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From the 28th till the 30th of November the Connect Europe project gathered in Helsinki, Finland to discuss the first chapter in the European Charter of Fundamental rights, Dignity. 

In these couple of days we first attended the Beyond growth conference on sustainable development before we visited the campus of Omnia in the outskirts of Helsinki. 

Beyond growth 

In the city center of Helsinki, more to the point, at the Helsinki Conference center, a wide range of interested parties gathered – from decision-makers, administration, academia and finally civil society actors, like the Connect Europe partners. All of us brought together for two day by our wish for a more sustainable Europe and our interest in an economic and political understanding of measuring that goes beyond our classical understanding of growth. 

Connect Europe focus on creating a deeper understanding of our shared values and rights in Europe and the importance of bottom up policy recommendation witch deeply taps into the elements of the Beyond growth conference themes. 

The event was organized by Finnish Development NGOs – Fingo, together with Finland's National Commission on Sustainable Development. 

For two days we listened to experts, politicians and other stakeholders debating how we can ensure a way of governing not solely focusing on economic growth but looking beyond growth at ways of measuring development with a social and sustainable perspective. 

After an inspirational Keynote speake by Doreen Grove, Head of Open Government at Scottish Government and Chair of Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) Scotland who talked about "Measuring – how we ensure the economy is working for people and planet" and other interesting perspectives on the transformation of the economic system we were divided into working groups centering into 5 themes:

  1. Inequality of Income, Wealth and Opportunities

  2. Resilience and Respecting the Ecosystem Boundaries

  3. Fair Transition to Carbon Neutral Circular Economy

  4. Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development – How European Policies Affect the Global South

  5. Respecting Human Rights in Business 

The Connect Europe partners shared our inputs in each group and in the end the five working groups produced shared recommendations for the Finnish presidency on beyond growth.

“People’s wellbeing is a principal aim of the European Union. There is a widely shared need for redefining progress through measures that go beyond GDP. We require a stronger and more realistic knowledge base for policy-making to create wellbeing that is sustainable now and in the future.”

Read the full paper here.


At Omnia campus we had the opportunity to have a citizens-talk with students of care-work on the importance of Dignity and the Charter of Fundamental rights. 



Throughout the debate in the classroom the students formulated a range of recommendations for the European politicians centering around chapter 1 in The European charter of Fundamental rights, Dignity. 

The debate mostly centered around article 1 and 2:

Article 1
Human dignity
Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected.


Article 3
Right to the integrity of the person
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity.


Truly important to the future caretakers of Finland was their ability to ensure the health and dignity of their clients. Something that they saw the state play an crucial role in ensuring. And the charter to ensure that they would pursue. One of the ways, they argued, that more people would be able to be met with dignity in the public service system, was if more people was aware of their rights as they are stated in the charter. Therefor more people should be made aware of its existence. 

The students landed on recommendations such as  - “There ought to be more discussion about human dignity at schools.”, “Everyone needs to have a possibility to get to know their rights in the EU.”  And “Citizens’ discussion is always good and it open up new views to issues of concern.” 


Education on ones rights in the European Union was truly important for the students in this citizens talk and highlight a key point: people need to know their rights to claim them.

This way the people would be able to pressure the state to ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to ensure their physical and mental integrity in their care. 



But more than just concrete recommendations the debate itself also proved to be an eye-opener in the ways we all understand and interpret the concept of dignity;  from a question of being able to practice free will till the states responsibility of ensuring a proper welfare, the thoughts was plentiful. 

One thing they all agreed on was that in a true democracy, dignity is king. 

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