Finland's Relations and Development Cooperation in Central Asia
Finnish development cooperation in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan is aimed at developing the rule of law, creating sustainable economic growth and improving the management of natural resources.
Finland intensifies its relations with Central Asian countries in order to support the region’s stability, the countries’ internal development and regional cooperation by means of development cooperation, political dialogue and economic cooperation. Finland works as part of the European Union and, through its own policy, implements the EU Strategy on Central Asia.
In the past years, the countries of Central Asia have improved their mutual relations and diversified their international relations. Especially Uzbekistan, which is the region's most densely populated country, has opened up to international cooperation in a new manner and launched economic and societal reforms.
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have considerable environmental problems and, due to the mountainous landscape, are extremely vulnerable to climate change. Matters relating to respect for the rule of law and human rights are causing challenges in these countries. Central government is poor, corruption is widespread, and civil society has limited opportunities. Gender equality is poorly realised, and women are under-represented in decision-making in society.
Bilateral development cooperation between Finland and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan was established in 2009. The support has promoted responsible business conduct and the creation of decent jobs, adaptation to climate change, sustainable use of natural resources, and improved access to and higher quality of legal services. The cooperation with Uzbekistan began in 2021.
The objectives of Finland’s comprehensive activities in Central Asia are described in the Country Strategy and the Country Programme. The latter focuses on development cooperation. The main objectives of the Country Strategy for 2021–2024 are to bring stability and increase sustainable development and prosperity in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as well as to promote the rule of law, human rights and resilience to crisis in society. Other objectives include climate change mitigation and adaptation, and sustainable management of natural resources.
Expected outcomes of Finland’s development cooperation in Central Asia in 2021–2024
In 2021–2024, Finland's bilateral cooperation in Central Asia will be directed to the development of the rule of law, creation of sustainable economic growth, and improved management of natural resources. The financial frame for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in 2021–2024 will be approximately EUR 25 million.
In 2018–2021, Finland's support to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan focused on the development of the rule of law, creation of sustainable economic growth, and improved management of natural resources.
Finland’s development cooperation to promote gender equality, human rights and the rule of law
Finnish development cooperation promotes the capacity of the judicial system to ensure the realisation of citizens’ rights and improves citizens’ awareness of their legal rights.
Expected outcome: Social equality and respect for human rights and the rule of law will increase
- The judicial system and its institutions will be better able to respond to citizens’ needs and to ensure that their rights are realised
- Citizens’ awareness of their legal rights will increase and they will be able to invoke them
Ongoing programmes and projects
- Support to a rule of law and human rights project implemented by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, EUR 3.4 million in 2018-2021
- Support to a rule of law and human rights project implemented by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, EUR 4.5 million in 2022-2025
Finland's development cooperation to create sustainable and inclusive market-oriented economy
Finnish development cooperation supports the building of trade policy expertise, the development of foreign trade, and the reduction of barriers to trade. This will promote inclusive economic development that reduces poverty.
Expected outcome: Free-market economies will be more sustainable and inclusive than before
- Inclusive market economy will support the eradication of poverty and inequality
- Citizens will have better opportunities to benefit from economic development
Ongoing programmes and projects
- Support to an Aid for Trade project in Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), EUR 6.8 million in 2022–2025
- Support to European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (EBRD) Sustainable Infrastructure Fund, EUR 3 million in 2023-2025
Finland's development cooperation to promote sustainable management of natural resources and resilience to the impacts of climate change
Finnish development cooperation supports the sustainable management of natural resources and monitoring and adaptation to the impacts of climate change.
Expected outcome: Natural resources will be managed in a more sustainable manner and resilience to climate change will improve
- The environmental authorities will have improved capacity to monitor and assess the use of natural resources
- The environmental authorities will have improved understanding of the mineral resources and capacity to identify natural hazards
- Loss of life, health risks and loss of property related to climate change and extreme weather events will decrease
- People will be better prepared for climate change mitigation and adaptation
Ongoing programmes and projects
- Support to a water quality project in Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan implemented by the Finnish Environment Institute, EUR 1.6 million in 2021–2023
- Support to a natural resources project in Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan implemented by the Geological Survey of Finland, EUR 3 million in 2022-2024
- Support to a meteorology cooperation in Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan implemented by the Finnish Meteorological Institute, EUR 5 million in 2018–2026
Highlights of the results report 2022
Central Asian countries adopted a cautious approach on the international arena related to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, abstaining from voting on the issue in the UN and OSCE frameworks. As a positive development, some of the countries in the region continued a policy of reforms, and the regional cooperation of Central Asian countries took steps forward. Several international observers reported notable deficiencies in the state of fundamental and human rights in Central Asia. Long-standing tensions in the Kyrgyz-Tajik border region led to a brief renewed escalation of violence in September.
Finland’s support to UNDP contributed to the adoption of new laws, e.g. on free legal aid, as well as around 12,700 citizens being served through the free legal aid centres. UNDP’s rule of law cooperation was expanded to Uzbekistan in 2022. Finland continued its support to the OSCE’s project work and support to civil society.
Support through UNDP also resulted in improved productive capacities of 2,347 micro, small and medium enterprises and farmers in 12 value chains in the rural areas of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. A total of 156 new decent jobs were created and 772 women-led enterprises supported. The cooperation contributed to the volume of export contracts increased by 31 million dollars.
The sustainable use of natural resources and adaptation to climate change in Central Asian countries was promoted through five ongoing institutional cooperation projects carried out by the Geological Survey of Finland and the Finnish Environment Institute with their local partner institutions. The projects focused on quality monitoring of ground and surface water and capacity building.
Finland's partners of cooperation in Central Asia
Finland works in Central Asia as part of the European Union. The other partners of cooperation are the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and international financial institutions. In future, Finland together with the other donors will work to promote the efforts of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As part of the donor community, Finland takes part in the dialogue conducted with the countries of Central Asia. Through this dialogue, the countries are encouraged to promote such universal values as human rights, equality and the rule of law.
In addition, Finland supports the work done in the region by international development finance institutions and offers needs-based humanitarian assistance especially via humanitarian organisations of the UN and Finnish civil society organisations.
Several Finnish civil society organisations have supported the countries’ social development in collaboration with civil society actors. This support has been targeted, among other things, at improving the position of deaf persons and the development of healthcare services.
Central Asian countries offer much potential for commercial cooperation. The region is inhabited by 70 million consumers. Supported by international financial institutions and the European Union, for example, the countries are in transition to market economy.
Finland is deepening its economic relations with the countries of the region and supporting Finnish companies’ investments in and access to their markets. The political and economic opening of Uzbekistan, which started in 2016, has attracted special interest among Finnish companies. The first Team Finland visit to the country was made in 2019. Examples of promising sectors for cooperation include mining, energy-efficient technologies, water management, information technology, agriculture, tourism and education.