People are getting richer as the planet is getting poorer

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Puhe Parlamenttienvälisen liiton yleiskokouksessa Genevessä.

Speech by Ms. Tarja Filatov, Member of the Finnish delegation at the 139th IPU Assembly in Geneva on the general debate theme:  

Parliamentary leadership in promoting peace and development in the age of innovation and technological change 

 Madame President 

Honorable Speakers, 

Fellow Parliamentarians,

Often we look for answers to our problems in science and technology.

Indeed, it is part of what makes us human. 

We have developed medicines such as antibiotics and advanced surgery to fight disease and illness.

We have developed efficient means of transportation to move people and goods across the globe.

Technology is helping us to lead comfortable lives in today’s interconnected and rapidly changing world.

As we witness the unparalleled development in digital technologies, robotics and artificial intelligence, at the same time, we are experiencing concentration of wealth, knowledge and information. 

Today, the richest 1 per cent owns more than the rest, 99 per cent of world’s population. 

All the accumulation of wealth and technological development is happening simultaneously with over-exploitation of natural resources rapid population growth, global warming and loss of biodiversity. 

In other words, people are getting richer as the planet is getting poorer. We all know that this contradiction is not sustainable. 

But what is the solution to this problem? How do we change the course of this development? My answer – reflecting best practices from my home country Finland – is divided into four parts: 

1. invest in educating the whole society

2. fair and inclusive societies make peaceful societies

3. open and democratic societies with free press

4. rules-based societies with a strong commitment to multilateralism 

First, education is one of the cornerstones of the Finnish welfare society. 

We pride ourselves on an educational system that offers equal opportunities of education for all, irrespective of matters of residency, gender, economic situation or linguistic and cultural background. 

No-one should be left behind. This is fundamental in creating a basis for societal fairness.

Anyone can have the means to obtain a university degree. A high level of education will help the society to lay the foundation for people to help themselves in a competitive environment in which technological transformation moves jobs from manual to the digital sphere. 

Furthermore, the better educated the people are, the better equipped they are in critically evaluating any information they come across, including critical evaluation of political leaders’ actions and their election campaigns.

We also pay a lot of attention to teacher training from Elementary schools to universities.

It goes without saying that government investment inresearch and development is highly beneficial to societies.

When approving state budgets, we parliamentarians should be the guardians of adequate levels in education investments.

Second, fair and inclusive societies make peaceful societies

When people feel that the society will look after them, for instance in providing education and social security, they will be happy to give something back, e.g. pay tax and participate in other civic duties. 

In Finland, there is a substantial progression on the income tax. The more you earn, the higher your income tax percentage is.  Everybody also gets something back from society: Education, services, health care and so on.

In a way, when everyone is doing their fair share, there will be less dissatisfaction in society and less reasons for conflicts to rise.  

Third, open societies and democratic institutions guarantee that people have truly representative governments that respond to the needs of the people. 

Naturally, parliaments are the key institutions. They ensure that the legislative framework is in place to respond to any new requirements, be they major technological changes with implications to the society or the climate change with global consequences. 

In 2015 the Parliament of Finland enacted a pioneering Climate Change Act giving the Parliament a central role in the development and annual review of climate policy.

 It will also enable the Parliament to take action if the objectives are not met. 

An active interplay between parliamentarians, the science and research community and companies operating in this field is important to all. 

Committee for the Future in the Finnish Parliament organizes hearings with experts to form scenarios on different megatrends in technological and societal change. Conclusions from this work can help us raise awareness and prepare for the future changes. 

Finally, dear colleagues, 

We need rules-based societies with a strong commitment to multilateralism

Development in Action on issues, such as the climate change cannot be held hostage by disputes on trade or tariffs. 

If we all sit on same leaking boat we cannot let it sink because we cannot agree who has to use the water pump. 

I sincerely hope, we can find solutions and come together in questions of multilateralism that truly unite us.  

Thank you for your attention! 

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