President Tarja Halonen: Sustained by strong Nordic traditions
Since it won its independence, Finland has, by many indicators, come to rank among the world’s top countries. Underlying this success are strong Nordic values that have seen us through hard times. An essential part of this heritage is the universal principle of social equality. We have made solid progress in promoting gender equality in government – something that I would also like to see in the private sector.
Finns continue to support the welfare state and set great store in good governance. Education is also close to our heart. While we are no saints by any means, we think that society should be fair and transparent in terms of its basic fabric.
Another core element of ‘Finnishness’ is our close ties to nature. It is extremely important to us and we have a great respect for it. We also believe in international cooperation. As a small country, we fully understand that no single state can change the world.
Sustainable development propels us to the next centennial
Earlier this year I attended a UN meeting in Mexico where we also discussed Finland’s centennial. We received a lot of praise as a country for highlighting themes such as gender equality, education and sustainable development in our centenary year. It is not only a question of making Finland a better country, but also making the world better.
Innovations lie at the heart of sustainable development. Often, they refer to technological innovations, which of course play an important part in energy production and climate policy. However, even more important to our future are social innovations. These will not just be the outcomes of efforts made by authorities and experts, but also of folk wisdom. Moreover, social innovations can usually be easily copied by poorer countries.
Trust is a valuable asset
A good social climate is important – much more important than perceived by most economists. From the smallest private concerns, the dynamics of everyday life are very much determined by the overall prevailing mood in the nation. Finns are security-oriented and want to be able to plan ahead. It is something that should be borne in mind when decisions are made. For example, when the government plan to restrict access to day-care services was announced, it soon had an effect on birth rates.
Finns trust one another and society more than the average nation. It is a valuable asset that needs to be cherished and preserved. If trust is eroded, it is extremely hard to restore it.
Even after 2017, our key guiding principle will remain unchanged: Together. I hope that even in hard times, people will remember that whatever lies ahead, we will live through it together.
Tarja Halonen served as the President of the Republic of Finland from 2000 to 2012. President Halonen is the Chair of the Honours Committee of 100 Acts for Equality, a centennial project co-launched by the Council for Gender Equality and the National Council of Women.