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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?

Partnership is based on a need for support. In our development cooperation activities, we focus on the least developed countries (LDCs) in Africa and Asia. Finland has seven long-term partner countries and five other partner countries, most of them fragile states. Finland is also engaged in regional development cooperation to facilitate solving cross-border problems.

Long-term cooperation is based on country programmes

Finland's long-term partner countries are Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, Tanzania and Zambia. With Vietnam, which has now achieved the status of a lower-middle income country, Finland is gradually shifting from development aid to other forms of cooperation in areas such as trade, research and education. Click on the name of a partner country to learn about Finland's activities there and the results of its development cooperation.

For each of Finland’s seven 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.

Supporting fragile states requires a comprehensive approach

Finland also supports fragile states, meaning states in the midst of a military or civilian crisis or emerging from such a crisis. Finland's other partner countries are Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Palestinian Territory, Somalia and South Sudan. Click on the name of a partner country to learn about Finland's activities there and the results of its development cooperation.

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.

The forms of development cooperation to be used in fragile states are carefully selected. In countries recovering from conflict, Finland focuses on supporting crisis resolution and on restoring stability. In these countries, Finland may also deliver humanitarian assistance.

In crisis areas and countries, Finland works in close cooperation with the EU, international organisations, and other bilateral donors.

Implementation and results of bilateral development cooperation

Bilateral development cooperation is implemented in many ways. It is based on the partner countries' own development plans and a dialogue with them.

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.

Budget support is directed to the partner country’s state budget, making more funds available for it to pursue the main goals of its development plan. At the moment, Finland is providing budget support to Tanzania and Mozambique.

In addition to general budget support, Finland also provides earmarked budget support for activities in a specific sector, such as the education sector.

Budget support is governed by an agreement between the partner country and the donor, emphasizing good governance, human rights, the reduction of inequalities, and democratic values. The effects of budget support are monitored and evaluated annually, and the results are reviewed in a dialogue between the partner country and the donor community.

In Tanzania, Finnish budget support has been used for purposes such as promoting primary education, enhancing health care services, building roads and improving agricultural skills.

The practices concerning budget support improve fiscal planning in developing countries and contribute to more efficient systems. Budget support promotes stronger, more open and more transparent governance and strengthens civil society.

Click here to learn about projects and programmes financed with Finnish development cooperation funds in various partner countries:

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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