Dr Liisa Kauppinen, the former Executive Director of the Finnish Association of the Deaf and President Emerita of the World Federation of the Deaf, is one of the most notable deaf people of the 21st century. Dr. Kauppinen, who has made an extensive international career, was the first Finnish person to be awarded the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 2013. The same prize has previously been awarded for instance Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Dr. Kauppinen played an active part in the preparatory process of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Representing the World Federation of the Deaf during negotiations she succeeded in securing crucial sections regarding the rights of the deaf and regarding sign language in the Convention. In the motivation for the prize Dr. Kauppinens work promoting the rights of women and the status of women with disabilities was also noted.
Liisa Kauppinen was the Executive Director of the Finnish Association of the Deaf from 1976 to 2006. She was President of the World Federation of the Deaf from 1995 to 2003, before which she was also the Vice President and the General Secretary of the federation. Dr. Kauppinen has worked consulting the UN, WHO and UNESCO on numerous issues.
Liisa Kauppinen is the role model of many people around the world. Despite being retired she has performed both international duties and volunteer work in Finland. In an interview in the autumn of 2014 she stated as her role models all the deaf people she has met when working as a volunteer, as they have had to battle their way through many obstacles. ”They are the real heroes of everyday life!” the highly awarded Dr. Kauppinen said.
The community of deaf sign language users spans over national borders. Sign language is not an international language, but the grammatical structures of the signed languages has similarities. It is therefore relatively easy for sign language users to cross language borders.
The Finnish Association of the Deaf has a long history of international cooperation. The association is an internationally highly respected cooperation partner and a notable actor in the field of development cooperation. Finns also play an active role both in international Deaf organizations and their youth sections.
Together national deaf associations form the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD). The federation advocates for the realization of human rights for the deaf in the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).
The Finnish Association of the Deaf has played an important role in the work of the WFD. For over 30 years Finns have held leading positions of the federation. For almost as long the head office of the WFD has been located in the same building as the Finnish Association of the Deaf in Helsinki, Finland. At present Ms. Kaisa Alanne, the Development Director of the Finnish Association of the Deaf, is a Board Member of the WFD.
European Union of the Deaf (EUD)
In Europe the goal of the European Union of the Deaf (EUD) is to promote the rights and opportunities of the deaf in Europe. Currently the President of the EUD is Dr. Markku Jokinen, who is also the Executive Director of the Finnish Association of the Deaf.
The Nordic Council of the Deaf (DNR)
Nordic cooperation of the deaf and the Nordic Council of the Deaf have a long history. The goal of the council is to achieve an equal status for deaf people in society.