No human security without a strong civil society

///6th Asia-Europe People’s Forum
3-6 September 2006, Helsinki, Finland

Intervention by
Heidi Hautala MP,
Chairperson of KEPA, The Finnish Service Center for Development Cooperation

The process of globalization is presently dictated by economic profits. Its often large scale negative consequences to human security and well-being are not always fully recognized and understood. Whilst globalization has improved average lives in developed and many developing nations, a general tendency is that contrasts sharpen, polarization increases. This again imposes not only human misery at the end where gains are negative, but also risks to societies and global security. It seems that some aid agencys and development banks are starting to realize this.[:]

Environmental destruction and deterioration, combined with loss of traditional livelihoods is another consequence. Large infrastructure development projects (such as the Mekong Power Grid) should not any more be promoted by international development agencies, as both socio-economic and environmental consequences are severe. When implemented by authoritarian regimes, public participation is virtually none. Climate change is already an acknowledged reality, and a large part of the population in China and South Asia are at risk of losing their water base as the glaciers of the Himalaya’s are starting to melt.

Poverty and under-development cause major flows of migration. One cannot overemphasize the need to stop trafficking of human beings, notably of women, to prostitution and new kind of slavery. On the other hand, Europe must stop putting in place laws which make legal immigration almost impossible. According to UN, Europe with its aging population will need about 75 million immigrants in the coming decades.


The present kind of globalization feeds instability and conflict. It is important to explore the manifold links between globalization and conflict.

International companies and their allies feed war by engaging in illegal trade of precious raw materials. The civil society e.g. labour unions can organize monitoring of companies and publish their findings.

Governments like to see themselves as big donors of development aid, but at the same time they may licence weapons export to the very same governments, directly undermining the improvements in human security. The European Union has up to date failed to rewrite its voluntary code of conduct of weapons export into a law to be binding to all EU member states. The practice of the Finnish government in licensing of weapons export is one of the most transparent in the world and could serve as a model for others.

Small arms are a known factor in conflict. A global gun crisis is well documented. 60 % of the world´s guns are in the hands of civilians. Unfortunately the negotiations on the international Arms Trade Treaty completely collapsed in July this year, as the United States blocked this effort to establish global minimum standards for export control of weapons. Of all regions, South and South-East Asia have not yet admitted the small arms crisis and the need to combat it. The illegal trade of small arms feed intra-state conflicts in Indonesia, Burma and the Philippines. Small arms are also known to be used by state agents against civilians in some ASEAN countries. As the UN has explicitly invited the civil society in the efforts for a binding Arms Trade Treaty, this Forum should seek to support our friends from ASEAN countries to get more engaged.

Another important international disarmament treaty is the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines. China, Burma, South Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore and Finland form a kind of a coalition of the unwilling, and for various reasons have not signed the Treaty..


Militarization is uninterrupted and military budgets are increased. At the same time the understanding on the importance of non-military crisis management, and in particular, on conflict prevention, is gaining ground. In the EU  the discussion started only some ten years ago among the peace research community and peace organizations. Now a real input to civilian crisis management is a fact. The Finnish and Swedish governments have been actively shaping this dimension of  ESDP. At the moment the emphasis of civilian crisis management is still  too much on deploying police forces. More resources are needed for many more activities in societies torn by conflict and war.

Good services for reconciliation and peacemaking are more and more needed with the view to the numerous intra-state conflicts. We can take not of the recent peace treaty and law on the self-governance of the tsunami torn Aceh in Indonesia. Even if one cannot yet know whether it will lead into a lasting peace, the former Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari deserves a large part of the merit. The Swedish Olof Palme Center facilitated the contacts between GAM and the people in Aceh during many years. But the actual peace negotiations conducted here in Finland were in fact catalyzed by one individual who had contacts to both sides of the conflict.

What we can see today from the experience of the state-building in East Timor is that international presence, including that of peacekeeping troops must be a responsible for a lasting commitment. It is sad to see that the withdrawal of the international presence turned into a new bloodshed last spring, once again.


It is my conviction that constructive paths to federalist structures and decentralization will be a key to lasting security and peace. It is particularly important for the preservation of the rights of ethnic and
cultural minorities. In some Asian countries, e.g. the Philippines and Indonesia, authoritarian and cetralist rule is under pressure to give way to more decentralization and self-determination. With globalization reshaping political structures, governments are losing powers both to transnational and subnational levels.I am referring to e.g. The autonomous Åland isles within Finland has attracted many groups from all over the world, trying to solve conflicts with the help of decentralization.

Not only decentralization but also transnational governance is needed in order to harness globalization. The European Union, with all of its democratic deficiencies, is the first truly transnational effort to pool the competences of nation-states and form new kind of democratic structures, including a directly elected parliament with real legislative powers. The example has inspired the creation of the African Union, which has also become an actor in the control of regional conflicts. Countries of Mercosur in South America are also taking steps towards transnational governance, and what about Asean?

Globalization should not just be about free trade and removing the barriers from international companies to invest and establish themselves across borders. Transnational economy requires transnational politics, power by the people. Transnational politics is needed in order to come to an agreement on the control of short term profit oriented capital transfers, international taxation for global common goods, not to say anything on the need to defend and strengthen international law.


It is time to draw a balance-sheet of the fight against terrorism which has transformed international politics after 9/11. There is more and more evidence that combating terrorism has actually increased and not decreased the threat of terrorism. Al Qaida needs not do it as we – the West – do it ourselves.

As Statewatch, the best civil liberties watchdog from the UK, will explain during a workshop in this Forum: The new laws in Europe the restrictions of civil liberties are mainly aimed to “allow for diversifying the rights of subjects to filter out the subversive persons”, whereas in Asia they are directly answering “a desire by governments to curtail the rights and liberties of entire populaces”. (One might, however ask, whether indeed the same could be said about  the UK government which has induced a lot of hatred towards the entire Muslim population.)

Denial of basic rights and torture merely on the grounds of belonging to a certain minority or group has become commonplace. It is totally unethical that governments allow each other to oppress and eliminate their oppositions in the name of combating international terrorism. Those European governments which have been aware of and even assisted to the unlawful transfers of suspects of terrorism by CIA to clandestine detention centers have revealed a shocking double standard.

This is a time at which laws on civil liberties, and international human rights law is under severe threat, including in Europe. The only cure is an informed public debate, and the public can only be informed if governments – now acting mostly in secret – are made accountable. A transnational civil society is needed to discuss the new anti-terrorist laws and practices worldwide. Parliaments must struggle to gain control over their governments. Laws on freedom of information must be extended to entail and not exempt internal security. Security services and intelligence must be brought under the control of parliamentary committees. This will be one of the most important tests to the European Union: will it take steps towards public scrutiny and real democracy.


As the leaders EU and ASEAN are meeting in Helsinki later this week, we, the civil society, must demand that they will not discreetly forget to discuss human rights. To regain some credibility they must agree to meet with the opposition of Burma/Myanmar. The EU is not worth more than lipservice on human rights if its leaders will not have the courage to discuss e.g. indefinite detentions of people in a Malaysian “Guantanamo”, or the use of martial measures against the opposition in the Philippines.

For you to know, Finland is on a black list for failing to meet international human rights obligations: conscientious objectors are sent to prison.

No government can demand to erase certain subjects from our discussions. Unfortunately the preparations of this Forum have proven otherwise. It is our duty and right to speak the truth. At the end even the Chinese government will have to accept that the flow of information cannot any more be stopped at national borders. Individuals who defend people’s struggles for their legal rights deserve respect, not punishment and violent harassment.

Let me finish by quoting the late first chairman of the Finnish organizing committee of this 6th Asia- Europe People´s Forum, Matti Wuori, a renowned human rights lawyer. When he acted in the year 2000 as the rapporteur of the European Parliament on the state of human rights in the world, he wrote: “Of all political – and other – human rights, freedom of expression may be the most reliable sign, if one wants to know the state and status of fundamental and human rights in a country. Without an effective freedom of expression we will neither get to know of other, often gross violations of human rights in the world.” – He added: “A nation, just like an individual, who is not capable of a dialogue with oneself, cannot have true integrity and be strong. Without a fresh and breathing democracy all civil liberties will wither and fade away.”