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Finland Looks to the Future on Human Rights

Finland has held its second annual Council of Europe Human Rights Day, raising awareness of the Council of Europe’s work to protect and promote human rights, democracy and rule of law in Finland and throughout the continent. This year´s event had a particular focus on youth engagement. It was also an occasion to celebrate the Council of Europe’s 75th anniversary, 30 years of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and 35 years since Finland become a member state.

Welcoming the participants to the event, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Elina Valtonen, said: “I would like to congratulate Europe's oldest political cooperation organisation, from which Europe and Finland, each and every one of us, have benefited enormously. For Finland, membership of the Council of Europe was an important step in our integration process. We have been an active and proactive member all these years. During this time, Finland has developed its legal system and legislation in line with Council of Europe standards, so membership of the Council of Europe has had a broad impact on the everyday lives and rights of Finns.”

In his opening remarks, Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge emphasised the ongoing and enduring importance of the Council of Europe after three quarters of a century, saying: “It has transformed Europe, and you will not find anywhere else in the world the same level of protection of the fundamental rights of individuals.”

Stressing the danger of people taking their rights for granted, the Deputy Secretary General pointed to hostile political forces in Europe and elsewhere: “They have gone to war on our values…and so the truth is that we must now stand up and fight for those values. We especially need to engage young people in Europe to achieve that”.

The agenda also included an exchange with Finnish representatives who have a professional link to the Council of Europe and in which they discussed their experiences of the organisation.

The event gathered some 130 participants from parliament, government and ministries, public officials, experts, students and representatives of civil society. It was jointly organised by the Human Rights Centre, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Association of Finnish Municipalities, and Demo Finland (a co-operative organisation of all Finnish parliamentary parties). Finland organised its first edition of the Council of Europe Human Rights Day in Turku in May 2023.

Deputy Secretary General Strasbourg 28 May 2024
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