President of Finland Sauli Niinistö speaks at the 100th anniversary of Finland’s constitutional democracy celebration

Sep 15, 2019News

Here is a part of the speech by the President Sauli Niinistö, who was honored as World Leader for Peace and Cybersecurity 2018 on Global Cybersecurity Day December 12, 2018 at Loeb House, Harvard University, by the Boston Global Forum and Michael Dukakis Institute for Leadership and Innovation.

“Constitution is an impressive appellation and may sound alien in everyday speech, yet it has a profound impact on our daily lives.

I approach the topic in terms of two themes, trust and social inclusion. While neither of these are strictly speaking legal concepts, they still reflect the spirit of the laws regarding our social arrangements.
All social life is based on trust, the assumption that each and everyone acts in a manner that may be reasonably expected.

The fundamental rights recorded in the Finnish Constitution created a sound basis for assessing such “reasonable expectation”.

Often, the thinking stops at the notion that fundamental rights are something that society must guarantee and the citizens enjoy. However, citizens too are duty-bound to respect the fundamental rights of others. If the rights of the fellow-man are not upheld, very little is left of one’s own rights.

The Constitution expressly states that nature and its biodiversity, the environment and the national heritage are the responsibility of everyone. It means all of us.

Individuals are also called upon to assume responsibility for their own security. The Constitution includes a provision on the right to social security stipulating that “those who cannot obtain the means necessary for a life of dignity have the right to receive indispensable subsistence and care.” The Constitution goes on to say, quite rightly, that specific laws are to be enacted to provide support in special situations and guarantee adequate social and health services for all. But as I see it, it also presupposes that every individual makes a genuine effort using his or her best endeavours, each according to his or her ability and capacity.

However, the highest expectations are pinned on those who exercise public powers, that is, all of us in this room, the authorities. It means that we are called upon to uphold the Constitution which “guarantees the inviolability of human dignity and the freedom and rights of the individual and promotes justice in society”.
The foundation set out one hundred years ago in our Constitution Act have remained firm in both difficult and positive times. To put it briefly: Trust and responsibility – these are the concepts that our Constitution still rests on.”