In Finland, Ban urges open dialogue to prevent polarization and racism against asylum-seekers

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivers the keynote address during the ceremony held at the Finlandia Hall to mark the 60th anniversary of Finland’s entry into the United Nations. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

9 December 2015 – On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Finland's membership to the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the country on its leadership in advancing the Organization's work on peace and security, development and human rights, and expressed his gratitude for the country's solidarity with refugees in the region.

“[The Secretary General] thanked Finland in particular for the support and leadership that it provides for UN conflict prevention and mediation efforts,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban's spokesperson.

Mr. Ban met with Maria Lohela, Speaker of the Parliament, as well as the Chair and Members of the Committee for Foreign Relations of the Republic of Finland and exchanged views on the state of the important partnership between the UN and Finland, and about the on-going Climate Change Conference in Paris, popularly known as COP21.

He also underscored the important role of parliaments in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. Ban discussed the increased movements of refugees and migrants towards Europe and expressed his gratitude for Finland's solidarity with those in need of protection, and additionally he urged parliamentarians to be a voice against xenophobia and discrimination.

Additionally, the UN chief visited an asylum seeker's reception centre in Vantaa, where he toured the facility and thanked the “Government and people…for their very generous, warm heart, for many refugees who have come to Finland for better opportunities.”

Mr. Ban told reporters gathered at the facility that he met with many refugees who are trying to learn the language, culture and history of Finland to adapt sooner in their new circumstances.

Commending the Government for its generous support, Mr. Ban underscored the exceptional Finnish reception system, describing it as a “model of efficiency and compliance with international standards.”

“Such systems must always be designed and also emulated by other people and other Governments. They are taking care of…traumatized people who are feeling extreme exhaustion and despair, but it is important to give them a sense of hope and promise for a better future.” said the Secretary-General.

He also added that he was “deeply moved and inspired by the compassionate response from Finnish civil society” to help the asylum-seekers arriving in the country and added that the kindness and solidarity of thousands of citizens shows how tolerance and compassion towards people in need run strong in Finland.

Standing alongside UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, Mr. Ban pointed out that refugees are also eager to learn and give back to a society from which they receive support and further observed that countries that ensure the rights of migrants and refugees, it enables them to enrich their own communities.

“We know that integration takes time, resources and good will from all sides. I count on Finland to be an example for such good will and joint efforts,” underscored the Secretary-General.

The UN chief noted that to fight against rising xenophobia and discrimination directed at refugees and migrants, stronger leadership and media engagement must be incorporated to achieve an “open, honest and constructive dialogue to prevent polarization, racism and violence.”

“They should be treated as human beings, with human dignity, and I have been condemning all the time such inflammatory rhetoric by certain political leaders and community leaders. This must be prevented, stopped,” stressed Mr. Ban.

Highlighting the role of Finland in the European Union (EU), he recalled that a country cannot alone address a challenge that is inherently international.

Speaking about the UN efforts to address the broader dimensions of the global refugee crisis, Mr. Ban said that Mr. Guterres will convene a high-level meeting in March in Switzerland to discuss issues regarding resettlement.

Additionally, the Secretary-General said that he had proposed to Member States to convene a summit-level meeting on 19 September 2016, a day before the General Assembly's annual high-level segment, for world leaders to discuss creating a global compact for responsibility sharing.

Further, the World Humanitarian Summit will be held in May 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. "All these important international conferences, I hope, will provide impetus for world leaders and people to do much more to provide humanitarian assistance to those people who need urgent humanitarian support. Let's work together to make this world better for all, particularly for those people who need our urgent support,” Mr. Ban concluded.

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