Risto Matti Niemi has worked as the Secretary General in Finnish Village Action Association since 2006. He is also actively involved in the city district action. Mr Niemi:
International activity illustrates the values and ethical principles behind the Finnish village action. Democracy, openness, respect for diversity, local identity, local culture, solidarity, equality and communalism are the basic values of international village action as well. Multiculturalism is a good starting point for the international actions, and promotion of multiculturalism is also important from the viewpoint of social policy.
The world-wide work of the Village Action Association of Finland (SYTY) includes two operations areas. It refers to direct benefit and services to those participating in the international activity, i.e. utilising international activity to obtain experience, views, new operations methods, information, cooperation partners and shared projects. On the other hand, it also refers to influencing the global operations environment because that environment always has an impact on local developers and the preconditions. With its available resources, SYTY assists its members and cooperation partners in finding new international connections.
SYTY, and through it the village action movement and local development, are members and active parties in several European rural cooperation organisations: ELARD, ERA, ERCA, HNSL and PREPARE.
ELARD (European LEADER Association for Rural Development, Vice-President Petri Rinne) aims at promoting the Leader method. All of the 55 Finnish LAGs are members of ELARD through SYTY. SYTY is closely involved in its activities and wishes to make ELARD a supervisor of European interests that will better serve the Finnish LAGs, promote Leader and be a member of the new ERCA. The Czech Republic will be the President state of ELARD in 2014 when Finland becomes the Vice-President state.
ERA (European Rural Alliance, secretary Peter Backa) is the voice of civic society, villages and residents of rural areas in the EU. It was established and registered in Finland in 2005. ERA has merged with ERCA (the European Rural Community Association). The new organisation's name since the beginning of 2014 has been ERCA (European Rural Communities Alliance).
The new ERCA has merged the functional and political goals, which means that it is a better organised supporter of villages and residents of rural areas. ERCA's registered office is in Sweden. ERA will still complete all the projects started in 2014, and the merger will not be official until this happens. ERCA (European Rural Community Association, member of the Board of Directors Kim Smedslund) is an association of village movement in Europe. It was established in the spring of 2008 based on a policy decision, and it was registered in the Swedish register of associations in 2009. ERCA's activities as a village action promoter in the EU member states or states applying for membership will be promoted. The annual general meeting held in November 2013 confirmed the merger of ERA and ERCA this year.
HNSL (Hela Norden ska Leva, member of the Board of Directors Risto Matti Niemi) include SYTY's key partners, its Nordic sister organisations, such as Hela Sverige Ska Leva (HSSL) and the Swedish and Danish rural network units. HNSL was registered in 2008 in the Swedish register of associations. The member states are the President by turns. Sweden will continue as the President state in 2014.
PREPARE (Partnership for Rural Europe, contact person Kim Smedslund) is an unofficial expert network of rural development organisations. Its goal is to create new networks of civic organisations in countries that wish to become EU member states.At present, it focuses on the Balkans. PREPARE's recent cooperation with Russia is a very important issue for Finland. PREPARE will continue to have representatives in EU's advisory bodies and it will remain in operation at least until the end of 2014.
The Village Action Association of Finland is involved in international activity where European activity structures are being created and the position of local rural development is being promoted by means of social policy. The basic idea of the international activity is trying to understand the culture in other countries and resolve any conflicts even before they appear. This can be done based on mutual friendship and peaceful coexistence of different nations.