Comparative Table of Parliamentary TA Institutions



The Committee for the Future was established in 1993 from the very beginning as a committee in the Finnish Parliament. The creation at almost the same time of the Finland Futures Research Centre in Turku University and the Committee for the Future had the same motivation: to develop a national foresight system against the background of the recession that was afflicting Finland in the early 1990s. In the intervening period, thinking in relation to the future has become broadly and deeply rooted in Finnish society. The Finnish foresight system is of a versatility that is rare anywhere in the world.

Giving a standing committee within the Finnish parliamentary system a new, future-oriented role of this kind was not at all easy, for many reasons. What has been remarkable in light of this is that the initiative came from the legislators themselves.

Science, technology and creation of new concepts and ideas as well as revitalisation of institutions has been important, but so is the ability to recognise what will be permanent in the future and what ought to be.


In 2000 Parliament decided to make the Committee a permanent Committee with the same high status as the other standing permanent committees.

The committee has meetings twice a week. 17 members of Parliament from all political parties sit around the same table in the committee room and their only task is think, discuss and decide on new things - on Futures as researchers of Future Studies would say. In the Finnish parliamentary system committee meetings are closed, so MPs are more free to discuss and look for common or different opinions. Anyway they share different kinds of problems and options of Futures in spite of being representatives from right to left and all between.

Its current tasks are (1) to prepare material to be submitted to the Finnish Parliament, such as government reports on the future, (2) to make submissions on future-related long-term issues to other standing committees, (3) to debate issues relating to future development factors and development models, (4) to undertake analyses pertaining to future-related research and IT methodology, and (5) to function as a parliamentary body for assessing technological development and its consequences for society.

All members of the Committee are MPs, and like most of the other standing committees it has 17 members. So, it neither concentrates on preparing legislation nor reviewing the government´s annual budget proposal, but in other respects it resembles the other committees. What makes it different is the nature of its functions and its new fields of tasks. Its mission is to conduct an active and initiative-generating dialogue with the government on major future problems and the means of solving them. Since the problems of the future and above all its opportunities, cannot be studied through traditional parliamentary procedures and work methods alone, the committee has been given the specific task of following and using the results of research. Indeed, the committee can be said to be making policy on the future, because its goal is not research but rather policy.

Because the Committee itself decides its modest annual research, printing and translation budget, research projects must be chosen, manned, timed and directed well. The Committee has an annual budget for the research projects and permanent scientific expert who coordinates projects. All administrative costs are covered by Parliament´s general budget.


Committee for the Future has the power set its own agenda. All topics are "own" except the so called "Future report" of the Government which is submitted from the Prime Minister´s Office to the Parliament once during every 4 years election period. The powers of the Committee are adequate and very permissive. It would not be advisable to lose the character of a parliamentary think tank, which is both of a high standard and even unique in the world, by routinely accepting legal matters as the subjects of statements.


It is important that the tasks with which the Committee has been entrusted have from the very beginning included methods of futures research. This will continue to be the foundation of high-quality futures work. In particular, at the beginning of each parliamentary term the new Committee must be given training to familiarize it with good work methods.

Deliberation of so-called own matters in a plenary session, as a topical debate on the basis of reports, is problematic, but so far the only way. A right to draft a report concerning own matters, along the lines of the model that applies to the Audit Committee, would strengthen deliberation as a normal plenary session matter. Another method that has been proposed is one in which the Committee would present joint long-term parliamentary initiatives, but this would blur the significance of both the Committee and the initiative institution.

The Prime Minister as the corresponding minister is the most appropriate choice. In accordance with the idea on which the Committee is founded, the broad scope of its tasks and a high level of Government-Parliament dialogue, the cabinet member with foremost responsibility must ultimately be the Prime Minister. Moreover the Prime Minister also chairs the Research and Innovation Council which facilitates again a broad dialogue.

Once during its term of office, the Government issues a report on long-term future prospects and the Government’s targets. In accordance with the political system, it is the Prime Minister who chooses the theme. In order to promote regional debate, regional Future Forums are organised jointly by the Prime Minister’s Office and Parliament on the subject matters of the report.

It would now appear to be the time for broad handling that covers a wide spectrum of sectors, for horizontal processing rather than special themes the Committee should once in a parliamentary term conduct a general exploration of the state of Finland and the related scenarios and/or futures map.

The Committee’s intention during this parliamentary term is to create a pool of professor-level experts both from the Finland Futures Research Centre (which is an auxiliary unit of the Turku University) and other universities too. This university network is destined to provide assistance in conducting studies, and also to strengthen ties to the world of science

An increasing number of Regional Meetings have been arranged both with the Committee on its own and together with the corresponding ministry, i.e. the Prime Minister’s Office. It participated successfully for four weeks in an open popular discourse on an education theme on the Internet. Systematic hearings to elicit the views of citizens would be important, but require a lot of resources. The Committee will support and participate if the Parliament makes a policy decision to hear the views of citizens on, for example, important major legislative projects. Modern media is used as much as possible. This development is intended to be continued. It will be possible to arrange new kinds of citizen involvement.

The Committee for the Future is not one of the most desired committees after a general election, but it has proved itself to be a good vantage point from which to follow changes in the world. A considerable proportion of ministers have been members of the Committee. In the period 2003–2007 the Committee’s chair, Representative Katainen, was elected as the leader of the biggest opposition party, the National Coalition, and became Minister of Finance after the election. The Committee’s report "A Caring, Encouraging and Creative Finland", which appraised the information society, was incorporated, almost complete with name, into the Programme for Government. After the spring 2011 general election, Mr Katainen took the prime ministership. There are many other ex-Future-MPs in the new Government, even two other party leaders: Minister of Finance and chair of Social Democratic Party, Mrs Urpilainen, being one of the most important ones and Minister of Interior, chair of Christian Party, Mrs Päivi Räsänen.


In autumn 2011 the Committee for the Future held a number of hearings with tens of experts representing various sub-sectors of society. Based on these hearings, the Committee chose, at this stage, four areas of study for itself during the parliamentary term 2011–2014:

The themes are chosen from the Committee’s interests, but also to create a readiness to respond to the Government’s report on the future (The Finnish sustainable development growth model in a changing world).

In addition, the Committee has been making preparations to revamp its work methods, i.e. has looked closely at how projects are implemented and how the effectiveness of activities is ensured. This theme was addressed from several different perspectives in autumn 2011: from the perspectives of direct democracy, social media and crowdsourcing, with a view to strengthening the formulation of the Parliament’s futures-oriented policies as well as also from the perspective of rationalising the Committee’s own work.

These objectives are being promoted by means of three themes that cut across several dimensions:


The Committee for the Future deliberates parliamentary documents referred to it and, when requested to do so, makes submissions to other committees on futures-related matters, which are included in their spheres of responsibility and have a bearing on development factors and development models of the future. The Committee conducts research associated with futures studies, including their methodology. The Committee also functions as a parliamentary body that conducts assessments of technological development and the effects on society of technology.

By this way The Committee is then bridging the Government, the Parliament and Finnish Civil Society. The Committee should once in a parliamentary term conduct a general exploration of the state of Finland and the related scenarios and/or futures map. Efforts are made to create joint steering groups with other committees and arrange joint evaluation seminars and also to devise streamlined methods for producing statements and comments. In accordance with the idea on which the Committee is founded, the broad scope of its tasks and a high level of Government-Parliament dialogue, the cabinet member with foremost responsibility is the Prime Minister, who also chairs the Research and Innovation Council.

Regional meetings alone and together with the corresponding ministry, i.e. the Prime Minister´s Office, have been increased. During the current parliamentary term, especially the cooperation with the business world, municipal committees for the future as well as youth councils that have been stepped up will be continued. This theme (Open Committee) was addressed from several different perspectives in autumn 2011: from the perspectives of direct democracy, social media and crowdsourcing, with a view to strengthening the formulation of the Parliament´s futures-oriented policies as well as also from the perspective of rationalising the Committee´s own work.


See before. All reports are published in Internet and most of them also as books, especially those which are handled in the plenary session. Social media will be used in a totally new way during this period.


The most important impact is "having and using visionary power". The committee for the Future is in the corn of political power. From the beginning the need for long-term examination of the future also at the core of democracy, i.e. in the parliamentary institution, has been recognised in the Finnish Parliament as being so important that there was a willingness to create a totally new institution specifically within the national legislature. Precisely for this reason, the Parliament has received a lot of international plaudits for its own innovation.

When it has worked well, the Committee´s operational model has been almost an ideal way of creatively and critically combining scientific and technological information with a search for innovative new political solutions. The Committee has enjoyed fairly good success, because sufficiently different politicians with broad minds and an interest in the new have sought membership of it. What is very important is that the Committee contains, on the one hand, very experienced, inquisitive and bold politicians and, on the other, also ambitious "rising stars" with a thirst for knowledge. It is likewise important that they represent the Finns in all their diversity of education, from farmer to professor. The second foundation stone for lasting success that can be pointed to is that the aim in the Committee´s reports is to be thorough and scientifically critical rather than trying to please the public or voters with showily produced and light pamphlet-style publications. Lighter versions of reports have been needed for information purposes, but the serious and thorough way that science deals with phenomena has not been overlooked.


The Committee for the Future is a think tank inside the Parliament. As is the case everywhere in democracies, the division of labour within the political system means that the Government is a proactive political actor. What this means is that, taking the demands of the future into consideration, it makes proposals to the parliament, which in turn has the task of approving laws and the budget. The Government governs. The parliament can be active and a source of initiatives specifically in long-term futures policy and for this it needs an empowered and capable body that concentrates, with the aid of the methods of futures research, on these often difficult and complex matters.


Committee for the Future
Eduskunta, Parliament of Finland
00102 Helsinki

Counsellor, Doctor of Administrative Sciences Paula Tiihonen

Fon +358 9 432 2091
Fax +358 9 432 2140

(c) EPTA, provided by ITA; version 03/2013