85% of the Finnish public considered that development cooperation is important

“In Finland we very much appreciate Kyrgyzstan’s efforts towards access to justice, legal reforms and parliamentary democracy. It has taken to improve the realization of human rights in the country, including those supported through this project. Working with the government authorities is a central part of the collaboration between Finland and Kyrgyzstan: the aim is to support the building of the authorities’ capacities to be able to provide better services for the people” – said Tiina Markkinen, RoL and HR Adviser of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland during her interview about projects realized in Kyrgyzstan.   

–  Today whole world talk about financial crises. European population always criticizing government for spending state wealth for developing countries. Is this topic a subject for criticism among Finnish society too? 

The financial crises has also had its impact on Finland and the Finnish Official Development Assistance (ODA). This resulted in 38% annual cut to Finland’s aid budget in 2016 compared to the previous years.

Despite overall budget cuts, development aid and development co-operation have a strong support among the Finnish public: for instance a 2017 opinion poll found that 85% of the Finnish public still considered development co-operation to be important.

In the long term Finland remains committed to achieving the 0,7% ODA target – so the long term aim has not changed.

The background to our collaboration in Kyrgyzstan and the Kyrgyz “Widening Access to Justice for Legal Empowerment in the Kyrgyz Republic” is in another, an originally regional project that MFA funded and which was later transformed into a few country-specific projects.

–  Finnish government supports projects on widening access to justice, on trade issues, on clean water, on protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and so on. How MFA of Finland determine the main directions of support?  

The Programme of each Government guides Finland’s foreign policy, including our development policy. Based on this, there may be different emphasis during different governments.  The current, Prime Minister Sipilä’s, government program was adopted in May 2015 and our current development policy programme in early 2016.  The next parliamentary elections in Finland will be organized next year (2019) and after that we will see the potential effects this may have on our development policy focus areas for the ensuing four years.

In our current development policy we have four priority areas which closely linked to and aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.  These include a target on strengthening the rights and status of women and girls; and a target on better functioning and more democratic societies with a specific target on better access to judicial services. In addition, the values and principles of democracy and the rule of law; gender equality and human rights and freedom of speech are integral to all aspects of our foreign and development policy.

In general, Finland decides its ODA channels and engagement based on experience and the effectiveness of existing partnerships. Almost all of Finland’s long-term partner countries are either least-developed countries or fragile states.  Finland has nine long-term partner countries where it has operated for some time, and which are home to some of the world’s poorest people: six of these are in  sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, Tanzania and Zambia) and three in Asia (Afghanistan, Myanmar and Nepal). Finland also provides support to other countries, such as Tadzhikistan and Kyrgyzstan. In both countries, a lot has already been achieved but through our continued collaboration and support we wish to ensure sustainability for the results already made.

– The UNDP and MFA of Finland’s project “Widening access to justice in the KR” had been realizing in Kyrgyzstan last 4 years. Finnish government continued this project. What is the reason of this decision – successful realization of the project or the rights of vulnerable groups’ are still in priority or other reasons?   

I would say both of these were important factors in the discussions on the continuation of this project.

We have had a good working relationship with UNDP – which implements this project – as well as the national partners, other UN agencies, and civil society organizations. The project was evaluated in 2016 and the conclusion was that the project has managed to reach thousands of beneficiaries and the work done in the area of legal reform has been effective. Also, the ownership of the State and the participation of the local interest groups and partners was been seen as successful and relevant for the realization and sustainability of the project.

Finland is a strong advocate of the “leave-no-one-behind” agenda. We have adopted a human-rights based approach to development and promote this in all development policy work. Within this framework we have three cross-cutting themes: gender equality, reduction of inequalities and environmental sustainability.  In the Kyrgyz project we have been pleased to see the focus on these issues with regards to the first two.

From the Finnish perspective, it is important to guarantee the accessibility for legal services for all – including those living in the more hard to reach areas. Both from the perspective of the individuals as and from the perspective of the society the best scenario is when people have the opportunity to have their every-day legal issues solved  at as an early stage as possible. An effective systems mechanism for seeking justice and redress needs also to accommodate those who are most marginalized and have most difficulties of accessing legal – and other – services.

1.      There is a long list of project achievements. What do you think what is the main achievement of the project?

Indeed. The most significant achievement that we see in this project is its contribution to the adoption of the new law guaranteeing free legal aid also in civil and administrative cases (in addition to that in criminal law). The project has had a key role in supporting the Ministry of Justice in the preparations for this law, in calculating its financial implications and in piloting the various models through which legal aid can be provided in the country.

Another key achievement has been the promotion of the ratification of the UN Convention on the Persons with Disabilities. The project has provided support to raising the awareness of both the authorities and the public on this issue and bringing the various civil society organizations together to support this work.

The next phase of the project, beginning this year, will continue this work to institutionalize the mechanisms already created for the provision of free legal aid and to ensure their sustainability. In this key will be to support the implementation of the new free legal aid law, support the work of the legal aid coordination mechanism under Ministry of Justice and to support the better integration and linking of the existing legal services together as well as their quality.


–  We often say about raising legal culture of population. Kyrgyz government accepted the “Concept on raising legal culture of population in KR for 2016-2020” with the support of this project. We see that it is very difficult process and it demand a long and hard work. Are there any effective methods or ways of raising legal culture, which used in your country? Is it possible to use your experience in our country?

The principle of the Rule of Law is seen as one of the cornerstone s of the Finnish society. In this crucial elements are the principles of legality, the tripartite separation of state powers, and human rights, among others . In Finland, the trust of the people in the realization of the rule of law in their every-day life is high. In the 2017-2018 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index launched last week Finland ranked third (after Denmark and Norway).

In Finland, human rights education was built in the 2014 school curricula reform. The starting point for the reform was to integrate the values and respect for human rights, equality and non-discrimination in all school work and working culture as well as to the various topics taught in school.  In addition, many organizations provide human rights education and training to schools and various other target groups.

In Finland the activities of civil society, human rights research institutions and government are complemented by our 2012 established Human Rights Centre which was founded because the promotion of human rights was deemed to require better coordination and cooperation as well as more resources. The center is an autonomous and independent expert institution and part of our national human rights institution. Its tasks are to promote the implementation of fundamental and human rights and increase cooperation and exchange of information between various actors.

Regarding the A2J project, from our point of view, it is important that the in addition to working with the authorities and strengthening of the capacities of the state to provide legal services, the project also works to strengthen the awareness of the civil society actors and the general public  on human rights. As we know, in order for a person to be able to claim their rights he/she must first be aware of one’s rights.

–  At the end of our interview, what would you like to say for our readers?

I would like to thank for the opportunity to share our views on the project and – on the behalf of the MFA Finland – to thank all the partners in this project for the good collaboration. We look forward to the next 4 years of the project and the opportunity to show also the Finnish public the good achievement that we are able to achieve with our development assistance in the Central Asian region.

–  Thanks much for you interview and many thanks to Finnish Government for supporting useful projects in Kyrgyzstan.

Meri Bekeshova, Communication specialist of UNDP and MFA project “Towards a sustainable access to justice for legal empowerment in the Kyrgyz Republic”

Feb 28, 2018


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