Finnish NGO nominates "everyman's right" for Unesco heritage list

The Outdoor Association of Finland ( Suomen Latu ) wants Finland's "everyman's right" to be added to the UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list.

"Finland's legal concept of everyman's right gives everyone the chance to enjoy outdoor pursuits and the country's vast forests and fells, and many lakes and rivers, with few restrictions," according to the Ministry of the Environment . "Public access to private land is much wider in Finland and the other Nordic countries than in most other countries."

The Ministry of Education and Culture is already pushing for two other practices to be added to the intangible cultural heritage list (ICH): the Finnish sauna custom and the unique Kaustinen folk tradition of playing the fiddle.

Suomen Latu says that the freedom to roam, also known as "the right of public access", would be a strong third contender. No Finnish traditions are yet in the UNESCO list.

"Getting the right to roam onto the list would increase appreciation for the practice," said PR specialist Anne Rautiainen from Suomen Latu.

The tradition guarantees the right to roam and camp in natural areas regardless of ownership and to forage for berries, mushrooms and plants that are not protected by law for their rarity.

"People are mostly quite aware that driving motorised vehicles, setting open fires and littering are not allowed," Rautiainen added.

National broadcaster supports initiative

National broadcaster Yle is also strongly lobbying for UNESCO inclusion through a campaign called Mennään metsään ("Let's go to the woods"). The project aims to lure people outdoors and into Finland's abundant forested areas to give them an opportunity to experience nature together.

"It's good to start this conversation," said Yle producer Tiina Klemettilä. "UNESCO requires all submissions to be demonstrably appreciated by people all around Finland."

The campaign has gathered more than 100,000 entries since it launched on 24 September. The Yle project also includes a "Forest Week", which runs from 1-7 October and will feature lots of radio and TV programmes as well as online content.

Numerous studies in Finnish universities have shown that visiting natural environments increases human wellbeing by helping to recover from stress, clearing the mind and reducing blood pressure.

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