Country programmes have strengthened the effectiveness and sustainability of Finland's bilateral cooperation

Despite the increasing instability of the global operating environment, good results have been achieved within the framework of Finland's bilateral country programmes. The recent report summarizes the results of an analysis that looked at Finland's ten country programmes in 2021-2024.

Photo: Liisa Takala

In recent years, instability has increased in the world. Finland's long-term partner countries have faced many crisis, and bilateral cooperation has often been carried out in rapidly changing and unstable conditions, such as amidst the Covid pandemic, conflicts and regime changes. Political decisions in Finland, new emphases and cuts in development cooperation budgets have also affected cooperation. Despite the turmoil, good results have been achieved within the country programmes.

The meta-analysis of Finland's bilateral country programs describes the conditions under which cooperation has been carried out, how operations have been adapted when faced with changes, and what kind of results have been achieved. It also assesses what value added country programmes have provided as a modality compared to a project-based approach. The analysis included Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Palestine, Somalia, Tanzania and Ukraine programmes.

The changing operating environment requires foresight and adaptation

The key conclusion of the analysis is that bilateral cooperation has achieved results. However, in rapidly changing operating environments, it is important to ensure that country programmes can be adapted in such a way that they better respond to changed operating conditions and needs. The report recommends streamlining and simplifying the documents and processes used within country programmes. Especially in fragile operating environments, more flexibility is needed.

In regards to sustainability of development results, strategic foresight is increasingly important in a rapidly changing and difficult-to-predict world. The evaluation recommends that preparation of scenarios be included in the planning and implementation of development cooperation. In particular, the resilience of the partner countries in the face of possible sudden changes should be considered.

Recent reductions in development cooperation appropriations limit the effectiveness of the results, and the position gained and relations built in partner countries are threatened as well. The loss of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' own expertise is also at risk.

In the future, the key is to sustain the results already achieved. Especially in those countries that will not have a country programmes in the future, it is important to carefully plan the transition to other forms of cooperation.

The analysis recommends that the good results-based practices of bilateral development cooperation be taken into account when the planning of engagement in other policy areas and goals, such as trade, foreign and security policy.

The results of the joint analysis serve as a basis for planning

The results of the meta-analysis were presented and discussed on 12 June at the public event held at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Under-Secretary of State Pasi Hellman, who opened the event, stated that the timing of the meta-analysis has coincided with many changes – not only in the countries where the programmes have been implemented – but also in Finland, and more broadly in the geopolitical environment.

"As a result of Finland’s recent reorientations and budget adjustments in development policy field, some of the country programmes that were part of the assessment will not be continued beyond the current cycle. We wish to be very clear, however, that this does not mean an end to our engagement with these partner countries. There are other ODA-funded financing instruments, and increasingly so, that enable implementation of various types of development activities. We seek to strengthen the synergies between these different modalities of cooperation", stated Hellman.

Ilmari Nalbantoglu, Fingo’s Director of Advocacy, conveyed civil society's views on Finland's country programmes and particularly discussed the possibilities for closer cooperation in the future. "In connection with country programmes, there could be more cooperation across sectors and development actors. Could the diverse expertise of organizations and companies be better utilized in the planning and implementation of country programmes? In regards to country programmes, could cross-border expertise and activities be utilized - there will be fewer country programmes in the future, but the work of civil society organizations will be active in about a hundred countries", pondered Nalbantoglu.

Finnfund has been an active investor in some of Finland's long-term partner countries for decades. " We are happy to share our knowledge and results of our investments to support MFA in planning for new country programmes, or in sustaining results in countries where Finland will phase out from bilateral development cooperation," said Juho Uusihakala, Finnfund's Head of Impact, in his statement. 

Unlike traditional evaluation, the meta-analysis of country programmes was participatory in nature. In addition to the Development Evaluation Unit of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the country teams of the regional departments played an active role not only as producers of data but also in analyzing the evidence at hand. In addition, Finland’s development partners were consulted at the country level. In addition to the synthesis report, separate reports were produced by the meta-analysis team for all the ten countries assessed. The country reports will be published shortly.

Further information

Maria Suokko, Senior Evaluation Specialist, Development Evaluation Unit, tel. +358 50 338 5084


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