The Ministry for Foreign Affairs submitted Finland’s first Development Policy Results Report to Parliament in November 2018. The report presents results of Finland’s development policy and development cooperation that were reported between 2015 and 2018. The National Audit Office has regularly audited Finland’s development cooperation for many years. The audits have emphasised, for example, the significance of assessing the impacts of development cooperation, as well as the transparency and coordination of assistance allocated to development cooperation.
Development policy is part of Finland’s foreign and security policy. Development cooperation provides one channel to implement development policy. The goal of development policy is to eradicate poverty and inequality and to promote sustainable development. At present, Finland’s development policy is implemented in accordance with the 2016 Government Report on Development Policy.
Development policy also plays an important role in terms of central government finances. In 2017, the use of the development cooperation appropriation amounted to approximately EUR 570 million. However, the use of the appropriation has clearly decreased during the current government term since in 2015, the use of the development cooperation appropriation totalled around EUR 940 million.
Although development policy results have been reported for many years, the 2018 Development Policy Results Report submitted to Parliament is the first of its kind. Previously, Parliament has been informed of development policy activities, for example, in the form of government reports. The Development Policy Results Report presents for the first time aggregate figures of programmes carried out in different parts of the world. According to the report, Finland has achieved the goals set for development policy quite well.
Development cooperation and funds allocated thereto are closely monitored. The monitoring is carried out by the civil servants of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, as well as by external experts engaged by the Ministry. External experts may also be used to carry out evaluations of various development cooperation projects. While the monitoring is primarily targeted at controlling the correct use of assistance, the evaluations focus on investigating the effectiveness of development cooperation. Development cooperation is one of the most closely monitored and scrutinised state-run activities in Finland.
The National Audit Office carries out audits on development cooperation in accordance with its internal audit plan and has regularly audited development cooperation activities already for decades. During this decade, development cooperation has been the topic of four audits. Audits have been carried out, for example, on multilateral development cooperation and complementarity in development cooperation.
The National Audit Office has drawn attention to the fact that many departments of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs grant assistance to development cooperation activities. This makes it difficult to coordinate the operations. In terms of the management of overall operations, distribution of funding to a variety of issues is problematic. The decentralised organisation poses a risk to communication and management of information. To correctly target the efforts and allow for proper monitoring, the funding should be transparent. One of the key messages of the Development Policy Results Report is that Finland should focus on a limited number of consistent themes and interventions.
According to the report, development policy can be successful only if it is able to continuously renew its approach and monitor new knowledge on results and effectiveness. This is also important for effective development cooperation. Therefore, the National Audit Office has also emphasised the importance of assessing the effects of development cooperation instead of only reporting on the activities implemented.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs categorises development policy and development cooperation results into immediate and medium-term results and long-term effects. Presentation of immediate results is relatively easy, but evaluating long-term impacts or effectiveness is considerably more difficult. Nevertheless, effectiveness evaluation is an integral part of successful development cooperation. Thorough effectiveness evaluations generate information about which types of development cooperation activities are effective, which in turn enables appropriate allocation of development assistance.
It is delightful and commendable when a funding organisation evaluates results (and effects) of its assistance with such intensity as in the case of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The reporting and evaluation activities carried out by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in the area of development cooperation stand out compared to other ministries responsible for project funding.