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OSCE 25th Anniversary Conference of the Hague Recommendations regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities

Presidentti Halonen piti pääpuheen OSCE:n konferenssissa, joka pidettiin etänä 7.6.2021 juhlistaen 25-vuotispäivää Haagin suositusten sopimisesta koskien kansallisten vähemmistöjen koulutusoikeuksista.

Presidentin puhe kokonaisuudessaan löytyy alta: 


I am very happy to speak to you today on the 25 Anniversary of the Hague Recommendations regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities.

Past year has been a difficult one around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has not spared any country of its dire consequences. As in many crises before, those most vulnerable have suffered the most.

In many countries, children have had to adapt to remote learning methods and teachers have stretched to their limits to ensure that children have been able to continue their education in these exceptional times.

In many other places, even remote learning has however been unattainable to children. Children have been simply just out of school, and there is a serious risk that many of the most vulnerable children – especially girls – will never return to education.

Equal access to high-quality education is human right and one of the Sustainable Development Goals. Millennium Development Goals accelerated the enrolment of children in primary education up to 91 per cent (by 2015). While the goal of universal access was not fully met, more children and particularly more girls attended primary school than ever before.

The Sustainable Development goal 4 on education is more ambitious and more comprehensive and pays attention not only to the enrollment rates but also to the quality of education, the access to education for vulnerable groups, the importance of eliminating gender disparities and emphasis to lifelong education.

COVID-19 pandemic risks of rolling back many of the gains achieved in education. The UN estimates that additional 101 million children and youth fell below the minimum reading proficiency level due to COVID-19 in 2020.

This clearly shows that we need to pay special attention to education in order to get back on track towards achieving the 2030 agenda.

It is important to discuss educations rights of National Minorities today. We have to ensure that what we agreed 25 years ago continues to be properly and proactively implemented today.


In Finland, high-quality education is not a privilege, it is a constitutional right. The education system guarantees all children and young people equal access to basic education, regardless of social status, gender, place of residence, economic situation and linguistic, cultural and ethnic background.

All education in two official languages, Finnish or Swedish, from pre-school to universities, is free of charge. And it’s not just meant for children and young people: lifelong learning is important to everybody in our fast-changing world.

Constitution guarantees the Sámi, as an indigenous people, as well as the Roma and other groups, the right to maintain and develop their own language and culture in Finland. Also, the rights of users of sign language are guaranteed under the constitution. Sign language users are a linguistic and cultural minority in Finland.

As an example, Sámi education is developing strongly outside the municipalities of the Sámi homeland right now. A pilot project provides teaching using remote connections and this enables the study of Inari, Skolt and Northern Sámi regardless of the student’s place of residence. This shows how digital technologies can play an important role in ensuring accessibility. This project brings more and more Sámi students into Sámi language teaching.

I should also mention that next year marks the start of the United Nations Decade of Indigenous Languages, which focuses on the human rights and empowerment of indigenous language users.

A lot of attention has to be paid to ensure that education rights of national minorities are realized in practice.  We must use innovative approaches to enhance accessibility of education and ensure that the minorities themselves participate in planning and decision-making on this.  National minorities also have to realize the value of their heritage and culture themselves and appreciate them.


The concept note for today’s discussion mentions how equal access to education links to conflict prevention. I agree with this. It is important to understand security in a more comprehensive way. The whole OSCE was build on this understanding and it continues to resonate today.

Our collective security is affected by a wide range of issues from environmental degradation to human rights violations, health security and weakening of global norms and institutions.

Comprehensive approach to security builds on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law and advancing sustainable development.

Equality and access to education can play an important role in building stable and peaceful societies with well-being of its citizens at its core. This also builds basic confidence and trust in the society, which is needed especially in hard times. For example this pandemic has shown that when people trust their leaders and institutions, they are more willing to follow the necessary regulations in crises.


The strength of a society can be measured on how the society and its majority treats its minorities and those most vulnerable.

To ensure everyone has equal access to education, particular challenges and barriers met by different minorities has to be recognized and addressed. We cannot afford to lose these groups at early stages – bridging the gap later on to ensure access to equal opportunities is much harder. This is the only way to develop equal and socially just societies and happier individuals.

Thank you and I look forward to the discussion!