Speech by Minister Soini at the 20th Anniversary Seminar of the Commissioners for Human Rights

Speech by Foreign Minister Timo Soini at the 20th Anniversary Seminar of the Commissioners for Human Rights, “The State of human rights in Europe: forward and back?” Strasbourg 22 January 2019.

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Distinguished Commissioner and former Commissioners for Human Rights,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. This institution is one of the most visible and efficient ways in which the Council of Europe promotes and protects human rights. Finland is proud to have contributed to the establishment of the Office. I would like to thank the current Commissioner Madame Mijatovic, as well as all previous Commissioners, Mr. Muižnieks, Mr. Hammarberg and Mr. Gil-Robles for their outstanding work.

The world is quite different from what it was twenty years ago. Since 1999, there has been a great deal of positive developments in the field of human rights, especially within the Council of Europe. Many new conventions and other standards have been adopted and new mechansms created to protect human rights.

The Commissioner for Human Rights has played an important role in setting standards and monitoring the commitments of Member States, as well as in creating dialogue and preventing conflicts. We value the Commissioner’s comprehensive mandate to address a wide range of human rights issues. Your strong record of dialogue with the Governments and other stakeholders fosters confidence and cooperation in Europe.

But there is no time for complacency. New concerns have arisen. The international rules-based system and human rights are being challenged. Many serious human rights violations continue to take place in the Member States of the Council of Europe. Information technology, artificial intelligence as well as climate change create complex challenges for the protection of human rights. The hard work and independent voice of the Human Rights Commissioner is needed more than ever.

The Council of Europe is currently facing economic and political challenges. We must stand together and ensure that the core work of the organization can be efficiently carried out also in the future. And what would be closer to this, than the work of the Commissioner? Speaking the truth, even when not all like it, it is essential to maintaining our European norms and values.


strengthening the system of human rights is one of Finland’s main priorities during our presidency. To fulfill this priority, the inclusion of civil society is necessary. We are happy that the Commissioner has been active in listening and pointing out the concerns of NGO’s as well as individual human rights’ defenders.

Lastly, I would like to express my strongest support to the Commissioner for Human Rights. I am glad to be here together with you to celebrate and support this prestigious institution.