BLOG: Panel discussion: Integrating development cooperation and business


Gentle Birds and photo: Petra Heikkilä

Fresh ideas were elicited on the future of Finland’s development cooperation in a panel by Tampere University’s Student Union TAMY as a part of its annual Development Days. Panelists Suvi Virkkunen (Senior Adviser for Development Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland), Helena Arlander (Director, Portfolio and Risk Management, Finnfund) and Auli Starck (Policy Advisor for Civil Society and Lobbying, Kepa ry, The Platform for Finland’s Development NGOs) provided multifaceted views on the topic.

Although Finland’s recent budget cuts in development aid, that were as high as 40 %, including cuts from the NGOs of development cooperation, the panelists shared also several positive views.  There is an increased emphasis on the private sector and stronger involvement of its actors within Finland’s development policy. Kepa’s Auli Starck, although still shocked by the budget cuts that came on a short notice, seems open to find ways to serve Kepa’s over 300 member NGOs in collaboration of private sector organisations.

Multi-stakeholder approach is one of today’s catchword in the development policy, also highlighted by Finland. Suvi Virkkunen reminded, however, that Finland’s development aid is still mainly allocated through a large number of separate instruments, which may not best promote collaboration across actors. The concept of the BEAM (Business with impact) programme demonstrates the new way of thinking in encouraging joint proposals by, eg. companies, civil society and research institutes. However, the BEAM serves best highly professional consortiums. Finnfund’s Helena Arlander sees that competitive and sustainable businesses bring jobs and increased incomes which then reflects in wellbeing; education and improved health outcomes.

The new Agenda 2030 requires holistic thinking and emphasizes of the role of all policies in promotion of sustainable development. Trade rules, taxation, human rights, migration should all be analyzed and implemented with various development, climate change and environmental policy objectives. Not an easy task! Currently, official development assistance (ODA) forms no more than 2-10 % of the budget of the some of the low income countries which Finland is bilaterally supporting. So, one day there may be a situation where instead of the development cooperation there is just cooperation. On the other hand, ODA remains crucially important in situations of conflict and fragility, possibly for a long time.

The moderator of the discussion was Dr. Mikko Perkiö from the Global Health and Development, Tampere University. He wrote this report.

TAMY also describes the event.