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OECD: Finland is doing fine but lacks focus & clear goals

Yesterday, Development Assistant Committee of OECD published its Peer Review 2012 for Finland. Quite a few representatives of the civil society were present at the EU Information Centre to hear the verdict for Finland's development policy.
Anna-Sofia Joro
7.11.2012

The Chair of OECD/DAC Mr Brian Atwood made it clear that in the case of Finland, the critics are aimed at an excellent pupil. Finland's way of working is described as flexible and pragmatic. The strenghts include long-term priorities, openness to dialogue and good co-operation and division of labour with other donors. Since the last peer review in 2007, Finland is making efforts to improve its development co-operation, sharpening the focus and emphasising the importance of human rights.

However, there is room for development. Finnish government should increase funding, focus on areas and countries where it can have the most impact and improve the way it manages co-operation. Altogether DAC listed 13 recommendations for Finland.

Fragmentation is a serious problem, Atwood pointed out, and a burden both for the partner countries and the Ministry. He pointed out that civil society organisations (CSOs) have a lot to do with this.

"CSOs think they're doing Lord's work that must continue no matter what", Atwood compared and suggested that CSOs should sit down with the government and come up with a broader approach reducing the burden and focusing better.

The issue also caused debate when OECD/DAC committee visited Kepa last March to consult the Finnish CSOs. According to CSOs, the administrative burden should be made lighter.

"Ministry needs to make sure that the funding is not directed only to few organisations and that CSOs are valued per se" reminded Miia Toikka, Secretary General of the Development Policy Committee.

Another issue concerning CSOs is that in the Guidelines for Civil Society in Development Policy Finland promises to work with a diverse set of actors, such as research institutes, media, business actors and think-thanks. However, this has not yet been achieved as the main recipients of funding are traditional development NGOs.

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Many of the recommendations have already been reacted to, affirmed Minister Heidi Hautala. Fragmentation is the task number one, but not with any price. Narrowing the list of partner countries is difficult to do, even if it's impossible to take in new partners otherwise. Larger interventions are neither easy in the short run.

Hautala expressed the need to involve CSOs more strategically with Finland's development policy objectives. One way to work professionally and closely together - and to tackle fragmentation - is to increase the number of partnership organisations. The new round of applications is going on right now.

Maybe the greatest challenge is to find policy coherence for development. Hautala claimed that Finland is committed to this, even if the task is hard in a coalition government. She thanked civil society for pressuring the government.

New guidelines and plans, which should be concise and easy to use, are on their way as a response to the peer review's recommendation on strategic guidelines. For instance, the country strategies are a new way to look how Finland works with long-term partners. They'll come out by the end of 2012.

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DAC proposed the important question: what will happen with the 0,7 per cent till 2015? Before the recent reductions, Finland was on the right track - even if the competition is tough in the Nordic countries. Brian Atwood reminded that Finland should look at the objective as a political one and think in larger terms of peace, stability and growth.

Heidi Hautala appealed to the civil society to lobby for 0,7. She reminded that the government has confirmed - three times - how it will complement the aid with greenhouse gas allocations. Now it's up to everyone to remind them about this. Miia Toikka, Secretary General of the Development Policy Committee, stated that reaching 0,7% is essential for Finland's international reputation, too.

Each DAC member country is peer reviewed roughly every four years with two main aims: to help the country understand where it could improve its development strategy and structures so that it can increase the effectiveness of its investment; and to identify and share good practice in development policy and strategy.

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