OECD presents large number of recommendations for improving the enabling environment for civil society in Finland
The Civic Space Scan of Finland by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) focuses on legislation, practices, civic freedoms and rights, the media operating environment, changes brought by digital technologies and services, the operating environment for civil society organisations (CSOs), and participation by citizens and CSOs. Finland has repeatedly performed well in comparisons published by international organisations concerning democracy, human rights, press freedom, corruption and governance. Finland also has various programmes and initiatives in progress that support civil society, such as the National Democracy Programme 2025, the National Action Plan on Fundamental and Human Rights, and the Open Government Action Plan.
The OECD nevertheless emphasises that although by international comparison Finland serves as a model enabler of civic space, it is very important that Finland should also recognise and resolve challenges that emerge. Only in this way will it be possible to maintain the favourable situation. The OECD presented a large number of recommendations to Finland. The OECD recommendations will be examined closely in a cross-government working group. The working group will determine which of the recommendations can be pursued in existing programmes or projects and which require further work or additional studies. The OECD’s final report was published on 16 June 2021.
The Civic Space Scan was commissioned by the Ministry of Finance and carried out by the OECD’s Directorate for Public Governance.
Report and recommendations received by Finland
The Citizens’ Panel examined citizens’ views and proposals for solutions to safeguard freedom of expression in Finland
In February 2021, the deliberative Citizens’ Panel met to discuss the measures that should be taken in Finland to protect people who are in the public eye due to their professions from hate speech and to safeguard free expression of opinion. Citizens’ opinions were examined as part of the OECD’s qualitative assessment of the possibilities for civil society to operate in Finland (Civic Space Scan Finland). The Citizen’s Panel was commissioned by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice, and Åbo Akademi University’s Samforsk (The Social Science Research Institute) was selected as the party that implemented the panel.
The Citizens’ Panel is an example of democratic innovation, a deliberative mini-public in which a number of ordinary citizens discuss a social issue after in-depth familiarisation and produce recommendations for decision-makers or a wider electorate. Participants in deliberative minipublics are often selected through random sampling. The invitation to participate in the Citizens’ Panel on Freedom of Expression was sent to 3,000 randomly selected adults residing in Finland, and of the volunteers who agreed to take part 29 volunteers participated in the panel. Different sociodemographic groups and regions were represented in the composition of the panel. The Citizens’ Panel met virtually for one evening and two entire days, familiarized itself carefully with background information on the subject area, and heard experts on freedom of expression, hate speech and online harassment. The members of the Citizens’ Panel held discussions in small groups and formed their recommendations with the help of trained moderators.
In its collective statement, the Citizens’ Panel emphasises making hate speech and online shaming visible, the importance of straightforward and clear definitions and communication to the wider public based on these definitions, the proportionality of penalties, prevention, sufficient resources and the responsibility of online platforms. The Citizens’ Panel proposes a total of 25 measures to prevent hate speech and online shaming. The results of the Citizens’ Panel will be used in the preparatory work of the ministries and in the OECD’s Civic Space Scan of Finland.
Citizens’ Panel Final report