Minister Väyrynen: Climate funding supports eradication of poverty
“The decision on development funding reached during yesterday’s government budget session is tolerable, as Finland’s international obligations will be met. Development cooperation funds meant for eradication of poverty are not being cut in favour of climate funding. It is good to remember that climate funding is also used for projects and programmes supporting eradication of poverty,” said Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen at the NGO seminar held Wednesday.
According to Minister Väyrynen, development cooperation funds will increase by 92 million euros next year, and the share of the gross national income allocated for development cooperation will be 0.58 per cent. “This clearly exceeds the obligations Finland has made in the EU. The Government is also committed to reaching the share of 0.7 per cent of the gross national income by the year 2015.”
“The intention was to increase development cooperation funds next year by 170 million euros. When the budgetary spending limits were drawn up for next year, however, the state of the economy differed appreciably from the present, and the spending limits planned for development cooperation cannot be realized now,” Väyrynen stated.
“At first there was the wish to keep climate funding granted by Finland for the next three years, 110 million euros, separate from development funding, but during the government budget session, climate funding was included in development cooperation funds. This means 30 million euros of development cooperation budget funds during the present year, and 40 million euros next year. Despite this, development cooperation funds will increase in line with commitments made in the EU. Moreover, Finland is already financing many climate projects eliminating poverty.”
“Finland is an exception among OECD countries, as we have fulfilled our commitments and increased development cooperation funds. Many other countries have cut their development cooperation budgets in the past few years.”
According to Minister Väyrynen, sustainable development issues are highly important in Africa, but new development actors have not always taken this into account. Finland has increased funding for sustainable development cooperation with the African Union and has supported the Institute for Sustainable Development established in Dar es Salaam.
Väyrynen also took a stand on the aid practices of new actors. He said he had discussed the topic with, among others, JeanPing, Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, who visited Finland in the beginning of the week.
“New and old development actors must strive to harmonize their operating modes. It would be important for all actors to be concerned about social development. We must also progress from the imbalance where donors from the North mainly support the social sector and new actors such as China develop infrastructure,” Väyrynen continued.
New NGO policy
At the NGO seminar, some two hundred Finnish NGOs discussed the new NGO policy being compiled together with civil servants from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
“For both parties, the seminar is an important channel of discussion where organizations can bring out their views on the content of the new policy,” said Director General JormaJulin of the Department for Development Policy, who opened the seminar.
“The new policy gives added weight to the effectiveness of aid and to strengthening of civil society. Issues of content, such as food security and young people, will be prominent in the workshops held with organizations during spring. The application round of support for NGO projects is now in progress and will continue until the end of May. Last year the Ministry for Foreign Affairs gave 86 million euros in support of the development cooperation work of NGOs in 88 countries,” Julin explained.
Topics discussed at the seminar included the selection of partner organizations and practices observed during the ongoing project application round. Those present wanted to know how Finland could help organizations in developing countries improve their acquisition of funds. They were also interested in the minister’s views concerning claims made in public that development aid is damaging.
According to Minister Väyrynen, one new organization has been chosen as a partner organization.
“In preparing the new NGO policy, consideration will be given to partner organizations and the amount of funding they receive in proportion to funding of other organizations. At the same time, it must be considered whether selection as partner organization has to be a permanent solution,” the minister said.
Claims regarding the damaging effect of development aid are based largely on the book Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo of Zambia. According to Väyrynen, Moyo has herself already rescinded some of the claims presented in her book.
“The discussion on the quality of aid she launched has been welcome. I can agree with the criticism of budget support Moyo presented. In fact, Finland will emphasize sector budget support instead of general budget support, as the development effects of sector budget support are better.”
Attention given to
feedback from NGOs
Many of the organizations represented at the seminar wanted to know how they could participate and influence the content of development policy better. According to Minister Väyrynen, development policy in Finland is defined openly and in a participatory manner. Organization seminars are part of the public consultation and debate. In addition, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs continually takes account of the feedback from organizations.
In the comments presented, NGOs were happy that the practices of new development actors were taken up for discussion.
In their activities, new actors often depart from their own interests, and it is important that Finland stresses human rights, the principles of the rule of law, democracy and good governance, organizations thought.
It was also asked how the Ministry for Foreign Affairs intends in the new policy to direct the activities of organizations. Will organizations still be able to file project applications from their own points of departure?
“Organizations have great freedom in applying for government assistance, and no change in this is foreseen even though certain themes are emphasized. We hope that, among others, the food crisis, climate change and the status of young people will be seen in project support applications. Organizations can also share recipes for successful activities amongst themselves, said Okko-Pekka Salmimies, Head of the Unit for Non-Governmental Organizations at the Ministry.