Statement by Minister Hautala at the UN Human Rights Council
Human Rights Council, Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review,
Thirteenth session, Geneva, 21 May – 4 June 2012
Review of Finland
23 May 2012
Opening Statement by Ms. Heidi Hautala, Minister for International Development
Check against delivery
Madam Chairperson/Mister Chairman,
Finland is proud to be among the first countries under review in the second round of the Universal Periodic Review. This is as much a privilege as it is a challenge. We are keen to discuss the human rights situation in Finland and, most importantly, receive new tools and ideas for further enhancing the realization of human rights on the ground.
To be among the first ones is a challenge because there are no precise guidelines. It is a privilege because it gives us a chance to put forward our vision of the UPR as one of the key human rights mechanisms in the UN system.
The UPR is a great success of the Human Rights Council. One of its main strengths is its truly universal character. Through the UPR we can address our human rights challenges on equal terms both at the international and national levels. The UPR provides a unified and coherent view of the human rights situation in any given country, building on and reinforcing other international legal and political human rights mechanisms.
Now we must focus on the concrete implementation of the recommendations, to build further on good UPR practices, and to incorporate the UPR more systematically in bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
We have identified some key lessons in preparing for our second review. First, the UPR is all about openness and transparency. The Finnish government maintained a fully transparent approach in the preparations of the national report, and shared information with the relevant human rights actors in Finland. Besides authorities and civil society organisations, individual citizens had the possibility to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of human rights in Finland via an internet forum. Non-governmental organizations were invited to submit their views on a draft version of this Report. In our national report we try to give an honest and self-critical assessment of our human rights situation.
Secondly, it is clear that the UPR process should be well anchored in the society, taking on board the whole of government and all relevant domestic human rights actors, especially when it comes to the implementation of the recommendations. The UPR work, before and after the review, should be founded on a real dialogue between the government and the civil society.
The third lesson is about continuity. The UPR is not a one-shot exercise but an ongoing process. The implementation of recommendations is the most important phase, and there the Government again needs to join hands with the civil society. Based on our experience a voluntary mid-term review helps in keeping the implementation process on track.
I shall not go into much detail in introducing the National Report of Finland. The focus of the report is on recommendations given to Finland in the first review. It depicts the development of human rights in Finland since 2008. The overall picture is clear: human rights enjoy a strong standing in the Finnish society.
We have made two voluntary commitments in the report. Finland renews its commitment to the development assistance objective. Human rights are put at the centre stage in the Finnish development policy. The second commitment is to undertake a more effective monitoring of the implementation of our human rights obligations and commitments. The newly established Network for fundamental and human rights, with representatives from all the ministries, will serve this purpose.
Madam Chairperson/Mister Chairman,
Finland received several advance questions. I shall provide brief answers to some of them here. The rest of the questions will be covered during our dialogue.
Non-discrimination (Czech Republic and Slovenia)
The Finnish equality legislation is under reform. The objective is to strengthen the legislation with regard to the various discrimination grounds, such as sexual orientation and disability. The level of protection in the Equality Act covers all discrimination grounds in the labour market, but the protection provided for other grounds than ethnic origin in other sectors is more limited. The renewed legislation should enter into force before the next Parliamentary elections in spring 2015.
A new Disability Policy Programme for the years 2010–2015, adopted in 2010, is based on human rights, non-discrimination, equality and inclusion. It contains 122 concrete measures. A Ministry responsible for the implementation, timetable and financial needs has been identified for all measures. Follow up indicators are also being developed.
Based on the findings of the Government Report on Gender Equality, adopted in 2010, the Government is in the process of finalizing a cross-sectoral action plan for gender equality.
In Finland public authorities are required by law to take the gender equality perspective into account in preparation and decision-making, by assessing in advance the gender impact of its activities and decisions, preventing direct and indirect discrimination and actively promoting gender equality.
National Policy on the Roma (Netherlands)
The first National Policy on Roma was adopted by the Government resolution in 2010. It is human right-based, contains six key policy areas, 10 guidelines and 147 concrete proposals. Each Ministry is responsible for carrying out the jointly-agreed measures within their budgets.
The National Policy is implemented by a steering and monitoring group which coordinates and monitors the policy implementation, provides expert support for the implementation, develops indicators, collects data and draws up the first progress report in 2013. Half of the members have Roma background.
According to the Government’s new survey on housing issues of Roma people, the standard of housing for Roma people is almost the same as that for the main population. Roma people are, however, more frequently dependent on rented flats offered by municipalities.
In ten years, Roma families’ attitudes towards education of their children and the education system have changed for the better.
Domestic violence, including family killings (Norway and United Kingdom)
The Government’s Internal Safety Program identifies violence as one of the main issues.
An Action Plan to reduce violence against women 2010-2015, published by the Government in 2010, promotes the prevention of violence, victim protection and support, as well as bringing offenders to justice. The situation of immigrant women, persons with disabilities and members of sexual and gender minorities are specifically addressed. The implementation of the Action Plan is divided so that each ministry carries out the tasks which belong to their area of responsibility.
Unfortunately the number of fatal attacks involving entire families has risen sharply in the past year. The Ministerial Working Group on Internal Security has set up a panel to study family killings taken place since 2003 and to determine whether authorities could have intervened in these families' problems earlier, and how such incidents might be averted in the future.
ILO Convention n:o 169 (Norway)
According the present Government´s Programme, the intention is to ratify the ILO Convention n:o 169 during the term of office of the current Government, by spring 2015. Work to this end is underway and initial views from various Ministries and the Sami Parliament have already been sought to form a basis for considering the Government proposal with a view to ratifying the Convention within this timeframe.
Development assistance objective (Norway)
Finland is committed to increase its ODA towards the 0,7 % target. According to the Government’s decision the revenues gained from auction of EU/Emission Trading System emission allowances will be channeled to development co-operation to fill the gap between targets and spending limits.
Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Slovenia)
According the Government Programme the three main areas of family policy are services, social income transfers, and the reconciliation of work and family life. Finland’s family policy fosters a safe living environment for children while also supporting parenthood. The commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been strengthened. The Government implements the Programme for Children and Youth Policy 2012-2015, adopted in 2011.
The Office of the Ombudsman for Children monitors the rights and wellbeing of children. The office has promoted the recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Persons with disabilities (Slovenia)
The Government will soon adopt a resolution on dismantling institutional care for persons with intellectual disabilities till 2020. The national plan is to adopt a human rights based approach and outline how the services and support for persons with intellectual disabilities should be provided in the community in the future. A national goal is to reduce the current number of 1800 persons with intellectual disabilities living in institutions to no more than 500 persons by 2016.
A service and transfer plan is drawn up for all persons with disabilities who move away from residential care or their childhood home. Persons with intellectual disabilities will live in ordinary apartments either on their own or in small groups. Children with disabilities are not placed in residential care.
To ensure that there is enough affordable housing for the intellectually disabled moving from institutional care, the Government is financing the production of apartments and small group homes for the disabled persons and offering individual services and support.
Racist and other hate speech (United Kingdom)
The Government is stepping up its work to combat racism, intolerance and xenophobia. An amendment to the Criminal Code took effect in June 2011 providing additional powers to intervene in racist and other hate speech, and in other racist crimes. Public display or dissemination of opinions or other messages that threaten, slander or insult any group on grounds of race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, religion or conviction, sexual orientation or disability, or on other corresponding grounds is punishable. The amended penal provision now also applies more clearly to hate speech disseminated using information technology (computer systems).
The police have stepped up Internet monitoring and are also working in the social media, with virtual local police officers serving under their own names online and thereby facilitating contact with the police.
Conscientious objectors (Netherlands)
Exemption from military service on grounds of conscience is provided for in legislation. Application for non-military service can be submitted before the military service, during or after it. Claim of conscientious objection is valid without inquiry. Non-military service is organised in such a way that the service duties do not conflict with the conviction of the person. Service is as long as the longest period of military service. A person who refuses to perform any type of service will be sentenced to imprisonment - the duration of which is half of the remaining service period and at the most six months. On the basis of the new Monitoring Sentences Act, those who have refused all kinds of service may be sentenced to house arrest, which will be electronically supervised, instead of unconditional imprisonment.
Excessively lengthy trial proceedings (Sweden)
The excessive length of proceedings has in certain cases been a challenge in Finland. However, several measures have been taken to alleviate the situation. With regard to judicial proceedings these have included streamlining procedures as well as reallocating resources. Finland is also examining the possible introduction of plea bargaining and developing the non-prosecution system with the aim of making the proceedings more efficient.
In 2010 a new law entered into force to guarantee compensation in cases where delays in judicial proceedings have taken place. Furthermore, measures are underway also with regard to the rights of individuals in administrative procedures. The possibilities for compensation for delays also on the administrative side are being prepared as well as legal safeguards for individuals against the passivity of authorities.
Deportations of asylum-seekers (Sweden)
Finland is committed to full and effective implementation of the 1951 Geneva Convention related to the status of refugees and to respecting the principle non-refoulement. The assessment of the application for international protection is always made individually for each applicant and the applicant is interviewed personally. Country of origin information is taken into account when processing the application, alongside information submitted by the applicant. Information is often required, for example, about the prevailing status of human rights and the safety and security conditions of the applicant’s country of origin.
When assessing the reasons for persecution, the Finnish Immigration Service takes account, inter alia, certain factors, such as sexual orientation. According to the recent decision of the Supreme Administrative Court, asylum cannot be denied even if the person could have avoided persecution in his home country by hiding his sexual orientation.
Madam Chairperson/Mister Chairman,
After the delivery of our national UPR report, the Government approved the first national Human Rights Action Plan of Finland. Copies of the English translation of the Action Plan have been distributed in the meeting room. The Action Plan defines concrete measures and projects for the next two years regarding different spheres of life.
The delegation of Finland participating in this review includes representatives of eight different ministries and the Permanent Mission in Geneva. Moreover, I am particularly delighted that we have three observers in the delegation. To my left is Mr. Johannes Koskinen, MP and Chair of the Constitutional Committee of the Finnish Parliament. The Parliament will have a key role in the implementation phase of the UPR recommendations. Also, a representative of the Sámi Parliament and a liaison for the Finnish civil society organizations participate in the delegation as observers.
Simultaneously with this dialogue, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is organizing a real-time UPR event in Helsinki, where it is possible to watch the dialogue through the UN webcast. Representatives of all stakeholders active in the national UPR process have been invited.
Madam Chairperson/Mister Chairman, the Delegation of Finland is ready to begin the interactive dialogue. Thank you.