40 years of youth UN activities in Helsinki
HYKY turned 40 in 2005, in honor of which the association’s activists Mira Anonen, Renata Osmanova and Suvi Talja wrote the association’s history. On these pages you will find the main points of the association’s more than 40-year journey. The actual history can be seen in HYKY’s library on the premises of the Southern Finnish Association.
In Finland, the 1960s were a decade of change, as in the rest of the world. The previous wartime social climate, characterized by conservative thinking, gradually began to recede and was replaced by youth culture, social critique, the idea of peace, and international solidarity. Awareness of the world around us was now beginning in a whole new way and from a fresh perspective. The students ’UN activities set in motion here in the spiritual atmosphere of the 1960s.
Establishment of the UN Association of Helsinki Students
Finland’s first UN association was founded in August 1963. The first chairman of the organization, which operated under the name of the UN Students’ Association of Finland, was Pekka J. Korvenheimo, the Social Democratic student director. Johan von Bonsdorff, Pentti Halme, Jaakko Kalela, Osmo Apunen and Paavo Lipponen Activities focused on students at the University of Helsinki. Membership was announced to be accepted by all students who wanted to promote international thinking and action.
In its early years, the association focused mainly on organizing discussions on UN themes, and in 1963, for example, Finland’s role and UN forces were discussed. The UN Association also invested in peace and conflict research by organizing various seminars and conferences.
Within a couple of years, UN associations were established in other university cities as well. On March 5, 1965, the Finnish Students’ UN Association changed its name to the Helsinki Students’ UN Association, HOYKY, and became a member of the newly formed Finnish Federation of Local Associations, the Finnish Students’ UN Association SOYKL.
The initial meters of the association
The UN associations were politically independent and their field of activity was quite diverse. International connections were established, in particular, through the international umbrella organization ISMUN. Activities included development cooperation, school visits, seminars, model meetings as well as statements on disarmament and other current issues. For example, in 1964, a pommon was adopted at a debate in Helsinki in support of China’s accession to the UN.
The activities of the Helsinki Local Association initially threatened to remain in the footsteps of the active peace organization Hundred Committee, but the UN activities at the local level were soon activated in Helsinki as well. One of the main means of financing the activities, in addition to grants from support groups and supporters, was the annual party held at Bota.
Other events included talks on apartheid and UN ideology in South Africa, celebrations at the Nylands Nation and biennial UN Rendez-vous events. Some of the events were aired and also covered in newspapers.
UN associations were not officially involved in the conquest of the famous old student house, but in fact the conquest was known in advance and there were a few UN activists involved in the event. Examples of them are Heikki Laavola and Liisa Manninen. It must be remembered, however, that many UN members were also active at the same time in other youth movements of the era, such as the Committee of the Hundred and the youth organizations of the parties.
An atmosphere of radicalization
As late as the mid-1960s, the political interest and orientation of young people could be described as left-wing, but as the end of the decade approached, groups began to diverge. Disagreements arose, for example, over whether the use of weapons in national freedom struggles should be encouraged and whether all means were allowed in peace work.
In general, the UN was now becoming more critical and the UN system was seen as favoring the great powers at the expense of developing countries. At the end of the decade, it was concluded that the UN had no real role to play.
The growing differences between the camps also emerged in the UN Association of Helsinki Students, where those representing different political views had a heated debate, for example on the selection of lecturers. There was a kind of subtle contradiction between partisans and internationally-minded people. Steps were taken in a new, more assertive direction, as was the federal level.
In 1968, the Helsinki Local Association organized an “anti-imperialist party” in which, in addition to dance music, revolutionary songs were played. The association’s discussions also saw strong criticism of both UN power structures and development policy.
However, the last government of the decade in 1969 once again made the line of the association more neutral. Among other things, the annual report states that the association resolutely resigned from the biased Vietnam Solidarity Meeting in Helsinki.
In general, the politicization of the UN association was less than the average in student organizations in the late 1960s. Students’ organizations around Finland were even said to have become detached from other student organizations and had almost ceased operations by the end of the decade. This was thought to be due to their inability to respond to the ideological challenges posed by party-political student organizations.
The first years of the 1970s were a quiet time for the UN Association of Helsinki Students. Between 1970 and 1972, only two debates were held: in the spring of 1971 on peacekeeping forces and in the same fall on China’s membership of the United Nations. In addition, statements and petitions were made. In the autumn of 1972, the activity resumed properly, but the planned results did not begin to show until the 1973 season.
The association’s meager finances initially limited operations. With the funds raised from two support members and 30 members who paid the FIM 5 membership fee, it was difficult to send membership letters to 160 and it was impossible to organize events. However, the members of the association participated in events and courses organized by others in Finland and abroad. In 1974, the financial situation eased with an operating grant from HYY. In 1977, HOYKY got the long-desired office space from the C-staircase of the New Student House.
Modes of activity began to take hold towards the end of the decade after a period of silence at the beginning. The 1974 Annual Report reaffirmed political non-alignment as follows: ”… In today’s separatist and over-politicized period, there is a need for a cohesive and general political factor – including among students – that unites individuals and communities that support the UN idea and world peace.” Despite the fighting spirit of the time, there was apparently no political competition within the association in the 1970s.
Organizational contacts and international cooperation
The activities of the UN Student Union were abolished for the years 1974-1976. This was due to a contraction in activity, as well as an increase in the influence of the Defenders of Peace, among other things. In the early 1970s, the Finnish UN was the only organizational contact of the association. The residents of HOYKY participated in the events organized by the association and its premises could be used for office work before having their own premises. In 1973, HOYKY’s representative, Kimmo Kiljunen, was elected to the UN Committee’s Election Commission.
As SOYKL’s activities were re-launched, relations with other organizations were also developed, for example, events were organized with organizations representing foreign students in Finland and other student UN associations in Finland and abroad were contacted. Co-operation between UN associations in different university locations was restarted.
In the 70’s, seminars and meetings were also held abroad, and for example, a representative of HOYKY attended the Nordic UN seminars in Kungälve, Sweden, for several years.
In the late 1970s, attempts were also made to establish contacts abroad with, among others, the UNESCO Association of Eötvös Lorand University in Budapest, the UN Association of Students in Krakow, the UN Association of Swedish Students, and local associations in Uppsala and Stockholm. Visitors were received from Krakow in 1976. A visit to Hungary took place in the spring of 1978, but the return visit and the planned agreement between the associations did not materialize. In the same year, visitors were received from Uppsala and Krakow.
The activities included themed evenings, study circles, statements, excursions, gatherings, evenings and information on UN affairs in general.
In the autumn of 1975, the association published the first issue of the member magazine Rykäs, but the following year the magazine began to be published together with other student UN associations, and eventually the magazine was transferred to the umbrella organization SOYKL.
International co-operation also deepened with, among others, the Stockholm UN Association and the Polish Students’ Union – visits to these were made regularly.
THICK became WORTH
In 1986, the association’s name abbreviation was changed to the easier-to-pronounce HYKY. In the same year, HYKY started publishing the Blue Planet magazine with SOYKL, which proved to be a successful project.
HYKY’s international education group regularly held various classes, seminars, film nights and presentations in Helsinki’s schools on the topics of internationality, development cooperation and peace. This was an attempt to spread awareness of the UN’s goals to the younger generation as well. HYKY also actively participated in the percentage movement by organizing seminars on the subject. The aim of the percentage movement has been to increase Finland’s development aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP.
Study districts on Zambia, Bolivia and other developing countries also became established in the association. Disarmament also garnered an audience a few times. HYKY was active in various grants and fundraisers for the benefit of developing countries, which became an important area of the association’s operations. For example, attending Wanha’s Christmas sales became a traditional event for the villains. In the early autumn of 1984, HYKY became Rajiya Begumia (b. August 21, 1975), an Indian girl, through the Save the Children Association, for whom numerous events were organized.
Theme nights from China and India, among others, increased the association’s familiarity with the cultures of different countries. Several excursions around Finland increased awareness of other organizations.
In 1988, HYKY visited both the PLO office and the Israeli Embassy to listen to both parties on their current situation. On the UN day 24.10. HYKY traditionally participated in the peace march.
One of the most significant UN meetings and turning points in global environmental policy in the 1990s was the Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. HYKY addressed this theme by participating in an environmental seminar on the same topics organized by SYKLI (formerly SOYKL) in Turku in 1991.
The number of active clots varied over the decade. The busiest year in terms of attendance was clearly 1994, with more than ten participants in almost every meeting. Meetings were held up to twice a month except during the summer months. Towards the end of the decade, the activity of the association decreased significantly.
Summits and model meetings
In 1995, HYKY’s members participated in the Copenhagen Summit for Social Development and, in cooperation with the University Committee of the Student Union of Helsinki, the Beijing Summit on the Status of Women. HYKY participated in the Habitat II summit in cooperation with SYKLI. According to Maija Airas, who was an active member of the association in 1994-1995, the large number of active people in the mid-1990s was due, among other things, to the UN’s visibility in the form of summits.
Hykylä participated in model meetings in 1994 and 1999 in Stockholm, and in 1997 and 1999 in Vienna. Representatives of HYKY were also present in The Hague in 1993. Usually 2-4 members of the association attended these model meetings. UN model meetings are a kind of role-playing game in which participants represent representatives of different countries and in which the meeting technology of a UN body such as the Security Council is imitated.
Education to internationalization
One of the priorities of domestic action in the first half of the decade was the provision of international education in schools. The tradition of visiting schools had begun in the association as early as the 1970s. Morning openings on internationalization and lessons on the UN and developing countries were held in primary and secondary schools in the Helsinki metropolitan area. In the fall of 1991, the association visited nearly ten elementary schools. For a few years, the association used Finnish Refugee Aid material, focusing on refugee issues in Finland and around the world. In 1995, the association organized a tolerance-based subject writing competition for high school students, where young people were allowed to write about diversity.
Questions about Finland’s accession to the European Union interested HYKY in the early 1990s. In 1990, the association visited the embassies of France, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States to hear the views of their representatives on the country’s attitude towards European integration, and in the spring the European study circle, which had been launched the previous autumn, was continued.