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Laureate 2011
Biography of President of Finland Tarja Halonen

Tarja Halonen is the 11th President of the Republic of Finland and the country's first female Head of State. She acceded to office on 1 March 2000, and was re-elected in 2006.

Ms Halonen was born in Helsinki on 24 December 1943.  She graduated from the University of Helsinki in 1968 with a Master of Laws degree. From 1970 and throughout her political career (which began in 1974) she worked as a lawyer for the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions.

Tarja Halonen joined the Social Democratic party in 1971, and in 1974 was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. She was elected to Parliament in 1979, and subsequently re-elected four times. In Parliament she served as Chair of the Social Affairs Committee (1984-1987), Deputy-Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee (1991-1995) and Chair of the Grand Committee (1995). In parallel, Ms Halonen served five terms on the Helsinki City Council (1977-1996).

Tarja Halonen served as Minister of Social Affairs and Health (1987-1990), Minister of Justice (1990-1991), Minister of Foreign Affairs (1995-2000) and Minister responsible for Nordic cooperation (1989-1991). During her time as Foreign Minister, Finland held for the first time the Presidency of the European Union from July to December 1999.

Tarja Halonen has also played an active role at the Council of Europe, first as Deputy-Chair of the Finnish Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly (1991-1995) and later in the Ministerial Committee. She was also a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Wise Persons (1998-1999).

She has served as co-Chair of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (2002-2004) following her appointment by the International Labour Organization (ILO). She has chaired the Council of Women World Leaders since March 2009. And in August 2010, she was appointed co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability.

Tarja Halonen has built her political career on promoting human rights, social justice and equality. Under her presidency, Finland became the first country in the world to make broadband access a legal right.


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Updated : 2011-05-16