The Nordic Africa Institute

NAI update

In Memoriam Sirkku Hellsten

Date • 9 Feb 2018

It is with great sadness that The Nordic Africa Institute wishes to inform the Nordic Africa community that Sirkku Hellsten, colleague and committed researcher, has passed away after a period of illness.

With a Doctorate in Social Sciences (Social Philosophy) from the University of Helsinki, Sirkku Hellsten was a philosopher who branched into the wider ethics, governance and human rights area.

She was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dar es Salaam, where she had taught, and designed a philosophy and ethics programme. She held a permanent affiliation with the University of Helsinki as a Docent of Social and Moral Philosophy at the University of Helsinki.

Sirkku Hellsten served as Counsellor for Economics, Governance and Human Rights at the Finnish Embassies in Maputo and Nairobi. She published extensively on development ethics and global ethics, social justice, human rights, governance, and African political economy. Among her many accomplishments were the co-founding and editing of Journal of Global Ethics External link, opens in new window..

Sirkku joined The Nordic Africa Institute in 2015 as Nordic researcher from Finland. She focused her research on studying African democracy and governance, their different ideological alternatives as well as human and minority rights mainly in East Africa. Thanks to her broad scholarly competence as well as practical knowledge of how policy processes in the Nordic countries and East Africa function, she embodied the mission of NAI in combining academic research and policy advice.

“Sirkku was a fully committed scholar and an inspiring colleague who never dismissed an assignment. Her passing leaves a big gap in our team. We will miss her greatly, also as a dear friend and Africanist whose passion for African development extended far beyond professional activities”, says Iina Soiri, Director of The Nordic Africa Institute.

“Sirkku’s career straddled both the academia and development cooperation sector, which was an added value to the Institute. She was a philosopher-scholar whose intellectual engagements were often prefaced with philosophical questions. The Institute will miss her calm but effectual interventions,” says NAI’s Head of Research Victor Adetula.

Memory book

There is a memory book at the library of The Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, for those wishing to leave a personal note (open Monday-Thursday 10:00-17:00). It is also possible to send notes via email ( for inclusion in the memory book. The book will be handed over to the family of Sirkku Hellsten during a memorial service. Further information will be provided at a later stage.