Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland

The Millennium Development Goals: Social Justice and Promotion of Equality

September 12, 2005 03:30 PM

Q & A

by Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz

Joseph Stiglitz: Well, thank you very much for those comments. We have time
for some questions, if you kindly agree to--okay. Does that microphone work?

Unknown: It doesn't work.

Joseph Stiglitz: Okay.

Unknown: Hello. Yes, it works.

Joseph Stiglitz: And there are microphones there and there so if you can
queue up. Is somebody already ready? Go ahead.

Unknown: Sure. Your Excellency, you mentioned that employment could be a
goal. And to me it seems that employment as well as poverty are the symptoms
of--high unemployment and poverty are really the symptoms of a bad economy.
Wouldn't it be more efficient if we were to directly target the economy rather than
treating the symptoms of the bad economy?

President Halonen: I think that Professor Stiglitz would be very good to answer
to these questions in his lectures. But what I think really is that we noticed that
there are different reasons for the unemployment, for example, people we asked
around the world in different meetings by different people that, "What's your
dream? How you would like to get your earnings?" And then they answered I
think in very responsible way, they say that, "I would like to have a decent job."
And decent job was meant to be either the paid worker, entrepreneur or farmer
and so on, the different sectors. And then we try to get to know that why they
couldn't get these dreams to come true. And the reasons are different of course
because in some areas the jobs have just disappeared.

They have had earlier the better jobs and they have then of course facing the
new situation. And then you can see for instance that in which way both the
nations states and the enterprises have prepared for that and what are the
different reasons. But then for instance we had in the commission we had
Hernando de Soto from Peru, a very, very smart researcher also. And he studied
very much about how the property rights for instance in Latin America has been a
certain kind of the threshold that why the economy didn't work because they
hired thousands and thousands of people who haven't an entrepreneurship but
it's not illegal. So anyway outside of the society. By giving this right of the
property they could quite easily count that this part of the effective economy
could be started to flourish more.

Because then these entrepreneurs could have all this legal protection what is
usual by the state and they could also of course pay taxes and many other such
kind of things could happen. So partly I think you are correct in a way that the
basis is that the society and economical side is not working well. But then other
part is of course that even in many organizations starting from the WTO and
many others, if you see the (inaudible) employment is very high there. They say
that employment is a good thing. But the bad thing is in the way that they believe
that doing everything else well in society so also unemployment will disappear.

But that at least in highly industrialized countries that has shown to be not true,
that you need also the other side being prepared in the way that we have to see
which kind of the cooperation, education, for instance, at the schools and
universities and so on, can work together with (inaudible) purposes and still have
the freedom for research. So my answer will be, if I make a very short
conclusion, is yes and no. Yes, in such sense that there are a lot of true what
you said but the second part is that you have to come closer to this problem from
the different directions to see more focus in people in that way.

Joseph Stiglitz: Let me take advantage as a moderator to ask a follow-up
question, which is Finland has had a remarkable record of economic growth with
shared prosperity, and quite often you get the impression in the United States
that the only way an economy can grow is by having low tax rates, low protection
for the poor, a high level of people in prison and ignoring all issues of social
justice. And Finland has shown that you can both growth and social justice. Do
you want to comment on these different perspectives?

President Halonen: Yeah, I tried to do it according to our cultural tradition. Our
cultural tradition is a little bit (inaudible) Asia that you (inaudible) you are. You
have to just to give the information and then expect that somebody else says
that, "Okay. You are very good one." And then said, "No, no, no, not at all, but I
try harder." So yes, it has been quite difficult for us to see that in many
international comparisons we have been very high both in how well we have
managed in the international competition, also in sustainability reports, also
social justice and so on. We are last one in one comparison and that's the
corruption. We are the least corrupted country according to the international
comparison of the corruption, and we are happy to be the last one there.

So when the globalization really started and we had just passed the 1990s, it was
not only the stagnation for the economy but it was a real, real bad time. And so
there were some people who said that we cannot afford to have a Belfast society
anymore. But we thought that it's just for the individual but we just thought that it
doesn't work in the modern society anymore. And then we had of course to cut
the benefits (inaudible) because we hadn't simply enough money. But then we
noticed that afterwards just with this network of the Belfast society we could
recover very quickly. For instance, when we have the public education system
so we could also create new impetus, the new type of the education.

Thanks to the social welfare network, our unemployed could live still quite in
decent way, and with the help of the cooperation between the research
institutions and then business community and the state or the municipalities we
had a possibility to try to find the new technology, the high tech areas, not only in
researches but then to bring them quickly to practice and so we made, for
instance, Nokia. Nokia originally produced rubber boots, which are of course
very useful. But then they turned to the TVs and then after that the mobile
telephones and the business is now quite much bigger.

So in that way we noticed that the welfare state is not only good for the people,
but it was also the means according all international comparisons it was the way
how the small country, only five million as a population, so the mother is much
smaller than the children like Nokia and the other enterprises, so that we could
create quite quickly such kind of the capacity which is necessary in modern
globalization. And Stiglitz knows very well that when we had the discussions in
the commission, sometimes people said exactly that it's easy for you when you
have been always so in peaceful and nice circumstances. And that's why I know
my (inaudible) no, no, my dear that, uh, not too many natural resources, not
always peaceful circumstances, even one civil war and all such kind of things.

But reading how I have just told and (inaudible) it's possible to be competitive in
the world. And women are very important because if you have five million as a
population and you educate them all, boys and girls, so internationally you have
ten million. And if you educate everybody, poor and rich, you can count that you
have 15 million. And if you are ready to educate also the adult people thinking
that they can learn something new and not leave them unemployed so you can
count that you have 20, 25 million and that's enough in globalization.

Carol Kretchmann: Madam President, my name is Carol Kretchmann and I run
a non-governmental organization at the United Nations called the Peacemaker
Corps. And in our research we deal with young people 12 to 16. It came to us
that Finland and your country has a tremendous amount of interaction with the
young people in your country and the model that you have used with participation
from youth is I think very important. I know it's a small country, but how would
you be able to take that model, which is really the underpinning of your economic
growth and your education, and lead the rest of our world to have much more
participation by young people in decision-making and the future of our globe?

President Halonen: I think that one of the reasons is that we used to be very
poor and we have been very poor, the poorest of the Nordic countries. But we
had the models, Swedes and Norwegians, Danish, have made already their good
society. And so we started with NGOs. So when we were poor so we made the
NGOs, some of them were the great union type, the others were cooperatives
and so on. We tried to organize the sick benefits and we tried to organize help
for the unemployed and so on. And then finally what I think was the good factor
(inaudible) was to notice that we have to do this and as a general benefit. But
still we have this tradition that NGOs respected and even I think that expected to
be those who say that, "This doesn't work. You should do this better and we
would like to this kind of, that kind of new ideas."

I know that in the USA you have a lot of NGOs here and so I think that the only
difference is that for instance when we have a lot of organizations for the young
ones or the elderly ones who are working for instance in healthcare. But nobody
wants to take anymore the healthcare as they own responsibility I mean, as a
whole. But they will tell ideas how to make it better. But we have a national
healthcare because that's the most effective and better way in that way but just
for the five million. But then the idea for the new seeds, for new ideas it's very
easily taking from the ideas of the NGO. So I think that that's just the way how to
give both the right and the responsibility and for instance now when we are here
in the UN so we have a national delegation and we have also the representatives
of the NGOs in this official delegation.

If you could visit them, they would be perhaps a little bit more critical concerning
what we have done and so on. And I should say that (inaudible). But really I
don't think that it's so unique. I think that in many other countries people have
also a lot of activists but to combine them to the public part in such a way that we
really listen and we try to do then it's an idea. And the young ones really are very
much in this. Better to ask of them. I am just an Aunt.

Unknown: Madam President, in your very eloquent discussion you mentioned
regional preparation, and I would like to ask you about your eastern neighbor, the
former Soviet Union, which I think as almost all human development documents
show has been going through basically a human development disaster and
catastrophe over the past 10, 15 years. And no one knows this better than Dr.
Stiglitz, who wrote about the roots of this catastrophe in the New Liberal Shock
Therapy Policies that were imposed in Russia in particular. The crisis is not just
in Russia, which of course probably is important, but in other countries as well
like Estonia where the HIV rate is approximating that of the rate of growth of
Africa. My question would be what kind of impact this has on Finland and what
role can Finland play in this immediate neighborhood?

And why am I asking this question? Because in Russia, Finland is one of the few
western countries that have remained consistently highly popular among the
population, and many Russians are grateful to Finland for not taking part in the
kind of ruinous advice that was given from other corners of the world. And I think
that Finland has a high moral standing in this regard. That is what is the basis of
my question.

President Halonen: Neighbors are neighbors, whatever is their name. So
Finns and the Russians have been neighbors for centuries like Swedes and the
Finns have been neighbors. And you cannot choose the neighbors but you can
choose in which way you have a good relation with your neighbors. And it's a
very difficult subject of course because nobody wants to have a neighbor, if you
would take the individual, I think that he doesn't like to be a neighbor with the
person who starts always every morning, "(Inaudible) Johnny, quite okay but
when you start doing this and that better." In a way it's a (inaudible) to see that
he could do it better but how to encourage and how to give a good example and
that all the neighbors are doing to each other.

But I think that if we take for instance Finland and if we compare it here to
Canada and USA for instance, so it is that Europe is like a family with a lot of
children. They are all different. They all have their own character. When this
continent has only two big children, USA and Canada. So in Europe of course
we are used to that, that countries are different, and I think that in a way we
stand the situation that we are not exactly so similar. But then there is a limit, of
course, because in the time of the Cold War the border between Finland and
Soviet Union was almost closed. It was safety in a certain way but it was not a
very human situation.

For Instance, Estonia's language relates to Finns'. So our languages are
relatives. But when we travel within the Soviet Union time when we traveled from
Finland or from Nordic countries to Estonia the distance between Helsinki and
(inaudible) is 70 kilometers, 7-0. But we traveled via Moscow because the
border was closed. The Germans can tell you also about the same situations.
So it was one country divided in two. And so in a way we Europeans we
evaluate, I think, and that's telling to the others we evaluate very much that the
Cold War is over. We really evaluated it much because that gave us an
opportunity to create a new Europe where the borders are lower and where we
can have a good cooperation, the free movement of not only the capital and the
goods but also the people to make a new family.

But it didn't all happen very suddenly and so the new market economy which
started in eastern part of Europe has also had its price. For instance, certain
figures concerning the social politics are now not so good and that happened
also in Russia. Russia is much bigger than Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and these
smaller countries which have joined to the European union, we have tried to help
them. Any the Estonians here? So I think that you can agree. We try to help in
a way that we put a lot of demands that how to do it and then we say, "If you do it
that way and it (inaudible) we try to give also the money for you that you can do
the things in different way."

But Russia was not (inaudible) I could say good luck for the EU, because Russia
is much, much bigger. And in that way the situation in Russia is in a way it's
more independent but we would like by the EU by the neighbors. And so we
would like also to have a closer cooperation because we knew that the work
would have to be done after the Soviet Union is at least as big in Russia as it has
been in many other countries. And I think they try very hard. They have
advanced already by Duma and President and all these kind of elements of
democracy. There would be a little bit more to do in (inaudible) or in human
rights in good governance and so on. But nobody expects to have a miracle but
we do hope to encourage Russians to go further in these lines.

And one thing I come again, women are very important. For instance, if I say
that in the old days in the communist system women had, what I have
understood, they have had an equal position with men. But in practice they had
a really double burden. And then the birthrate came down now after the Cold
War. And also in these countries the transitional economy have been exactly the
same. And now comes advisement. But in Sweden and in Finland for instance
and in other Nordic countries where the women have equal rights and they have,
for instance, a possibility to combine the work and the motherhood, for instance,
getting one year motherhood leave to be free from the duties and to get the
salary and so on and have a daycare. So we have the highest birthrate. We
have the higher birthrate in Nordic countries what they have in Roman Catholic
Italy or Spain. (Inaudible).

Unknown: Your Excellency, it's good to have you here. Thank you for taking
your time. I have two questions for you. The first one is what is your viewpoint
on the UN's reform? What do you see UN to be reforming at its 60th birthday?
And the second question is you have come here for the Millennium Summit.
What do you see Finland (inaudible) to achieve the goals, given the fact there is
so much resistance for putting 0.7 (inaudible), you know, every time you have to
come up with new campaigns, how would you see Finland playing that role?
How do you see you playing that role?

President Halonen: The first thing is I think that Finland is one of the European
Union countries and we have to do separately and together a lot of work in order
to be a dynamic, positive force for the UN because we do believe in multilateral
system. We do believe that the world is one, that not only for the social
dimension and globalization but also the ecological issues, the nature
environment, all these kinds of things. We have just one planet. We have one
planet and if we don't make a success it will be exactly the same for every one of
us. So we are very strongly committed to this idea. But we have to do also the
practical work.

In EU we have put a certain timetable which is tighter than the UN timetable that
we have to be also a good example in this 0.7. I know personally how difficult it
has been for Finland because we have not yet reached the 0.7, like, for instance,
Sweden. We are closer to that already but we have every year when it's an
(inaudible) budget of our state it's the same discussion. If it's a poor time, if it's
the low economic growth, everybody says that this is too much, that we need all
the money ourselves and if it's a good time for the economy they come up with,
"Oh, no, this percent make so big number." And so yeah, this is the fact with the
percentages. And so Finland has agrees with the other EU countries to make
this special schedule for the 0.7 because we think that development needs

But then I said on (inaudible) also it's not just (inaudible) the money (inaudible).
The developing countries have to have the honor to do the democratic
institutions, human rights, rule of law, good governance. There is no excuse for
corruption or the bad governance. And I am very happy that Benjamin Mkapa,
the President of Tanzania, fully agreed. We have been side-by-side telling that
money here and good governance there because we think this is important. And
why is it important? Also as I said that I think (inaudible) of us would like to live in
safe world. So it's also egocentric. It's just because everybody is equal and
individually. But it's also egocentric. We want to have a safe world.

I think that we try to do our utmost for instance telling that even with a woman
president and all these that we have done concerning equality and so on, you
can manage. Matter of fact vice versa it's a good way to live and it also makes
the country more competitive when you get all the resources. So being here with
the invitation of Stiglitz I try to convince you that the model we are speaking for
and what we have agreed in the UN is realistic, it's okay.

Lisa Yamaguchi: (Unable to translate).

President Halonen: Oh, fine, yes, she speaks Finnish.

Lisa Yamaguchi: My name is Lisa Yamaguchi. I am a student here at
Columbia and you speak of the importance of women and equality in
development and in developing countries and Finland has really done an
excellent job of integrating women into society and I have just seen myself how
strong a role they play. I am wondering if you could recommend one structural
change to the United States or to other nations, one structural change to fight for
that would encourage women to take on stronger roles in society, what would
that be?

President Halonen: I normally say that take peace, be ready to take the both.
The both the family and your job and career. I don't mean with the career to
become a president but I mean that if you want to become a nurse or a teacher
or gardener or whatever you like, just think that that's your right. You try to study
and your parents and your family and your society should encourage you for that.
But also demand that you have a right to be a mother if you like and you find a
good partner and so on. I mean, that's the whole life, not a half but a whole life.
And then I think that when the girls don't need to choose, when they can try to
get the both so this is a very good side.

We have not any quotas for elections also, but we have quotas in administration
so that if we have a state committee or if we have a different kind of the bodies
by the state so we have to have men and women so that it's at least 40 percent
of another one so (inaudible) are out. But if I tell a true story about Finland, last
week in the Finnish Government, there is a coalition government of the different
political parties so the Social Democrats, they had changed some of their
ministers and they had had a 50/50 system being in the group of the ministers
and all the newspapers were joking a little bit that it's good that they had this
50/50 rule, otherwise they would all be women. So it's good for both. And my
second advice is education, education, education.

Remy: Hello. My name is Remy. I am a student here at the school of
international public affairs. And you have spoken very, very passionately about
reducing the gap between women and men in the world and I feel very touched
by that, having grown up in West Africa myself. And she asked a question that I
was going to get to, but I was hoping that could sort of cast some light and give
advice as to how the policies that have been so successful in Finland could
perhaps be applied in third-world countries as well.

President Halonen: I don't want to be any kind of a teacher in that sense,
because as I said I come from the North and even our circumstances have not
been always so fair so we have known our own traditions and known how to do
and it has taken a long time. But I think that with this kind of an international
cooperation what we have now and what we are trying (inaudible) strengthening
the UN we can find the partnership between the North and South and also learn
from each other. Because I think that when we spoke about women in Africa, for
instance, you have a lot of very strong, brave women in your society, but they
could even give more for their society if they could be treated quite equally. The
girls start well at school. I think that you can agree the girls are very good at

But then when they get a little bit older so they should have an opportunity to
continue, even when they are teenagers they should have time to become adults.
They should have time to get this teaching at school in order to become good
citizens and good mothers. So that the students start too early. I know that in
many countries mothers are much younger than in the Nordic countries. But as I
have tried to describe, the women have time even if they do not have many
children before they are 20 years. I mean, in that way we have time when the life
expectation is higher so you have time to study and you have time to learn the
different kinds of things at home and then become a mother, to take the
responsibility in that way more seriously.

The second thing what I think is important in such kind of a role reforming is that
mothers are very important but when we have studied also that which is one of
the secret keys for the girls who have become independent and made well in
their life is the father. You are a man. So your role in your future family and how
you will teach it for your brothers and other friends is very important. If the man
is encouraging, if the man is democratic and fair, it is very important for the girl
because such kind of the pattern of the father is encouraging the girl to be the
whole human being.

The mothers of course will teach their daughters closely but very often we need
to act the role of the father. We should say that it's not only the mother's risk if
the girls don't go further; it's the father's. You are the fathers. You are the first
men of the girl. You are that one they take a model and if you believe what they
are doing and encourage them it's very, very important.

Unknown: We have time for one more question, quickly.

Unknown: Your Excellency, I am trying to major in political science here at
Columbia College and I know that one of the concerns I have about entering a
carrier in international politics is something you have touched on in your speech,
that many times these commissions just come out with another report. And with
so much bureaucracy in the UN and in the EU there are so many organizations
working, but how can we translate this into as you said actual processes and how
can we strive for millennium goals to actually get something done? What would
you suggest?

President Halonen: I ask you join to the action. Now, I do something what we
have not planned. Could you come here, please? I gave the report of the
Globalization Commission and also the report making the political will, the
Helsinki Process, to her. But this is not private business. Our Ambassador,
could you please stand up? She is our Ambassador of Finland here for United
Nations and if somebody else is interested in such kind of the process, the
Helsinki Process, there are a lot of so-called friend countries and NGOs and so
working on. So you will find from the Embassy of Finland, for instance, this
information and also on the backside of the cover, the smaller one, yeah, you can
find also the Internet text what's going on. And you might be even make it better
so let's do it, thank you.

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