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Finnish President calls for global responsibility at UN General Assembly

President Niinistö said that while nations face increased volatility, other challenges, like Covid-19, have become global commonalities.

Suomen presidentti Sauli Niinistö pitää puhetta YK:n yleiskokouksessa New Yorkissa.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö addressed the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. Image: Spencer Platt / AFP
Yle News

During his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö raised topics including climate change, women's rights and the Covid pandemic.

At the beginning of his speech, the Finnish president referred to a report by UN Secretary-General António Guterres stating that "in our biggest shared test since the Second World War, humanity faces a stark and urgent choice: a breakdown or a breakthrough."

In response, Niinistö called for an increase in global responsibility.

"We are indeed at a critical juncture. If humanity is to make the right choice, a breakthrough rather than a breakdown, we have to shoulder our human responsibilities. Responsibilities for our common future," Niinistö said.

He said that while nations face increased volatility, challenges like Covid-19 and climate change were global commonalities.

"The pandemic has had an impact on every one of us. The same will increasingly be true of climate change and emerging technologies alike. Conflicts no longer remain local or regional – they have consequences, direct or indirect, across the globe. All of these cross-border challenges are crying for a global response. With the right mindset, such a response is within reach," Niinistö said.

'Spirit of Helsinki'

The president also mentioned the role Finland played in 1975 when it facilitated the signing of 35 countries to the Helsinki Final Act, which focused on European security and cooperation. The president similarly brought up the 'spirit of Helsinki' at a diplomats' conference last month.

"The spirit that arose from that meeting can have a more global significance, if we succeed in reviving and expanding it. A willingness of adversaries and competitors to engage in dialogue, to build trust, and to seek common denominators – that was the essence of the Helsinki Spirit. Its potential today is by no means limited to the OSCE area."

"It is precisely that kind of a spirit that the entire world, and the United Nations, urgently needs. I am convinced that the more we speak about the Helsinki Spirit, the closer we get to rekindling it – and to making it come true. And that will bring us closer to solving our common challenges together," Niinistö said.

The president also spoke about the need for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, following the recent exodus of allied troops and emergence of the Taliban as the country's leaders.

"The dramatic events of Afghanistan in the past weeks have again reminded us of the fragility of peace and security. The humanitarian needs in Afghanistan are immense, and it is critical that we act together to ensure the access of humanitarian assistance to its people. The UN organizations staying on in Afghanistan play a key role here. And the international community must be steadfast on this: women and girls in Afghanistan must not be forgotten or made invisible," he said.

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