President Niinistö at the UN General Assembly in New York: We all have much to gain from cooperation on equal footing

On 18–21 September 2023, President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö and his spouse Jenni Haukio travelled to New York, where the President led the Finnish delegation during the High-level Week of the 78th United Nations General Assembly.

The President delivered Finland’s National Statement at the Assembly’s General Debate on Wednesday. In his speech, the President noted that the world has grown even more complicated. Global tensions are running high and great power competition is accelerating. Different worldviews now seem to be on a collision course.

“The topic of this session is ‘Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity’. This must not remain empty rhetoric. We need to put these words into practice,” the President said.

President Niinistö emphasised that many of the global challenges we are facing – from climate change to pandemics, poverty to wars – cannot be solved by one country or group of like-minded countries alone. He went on to say that the opportunities presented by new technologies are also best harnessed together.

Ukraine deserves a just and lasting peace

President Niinistö speaks at the UN General Assembly on 20 September 2023. Photo: Agaton Strom/Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations

In his speech, the President said that Finland supports Ukraine’s efforts towards a just and lasting peace. “But these cannot be Ukraine’s efforts alone.  As wide an international participation as possible is needed.  It is essential that the discussions recently held in Jeddah continue.”

The High-level Week of the General Assembly also included a separate open debate on Ukraine in the Security Council, where Denmark gave a joint speech on behalf of the Nordic countries. In his statement, President Niinistö said that the Security Council’s open debate was a very important opportunity to discuss and find avenues forward. “Bringing the war to a just end is essential for the Ukrainians, but it may also help to lower tensions on a wider scale.”

The President’s statement also touched on human rights, climate change and biodiversity loss. With regard to the erosion of the international arms control architecture, President Niinistö noted that important treaties had been abandoned and said that rebuilding and strengthening arms control in the current international environment would be difficult. “But we have to understand that a world without mutually agreed-upon rules and transparency is an unpredictable one.”

“Sustainable development has to be at the core of all of our activities”

In their meeting, President Niinistö and UN Secretary-General Guterres discussed a variety of topics, including the Our Common Agenda initiative. Photo: Riikka Hietajärvi/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

The programme for the High-level Week also included the SDG Summit hosted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, which President Niinistö said came at a critical time. “We are halfway through the timetable set for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. And we are nowhere near reaching our goals.” According to Niinistö, this means we must work harder.

“Sustainability should not be an afterthought. It has to be at the core of all our activities,” the President said in his speech.

As usual, President Niinistö’s programme in New York included many bilateral discussions with his colleagues, including the UN Secretary-General, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa and Namibia and the Prime Minister of Vietnam.

In addition to the presidential couple’s joint programme, Jenni Haukio also part in a side event of the UN General Assembly on Ukrainian Children in the war. The event held on Tuesday 19 September was hosted by Estonian President Alar Karis and First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska. On Wednesday 20 September, Haukio attended a reception hosted by First Lady of the United States Jill Biden and spoke at a discussion event on Nordic literature with First Lady of Iceland Eliza Reid and author Neil Gaiman. The event was organised by the New York Public Library together with the Consulates General of Finland and Iceland in New York.

The Finnish delegation led by the President also included Minister for Foreign Affairs Elina Valtonen and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Ville Tavio.