Mister/Madam President, dear colleagues,
As Finland’s Ombudsman institution will celebrate its 100-year anniversary next year, I welcome this report by our British colleague. As a result of the recent adoption of the Venice principles, this is a good time for us to reflect on the need for a set of common standards for the Ombudsman institution in our countries.
The Ombudsman institution exists in many of our countries but differs in terms of mandate and scope. Many have parliamentary ombudsmen, whereas others have opted for more local versions of the institution. In Finland, the mandate of the Ombudsman has evolved over time. Today its main purpose is to set the conditions for administrative procedures and to demand good governance. In addition to this, the Ombudsman in Finland is the main guardian of the respect for fundamental and human rights and a strong promoter of such rights.
We have a responsibility to protect and safeguard this important institution and it is in all of our interest that the Ombudsman institution is truly independent, well-functioning and sufficiently funded. We cannot be serious about defending human rights of our people if we cannot allow a neutral body to inspect our actions and demand change were intentional or unintentional flaws and abuses are detected.
A large group of experienced constitutional experts have drafted the Venice principles. They set out the minimum standards for Ombudsman institutions in a clear and comprehensive way.
The draft recommendation calls on our governments to consider establishing a mechanism to report on the state of implementation of the Venice principles. Some sort of international mechanism would be a useful tool in cases where the independence and the position of the Ombudsman institution is under threat because of measures taken by the state. Any attempts at weakening the Ombudsman institution directly weaken citizen’s constitutional rights. When putting forward a mechanism of supervision of the supervisor one must be careful not to compromise the constitutional and independent status of the Ombudsman institution.