Speech at the seminar Human Rights in the Era of Post – 2015 Agenda organized by the Finnish NGO Foundation for Human Rights (KIOS)september 24th, 2014My Articles and Speeches
Human Rights in the Era of Post – 2015 Agenda
The Future Roles of Civil Society in Promoting Justice and Accountability
Tuesday 23 September 2014
Dear friends of Human Rights. It is not only an honour and a privilege, but a real pleasure to be here today.
I assume that I have been asked to make these opening remarks in my capacity as chairperson for the Human Rights group that we have in the Finnish Parliament, and I will come back to our work.
Although the Sustainable Development Goals will not be ultimately negotiated and submitted until in September 2015 the preparation is carried out now and will be intensive until the end. There will be a focus on the many shortcomings. We have not eradicated poverty, we have not even reached the goals of right to an adequate standard of living, the right to food, the right to water and sanitation, the right to health, the right to education, the right to education, the right to development, all human rights in the context of sexual and reproductive health, labour rights and fundamental rights at work, gender equality, and the right to self-determination. But we have made a change.
Economic and social rights were represented in several goals, but were never recognised as human rights in themselves. The private sector and international financial institutions have not been included in the way one would have expected.
As we all know the concept of human rights must be fully integrated in the Post-2015 Agenda. This is something that all stakeholders do agree with. The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navenethem Pillay has in detail laid out how human rights elements and aspects should be included in the Post -2015 agenda. Ten points are stipulating the most essential issues. I will not go into details about the content, you know them as well as me. The Un has a new High Commissioner on Human Rights but the work continues along the same lines as outlined in this excellent paper.
Finland has been committed to this work, and internationally contributed in the field of gender equality, women empowerment, rule of law projects, good governance, democracy, access to justice and an active role for civil society.
It is also clear that the civil society must play a more important role in the process and in realizing the Post-2015 development goals. This not only concerns this process but is a condition for the success in any such processes. It is impossible for the states or the international community to reach any these important goals without the inclusion of the civil society, and thereby the people. I will not here try to suggest how this should be done. You are the experts, have the experience and time to discuss the ways and means. The important thing is to never doubt the importance of the civil society in the work of bringing in human rights to this process.
Some groups have more political clout than others, but we must remember them all. Youth, women, disabled and so on. One group that has been criticising the UN drafting committee for being left out are indigenous people who are left out of the sustainable development goals. In this context it should be remembered that the country were you happen to be now is a bilingual, including a territorial autonomy (the Åland islands) and accommodating an indigenous group of people (the Sámi), and with also being on record with making reference to the Roma population in the Constitution. All these components together with the comparatively short history of the country make it an interesting case to study that I will however not dwell on here.
I would like to dwell on the role of the parliamentarians in bringing human rights aspects in to the Post-2015 Agenda. Many parliaments, such as the Finnish do have a formal procedure for engaging in human rights question. In the case of Finland it is the Constitutional Committee. Finland has different from most other countries the tradition to let a parliamentarian from the Constitutional Committee represent the Parliament in the Finnish delegation to the CEDAW meetings, and I have had the possibility to be this MP twice.
Finland can be proud of being the first country in the world where women had full political rights, the first woman in the UN system to be an ASG (Assistant Secretary General) came from Finland, and the first country in the world where woman to be Minister of Defence was to be found in Finland. Women have held the most important posts in the country President of the Republic, Speaker of the Parliament, Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Foreign Minister, and President of the Supreme Court. But it is not the figures in the statistics that counts. What counts is when we have made the difference, and we still have a long way to go when it comes to violence against women. The Istanbul Convention is not yet ratified in Finland, but will be in the very near future.
We will not make the difference before we are equally participating in the decision making on an equal footing on all levels. The question of involving women is not a gender issue, it is the question of security. Not until women involved will have a lasting peace.
Rule of law is the responsibility of the Constitutional Committee and Rule of Law exists where law and order are prevalent, where there is equal treatment before the law, and where the public authority is bound by, and accountable before, pre-existing, clear and known laws and where human rights are protected.
Human rights issues is part of our formal work, but on top of that we have the Human rights group, maybe more for enthusiasts, and it is here that the role of the civil society comes in. We meet depending on the time every individual or group visiting Finland to tell us their history, their problems, and thereby giving us an insight that is absolutely necessary if one should be engaged and updated on the issue of human rights.
We meet with anyone, and we are never cautious from a political point of view. Everyone should have the right to be listened to. Parliamentarians do have a role to play when shaping the post-2015 agenda, weather in the national parliament, in international contexts such as the IPU or the African Parliamentarians initiative, or as in our case on an informal basis. The African parliamentarians have committed themselves to the cause and agree to be the voice in local, national and global affairs in their Declaration on the Millennium Development Goals and Post 2015 Development Agenda
With the aim to encourage those parliaments not yet having formalised the work on human rights the Belgrade Principles on the Relationship between National Human Rights Institutions and Parliament was adopted at a seminar attended by experts from National Human Rights Institutions, Parliaments and Universities from ten countries. This is not a legally binding agreement, but it advices parliaments to draft legislation for the establishment of a national human rights institution, develop a legal framework which secures its independence and accountability. The principles are about the necessity of financial independence, about ensuring openness and transparency of the appointment process, about reporting to the parliament, about the institution and parliaments in relation to International human rights mechanisms. The actors should also co-operate in monitoring the other judicial and administrative bodies’ judgements concerning human rights. This document could be very important to the civil society, and I encourage everyone to study the paper and make reference to it whenever it would serve the cause.
We Europeans tend to concentrate on defending human rights in other parts of the world, but not so often at home. Unfortunately is the world changing around us in a way that there is all too often a need for someone to stand up and defend human rights also in our closest vicinity. We are many inhabitants in this part of the world belonging to a minority, may it be for cultural or linguistic reasons, or maybe for several reasons we belong to a minority. In time of economic recession nationalism is flourishing and the world around us is becoming more and more hostile. There are individuals questioning the existence of minorities, demanding to have the costs for a minority presented in only figures. The richness of a multicultural society is easily forgotten.
You now have a unique chance to formulate a universal agenda, human rights and the Rule of Law is central to this aim.
It is impressive that so many experts, activists and officials have gathered here to find new paths forward in integrating human rights obligations to different aspects of development. The world is full of bystanders, but I cannot see one single in this room today. You who are participants in this seminar are representing the many Human Rights defenders around the globe, and I wish you all the strength needed to make this seminar contribute in laying out a roadmap for embedding all human rights into the core of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
You can find more information about the event here: