Civil society is an important actor and development cooperation partner


In 2019, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs supports Finnish civil society organisations (CSOs) and foundations with approximately EUR 65 million. The Ministry grants funding to organisations for their development cooperation projects around the world and for their development communication efforts and global education actions in Finland. The Ministry also supports international non-governmental organisations (INGOs).

Finnish civil society organisations promote sustainable development and strengthen civil societies around the world

More than 100 Finnish CSOs are involved in development cooperation activities. They manage projects supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in about a hundred developing countries all over the world. In Finland’s partner countries for bilateral development cooperation, CSOs are encouraged to complement, through cooperation and exchange of information, the other activities pursued by Finland. The support is based on the Guidelines for Civil Society in Development Policy (2017).

The aim of the CSOs’ development cooperation is to promote the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The CSOs’ activities usually focus on the basic needs and rights of the poorest people in developing countries, such as social development, education, health and better livelihoods, and on rural development.

Another important aim is to strengthen civil societies in developing countries. This way the developing countries' own organisations can better perform their basic duties: service provision, advocacy work and information. Polyphonic societies create the prerequisites for the participation of citizens in society and for the realisation of human rights, and provide the basis for a democratic society.

Stop to female genital mutilation

“When I learned about the consequences of genital mutilation, I decided that I would not agree to have my genitals mutilated. I told my parents how the mutilation will make childbirths more difficult. Young women in particular will have serious injuries and suffer from great pain when delivering babies. I asked my parents: Do you want me to live a healthy life or not?” explains Brianesh, a 13-year-old Ethiopian girl. The young human rights activist campaigns against female genital mutilation in her village and in her school.

It is estimated that up to 200 million girls and women have had their genitals at least partially mutilated. If there is no end to this custom, an additional 15 million girls will experience the same by the year 2030.

Non-governmental organizations receiving Finnish development cooperation funding, such as Save the Children Finland, Plan International Finland, the International Solidarity Foundation, FELM and World Vision are working to end female genital mutilation. In some of the areas where these organizations are operating, more than 90 per cent of girls have avoided genital mutilation. Such UN organizations as UN Women, UNICEF and UNFPA are also calling for zero tolerance for female genital mutilation.

Finland is one of the largest contributors to the general operations of UN Women and UNFPA.

Please visit the organisations’ own websites for more detailed information on their development cooperation projects. 

Ministry for Foreign Affairs supports both big and small civil society organisations

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs grants multiannual programme support to 21 organisations. This allows the organisations to promote development consistently on a long-term basis. Programme support is granted to 17 civil society organisations; Fingo, a NGO platform which provides training and advice for Finnish civil society organisations and conducts advocacy work.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs grants programme support to three special foundations that finance local organisations in developing countries working in the field of human rights, the environment and the disabled.


The Ministry for Foreign Affairs grants project-specific support to small and medium-sized organisations.

Quality journalism to Somalia

“It feels good when I am able to do useful work aimed at providing people with better access to information and when I can contribute to the reconstruction of Somalia as a journalist,” says Sadiyo Mohamed Hassan, a Somalian tv reporter.
“There are many topics for stories in this country and many of them also concern positive issues.”

Hassan has received training in journalist’s work from the Finnish Foundation for Media and Development, which supports free dissemination of information in Somalia through the Somali National Television (SNTV) and the National Union of Somali Journalists. A news studio has been built in Mogadishu and authorities and journalists have been trained with Finnish support for such tasks as making programs for children and young people.

With the support, the production team of SNTV was able to broadcast the voting in the country’s presidential election live to the rest of the world. The aim is to make SNTV an editorially independent public service broadcasting company. More balanced, diverse and higher quality flow of information will give citizens better access to information and contributes to peaceful democratization of the Somali society.


The following UN-related organisations receive operating grants from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to conduct, for example, development communications and global education activities:

Civil society organisations play an important role in development communications and global education in Finland

Organisations do valuable work promoting public discussion about development issues in Finland. The aim is to reinforce global responsibility, i.e. citizens’ commitment to human rights and democratic decision-making and their willingness to participate and work towards global development.

Global education seeks to promote global solidarity amongst individuals and communities. In global education, organisations are encouraged to work together with schools and other actors in the education sector.

Communications and global education are an essential part of the work carried out by the organisations receiving programme support. In addition, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs supported the CSOs’ development communications and global education projects with a total of EUR 1.4 million in 2017–2018.

International non-governmental organisations also receive support

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs also uses development cooperation funds to support the work of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs). INGOs carry out, for example, advocacy and campaign work and provide expertise to promote the development policy goals considered important by Finland. The amount of support granted to INGOs changes every year.

In 2016, support totalled EUR 10.6 million, and it was allocated to strengthening good governance and democratic development in Africa, building peace in fragile states, and promoting human rights worldwide.

The priorities for Finland's human rights activities were the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights, the strengthening of women’s and girls' rights and their opportunities to participate, the work of human rights defenders, and the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs supports non-profit organisations that are politically and administratively independent of all governments. Supported INGOs must have considerable expertise, experience and good cooperative relations with developing countries.

Funds for local cooperation are used to strengthen civil societies in developing countries

Finnish missions abroad use funds for local cooperation (FLCs) to support local NGOs.

The aim of the FLC projects run by the missions is to promote human rights, such as the rights of people with disabilities and indigenous peoples, the sustainable use of natural resources, the use of renewable energy sources, entrepreneurship, education and anti-corruption efforts. For more information on the FLC projects run by Finnish missions abroad, please visit the missions’ websites.

Content administrator