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News, 3/21/2014

The problems of fragile states are global

Finland is increasing its development cooperation work in fragile states. By recently introducing new guidelines, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs wants to minimize the risks of these activities and maximize the results.

Somalia. Photo: Hannu Pesonen
Somalia strives to return to peace after more than 20 years of civil war. A government soldier in the centre of Mogadishu in 2012. Photo: Hannu Pesonen

In 2018, about half of the world’s poor, and by 2030 most of them, will live in fragile states.

There is no internationally agreed definition for what a fragile state is, but these countries have all gone through violent conflict, or the conflict to some extent still continues. The administration is inadequate and the state cannot provide security, justice or basic services for the country’s citizens. The gap between the elite and the citizens is often deep.

In recent years, Finland has increased its development assistance for instance to South Sudan and Afghanistan. In the future, there will be more and more cooperation with, among others, Somalia and Myanmar.

The work is guided by the publication Guidelines for Finland’s development policy and development cooperation in fragile states, released on 18 March.

“The purpose of the guidelines is to examine the special needs of fragile states holistically. Our goal is to become a hard-core professional in development cooperation involving fragile states,” Anne Sipiläinen, Under-Secretary of State for Development Cooperation and Development Policy, said at the launch of the guidelines on Tuesday.

Anne Sipiläinen. Photo: Laura Rantanen
Anne Sipiläinen, Under-Secretary of State for Development Cooperation and Development Policy, spoke at the discussion on fragile states held in the Meripaja building of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on 18 March 2014. Photo: Laura Rantanen

Development cooperation has not fully achieved the objectives set for it in fragile states. The UN Millennium Development Goals will in part remain unachieved. Thus there is a great need for the guidelines.

According to Tanja Viikki, who works as an Adviser on conflicts and development of society at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, it is problematic to coordinate the different actors, types of activities and financial instruments in fragile states.

“The creation of the basic state structures is important. It is not sustainable, however, unless trust arises between the state and its citizens,” Viikki said in an interview for the magazine Kehitys (1/2014).

Assessment of the situation is the most important

It is often difficult for international actors to accept that the development of a fragile state into a strong and well-functioning state takes place slowly. At times steps backwards are also taken.

“We have no secret weapon that would eliminate all risks. The minimization of risks starts from a good assessment of the situation. Sometimes the biggest risk is not doing anything at all,” Under-Secretary of State Sipiläinen said.

Fragile states create areas of instability, and the problems of fragile states are always ultimately global problems, such as terrorism, organized crime and refugees. They can also affect Finland.

Involving women in peacebuilding

For Finland it is particularly important that women and other disadvantaged groups can participate in peacebuilding and statebuilding following a conflict.

Development Minister Pekka Haavisto. Photo: Laura Rantanen
Finland also promotes the development of fragile states through international networks. Development Minister Pekka Haavisto is currently co-chair of the forum International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS). Photo: Laura Rantanen

Speaking at the event, Minister for International Development Pekka Haavisto recalled one meeting in Hargeisa, Somalia, sitting at the same negotiation table with men and women together.

“After about a quarter of an hour the women reported that they felt uncomfortable sitting there, and they asked to be allowed to move to another table. The joint negotiations ended there, and after that the talks took place separately at the tables for women and men. I reflected that there is still a long way to go before women participate in peace processes on an equal footing. At the same time, however, I thought that this is clearly a topic where Finns would have something to give.”

Laura Rantanen

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