Finland mainly successful in influencing EU development policy

According to a recent evaluation, Finland’s influencing towards the EU’s development policy has been relevant and successful. However, the evaluation identified deficiencies, too, such as gaps in the strategic guidance of activities at different levels.

The recently published independent evaluation examined Finland’s success in influencing the EU’s development policy. The evaluation found that Finland’s influencing towards the EU has been relevant, systematic and mostly efficient and seamless.

The EU influencing strategies of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs are in line with Finland’s development policy. However, the strategies do not always have clearly defined priorities or they are not sufficiently forward looking. The evaluation criticises the Ministry for lacking an established system of monitoring, evaluation and learning.

The evaluation recommends among other things that the Ministry should broaden its strategic planning and use of influencing on and working with the EU. Strong leadership and clear priorities are needed. Influencing strategies should be more forward looking. The Ministry should encourage its staff to strengthen their skills, their physical presence in the EU and their collaboration with the EU. Moreover, the Ministry should improve its coordination, organisational structures and learning mechanisms and increase its cooperation with stakeholders.   

Successful influencing in the education sector

The evaluation report was presented at the House of the Estates on 27 October 2022. Director of the Development Evaluation Unit Antero Klemola opened the event. In his address, he underlined the timeliness and significance of the topic. New initiatives, such as the Global Gateway, will further strengthen the EU’s significance as a channel for cooperation and influencing.

European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said in her video greeting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a compass for EU’s external action.

“The philosophy behind Team Europe is to gain synergies and better results and to find better and more efficient ways to use resources. Team Europe is the biggest aid donor in the world. Together we can achieve permanent changes,” Commissioner Urpilainen said.

She mentioned having noticed the influencing outcomes in the education sector, which the evaluation verified.

The evaluation found that to achieve its objectives, Finland has made use of its expertise in development cooperation, its collaboration with other EU Member States and its long-standing relationships with local partners. Examples of Finland’s leading role in the education sector include helping Nepal to increase teachers’ competence levels and to improve equal access to education and helping Ukraine to develop the quality of teaching in primary and secondary education.  

“As a Union we should build on each Member State’s strengths. I encourage all Member States to be active in bringing up their views on shaping the EU’s development policy”, Urpilainen said. 

Finland is pragmatic

Director General of the Department for Development Policy Titta Maja-Luoto remarked that influencing by Finland has been characterised by pragmatism and the focus has been on our areas of expertise.

“The challenge is that there are not many Finnish nationals working in the Commission,” Maja-Luoto said. She called for alliances among likeminded Member States and the civil society.

Director of Sustainable Development at the Finnish Development NGOs Fingo and CONCORD President Rilli Lappalainen said that few people in Finland truly understand how the EU works. “It is quite relevant for successful influencing,” Lappalainen said.

“There are many different actors dealing with matters that have global impact. Should we not talk about global responsibilities instead of development?” he said.

Lappalainen continued by reminding that while Finland used to be a strong promoter of policy coherence, he now feels that this role has become less pronounced.

Long-term cooperation pays off

Chair of the Development Policy Committee, Member of Parliament Inka Hopsu remarked on the evaluation’s finding that human resources are insufficient, which has a negative impact on almost every aspect of development policy.

In Hopsu’s view, one of the easier evaluation recommendations to implement would be to increase cooperation and coordination with external stakeholders, such as the Development Policy Committee or Parliament.

“The current practice undermines transparency and accountability and deprives the Ministry of a potentially useful source of complementary support on influencing the EU’s development policy and development cooperation, given that some of these stakeholders have their own channels of influencing Brussels,” Hopsu said.

Overall, Hopsu found the evaluation to be encouraging. “The results are encouraging because they prove once again that it really pays off to commit oneself to a few key questions on a long-term basis and to working together with likeminded countries.”