreign Affairs, has in addition recognized the Institute’s engagements in a series of Finland’s bilateral partner countries. To illustrate, UNU-WIDER has become a key partner in Finland’s engagement with Mozambique and Tanzania where UNU-WIDER works with the respective governments to implement policies focused on achieving a series of the goals and targets of the Agenda 2030.

Most recently, Finland and UNU-WIDER have intensified their collaboration in the area of taxation and development where the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland supports the Institute’s research and capacity building activities on innovative tax systems in developing countries.

In this way Finland and UNU-WIDER are working together to help convert the 2030 Agenda’s many goals and targets into operational priorities at country level.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by providing a very warm welcome to the professor Kunal Sen. As of the beginning of next year, Professor Sen will be taking over as the new director of UNU-WIDER. I am very much looking forward to continuing our close cooperation with you and the whole Institute.

I wish all of you a fruitful conference and discussions. Not forgetting the most valuable coffee breaks.

Thank you for your attention!

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