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Merja Mäkisalo-Ropponen, Member of Parliament for the Social Democratic Party of Finland and Vice Chair of the Committee for the Future.

 

MP Talk gives members of parliament the opportunity to share their views on Finnish society with an international audience. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Helsinki Times.

The Committee for the Future at the Finnish Parliament is quite a unique institution. There are only a few countries and parliaments with a similar kind of committee.

Currently, such committees are probably only found in Uruguay, the Ukraine and Finland. Established in 1993, it is one of Finnish Parliament’s 16 standing committees. The Committee for the Future consists of 17 members, all of whom are members of parliament representing different political parties.

The main task of this committee is to think about and work towards the best possible future for Finland and its people. The committee looks five to 20 years into the future, and its range of issues is broad. This means that all members have to be visionary and creative.

The committee itself does not prepare laws. That is the main task of parliament. The committee’s main role is to make politicians and parties think about future matters and planning. If it understands this role correctly, the committee can greatly influence decision making.

Why do we need this kind of committee?

It is important to anticipate the future if we think about areas such as nature conservation, the bio industry, gene technology, the ageing population or sustainable development. By using methods unique to future research, it is possible to create different kinds of visions of the future and help politicians pay attention to long-term scenarios.

An important role of the committee is to plan and decide on its own initiatives and projects. All members of the committee prepare their own agenda and choose their own ways of working. For an MP, this is a huge opportunity to influence the committee’s actions. For instance, I am interested in social problems and innovations, particularly with the ageing population. One great problem in Finland is loneliness, and I want to find out how to mitigate loneliness in our society. A project with this goal will start soon.

Another large issue that I am interested in is barrier-free environments. A barrier-free environment is good for everybody – not only for disabled people. My vision is one of a society that is as free from barriers as possible. This means that the environment (including, for example, the internet) and the whole of society will be built to facilitate ease of mobility as well as sight, sound, and other perceptions for all people, regardless of age, abilities, or other differences. I will prepare a project to study the feasibility and possibility of advancing this kind of development. The most difficult matter is affecting attitudes. Many decision makers still erroneously think that it is more expensive to build barrier-free environments.

Last year I was the chair of a project that investigated how to use art methods in decision making. I believe that a good future is built by science, ethics and art together.

The Committee for the Future is the only forum in parliament where members of all parties – regardless of opposition or government roles – can assess the development of the entire political system together. It is a great opportunity to see the possibilities and challenges that the future will bring without unnecessary sectoral or other kinds of limits.

I hope that this type of future discussion will extend from the committee to all of society. We shall make the future together!

Merja Mäkisalo-Ropponen, Member of Parliament for the Social Democratic Parliamentary Group and a Doctor in Health Sciences, is a Vice Chair of the Committee for the Future, as well as a Member of the Employment and Equality Committee and Deputy Member of the Education and Culture Committee. She is also the Chair of the Alzheimer Society of Finland and Vice Chair of the Joensuu City Council. Before her career in politics she was a Freelance educator and work community coach for over 10 years. Her hobbies include writing and she is the author of eight books.

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