Finland's development cooperation in the Middle East and Northern Africa

Finland’s goal in the Middle East and Northern Africa is to support the region’s stability and sustainable development.

Mediators discuss community tensions with stakeholders during public workshop held in the Municipality of Abbassiyeh, Lebanon in July 2019. Photo: Emad Karim / UN Women

Middle East and Northern Africa region faces multiple and long-term economic, political and social challenges as well as growing problems related to climate and environment. In addition, the region struggles with instability, tensions, and conflicts. Broad engagement is needed in order to find and implement sustainable solutions to these complex and partly cross-border challenges. This underlines the necessity of civil society engagement, in particular the importance of youth’s and women’s participation.

In 2021–2024, Finland aims to promote democracy, human rights and equality in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Support will also be targeted at sustainable economic growth and trade, women’s employment and entrepreneurships as well as to the creation of decent jobs. Finland aims to promote climate change mitigation and adaptation to it as well as just green transition. In order to reach the objectives and sustainable development goals, active participation of civil society is important.

Finland’s strategic goals are described in more detail in the Strategy for development cooperation in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

Finland’s Strategy for development cooperation in Middle East and Northern Africa 2021–2024 (PDF, 682 KB)

In the previous programming period in 2017–2020, Finland focused on developing inclusive and gender equal societies and on promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland includes the following countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, the occupied Palestinian territory, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The wider MENA (Middle East and northern Africa) is considered to include also the countries of the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauretania, Mali, Niger) and Sudan.

Finland’s development cooperation promotes gender equality

Finland’s development cooperation is targeted at improving women’s opportunities to take part in decision-making, peace processes and in the labour market.

Expected outcome: Enhanced participation of women in society

  • The implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security is promoted
  • Equality in working life and decent jobs are promoted
  • Women’s opportunities to take part in decision-making and access to leading roles are improved

Ongoing programmes

  • UN Women: Women, Peace and Security in the Arab States – Phase III. The programme strengthens the countries’ capacity to implement the UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Finland’s support for the project in 2023–2025 amounts to EUR 6 million.
  • ILO: Decent Work for Women in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco – Phase III. The programme aims to enhance women’s labour force participation and contribution to greening the economy by creating jobs and developing entrepreneurship. Finland’s contribution to the programme is 2022–2024 is EUR 2.85 million.

Finland's development cooperation in mitigating climate change and in adapting to it

Finnish development cooperation supports adaptation to climate change and solutions to reduce emissions.

Expected outcome: Enhanced climate change mitigation and societies’ adaptation to it

  • Low-emission development is strengthened
  • Circular economy is enhanced
  • Societies’ capacity to adapt to climate change is improved, with due regard to people in the most vulnerable position

Ongoing programmes

  • EBRD High Impact Partnership on Climate Action (HIPCA): Through the High Impact Partnership on Climate Action (HIPCA) of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Finland funds projects that mitigate climate change and its impacts in target countries and increase their climate resilience. The focus is on reducing the impacts of climate change and preventing environmental degradation. Finland’s contribution to the HIPCA fund consists of EUR 2 million in technical assistance funding and EUR 39.7 million in development policy investments.

The following projects are also funded under Finland’s Strategy for development cooperation in Middle East and Northern Africa

  • IOM: Fostering the Health and Protection of Vulnerable Migrants transiting Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Sudan - Phase III. The project aims to support and fill the gaps of the national and local actors with a focus on improving health and protection of vulnerable migrants. Finland’s contribution to the project is EUR 3.5 million in 2020–2023.
  • The Quick Impact Projects (QIP) in Lebanon aim at supporting the development of local communities in southern Lebanon and, thereby, to enhance trust between Finnish UNIFIL troops and the local population, which is key to provide a favourable operational environment for the troops. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) aims to maintain stability in the region. Finland's support to QIP projects is EUR 100,000 a year.

Highlights of the Results Report 2022

Many countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) are characterised by political and/or economic transition, and post-conflict or conflict conditions. The MENA is a region affected by multiple challenges concerning, for example, gender equality and democratic participation, socio-political and economic divisions, and vulnerability to climate change and its consequences, as well as issues related to irregular migration.

With support through a  UN Women programme, Jordan finalised the development of its second National Action Plan on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (Women, Peace, and Security). In addition, the programme continued to support women peacebuilders as well as actions on PVE (Preventing Violent Extremism) in the MENA region. The programme worked with local partners to help over 20,000 women (including refugees and displaced women and girls) access protection services. 

A Finnish-funded International Labour Organization ILO project supported a first-of-a-kind National Strategy on Gender Equality and Climate Change in Tunisia, in close collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Women of Tunisia. On the climate front, Finland also supported the High Impact Partnership on Climate Action (HIPCA) launched by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 2021. The HIPCA Fund only started to operate in 2022.

Finland also supported the work of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in promoting humane and orderly migration in North Africa and Yemen. In 2022, the Finnish-funded regional project continued to support national and local actors in managing migration, with a focus on improving the health and protection of the most vulnerable migrants. In addition, around 25,000 migrants benefitted from direct support.

Finland's partners of cooperation in the Middle East and Northern Africa

Finland seeks to strengthen the bilateral relations with countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Finland participates in multilateral discussions to promote common interests, and cooperation is conducted through the EU and the UN. Finland participates, for example in the EU’s training missions and the UN’s peacekeeping operations. Additionally, Finland supports Finnish civil society organisations operating in the region, which are working especially on questions relating to migration, refugees and peace mediation.