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Bilateral partner countries and regional cooperation

Bilateral development cooperation takes place between Finland and individual developing countries. It is based on the partner countries' own development plans and a dialogue conducted with them. The responsibility for effecting change lies with the partner countries themselves, and Finland supports their development.

It takes many years to achieve a lasting development impact, which is why Finnish development cooperation focuses on long-term partnerships. We support countries that are committed to achieving development goals and can benefit from Finnish know-how.

Where do we work?

Nearly all of Finland’s development cooperation partner countries count among the least developed countries (LDCs) in Africa and Asia. Many of them are also regarded as fragile states that have been or are in danger of turning into unstable societies, and have the greatest need for assistance.

Some of Finland's partner countries have achieved progress and they have become or are about to become middle-income countries. This will allow the gradual scaling-down of aid and gearing the focus towards, for example, providing an important type of expertise. It will also be possible to step up cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, research and innovation, and increase interaction in other fields.

Finland's bilateral partner countries.
Finland's bilateral partner countries.

Finland's partner countries in Africa include Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia and TanzaniaZambia is about to reach middle-income level, enabling Finland to move on to more diversified forms of cooperation with it. Finland also provides small-scale support to Eritrea.

In Asia, Finnish bilateral support focuses on the three poorest, fragile states: Afghanistan, Myanmar / Burma and Nepal. With Vietnam, which has now achieved the status of a lower-middle income country, Finland is gradually shifting from development cooperation to other forms of cooperation in areas such as trade, research and education.

Finland will increase its support to the Middle East and North Africa where instability and large numbers of refugees pose great problems. Finland also supports the Palestinian Territory, Ukraine as well as the poorest Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Long-term cooperation is based on country programmes

For each of Finland’s long-term partner countries, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has drawn up a country programme that seeks to strengthen the impact of development cooperation. Country programmes identify areas for cooperation and the forms and objectives of support and they also address matters such as reporting and the management of risks involved in the activities.

The country programmes build on national development plans, and their guidelines are discussed with the authorities of the partner countries and with NGOs operating in them. The aim is that the partner country will coordinate its cooperation with different donor countries.

In keeping with EU recommendations, Finland seeks to concentrate its action in each partner country on three areas of cooperation in which it has specific expertise. They may include fields such as education, forestry, water, good governance and energy. The areas of cooperation are determined together with each partner country, and they are also coordinated with the activities of other donor countries to avoid overlapping as far as possible.

Indicators defined in the country programmes are used to monitor the progress of the partner countries and to assess the effectiveness of Finland's action. As far as feasible, the partner countries' own monitoring systems, such as poverty statistics, are used to monitor results, and Finland is actively involved in their development.

Implementation and results of bilateral development cooperation

Bilateral development cooperation is implemented in many ways. Projectcooperation has traditionally been an important form of development cooperation. Supported by the donor country for a specific purpose and for a specified duration, these projects may involve, for instance, the strengthening of forest administration in a specific province of a partner country, or the development of water and sanitation systems.

In some projects, Finland is the only foreign donor, but projects are often implemented jointly by several donors.

Projects are supported particularly in countries where the operational environment does not allow the implementation of programme support for reasons such as weak public institutions or the need for capacity building.

Programme support is provided for more wide-ranging programmes, which may consist of several projects implemented in different parts of the partner country, for example.

The evolution of primary education in Ethiopia is a success story. While in the mid-1990s less than one child in four were enrolled in primary education, today more than 95 per cent of Ethiopian children start school at the age of seven. This was the result of making primary education free, building more schools and providing more teacher training.

Finland has been supporting the Ethiopian education sector for a long time. Together with several other donors, it funded in 2009–2013 a programme aimed at enhancing the quality of education in Ethiopia. Finland's support to this project amounted to EUR 19.9 million.

The results are quite promising:

  • A new curriculum and over 78 million new textbooks available in schools;
  • Nearly 92,000 teachers with new qualifications;
  • Over 31,000 schools have benefited from school grants;
  • The share of girls completing primary school has grown significantly.

Supporting fragile states requires the coordination of military and civilian crisis management with development cooperation and humanitarian assistance in order to achieve the best possible synergies. In crisis areas and countries, Finland works in close cooperation with the EU, international organisations, and other bilateral donors.

Regional development cooperation extends across borders

Regional development cooperation, which supports regional integration and the resolution of cross-border problems, complements other forms of assistance.

Finland finances and implements regional cooperation in many areas where it has specific expertise, including innovation, peace-building, the rights of disabled persons, equality promotion, energy, and the sustainable use of natural resources. The approaches may vary in different geographical areas.

Funding is habitually channelled through international organisations, regional economic and cooperation organisations as well as international NGOs.

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