Finland's development cooperation in the Middle East and northern Africa

Finland’s goal in the Middle East and northern Africa is to support the region’s stability and sustainable development.

Mediators discuss community tensions with stakeholders during public workshop held in the Municipality of Abbassiyeh, Lebanon in July 2019. Photo: Emad Karim / UN Women

Middle East and northern Africa region faces multiple and long-term economic, political and social challenges as well as growing problems related to climate and environment. In addition, the region struggles with instability, tensions, and conflicts. Broad engagement is needed in order to find and implement sustainable solutions to these complex and partly cross-border challenges. This underlines the necessity of civil society engagement, in particular the importance of youth’s and women’s participation.

In 2021–2024, Finland aims to promote democracy, human rights and equality in the Middle East and northern Africa. Support will also be targeted at sustainable economic growth and trade, women’s employment and entrepreneurships as well as to the creation of decent jobs. Finland aims to promote climate change mitigation and adaptation to it as well as just green transition. In order to reach the objectives and sustainable development goals, active participation of civil society is important.

Finland’s strategic goals are described in more detail in the Strategy for development cooperation in the Middle East and northern Africa.

Finland’s Strategy for development cooperation in Middle East and northern Africa 2021–2024 (PDF)

In the previous programming period in 2017–2020, Finland focused on developing inclusive and gender equal societies and on promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland includes the following countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, the occupied Palestinian territory, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The wider MENA (Middle East and northern Africa) is considered to include also the countries of the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauretania, Mali, Niger) and Sudan.

Finland’s development cooperation promotes gender equality

Finland’s development cooperation is targeted at improving women’s opportunities to take part in decision-making, peace processes and in the labour market.

Expected outcome: Enhanced participation of women in society

  • The implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security is promoted
  • Equality in working life and decent jobs are promoted
  • Women’s opportunities to take part in decision-making and access to leading roles are improved

Ongoing programmes

  • UN Women: Women, Peace and Security in the Arab States - Phase II. The programme strengthens the countries’ capacity to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and to improve women’s and girls’ position in conflict situations. Finland's support for the project in 2019–2021 amounts to EUR 4.7 million.
  • ILO: Decent Work for Women in Egypt and Tunisia - Phase II. The project aims to support women to better participate in labour market in Tunisia and Egypt through a comprehensive approach. It seeks to strengthen the capacity of state administration and labour market organisations to respond to the challenges encountered by women in the labour market. Finland’s contribution to the programme in 2018–2021 is EUR 2.2 million.

Finland's development cooperation in mitigating climate change and in adapting to it

Finnish development cooperation supports adaptation to climate change and solutions to reduce emissions.

Expected outcome: Enhanced climate change mitigation and societies’ adaptation to it

  • Low-emission development is strengthened
  • Circular economy is enhanced
  • Societies’ capacity to adapt to climate change is improved, with due regard to people in the most vulnerable position

Ongoing programmes

  • Finnish Meteorological Institute and Sudan Meteorological Authority (SMA): Improving the Adaptation to Climate change by Enhancing Weather and Climate Services. The project's key aim is to strengthen capacity of the SMA's to provide better weather forecasts and data management. Finland’s contribution to the project is EUR 600,000 million in 2020–2023.

The following projects are also funded under Finland’s Strategy for development cooperation in Middle East and northern Africa

  • IOM: Fostering the Health and Protection of Vulnerable Migrants transiting Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Sudan - Phase III. The project aims to support and fill the gaps of the national and local actors with a focus on improving health and protection of vulnerable migrants. Finland’s contribution to the project is EUR 3.5 million in 2020–2023.
  • Anna Lindh Foundation: Intercultural and civil society dialogue.  Established in 2005, the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) serves as an umbrella network for the national ALF networks of 44 states in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Its mission is to promote intercultural dialogue and collaboration between civil societies in order to alleviate tensions in the Mediterranean region. Finland’s support to the Anna Lindh Foundation and related Finnish national coordination is EUR 100,000 a year.
  • The Helsinki Policy Forum (HPF) is a dialogue process founded in 2014 to facilitate dialogue and understanding between politicians and other stakeholders from Europe and the Middle East and North Africa in order to mitigate the tension in the region. Finland’s support to the HPF is EUR 200,000 a year.
  • The Quick Impact Projects (QIP) in Lebanon aim at supporting the development of local communities in southern Lebanon and, thereby, to enhance trust between Finnish UNIFIL troops and the local population, which is key to provide a favourable operational environment for the troops. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) aims to maintain stability in the region. Finland's support to QIP projects is EUR 100,000 a year.

Finland's partners of cooperation in the Middle East and northern Africa

Finland seeks to strengthen the bilateral relations with countries in the Middle East and northern Africa. Finland participates in multilateral discussions to promote common interests, and cooperation is conducted through the EU and the UN. Finland participates, for example in the EU’s training missions and the UN’s peacekeeping operations. Additionally, Finland supports Finnish civil society organisations operating in the region, which are working especially on questions relating to migration, refugees and peace mediation.