President Sauli Niinistö welcomes the former Finnish president, Martti Ahtisaari, to Kultaranta Talks on June 17, 2018, in Naantali. Photo: Juhani Kandell/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

The former Finnish president, Martti Ahtisaari, was one of the key speakers at the Kultaranta talks in the southwestern city of Naantali on Sunday.

In his speech, Ahtisaari took an interesting perspective on the concept of Western values. “By referring to democracy, human rights and rule of law as ‘Western,’ we have made the world a disservice,” he said. “Let me get this straight: these values are not only Western. They are global.”

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According to Ahtisaari, we have created an opportunity for questioning values that are supposed to serve everyone. “Everybody wants to have a fair chance in life. And the rule of law, democracy and human rights are a precondition for this chance to be given to all citizens.”

President Ahtisaari delivered the closing remarks for Sunday’s session.

Ahtisaari continued by saying that in his opinion “a country that does not fully respect these global values simply cannot be considered for any important position in the international system.”

As a final note, he quoted Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, an advocate to nonracial democracy and a Nobel Laureate like President Ahtisaari: “I call on the governments to listen to their peoples, and on peoples to insist that their governments make more farsighted decisions.”

The Kultaranta talks, held for the sixth time at the Finnish president’s official summer residence Kultaranta (hence the name), began on Sunday and will continue on Monday with around 100 invited guests.

The talks are hosted by President Sauli Niinistö and the event concentrates on foreign and security policy as well as equality, climate change and the direction of the UN from a Finnish perspective.