Evaluation report 2012:1: Country Programme between Finland and Nicaragua
By: Julian Caldecott, Fred van Sluijs, Benicia Aguilar, Anu Lounela
ISBN 978-951-724-983-6 (printed)
ISBN 978-951-724-984-3 (pdf)
This study aims to clarify links between Finnish development policy and cooperation programming with Nicaragua over the last decade, when the 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007 policy frameworks all had influence. The analysis used 14 criteria to identify factors that shaped the country programme during two distinct phases, before and after early 2007, when a radical Sandinist government came to power with a more assertive and poverty-focused agenda than its predecessors. Before this, the country programme comprised the main themes of health, rural development and local government support, plus general budget support (GBS), the Local Cooperation Fund (LCF), and long-standing programmes to support disabled people and the environment. Finland’s 2004 policy led to the three main themes being retained along with GBS and LCF, but the other programmes were phased out. Meanwhile the embassy developed sector-wide approach programmes (SWAps) in the three main thematic areas, of which local government support had been re-defined to focus on governance and decentralisation (G/D) in response to a government policy.
Policy dialogue was integrated with programming, the SWAps and GBS contributed. Nicaragua was perceived as a model of Paris Declaration implementation. LCF supported complementary work by civil society. In the second phase the views of the Nicaraguan and Finnish sides increasingly diverged. Guided by Finland’s 2007 development policy, in early 2008 the Finnish Embassy and Foreign Ministry prepared a Country Assistance Plan (CAP) which endorsed the three SWAps and the GBS and LCF modalities. The government then advanced new policies on governance, causing the G/D SWAp to fail in 2009. To replace both it and the LCF, the Finnish side put in place new arrangements to finance civil society actions on governance and human rights. This seemed to mainstream the cross-cutting themes, but in a polarised context led to tensions with government and damage to civil society.
Other sources of discord between the government and donors over governance and rights then led to the freezing of GBS by Finland and others, and the departure of several donors. Being in line with government anti-poverty priorities the health and rural development SWAps continued, but these were the only two elements to survive of the five endorsed by the CAP. The closure of GBS was particularly striking, as it had been assessed by the CAP as crucial for dialogue on poverty and the best modality for promoting social goals. The whole outcome for the country programme is believed to be due to the assertiveness of an inexperienced government combined with the failure of effective dialogue between government and donors.
Keywords: Nicaragua, Sandinist, development policy, country programming, civil society.