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News, 5/12/2017

Recommendations for Finland concerning violence against women and hate speech

In the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) conducted in Geneva on 3 May 2017, Finland’s human rights record was reviewed by 70 UN member states, which also provided recommendations for Finland.

In the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) conducted in Geneva on 3 May 2017, Finland’s human rights record was reviewed by 70 UN member states, which also provided recommendations for Finland.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs arranged a real-time screening of the dialogue concerning Finland in Helsinki.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs arranged a real-time screening of the dialogue concerning Finland in Helsinki.

Recommendations were offered particularly with regard to violence against women, discrimination and hate speech prevention, asylum-seekers’ rights, and protecting the rights of the Sami and different minorities. The recommendations will be forwarded to ministries for further deliberation.

The previous periodic review of Finland’s human rights record took place in 2012. The implementation the recommendations received in that review was now reported back to the UN. Progress has been made in such areas as commitment to international human rights conventions, availability of training on human rights, and providing support services for minorities and crime victims.

Wide range of recommendations

In this review, Finland received a total of 153 recommendations. Certain themes come up at several instances: The Finnish government is urged to take effective action against xenophobia and hate speech, and increase efforts to prevent violence against women. Equality should be further reinforced, for example, by better securing the rights of the disabled, and the Sami and Roma people.

Several states recommend that Finland should amend its legislation by omitting the requirement of infertility in cases of transgender persons wishing to legalize their gender.

Entire government involved

The successful completion of the UPR process is one of the key focus areas in Finland’s human rights activities in the short term. This is a project concerning the entire government, and all branches of administration are involved, but the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has the main responsibility.

All ministries contributed to the preparation of the national report that was delivered to the UN. In addition, government oversight officials, consultative committees, non-governmental organisations, and researchers had an opportunity to comment on the report draft.

The Finnish delegation was comprised of representatives from different ministries and observers representing non-governmental organisations, and it was headed by the Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Pirkko Mattila.
The Finnish delegation was comprised of representatives from different ministries and observers representing non-governmental organisations, and it was headed by the Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Pirkko Mattila.

Representatives of the Finnish Association of the Deaf and the Finnish League for Human Rights participated in this year’s UPR delegation as observers.

In keeping with Finnish traditions, the presentation did not focus on progress only but it also included self-criticism. The goal is to streamline the national and international human rights activities.  Finland strives to encourage other states to promote transparency and increasingly involve non-governmental organisations.

Finland’s UPR was also covered in both traditional and social media more extensively than before. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs provided an opportunity to follow the dialogue concerning Finland in real time in Helsinki. Several organisations commented on the recommendations given.

Recommendations matter

In the next phase, the recommendations will be addressed at a meeting between ministries and also by the government’s network of contact people for basic and human rights. Finland must provide a written response to the recommendations at the Human Rights Council’s meeting in September 2017. Before this, the recommendations and their possible acceptance will be discussed in open dialogue also with civil society.

In the review, Finland agreed to issue a voluntary mid-term report on the implementation of the recommendations to the Human Rights council in 2019.

Rauno Merisaari

The author is Ambassador for Human Rights and Democracy

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