According to a recent evaluation, Finland’s development cooperation has promoted the rights of vulnerable populations in partner countries. The commitment to the human rights-based approach has been strong. However, there are still challenges in monitoring and reporting the implementation of this approach and its links to risk management.
The recent evaluation examines the realization of the human rights-based approach in Finland’s development cooperation funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Human rights and a human rights-based approach are firmly integrated into Finland’s foreign and security policy, including its development policy. All funded activities are expected to be at least human rights-sensitive, meaning that the human rights situation in the operating environment has been assessed, and the project activities do no harm.
According to the evaluation, Finland has succeeded in establishing human rights as one of the central principles in its development policy and cooperation. The project plans reflect the project’s intentions to promote this approach.
Progress in realising the rights of persons in vulnerable situations
Progress has been made, especially in the realisation of the rights of persons in vulnerable situations, and their ability to demand action from duty-bearers to ensure the realisation of human rights. For example, thanks to Finland’s support, persons with disabilities are better able to advocate for their rights in partner countries. This approach has also played a significant role in shifting away from charity-oriented way of thinking and has provided a solid legal framework for development policy and cooperation.
The evaluation recommends that the human rights-based approach should remain a central guiding principle. Human rights should be even more clearly visible in the objectives and processes of development policy and cooperation. The Ministry should better identify cooperation partners that have not yet reached a human rights-sensitive level. More attention should be paid to implementation and monitoring, and ensuring a stronger knowledge base, through for instance human rights and conflict analyses.
The approach strengthens sustainable development and ownership
The evaluation results were presented in a public discussion event on October 26, 2023.
Peggy Hicks, the Director of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), congratulated Finland on its achievements in promoting a human rights-based approach and noted that the published report will benefit a wide range of actors.
“Human rights can help us rescue the SDGs. We know that development approaches that integrate human rights are more equitable and sustainable,” she emphasized.
Senior Advisor Birgitta Weibahr from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) shared Sweden’s experiences in implementing the approach. She mentioned that applying HRBA allows them to strengthen ownership and helps in identifying root causes.
During the event, Paul Dalton, Senior Advisor at the Danish Institute for Human Rights, commented on the discussion. “Don’t underestimate the contribution that Finland has made,” he said. The approach developed by the Ministry is very innovative and an important attempt to try to increase accountability. It also inspires other international actors”, he continued.
Finland must reaffirm its commitment
Member of Parliament Hilkka Kemppi emphasized the need to enhance the awareness of human rights-based approach in the Parliament and the consensus on the matter. She called for the inclusion of human rights-based approach in the future trade and development policy report.
Deputy Director Erik Lundberg from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ Political Department reminded that there is still a demand for human rights, including among African youth.
“We are moving forward in using foreign policy and development cooperation together more coherently. We need to do our best to ensure that human rights stay at the core of these policies”, he said. “We have a strong tradition on working closely with the civil society”, he added.
Human rights expert Katja Ilppola from the KIOS Foundation, a Finnish non-governmental foundation for human rights, emphasized the importance of the role of civil society but also stressed the need for the private sector to do more in promoting human rights.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.