A HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH TO FINNISH DEVELOPMENT POLICY – Tense times demand a more ambitious direction


In recent years, Finland’s development policy has become more human rights based, with human rights being attended to more diligently in development cooperation. But we think that Finland should take an even more ambitious approach to the issue, so that an increasing proportion of development policy would in future promote human rights more actively and address human rights challenges. This requires political will, clear aims, expertise and appropriate resources from the various actors involved.

It is important that a human rights-based approach is realised consistently across the different channels, activities and levels of development cooperation. This applies not only to development cooperation as such, but also to a broader range of policy areas, Finland’s overall external relations and international advocacy.

Although a human rights-based approach has been taken into account in the planning of development cooperation, there is much variation in its implementation and monitoring. NGOs and bilateral cooperation have played an important role in carrying out the human rights-based approach. Finland has strongly emphasised human rights issues in its policy advocacy in fragile regions and in its multilateral cooperation. Nevertheless, this emphasis has not been uniformly reflected at the level of development
cooperation interventions. Support in the form of loans and investments, especially to private sector actors, has increased in recent years. In this area, a human rights-based approach is mainly reflected in the management of risks to human rights. Going forward, it will be important to carry out a strategic
analysis of the financial channels and means of development policy and cooperation so as to strengthen the human rights-based nature of development cooperation in Finland. The fact that the rules-based international system and its normative basis, such as human rights, are increasingly being called into question poses its own challenge to Finnish development cooperation.

Increasingly complex operating environments, protracted conflicts, mounting disasters due to climate change and growing challenges to human rights further increase the need and importance of human rights-based development policies and cooperation. Amidst the increasingly tense global context, it is important to ensure that Finland’s foreign and security policy remains strongly human rights-based across governmental terms. This approach is also an important guideline for Finland’s national and international
sustainable development goals, the time span of which traverses governmental terms.

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