Four global trends are posing new challenges to the international human rights system. At the same time, state actors are increasingly emphasising sovereignty over the rule-based international system and non-state actors like cities, corporations and civil society organisations play a bigger role in realising human rights. The rise of populism and eroding rule of law in many places raise the need to update the human rights policies of Finland.

These global trends and changes in the rule-based system were pinned down a study conducted by Oxford Research in association with WoM World of Management, Radboud University Nijmegen and Opinio Juris. The project was carried out as a part of the Finnish Government’s assessment, analytics and research activities. The report summarises implications of the current operational environment for the international human rights system since the Government of Finland human rights report in 2014.

The most significant global trends affecting realization of human rights are environmental changes, migration, advancing technologies, and the changing security environment. Besides the problems involved, however, many of these changes may also offer new opportunities to promote human rights. Yet they tend to disproportionally affect vulnerable groups in unfavorable ways.

On the other hand, changes in political power relations both in the international context and within different countries have impacts on how the human rights system works. For example, because of the rise of China the international human rights system has become more multipolar then before. In western countries, populist movements try to undermine the significance of a rules-based human rights system.

Despite these new challenges, crisis-talk should be avoided. What is needed is clear communication about the benefits of human rights for all and coherence with the talk and action.  The current system has tools to cope with the new challenges and it has shown to be able to adopt new ones when necessary. Finland should update its human rights policies to answer these new challenges and promote coherence in all of its internal actions as well.

The findings of the project include several promising lines of development for updating the international human rights framework and Finnish human rights policies to tackle the challenge of global trends. The report formulates eight goals Finland should strive for when shaping its human rights policies in the future. Each goal includes recommendations on how to advance them both internationally and domestically.

The report is available in the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities web page.


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