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Human Rights in Finland

Finland has a population of about 5.5 million, and is seated next to Sweden and Norway. Human rights in Finland are ultimately made a priority by the country’s government, and this country is considered more progressive than most, although there are still a few areas that could be improved.

According to a report from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Nordic country strives to dedicate time and attention to minorities in the country, including the Roma, linguistic or religious minorities and other ethnic minorities. On the other hand, the report also states that residents who belong to multiple of these minority groups are typically “the most vulnerable to human rights violations.” Finland promotes openness in respect to human rights policy and works toward “effective empowerment of the civil society,” according to the same report.

Human rights in Finland are also supported by nongovernment organizations in the region. In addition, human rights defenders work with minority groups. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs states that, “the key message is to encourage and urge the Ministry’s entire staff to collaborate actively with human rights defenders.”

Finland prioritizes areas including women’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, the rights of sexual and gender minorities, the rights of indigenous peoples and economic, social and cultural rights, according to the report. Regarding the rights of sexual minorities, in March of this year, Finland became the 13th country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage, according to the Human Rights Watch.

While human rights in Finland are heavily prioritized, there are still areas in need of improvement.

The U.S. Department of the State reports that human rights problems in Finland include the failure of police to provide detainees with timely access to legal council, “questionable” donations and contributions to political campaigns and violence against women and members of the LGBT community.

The report also included information on issues surrounding the treatment of survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence. It stated that survivors seeking justice have encountered many obstacles with respect to their interactions with police and judicial officials. However, it also stated that police and government officials strongly encourage victims to report rapes through “various public awareness campaigns.”

While human rights in Finland have a few shortcomings, they are one of the more progressive nations in Europe, meaning that further progress is certainly possible.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr

South Korean foreign aid
South Korea, a country which used to rely heavily on foreign aid, is now giving its own. The increasing prominence of South Korean foreign aid is proof that the impact of U.S. foreign aid extends well beyond the period during which it gives.

On July 5, 2016, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs greenlighted $21 million in projects aimed at helping refugees in Africa and improving health care across the continent. The money will come from a 1,000 won ($0.87) solidarity tax on airline tickets for outbound international flights.

The air ticket levy is not the only source of funding for South Korean foreign aid. According to the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the country has donated a total of $1.8 billion in official development assistance (ODA) as of 2016, equivalent to 0.14 percent of its gross national income.

South Korea kicked off its donations with a $25 million contribution in 1987, the same year it became a democracy. In 2010, only 23 years after it became a donor, the country became a member of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It remains the only country on the DAC that had been a recipient of development assistance.

It is hard to imagine that South Korea, which is now the world’s 11th largest economy and leads the globe in innovation, was at one time among the world’s poorest countries.

In 1960, the country’s per capita income stood at $70. Adjusted for purchasing power parity, South Korea’s GDP per capita in 1960 was still a dismal $1,420. In fact, according to a case study by the Embassy of the United States in Seoul, it was only ahead of one-third of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

South Korea started receiving U.S. foreign assistance in 1952, which was meant to assist the war-torn country on the path to recovery. It was entirely dependent on the United States for food supplies in the following ten years, and USAID missions continued through the 1970s.

The recent increase in South Korean foreign aid is proof of the lasting impact of U.S. development assistance. An initial injection of foreign aid in a country will multiply itself down the line as that country develops and becomes self-sufficient.

When John F. Kennedy became president in 1961, he specifically called for “aid to end aid” and to “help people help themselves” concerning South Korea. More than fifty years later, South Korea not only no longer requires assistance from the U.S. but is now making its mark as a donor of foreign aid.

Philip Katz

Photo: Flickr