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Sustainable development and gender equality in focus during President Tarja Halonen’s visit to Israel and Palestine

President Tarja Halonen visited Israel and Palestine from February 27th to March 3rd, 2023. The topics of the visit included sustainable development, gender equality, and human rights.

President Halonen began the visit in Tel Aviv by participating in a seminar organized by the Finnish Embassy, Kibbutzim College of Education, and the ADVA Center. The seminar focused on sustainable future and featured a wide range of Finnish and Israeli experts and researchers. Various aspects of the welfare society and their interconnections were examined, along with discussions on future challenges. Several speakers emphasized that achieving a sustainable future requires actions and societal reforms. At the same time, it was deemed important to uphold and promote the cornerstones of society: human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

In Israel, President Halonen also met with influential women and laid a wreath on the grave of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

In Palestine, President Halonen’s program included a visit to a UN refugee camp in Bethlehem and a discussion event on gender equality and peacebuilding organized by the Finnish Representative Office in Ramallah and the UN Women. President Halonen also met with Palestine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Amal Jadou in Ramallah and visited the Yasser Arafat Museum.

At the Aida refugee camp, the President discussed the operations of the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, and met with women and girls who shared their everyday lives and experiences in the camp. The significance of education was highlighted during the meetings. Finland supports the agency’s activities, with an emphasis on primary education and healthcare.

The event organized by the Finnish Representative Office and the UN Women discussed the political and humanitarian situation in Palestine, as well as women’s participation in political decision-making and peacebuilding processes. Participants discussed how the political situation affects society and gender equality in Palestine. President Halonen emphasized that gender equality is a human right and one of the most effective means of influencing societies.

During the meeting between President Halonen and Palestine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Amal Jadou, the current situation in Palestine was discussed, particularly the increase in violence and violent confrontations. The importance of human rights and Finland’s support for the two-state solution were highlighted in the discussion.

Following the visit, President Halonen traveled to Doha to attend the UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5). She served as a keynote speaker in a roundtable discussion on investing in people and human rights in the least developed countries.