Minister Virolainen sees civil society organisations as trusted partners
According to Anne-Mari Virolainen, Finland's Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, in the multifaceted sector of development policy, all parts complement each other and civil society organisations play an important role in the process. She met representatives of the organisations involved in programme work at the start of the new programme period.
In February, the Foreign Ministry granted a total of EUR 206.8 million in programme support to 22 civil society organisations engaged in development cooperation for the years 2018–2021.
In accordance with the long-standing wish of the organisations, the programme support period was extended from three to four years. All organisations entitled to programme support submitted their applications together, which helped to make the process more transparent and allowed the ministry to give equal consideration to all applications.
Anne-Mari Virolainen, Finland's Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, expressed the hope that the Foreign Ministry and civil society can engage in an open and broad-based dialogue. She thanked the civil society organisations for their work and characterised them as trusted partners.
The ministry and civil society organisations must engage in smooth cooperation and interaction so that the sustainable development goals laid out in the 2030 Agenda can be met. Minister Virolainen pointed out that in Finland, the 2030 Agenda has been incorporated into the Government Programme and the budget process.
“During the recent meeting of the EU development ministers, I realised that not all Member States are in the same situation,” she noted.
In her address, the minister emphasised the rights of women and girls, the main priority in Finland's development policy.Minister Virolainen said that she has also seen how difficult it is for women and girls in developing countries to advance in society, compared to men. Men and boys are also needed in the process aimed at achieving sustainable results and to work for the benefit of society at large.
The minister also emphasised that the results of the development cooperation must be communicated to citizens.
High quality of the applications was noted
Anu Ala-Rantala, Senior Officer at the Unit for Civil Society, detailed the stages of the application round, grounds for the decisions and the criteria for a good development cooperation programme. Most of the applications were good or excellent.
In the programme support selections, the priority was on development policy themes in which the organisations possess solid expertise and experience.
These include the rights of women and girls, especially in sexual and reproductive health, the prevention of violence against women, conflict solving, root causes of migration, the young, and the democratisation process.
Good applications were characterised by thematic priorities, focus on the organisation's core competence and contacts with local stakeholders.
Interest in new operating approaches
Miia Nuikka, Executive Director of the International Solidarity Foundation, addressed the meeting on behalf of all programme support organisations. In her speech, Nuikka underlined the importance of the work carried out by civil society organisations in developing countries:
“The organisations help ordinary people to coordinate their efforts and to demand their rights in a broad range of different areas, such as the right of girls to education, sustainable use of water resources or the improvement of the status of people with disabilities.”
Nuikka added that the organisations are keen on ensuring a productive dialogue, as emphasised by Minister Virolainen, and that they will continue to work in close cooperation with the Foreign Ministry and Finnish missions during the new programme period. Many of the organisations are also building partnerships with companies and research institutes.
“We are aware that new approaches to development policy are emerging. Many of us are seeking new operating procedures and are quite willing to embrace them. However, the work is always based on the needs of the civil societies of the South,” Nuikka concluded.
The representatives of the organisations also highlighted the need for cooperation across sectoral boundaries of the development policy, the work to combat climate change, the role of political parties in the improvement of women’s rights and increasing funding by means of leverage.
The author works as a communications officer at the Foreign Ministry's Unit for Development Communications.