Goals and principles of Finland’s development policy

Finnish development policy and development cooperation focus on supporting developing countries in their efforts to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality and on promoting sustainable development. Humanitarian assistance is intended to save lives and alleviate human suffering. Development policy is an important part of Finland's foreign and security policy. 

Development policy and development cooperation – what are they?

Development policy refers to activities that aim to reduce poverty, implement fundamental rights and promote sustainable development globally. It involves, for example, the policy dialogue conducted by Finland within international organisations and our dialogue with representatives of developing countries. The main responsibility for Finland’s development policy rests with the Foreign Ministry.

Many other government ministries also have a role in development policy, because developing countries are affected by many decisions made at national, EU and international level in other fields, e.g. safety and security, trade, agriculture, environment and migration policies. Coherence between the various policy sectors is a key principle in development policy.

Development cooperation is one way of implementing development policy. It involves practical cooperation with developing countries and other cooperation partners, including international organisations and NGOs, in order to achieve development goals.

Our activities are based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted within the UN in September 2015.

Our goal is to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and achieve sustainable development

Development policy is an integral part of Finland's human rights-based and value-based foreign and security policy. International cooperation and Finland’s actions are grounded in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Finland has pledged to reach the United Nations’ official development assistance (ODA) target level of 0.7 per cent of GNI for development cooperation and 0.2 per cent for assistance to the least developed countries.

Finland’s main goal is to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities. All actions take into account the cross-cutting objectives, which are gender equality, non-discrimination, the position of people with disabilities, climate resilience and low emission development. Humanitarian assistance is intended to save lives during and immediately after crises, to alleviate suffering and human distress while respecting human dignity.

The Government Programme’s development policy objectives confirm the long-term development policy line. The Government Programme’s main message is that Finland wants to take a greater and more influential role in global efforts. Finland bears its responsibility and participates in actions to resolve major global problems through development cooperation, by providing humanitarian assistance and by contributing to international climate finance. A world that is prosperous, more stable and more equitable is in Finland’s best interest, too.

Development cooperation produces results and focuses on four priorities built on Finland's values and strengths

Finland’s development policy and development cooperation lead to concrete results that have a positive impact on the development of societies and people's lives. Finland takes a long-term perspective on development cooperation, focusing on the following four priorities that are built on its values and strengths:

1. Strengthening the status and rights of women and girls, with an emphasis on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

2. Strengthening the economic base of developing countries and creating jobs, with an emphasis on innovations and the role of women in the economy and female entrepreneurship.

3. Education, well-functioning societies and democracy, with an emphasis on high-quality education, improved tax systems and support for democracy and the rule of law.

4. Climate change and natural resources, with an emphasis on strengthening adaptation alongside mitigation of climate change, food security and water, meteorology and disaster risk prevention, forests and safeguarding biodiversity.

Humanitarian assistance is intended to save lives and alleviate human suffering

Humanitarian assistance is an independent part of Finland's development policy, and it is granted based on needs assessments. Finland's humanitarian work is based on international humanitarian law, human rights treaties and refugee law, and on such humanitarian principles established by the United Nations as humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. In particular, Finland promotes non-discrimination – including equality and addressing the needs of people with disabilities.

During the government term, the coordination of humanitarian, development and peace efforts (the nexus approach) will be improved. The funding is channelled via the UN specialised agencies, the Red Cross Movement, and Finnish civil society organisations. 

Diverse forms of development cooperation with a geographical focus on Africa

The geographical focus of cooperation is Africa, with a special focus on the least developed countries. In terms of geography, the poorest areas are in sub-Saharan Africa, in parts of the Middle East and in southern Asia. It is estimated that in 2030 more than half of the people suffering from poverty will live in countries affected by violence. Issues concerning fragile states will continue to be an important development policy concern as a part of Finland's foreign and security policy. 

Finland's bilateral partner countries are Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique, along with Afghanistan, Nepal and Myanmar. Finland also provides bilateral support to Ukraine, the Middle East and North Africa, the Palestinian territory, Eritrea, Central Asia and Vietnam.

The European Union and its Member States are the world's largest donor of development and humanitarian assistance. Finland will continue to exert strong and consistent influence on EU development policy and on EU institutions in line with its development policy priorities. Development policy is an integral part of the EU's external relations and the EU's role as a global actor. The EU's development policy must support the objectives of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy.

In accordance with Finland's foreign policy priorities, the role of multilateral cooperation will be emphasised, as the multilateral system faces multiple challenges. Additional funding will be allocated to strengthen the operating conditions of UN specialised agencies and other multilateral organisations whose results have been found efficient and effective. The largest multilateral partners include the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Gender Equality Organization (UNFPA), the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). 

Civil society organisations and private sector actors play a key role in achieving development policy objectives. Finland’s development policy strengthens the state and operating conditions of civil societies. More funding will be allocated for development cooperation carried out by civil society organisations. Private investments, technology and innovations should be harnessed to help in achieving the goals of sustainable development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In its development cooperation, Finland makes use of programmes and forms of financing based on private partnerships. Research, cooperation with universities and inter-institutional cooperation are also supported.

Development policy investments are used for loan- and investment-based activities. Funding is expected to produce results. During the government term, 75 per cent of the funding will be directed to climate finance and 60 per cent to Africa. 

Reforms improving the efficiency and effectiveness of development cooperation to be continued

In recent years, the impact, effectiveness and risk management of development cooperation have been systematically improved. Results-based management tools are used, and a comprehensive performance report will be submitted to Parliament in 2022. The development of operational processes, quality and risk management is underway. 

Development cooperation involves risks, because the operating environments pose diverse challenges. To prevent risks, attention is paid to planning and careful selection of partners. Actions are verified through monitoring, inspections and audits, reporting and evaluations. Abuses are always dealt with. 

The key principles towards sustainable results

1. Human rights: Finland’s development policy departs from the principle that every person in the world has the right to a decent life: a viable environment, education, safety and security, health, livelihood and the possibility to exert influence.

Respect for human rights and their promotion is a principle that guides the planning and implementation of Finland’s development policy and development cooperation to ensure that even the poorest know their rights and are able to act for them. It is equally important that the authorities are aware of their human rights obligations and have the capacity to implement them.

2. Openness: Effective and responsible development cooperation calls for an open distribution of information by both donors and recipients of aid. Citizens and the media in both developing and donor countries have the right to know where and how public funds are spent. Openness reduces the risk of misuse of funds.

The Foreign Ministry publishes on its website the financing decisions on development cooperation projects and programmes, the evaluations of its activities and statistics on the use of development cooperation appropriations. The ministry also has an online service through which anyone can report incidents of suspected misuse of development cooperation funds.

3. Coherence: Development policy and development cooperation are, however, just one means of effecting change. Policy coherence is an essential prerequisite for achieving sustainable development in developing countries. The impacts on developing countries must be evaluated and considered when making decisions in different policy sectors, particularly at EU level, and one policy sector must not undo the achievements of another sector.

Finland has promoted coherence especially in the following sectors: food security, trade, immigration, taxation, and safety and security. Concrete national-level measures have included deeper cooperation among various central government actors and closer coordination of EU affairs.

4. Quality and sustainable results: As a member of the international donor community, Finland has committed itself to improving the quality of development cooperation together with its partner countries. Donor cooperation, strengthening partner countries’ local capabilities, the harmonisation of practices, openness and mutual accountability are some of the principles highlighted in the jointly-agreed rules.

We focus our efforts to ensure that our work will yield sustainable results with positive long-term impacts on society, reflected as better health, a rise in education levels, higher employment and improved safety and security.

A more goal-oriented planning and results-based management, monitoring and evaluation of results as well as learning from results and communicating about them will play a bigger role in Finland’s development cooperation administration.

5. Partner countries’ responsibility for their own development: Finland’s development cooperation is based on development needs defined by our partner countries themselves and on their own development plans. Each partner country’s ownership and commitment to achieving the development goals is a precondition for attaining sustainable results. Overall responsibility for change rests with partner countries themselves: the role of Finland is merely to support their development.