Opening remarks by Ritva Koukku-Ronde, Under-Secretary of State for Development Policy 

Seminar on Finnish Supported Environment and Forestry Projects in the Western Balkans, Säätytalo, Helsinki, 2.11.2009

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear colleagues and friends, 

It gives me a great pleasure to welcome you to this seminar on Finnish Supported Environment and Forestry Projects in the Western Balkans. 

Finnish development policy priorities are set in our Government’s Development Policy Programme from 2007. The main goal is to eradicate poverty by promoting economically, ecologically and socially sustainable development in accordance with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. 

The economic, social and ecological dimensions of sustainability are inextricably linked: we must achieve poverty-reducing economic development on an ecologically sustainable basis. For this to be possible, social conditions must be stable. 

Also, the following cross-cutting themes are to be found throughout Finnish development policy: promotion of gender and social equality, promotion of the rights of groups that are easily excluded, and combating HIV/AIDS. 

The guiding principles of Finnish development policy are coherence, complementarity and effectiveness. 

Finland’s Development Policy Programme states that in order to achieve positive outcomes in the partner countries, we need a comprehensive approach to development: we must promote coherent policies in all sectors that have an impact on developing countries. 

Finnish development co-operation focuses on areas where Finnish value added can be best used to support partner countries’ own development strategies. Finland is strong especially in the environment and forestry sectors. This expertise can be put in use while promoting sustainable development and the eradication of poverty in our partner countries and areas. 

We have achieved good results by establishing thematic clusters with experts from different fields in the public and private sector, in order to increase development policy dialogue between actors. Clusters also serve to maintain coherence in development policy among government institutions, private organizations and the civil society. The water cluster, which has later transformed into the Finnish Water Forum, is a good example of the success of cluster-based activity.

I’m also pleased to recall that we have quite recently launched a number of thematic guidelines that steer the implementation of the policy priorities set out in our Development Policy Programme. Just to mention a few: Aid for Trade Action Plan, Policy Guidelines for Environment, Policy Guidelines for Forestry and International Water Strategy. 

Concerning the role of the Western Balkans in our Development Policy (Programme), first of all, Kosovo and Bosnia-Hertsegovina are included among our partner countries and areas recovering from violent crises. Support for these countries and areas calls for a comprehensive approach and partnership in which military and civilian crisis management on the one hand, and development co-operation and humanitarian assistance on the other, are coordinated in order to achieve the best possible overall results. In these countries and areas, Finland works in close co-operation with the EU, other multilateral actors and bilateral donors. 

Secondly, the Western Balkans constitutes one of the areas for regional and thematic co-operation. Thematic co-operation focuses on specific priority sectors of Finnish development policy, especially the promotion of sustainable ecological development. Programmes and projects cover areas such as sustainable forestry, water sector, environment and climate, for example.

Regional co-operation aims at regional integration and should always have a distinct sectoral focus. In these regional programmes Finland operates in close collaboration with regional organizations and multilateral institutions. 

During this seminar on Finnish supported environment and forestry projects, organized by the Department for Europe of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, you will have the opportunity to learn more and to discuss different aspects of our co-operation in the Western Balkans. 

With these few remarks, I have the pleasure to open this seminar, and wish you good and fruitful deliberations. 

Thank you!