Tarja Halonen was the 11th President of the Republic of Finland, serving two terms of office from 2000 to 2012. She was Finland’s first female head of state.
Tarja Halonen is renowned for her work and involvement in human rights, democracy and civil society. Throughout her career, she has worked ceaselessly to advance social justice, equality, women’s rights and sustainable development.
President Halonen studied Law at the University of Helsinki and began her professional career as an attorney with the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions. She then entered politics, serving in 1974–75 as parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister before being elected to the Finnish parliament in 1979.
This was the beginning of a distinguished career that saw President Halonen hold a succession of ministerial positions: first as Minister of Social Affairs and Health (1987–90) – a position to which she was appointed by Prime Minister Harri Holkeri – and subsequently as Minister for Nordic Cooperation (1989–91) and Minister of Justice (1990-91). In 1995, she was appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs, a position which she occupied until 2000 when she succeeded Martti Ahtisaari as President of Finland.
In 2009, President Halonen succeeded Mary Robinson as Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders.
American talk show host Conan O’Brien apparently resembles Tarja Halonen and after a long-running joke about this resemblance that continued on his show for several months, O'Brien travelled to Finland, where he appeared on several television shows, met President Halonen and endorsed her campaign for a second term in office. The trip was filmed and aired as a TV special.
It is with great pleasure that we welcome President Tarja Halonen as Harri Holkeri Lecturer for 2017.
Now in its fifth year, the Harri Holkeri Lecture Series recognises and celebrates the contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process of the late Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri. Holkeri’s aspiration to transform conflict and promote social justice in Northern Ireland and across the world is shared by the Institute. We are honoured to partner with the Finnish Embassy to host the annual Harri Holkeri Lecture Series.
Q&A facilitated by Journalist and broadcaster, Yvette Shapiro