From myth to grounded paradigm – Finland as a defender of equality for women and girls in developing countries
Finland’s development cooperation and policy needs to be reformed so as to better promote gender equality and more effectively bolster the situation and rights of women and girls. Finnish core values, international agreements, and positioning the situation and rights of women and girls as the focal point of development policy generate expectations by which Finland must credibly abide. Our commitment to realising the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also requires this.The Development Policy Committee’s review is impelled by the issue of how Finland could do even better in strengthening gender equality – to be something of a development policy paradigm. We have also tried to give a realistic overview of the state of Finnish development policy in terms of gender equality, and to present a vision for which Finland should strive in sustainable development.
Finland already focuses activities on countries and issues where there is a need and demand for strengthening gender equality in line with sustainable development. We have the proficiency and will to promote gender quality across the whole terrain of development policy, spanning bilateral development cooperation, civil society organisations, private sector operators, and research. Finland has been active in the EU and other international fora with respect to the sexual and reproductive rights and women and girls in particular. This work must be continued unequivocally. Also, within the country’s foreign relations the UN Security Council’s work on women, peace and security, and trade policy promoting the economic empowerment of women are expressly areas that in the future should be reinforced from the perspective of women in developing countries.
The overall view of the government term is nevertheless discrepant. There is a notable contradiction in the amount of development financing and its allocation. Finland gave priority to women and girls in development policy and yet funding for this focal area fell by about 40 per cent, part of unprecedented cuts to the development cooperation budget. The Development Policy Committee proposes that the government set a timetable within which Finland will increase its official development assistance to 0,7 per cent of Gross Domestic Income and devote at least 0,2 per cent of GDI to the least developed countries. The emphasis on gender equality work should also be reflected in the allocation of funding. This is why the committee proposes that Finland must commit to the aims of the EU’s Gender Action Plan, according to which gender equality must be either a major part or the principal objective of 85 per cent of all new programmes by 2020. There remains room for improvement among all actors in this respect. In recent years, funding for gender equality has been around 30 – 40 per cent of total Finnish development cooperation. The committee’s position would concretise gender equality as a crosscutting objective, whereby all development cooperation sectors would evaluate their projects and programmes more thoroughly from a gender equality angle.
Such changes would guide Finland closer to international best practices, which the OECD also requires of us. They cover such things as having a coherent strategy, guidance, the equality analysis of the operational environment and situations, and statistical and outcome reporting practices. It’s also important to continually learn from one’s own activity and evaluations of it. The committee believes that it is through this that we can crucially improve the quality of work on gender equality.
Due to the increasingly prominent role in development policy of the private sector and financial investment in the form of capital and loans, there needs to be more systematic analysis of these from a gender perspective. It’s therefore important that the Foreign Ministry foregrounds gender equality as one of boundary conditions for ensuring the development impact of Finnfund’s ownership steering.
The Development Policy Committee considers it highly necessary that the situation and rights of women and girls are made one of the priorities of development policy. This, however, should be approached from the broader perspective of human rights, equality, and eliminating multiple discrimination. Finland should also clarify objectives concerning the rights of girls and draw up detailed guidelines for this.
Gender equality is a prerequisite for sustainable development, one that Finland should emphasise in all its activities. It’s therefore warranted that development cooperation and policy have a more enduring basis than government terms of office. Reforms should start to be made during this government and include the next government term in the development policy report. Finland’s Presidency of the EU in 2019 would be a natural occasion to showcase this reform agenda.
Aila Paloniemi, Chairperson, Finnish Development Policy Committee, ph. 050 511 3067
Marikki Stocchetti, Secretary General, Finnish Development Policy Committee, ph. 050 535 8649