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United Nations and Third World

Because Finland had fought with the Axis powers during World War II, it was ineligible for charter membership in the UN in 1945. Finland applied for membership in 1947, but Cold War disagreements among the great powers on UN admissions policies delayed Finland's entry until 1955.

Finland had not been very enthusiastic about membership in the UN in the 1945 to 1955 period. The country tried to pursue the Paasikivi policy of passive and cautious neutrality and feared that joining the UN would be incompatible with its nonaligned status. A strict interpretation of the UN charter made membership in it incompatible with neutrality. According to Article 25 of the charter, members of the UN are obliged to follow the decision of the Security Council in applying economic or military sanctions against other member states.

Since becoming a member, however, Finland has been a committed and active participant in accordance with its official foreign policy of a peaceful and active neutrality. In the late 1960s, it was a member of the Security Council, and one of its UN officials, the diplomat and historian Max Jakobson, was a strong contender for the post of secretary general. His candidacy is said to have failed because of reservations on the part of the Soviet Union. In the fall of 1988, Finland was reelected to the Security Council for a two-year term, and it was expected to assume the council's chairmanship in 1990.

There have been two main lines of Finnish policy in the UN. The first is that Finland avoids any political or economic confrontation in which the interests of the superpowers are directly involved. This policy explains why Finland has refrained over the years from condemning Soviet actions, most recently the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan. Finnish officials hold that their country can be more effective on the international level if it has good relations with all countries. (They commonly explain that Finland wishes to work as a doctor rather than as a judge.) The second current of Finland's UN policy is that country's role as part of the Nordic bloc within the organization. Finland consults and collaborates closely with other Nordic members, generally voting with them, participating with them in aid projects to the Third World through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), or being part of the UN forces sent to troubled areas. Finnish forces have taken part in every UN peacekeeping mission since the early 1960s. In addition, the country maintains a permanent military force available to the organization (see United Nations Peacekeeping Activities , ch. 5). Finnish aid to the Third World has not been so extensive as that of the other Nordic countries. Finland, for example, has never met the goal of contributing 0.7 percent of its gross national product (GNP--see Glossary) to Third World development, and critics have charged that Finland gets a "free ride" from the achievements and good reputations of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Efforts were underway in the 1980s, however, to come closer to this figure. The foreign aid programs in which Finland was involved were not only multilateral, but, with regard to a few selected countries, were carried out on a one-to-one basis. Finland's record as a provider of asylum for refugees did not always match the records of the other Nordic countries. A quota system instituted in 1985 provided for the acceptance of 100 refugees a year. Criticism of this figure led to the quota's increase to 200 a year in 1987, and in mid-1988 Finnish officials decided to admit 300 refugees that year. As of late 1988, there were about 1,200 refugees in Finland, nearly all of them from the Third World.

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An excellent introduction to Finnish political life is David Arter's Politics and Policy-Making in Finland. The same author's The Nordic Parliaments presents in great detail the workings of the Eduskunta, the Landsting, and the Nordic Council. Somewhat dated, but still useful, is Jaakko Nousiainen's classic The Finnish Political System. The second edition of The Finnish Legal System, edited by Jaakko Uotila, will meet the needs of many readers on this subject; in addition, it has expert surveys of various Finnish political institutions. Small States in Comparative Perspective: Essays for Erik Allardt, edited by Risto Alapuro et al, contains a number of valuable articles. Klaus Törnudd's Finland and the International Norms of Human Rights examines Finnish legal protections for human rights and provides much information about law and the media.

Stimulating brief accounts of Finland's unique international position are George Maude's The Finnish Dilemma: Neutrality in the Shadow of Power and Max Jakobson's Finnish Neutrality. Roy Allison's more recent Finland's Relations with the Soviet Union, 1944-84 is also very useful. Foreign Policies of Northern Europe, edited by Bengt Sundelius, treats the Nordic region as a whole, yet it will help the reader seeking more specific information about many aspects of Finnish foreign relations. The Nordic quarterly Cooperation and Conflict often contains excellent articles that deal with Finnish foreign relations, as does the Yearbook of Finnish Foreign Policy, published by the Finnish Institute of Foreign Affairs. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of December 1988

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