On Thursday, 23 August, Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja took part in the autumn’s first meeting of the Advisory Board on International Human Rights Affairs. The topics discussed at the meeting of the Minister and the Advisory Board included the EU’s human rights policy, Finland’s possible membership of the UN Security Council, the Arms Trade Treaty and the ratification of human rights treaties.
In summer the European Union adopted a human rights strategy which, according to Tuomioja, strengthens the coherence and comprehensiveness of the Union’s human rights policy. The foreign minister stated that the European Union lacks an adequate mechanism of its own for intervention in human rights violations within the EU. Finland aims for its part to contribute, inter alia, to strengthening the European Roma Forum.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja believes that progress was made in the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty negotiations in New York during summer. Finland has shown initiative in achieving the treaty and according to the Minister, the treaty should be ready in autumn. Foreign Minister Tuomioja emphasised that it is important that the treaty is as comprehensive as possible.
Astrid Thors, who chairs the Advisory Board on International Human Rights Affairs, said that Finland’s activity for achievement of the Arms Trade Treaty has been good. “We must ensure, however, that the activity is also reflected in Finland’s security and defence policy report now under preparation and that the treaty is implemented nationally in due course,” Thors stressed.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja emphasised the importance of human rights in the future security and defence policy report. “Human rights are included through the principle of diffusion,” the minister stated. As a member of the Security Council, Finland would highlight Security Council Resolution 1325 and issues of the Responsibility to Protect.
The Advisory Board members told the minister about their concern over the duration of the process for ratifying human rights agreements in Finland. The minister was asked whether there would be any way to speed up the ratification process. At the Advisory Board meeting it was said, for example, that Finland’s lack of ratification for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities begins to be embarrassing for Finland.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja voiced his satisfaction with the cooperation between the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and civil society organisations. At the same time, he pointed out that it is the Advisory Board’s task to criticise the Ministry’s activities if necessary. The foreign minister promised to meet with the Advisory Board once a year during his term as minister.
Additional Information: Krista Napola, Diplomatic Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, mobile tel. +358 40 590 7973