Bilateral partner countries

Bilateral development cooperation takes place between Finland and individual developing countries. It is based on the partner countries' own development plans and dialogue conducted with them. The responsibility for effecting change lies with the partner countries. Finland supports their development.

Several years are needed to achieve sustainable development impacts, which is why Finnish development cooperation focuses on long-term partnerships. We support countries where the need for Finnish support and expertise is great and which are committed to achieving development goals.

Where do we work?

Nearly all of Finland’s development cooperation partner countries belong to the group of the least developed countries (LDCs) in Africa and Asia. Many of them are also so-called fragile states, which have been or are in danger of turning into unstable societies and in which the need for assistance is greatest.

Some of Finland's partner countries have made progress and are approaching the middle-income-country status. This allows the gradual scaling-down of aid and gearing the focus towards providing assistance in the form of some important type of expertise, for instance. At that phase, it is also possible to step up cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, and research and innovation, and to increase interaction in other fields.

Finland's bilateral partner countries.
Finland's bilateral partner countries.

In Africa, Finland's main bilateral partner countries are Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia and TanzaniaZambia is approaching the middle-income level, and Finland’s cooperation with it is becoming more diversified. Small-scale support is provided also to Eritrea. 

In Asia, Finnish bilateral support focuses on the three poorest and fragile countries: Afghanistan, Myanmar / Burma and Nepal. With Vietnam, which has now achieved the status of a lower-middle income country, Finland is gradually shifting from development cooperation to other forms of cooperation in such areas as trade, research and education.

Finland has increasedits support to the Middle East and North Africa, where instability and refugees pose great problems. Finland also supports the Palestinian Territory, structural reforms and reconstruction in Ukraine and, in Central Asia, the poorest countries in the region, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Long-term cooperation is based on country programmes

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has prepared a Country Strategy for each of the long-term partner countries. Country Strategies identify the areas of cooperation, forms and objectives of support, and result indicators. They also address matters such as the management of risks involved in the activities. The Country Strategies can be accessed on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

The Country Strategies build on the partner countries’ own development plans, and their guidelines are discussed with the authorities of the partner countries and with other cooperation partners operating in them, including civil society organisations (CSOs). The aim is that the partner country coordinates its cooperation with the different donors.

Finland follows the EU guidance and seeks to focus its activities in each partner country on three areas of cooperation in which it has specific expertise. These areas may include fields such as water services, education, food security, forestry or good governance. The areas of cooperation are agreed in collaboration with the partner country, and the activities are coordinated to avoid overlap with the activities of other donors as far as possible.

Indicators defined in the Country Strategies are used to monitor the progress in the partner countries and to assess the effectiveness of Finland's activities. As far as feasible, the partner countries' own monitoring systems, such as poverty statistics, are used to monitor results. Finland takes an active part in the development of these systems, too.

Implementation and results of bilateral development cooperation

Bilateral development cooperation is implemented in many ways. Project cooperation is an important and traditional form of development cooperation, in which support is carefully targeted and of fixed-term duration. These projects may involve, for instance, development of forest administration in a specific province of the partner country, or the development of water and sanitation systems.

In some projects, Finland is the only foreign financier, but projects are often implemented jointly by several donors.

Project cooperation is particularly common in countries where the operational environment does not allow the implementation of programme support for reasons such as weak public institutions or poor skills and knowledge. 

Programme support is provided for more wide-ranging programmes, which may consist of several projects.

Basic security for the poorest families in Zambia

In Zambia, Finland takes part in projects supporting the provision of basic security. Almost 42 percent of the Zambians live in extreme poverty. The poorest Zambians have traditionally relied on relatives and neighbours for safety and protection.

In recent years, Zambia has made efforts to reduce inequality through, for example, providing basic social protection. Over 190,000 families are covered by income transfers. Support is directed to families that are the most vulnerable, such as single parents and families of persons with disabilities. 

Children in the families that are included in the basic social protection scheme suffer from diseases less than before. A greater number of them go to school. Agricultural productivity has also improved. 

Supporting fragile states requires coordination of the different forms of assistance. The best possible synergies are achieved by means of coordinating military activities, civilian crisis management, development cooperation and humanitarian aid. In crisis areas and countries, Finland works in close cooperation with the EU, international organisations, and other bilateral donors.