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News, 2/28/2014

Finnish know-how to benefit the poorest countries of Central Asia

A new programme entitled ‘Finland’s Development Cooperation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 2014–2017’ focuses on the poorest countries of the region and on themes where Finland has strong expertise.

Tajikistan. Kuva: Laura Rantanen
People in the centre of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Photo: Laura Rantanen

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has updated its development cooperation programme for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Finland’s development cooperation in these areas in the coming years will focus on the promotion of democracy and environmentally sustainable economic growth.

The programme covers 11 countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus – but activities will concentrate on the region’s poorest countries, which are Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

About 40 million euros will be used during the years 2014–2017.

Minister for International Development PekkaHaavisto says that in line with the Development Policy Programme, the input in Eastern Europe and Central Asia will focus on sectors in which Finland has special expertise and on countries that are the least developed.

“These are the developing countries located closest to Finland and we have a good reputation there. In the EU, we are considered experts with regard to this region and much is expected of us,” Haavisto stated at the event presenting the programme, held at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on 25 February.

Development Minister Pekka Haavisto, Advisor to the Minister Maria Kurikkala, Director Olli Kantanen of the Unit for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Director General Terhi Hakala of the Department for Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, preparing to present the new development cooperation programme to stakeholders. Photo: Raino Heinonen
Development Minister Pekka Haavisto, Advisor to the Minister Maria Kurikkala, Director Olli Kantanen of the Unit for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Director General Terhi Hakala of the Department for Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, preparing to present the new development cooperation programme to stakeholders. Photo: Raino Heinonen

Director General Terhi Hakala of the Department for Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs agrees with the Minister’s view concerning the importance of the region. The countries are neighbours of Russia and Afghanistan, where Finland is known as a good partner.

The main reason for development cooperation with Eastern European and Central Asian countries, however, is their low level of development.

“Development cooperation is a way of creating and strengthening the base for trade cooperation. Kazakhstan is now the strongest trading partner, but the aim is that the other States will also become partners,” Hakala says.

Fewer projects – more results

The new Development Cooperation Programme is based on the first phase of the framework programme, known as the Wider Europe Initiative, that was implemented in 2009–2013.

According to the findings of an external evaluation, the projects benefited the target countries in many ways; on this basis, it was decided to continue development cooperation with the region.

Director General Terhi Hakala of the Department for Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Photo: Raino Heinonen
Director General Terhi Hakala of the Department for Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia presented the new programme entitled ‘Finland’s Development Cooperation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 2014–2017’ at the Engel hall of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on 25 February. Photo: Raino Heinonen

The changes include limiting the area of assistance to the least developed countries and cutting the number of themes and projects.

“We strive to enhance the effects and results of development cooperation and to reduce fragmentation. Instead of about 30 projects as in the past, there are now about ten,” Hakala explains.

Cultivating inter-institutional cooperation

Especially in Central Asian countries, development cooperation invests in inter-institutional cooperation. Through projects, personnel from Finnish expert agencies train corresponding authorities from partner countries and help modernize the ways government institutes operate.

The Finnish cooperation partners are the Geological Survey of Finland, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the Finnish Environment Institute.

“The number of meteorological observation instruments in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan has decreased, which makes it increasingly more difficult to prepare for extreme weather events. Farmers record their observations in notebooks. The meteorological institutes of different countries are not in contact with each other, even though the weather knows no boundaries,” Riikka Pusa, manager of the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s Central Asia project says in describing the starting points for the project.

According to Pusa, inter-institutional cooperation distributes responsibility also to actors in the partner countries from the beginning; in this way the impact will be a long-term one.

“First, know-how, then equipment – that’s the order of progression.”

A water project in Georgia that is supported by Finland. Photo: Karri Eloheimo
Projects involving inter-institutional cooperation strengthen the know-how of officials in the target countries by utilizing the experience of Finnish authorities. This photo shows a water project in Georgia that is supported by Finland. Photo: Karri Eloheimo/Finnish Environment Institute

According to Jukka Multala of the Geological Survey of Finland, inter-institutional cooperation requires much time and patience. Sharing information between authorities and citizens is a foreign matter in the Central Asian countries.

“Cooperation calls for new governance models and a new type of decision-making. The work is slowed down by staffing changes in the partner institutes, as the management is often selected on political grounds,” Multala states.

Both Multala and Pusa think that it pays to continue the fruitful cooperation in spite of the difficulties. Central Asia is one of the regions where the average temperature has risen and will rise a great deal in the future.

It is essential to respond to the challenge set by climate change.

Laura Rantanen

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