Development Policy Committee report: Democracy requires strengthening all over the world
Democracy may be at risk anywhere in the world in times of uncertainty. That is why Finland should be more active in defending democracy both nationally and internationally.
This is the view expressed by an expert group of the Development Policy Committee in a report published on 30 January examining the global state of democracy and civil society and Finland’s contribution to strengthening democracy and civil society. The report also presents recommendations on measures that Finland can use to strengthen democracy globally in the implementation of development policy and other external/foreign relations.
Finland’s official policies and declarations affirm strong commitment to promoting democracy globally. However, democracy has not been a particularly strong priority area in Finland’s development policy until the rapid decline of democracy stirred reflection on ways to reinforce the Finnish democracy work and to resist the democratic decline. Like many other countries, Finland now has to evaluate the changes in the global operating environment and to re-examine the forms of its own support.
Finland must intensify its support for democracy and improve the consistency of its external relations
The report underlines that democracy support should always be seen as a whole, recognising that democratic institutions, the rule of law and civil space are interconnected. There should be different approaches and means for strengthening democracy in different kinds of situations. The current development policy instruments have been designed to boost democratic development or support a transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. However, these tools are inadequate in times of democratic decline, and more subtle approaches are needed.
The main recommendation of the Development Policy Committee report is that Finland’s development policy should increase its efforts to support democracy. Such investment pays off as successful democracy support can create positive cycles of mutually reinforcing elements of democracy development.
Finland must improve the links, coherence and strategic elements of its efforts to support democracy and human rights and develop expertise in its Foreign Service. In addition, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs should better incorporate the promotion of democracy and civic space into Finland’s foreign and security policy, international economic relations, development policy and international influence. Finland must include the widening of the civic space as a separate objective. The 2023 Government Programme objective to reduce the number of country programmes must be carefully considered from the perspectives of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Finland’s support for democracy also promotes gender equality and non-discrimination.