From Strategy to Strength

Minister of International Development Heidi Hautala highlights Finland’s commitment to meeting MDG and ODA targets, and why she believes smart aid is based on human right in Public Service Review.[:]

After wide and active stakeholder consultations, the Finnish government approved a new Development Policy Programme last winter. With continuous popular support and an active civil society, it is my duty to make sure that we implement an effective and high-quality development policy and practice that responds to the rapidly changing global environment and addresses especially the needs of the poor and the vulnerable. A strategic investment in development helps developing countries to free themselves from aid dependency in the long term.

Extreme poverty is the world’s greatest single human rights issue. This being our main concern, we have now adopted a human rights-based approach to development. Everyone, including the poorest people, should know their rights and be able to act for them. It is equally important that the authorities know their human rights obligations and are capable of implementing them.

I strongly support the EU Commission’s approach that also highlights respect for human rights, democracy, good governance and rule of law. Human rights and democracy derive from the universal adherence to these principles within the UN framework. A mutual commitment to these basic values lays the foundation to our partnerships. On the other hand, governments’ lack of commitment or human rights violations should not result in the punishment of the poorest and most vulnerable people.

Finland is committed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that aim at the eradication of extreme poverty. During the past 10 years the goals have become a lot closer but a lot remains to be done – in a quickly changing world. Prosperity in the world as a whole has increased. Equally, the economic prospects of developing countries have become more diversified. The progress has, however, been globally uneven and resulted in growing inequality both within and between countries, especially in the least developed countries. In this situation, decent life is not self-evident for all despite economic growth, due to an increasing gap between those that have and those that don’t. This is why Finland promotes the strengthening of the position of the poor and the reduction of inequality.

While we are fully committed in achieving the MDGs, we will take an active role in the process of agreeing a new post-2015 development framework. I am content that a consensus was achieved at the Rio+20 Conference on the process of drafting new, complementary Sustainable Development Goals. Finland wants to advance the widespread adoption of new indicators, as the limited capacity of the GDP per capita to reflect the development and wellbeing of societies has been widely recognised in recent years. Furthermore, development ministers should take an active role as regards to post-2015.

Development policy is an integral part of foreign and security policy in Finland. Our foreign policy aims at strengthening international stability, security, peace, justice and sustainable development, as well as promoting rule of law, democracy and human rights. This integrated approach serves well in an increasingly more interdependent world where international action demands a coherent approach.

Finland therefore strongly emphasises policy coherence for development (PCD) between the various policy sectors. Innovative partnerships with public and private sector actors as well as with the civil society can provide new resources as well as creative solutions to global challenges.

A development and security nexus is most evident in fragile states. More than 1.5 billion people live in approximately 50 countries suffering from violent conflicts or constant political and criminal violence, which causes immense human suffering, distress, insecurity and curtails development. Finland has endorsed the New Deal agreed in Busan 2011, aiming to support fragile states. International support should focus especially on security as well as the on confidence building between the state and civil society. The state’s ability to fulfil its basic functions such as security and justice as well as the ability to collect tax and customs revenues can secure basic services and promote employment, and thus reduce poverty. We have decided to explore the possibilities to further address the specific needs of fragile states in our development policy. Our increased aid levels to Afghanistan, continued cooperation with the Palestinian Territories, African Horn and Kosovo are examples of this deal.

Finland also supports the EU’s integrated response to fragile states, linking development cooperation, humanitarian relief, conflict prevention as well as peace and state building. There is a need to ensure a well-coordinated international response with greater flexibility. A good example of this is the EU’s coordinated approach to the crisis in Sahel, where both humanitarian and development assistance as well as crisis management are used in a complementary manner.

Fostering developing countries’ resilience to national and global shocks and crises is key to their sustainable development. We support integrating resilience and disaster risk reduction in development programmes, and in this respect, strong coordination between the EU’s climate and development policies is vital. Climate sustainability is also one of the crosscutting objectives in the Finnish development policy that is mainstreamed in all our work.

Alongside changing economic realities, the global governance, international power relations and development architecture are also changing. New actors approach development policy from different angles, and in different ways. An example of this is South-South cooperation that shapes the development policy debate, priorities and working methods. New actors with new resources are also in a better position than before to assume their global responsibility in solving common global problems.

Global development finance has also changed: it relies increasingly on rapidly growing private investments, trade and migrants’ remittances to their countries of origin. This changing landscape calls for rethinking of the role of development aid.

As a relatively small but committed donor we have decided to maximise the effectiveness and impact of development cooperation by focusing our development cooperation on the least developed countries in Africa and Asia. Our development cooperation will be concentrated on long-term partnerships with Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, Tanzania and Zambia as well as Vietnam, with which Finland is gradually shifting to new cooperation modalities. We are currently preparing our country programmes and in each country, we will concentrate on a maximum of three sectors.

Developing countries have the primary responsibility for their own development. Their own resource base plays a vital and strategic role in this respect. In this situation, development aid can act in a catalytic role in order to support developing countries’ own efforts and the emergence of an enabling environment for responsible business. In our partnerships, we emphasise democracy, good governance, equality and human rights as well as sustainable and transparent use of water and natural resources. Furthermore, we want to strengthen innovation and skills development as well as creation of decent work. Our approach is well in line with the EU’s new approach to budget and sector support based on democratic ownership and accountability as well as openness in aid delivery.

Global action in curbing the illicit capital flight and promoting the closure of tax havens will support the poorest countries in getting their share of the increased prosperity of the world. Furthermore, our programme strongly emphasises the principles of an inclusive green economy. The green economy is low-carbon, resource-efficient, socially inclusive and creates entrepreneurship, decent work and wellbeing. Sustainable development requires that Finnish people also change their own consumption habits and production patterns.

Finland remains committed to its Official Development Assistance (ODA) targets. Despite economic realities, our government aims to ensure a steady trend in appropriations that would enable Finland to reach the international commitment of 0.7% of gross national income. In August, the government renewed its decision to use revenue collected from emissions trading for development cooperation and climate financing in 2013 onwards. At the same time, we are very interested in joining forces with others in order to find feasible solutions to broad-based development financing. As a part of this work, as of September 2012 Finland is the Chair of the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development.

 Read the article on Public Service Review.