Finland’s partner countries for bilateral development cooperation

Bilateral development cooperation is conducted between Finland and individual developing countries. It is based on the partner countries' own development plans and on dialogue 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 impacts.

Regions and countries for development cooperation

Almost all of Finland’s 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 at risk of turning into unstable societies. In such countries, the need for assistance is greatest. 

Some of Finland's partner countries have made so much progress that Finland can gradually lower the amount of funding and concentrate on offering certain special expertise. At the same time, it is possible to strengthen cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, and research and innovation, and to increase interaction in other fields.

In Africa, Finland's main bilateral partner countries are Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia and Tanzania. Finland has done development cooperation with these countries for several decades. Development cooperation will continue, but efforts will be made to expand the projects to commercial and economic areas. Zambia’s economy has grown to the extent that the bilateral partnership between Finland and Zambia can soon end, and the countries can focus on other forms of collaboration, especially commercial projects. 

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

Finland has supported the Palestinian territory for a longer time and, in recent years, efforts to respond to the Syrian crisis in Syria and its neighbouring countries have been stepped up. Finland has strengthened its support to the Middle East and North Africa, which are regions fraught with instability and where refugees is a problem. Finland supports the stabilisation of Iraq by providing development cooperation, funding humanitarian mine action, and participating in crisis management. 

In addition, Finland supports Ukraine’s structural reforms and reconstruction and supports Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia.

Long-term cooperation is based on Country Programmes 

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has prepared a Country Programme for each of its long-term partner countries. Country Programmes identify the areas of cooperation, forms of support, objectives and indicators. They also address such matters as the management of risks involved in the activities. In addition, Finland’s strategic goals are set out in Country Strategies, which are prepared for cooperation with the most important partner countries.  

Country Programmes 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 partner countries coordinate the cooperation with various donors.

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

The objectives and indicators defined in the Country Programmes are used to monitor the progress made 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 follow the results. Finland takes an active part in the development of these systems, too.

Implementing bilateral development cooperation in partner countries 

Bilateral development cooperation is implemented in many ways. Sectoral support refers to support by donors to the comprehensive development of a certain sector. It is usually based on a plan that has been prepared by the ministry responsible for the sector in the partner country. In the education sector, for example, such projects may be related to the development of teacher training or, in the water sector, to the construction of a water and sanitation system. 

Intergovernmental bilateral projects focus more clearly on the use of Finnish expertise in the development of a certain sector. Through bilateral projects, Finland supports, for example, the construction of water and sanitation systems in collaboration with local communities and helps to develop governance systems and the forest sector.

Instead of working with the partner country, bilateral development cooperation may also be conducted with a multilateral actor. The so-called multi-bi aid (which is counted as bilateral but channelled through and implemented by multilateral agencies) makes use of the expertise of the UN agencies and development finance institutions. Finland may support, for example, sexual and reproductive health and rights in the partner country via the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) or improve public finances via the World Bank. If a multilateral actor is unable to take responsibility for the work, it can channel funding to a ministry, organisation or other operator. Multi-bi aid is used much in development cooperation in fragile countries, where organisations have or may have better opportunities than the government to implement projects and monitor their progress.

Support for civil society actors is channelled through Finnish, local or international civil society organisations (CSOs). CSOs’ work may be related, for example, to the promotion of the position and rights of people with disabilities in grassroots level communities. 

Supporting fragile states requires coordination of 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 donor countries.