Celebrating 100 years of independence, Finland experienced a slight fall in this year’s Soft Power 30 to 17, down three places from 2016. Despite the lower ranking, Finland has performed consistently across the board – a testament to the strength of Finland’s soft power foundations. Despite experiencing heightened political tensions following the recent threat of ultra-nationalist forces, government effectiveness remains Finland’s strongest asset along with the rule of law, low corruption, education, and high investment in research, development, and innovation. The economy is recovering after several years of decline and the government has introduced initiatives to increase civil liberties and improve welfare with the legalisation of gay marriage and the trial of a universal basic income. A social impact bond scheme has also been put in place to better integrate migrants into the labour market. With Finland’s small population and remote location, communicating its fundamental strengths, progressive reforms, and cultural identity to the international community is a challenge. But if overcome, Finland will be able to unleash its soft power potential and regain its position higher up the ranking.
A strong performer in the Freedom House, Gender Equality, and Trust in Government rankings, Finland has moved up one place to 4th in our Government sub-index. Finland also topped a newly added metric on environmental performance this year. Given the increasing urgency of combatting climate change and its growing place on the international agenda, this may serve to strengthen Finnish soft power in the future.
Results reveal a slight fall in the Engagement, Culture, and Digital sub-indices this year. Finland has long struggled to export its brand to the world in the same way achieved by its Nordic neighbours. With no major cultural ambassadors (apart from Moomin and Jean Sibelius for the musically-minded), and with its one iconic marque – Nokia – now faded, the country struggles to convince tourists to board a Finnair jet.
Greater effort by the government in the digital sphere – as well as increased civil engagement from the 93% of the Finnish population who are online – would help to promote the country’s institutions and sustainable practices. Attracting foreign talent, investment, and tourists through effective online communication would help boost economic competitiveness and improve Finland’s image on the global stage.