Women’s rights in the spotlight during Clinton’s visit
During their meeting in Helsinki on 27 June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja discussed topics of interest to both Finland and the United States. “Finland and the United States have many common interests, from security to human rights,” Clinton said.
Advancement of women’s rights a common goal
Foreign Minister Tuomioja and Secretary of State Clinton mentioned women’s rights as a particularly important target of cooperation. Secretary Clinton has raised women’s rights to the forefront in U.S. foreign policy. The Secretary remarked that at international meetings she has the habit of noting how many of a country’s representatives are women. “Finland wins, hands down,” was Secretary Clinton’s conclusion.
“Finland and the United States have much concrete cooperation in the field of women’s rights and more cooperation will take place in the future,” Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated.
The United States has invited Finland to participate in the Equal Futures Partnership Initiative. The countries taking part in the Initiative commit themselves to new national and international efforts to improve the position of women. At present the group consists of only about 15 countries, Finland being one of them.
International affairs on the discussion agenda
The situation in Syria figured prominently among the topical international affairs discussed by the Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister during their meeting. “Today we discussed what we want to see in Syria in the future and what we don’t,” Minister Tuomioja specified. The Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister will meet again as early as next week in Paris at the Syria – Paris Conference.
Finland is also actively involved in supporting Afghanistan. The International Contact Group on Afghanistan convened in Helsinki in mid-June. The meeting made preparations for the meeting to be held in Tokyo in July where the guidelines for international cooperation to assist Afghanistan will be decided.
Secretary Clinton underscored Finland’s role in furthering the rights of women in Afghanistan. In the autumn of 2010 Finland and Afghanistan began cooperation based on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 dealing with women, peace and security.
The bilateral talks also touched on the International Arms Trade Treaty, the emergence of which both parties consider to be important. Minister Tuomioja will attend the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty to take place in New York in July.
Development in Russia and the Middle East peace process were also discussed during the meeting.
The agreement on information security will bring opportunities for cooperation
In conjunction with their meeting, the Secretary of State and the Foreign Ministers signed a general agreement on information security between Finland and the United States. The agreement aims to ensure that the security of classified information exchanged by the two parties is protected. The agreement complies with the other bilateral information security agreements made by Finland and makes it possible for Finnish companies to participate, among other things, in high-tech research projects.
The agreement does not require that classified information be given; instead it creates an environment that enables the provision of information. A reading in the Finnish Parliament is required before the agreement can enter into force.
Sustainable development and environmental affairs
Foreign Minister Tuomioja also emphasised the two countries’ common interest in driving sustainable development. Clean energy production and the prevention of climate change is a topic of interest to both parties. “We have much to learn from Finland in environmental issues,” Secretary Clinton stressed.
Finland joined the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves initiative coordinated by the United States in 2011. The initiative aims to improve living conditions and health particularly for women and children and to help curb climate change by creating a global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions.
“We have had good cooperation in the global clean cookstoves alliance and our cooperation in environmental issues will continue now that Finland has joined the international coalition to reduce short-term pollutants,” Secretary Clinton stated. Finland also participates in combating air pollution in the Arctic Council and Nordic Council of Ministers.
The Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister, who led the delegations of their respective countries at the Rio+20 conference, also exchanged ideas on the conference follow-up and highlighted the importance of clear sustainable development objectives.
The Climate & Clean Air Coalition: Innovation, Energy, Entrepreneurship event took place at the U.S. Embassy in the afternoon. In addition to Secretary of State Clinton and U.S. Ambassador Bruce Oreck, speakers at the event included Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb and Minister for the Environment Ville Niinistö.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja gave his colleague some examples of Finnish design. Secretary Clinton received a red Marimekko shoulder bag and a Halikko necklace set made by Kalevala Jewelry.
Watch the video recording of the press conference by the Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister: