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Objectives and principles of Finland’s development policy

The aim of development policy is to support developing countries’ efforts to eradicate poverty and inequality and promote sustainable development. Development policy is an important part of Finland’s foreign and security policy. Development cooperation is one means to implement development policy. 

What is development policy and development cooperation?

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

Many other ministries also have a role in development policy, as developing countries are affected by many national, EU-level and international cooperation decisions made in other sectors. These include, for instance, security, trade, agriculture, environment and migration policies. Coherence between the various policy sectors is a central principle of development policy.

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

In Finland, the implementation of development policy is guided by the Development Policy Programme approved by the Government in February 2012.

Our activities are based on the UN Millennium Development Goals, agreed in 2000. The international community, led by the UN, is currently negotiating new global goals for sustainable development, which will affect not only Finland’s development policy and development cooperation but also several other national policy sectors.

Objectives of Finland's development policy

Although the world on the whole has become more prosperous in recent years, inequality has increased both within and between countries. Extreme poverty is the world’s greatest single human rights issue.

The goal of Finland’s development policy is the eradication of poverty and inequality and the promotion of sustainable development. Development policy also helps to find solutions to other global challenges, such as climate change.

We strive in all activities to strengthen developing countries’ own resources so that dependence on development aid is reduced. The achievement of sustainable results is possible only by means of development that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. 

Finland’s development policy has three cross-cutting objectives, which are taken into account in all activities:

  1. Promotion of gender equality: Equality between women and men is one of the most important human rights goals agreed in the UN. Equality furthers economic development and well-being. Finland supports, for example, women’s participation in decision-making, business and industry, and in conflict prevention.
  2. Reduction of inequality: Inequality and discrimination prevent development. Development policy promotes equal opportunities for social, economic, and political participation as well as equal access to basic services and social protection. Finland supports the possibilities of children, the disabled and easily marginalised minorities to influence their own future.
  3. Promotion of climate sustainability: The impacts of climate change are felt most severely particularly in the poorest developing countries. The human and economic losses caused by natural disasters are a major obstacle to development. Finland supports measures that strengthen partner countries’ capacity to prepare for catastrophes and reduce vulnerability to natural disasters.

The cross-cutting objectives are promoted in three ways:

  1. By including the objectives in all activities.
  2. By implementing projects targeted at these objectives, in particular.
  3. Through policy dialogue with decision-makers.

Key principles guiding towards sustainable results

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

Respect for human rights and their promotion is a principle guiding the planning and implementation of Finland’s development policy and development cooperation. The aim of this principle is that even the poorest people know their rights and are able to act for them. It is equally important that the authorities know their human rights obligations and are capable of implementing them.

2. Openness: Effective and responsible development cooperation requires the open distribution of information by both donors and recipients of aid. The citizens and the media of both developing countries and donor countries have the right to know where and how public funds are spent. Openness reduces the possibility of funds being misused.

The Foreign Ministry publishes on its wesbsite financing decisions concerning development cooperation projects and programmes, evaluations of activities and statistics on the use of appropriations for development cooperation. The ministry also has an online service where anyone can report suspicions concerning the misuse of development cooperation funds.

3. Coherence: Development policy and development cooperation constitute only one means for bringing about change. Coherence between the various policy sectors is essential in order to bring about the prerequisites for sustainable development in developing countries. The impacts on developing countries must be evaluated and taken into account when making decisions in different policy sectors, particularly at the 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 security. Concrete measures at national level have included, among others, deeper cooperation between different actors in the state administration as well as closer coordination of EU affairs.

4. Quality and sustainable results: As a member of the international donor community, and together with partner countries, Finland has committed itself to improving the quality of development cooperation. Commonly agreed principles emphasise, among others, donor cooperation, strengthening partner countries’ local capabilities, the harmonisation of practices as well as openness and mutual accountability.

We focus our efforts so that our work yields sustainable results that have positive long-term impacts on society. These are expressed, for example, as improvements in health, the level of education, employment 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 be strengthened in the administration of Finland’s development cooperation.

5. Partner countries’ responsibility for their own development: Finland’s development cooperation is based on development needs defined by partner countries and on the countries’ own development plans. A prerequisite for sustainable results is the partner country’s ownership and commitment to achieving the development objectives. Responsibility for change rests with the partner countries – Finland supports their development.

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