7 February 2017
The presiding officers of the Development Policy Committee are pleased to note that Finland has voiced its political support for the ‘She Decides’ initiative launched by the Netherlands and declared that it will increase its funding for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health.
“It is gratifying that Finland has responded quickly and declared its political support for this important initiative. Women and girls are entitled to rule over their own bodies: it is a basic human right and important to the wellbeing and livelihood of the entire family and a necessary prerequisite for balanced population development. It makes sense, both morally and economically, to invest in the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls,” says Aila Paloniemi (Centre Party), Chair of the Development Policy Committee.
In its development policy, Finland has focused on promoting the rights of women and girls for decades. It is also one of the current cross-cutting themes of the policy. Millions of women, most of them living in the world’s poorest countries, have no safe contraceptive methods at their disposal. Access to sound family planning is a basic human right. In the absence of contraceptives, counselling and basic services, it is impossible to achieve equality, reduce poverty and control population growth. To a great extent, the attainment of the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development depends on whether the rights of women and girls are realised.
Much of Finland’s financial support to this end has been provided through UN organisations and international non-governmental organisations. Furthermore, many of the health projects supported by Finland are related to sexual and reproductive health. At the same time, Finland provides funding for projects promoting reproductive health and rights in countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, Myanmar and Somalia.
We are living in turbulent times and recently the sexual and reproductive rights of women have lost support both in Europe and the United States, one of the biggest donors of international development aid. A recent executive order signed by President Trump cancels some USD 600 million in annual funding for organisations that promote reproductive health and safe abortions and disseminate information on contraceptives. In reality, this means that access to necessary services by the women and girls of the world’s poorest countries will be restricted. Women and girls are at mortal risk when unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal mortality rates increase, particularly in the least fortunate countries.
It is, therefore, extremely important that like-minded countries, Finland included, close ranks to defend the rights of women. It is pleasing to note that Finland, inspired by the ‘She Decides’ initiative of the Netherlands, has been quick to restate its support for organisations that promote sexual and reproductive health. While the amount of financial support provided by Finland will not be that substantial, the decision is important and welcome as a matter of principle.
Optimally, this additional appropriation would represent a new form of development funding. Although every attempt has been made to target cuts in development cooperation funding to areas other than programmes designed to promote women’s rights, it is clear that they have suffered as a result of extensive cuts in funding, particularly for UN and non-governmental organisations.
Parliament too has been quick to respond: MP Hanna Sarkkinen (Left Alliance) submitted a written question on the subject regarding the “decision of the Trump Administration to withdraw support from family planning organisations in developing countries.” The signatories include MPs from the Centre Party, Coalition Party, SDP, Greens and Swedish People’s Party.
The presiding officers of the Development Policy Committee urge Finland, along with other like-minded member states of the EU, to continue the efforts to reinforce the position, self-determination and equal rights of women and girls.
Aila Paloniemi (Centre Party), Chair of the Development Policy Committee
Hanna Sarkkinen (Left Alliance), 1st Vice-Chair of the Development Policy Committee
Saara-Sofia Sirén (Coalition Party), 2nd Vice-Chair of the Development Policy Committee
The Development Policy Committee is a Government-appointed advisory body that monitors and evaluates Finland’s actions in policy areas affecting developing countries.
Inquiries: Aila Paloniemi, Chair of the Development Policy Committee, tel. +358 (0)50 511 3067
Katja Kandolin, Development Policy Committee Coordinator, tel. +358 (0)50 593 6229
Marikki Stocchetti, Secretary General of the Development Policy Committee, tel. +358 (0)50 525 8649