After elections in April, Finland’s new centre-right government plans to tackle the country’s recession with major spending cuts in almost every sector. It is currently examining a budget that proposes to cut funding for development cooperation by over €200 million in early 2016. It is also likely to divert more funding towards efforts to boost private sector engagement in development. Overall, programmes and instruments for development cooperation will see their budgets cut by 30-40%.
This is a worrying policy development which calls into question the commitment to gender equality and reproductive health and family planning (RH/FP) that Finland has reiterated over recent years. Countdown 2015 Europe partner Väestöliitto (the Family Federation of Finland) and other national civil society organizations (CSOs) have expressed major concerns about how the cuts will affect efforts to empower women and girls worldwide, in spite of recent ministerial reassurances that they will remain a priority. In particular, the impact on funding to CSOs and women’s organisations, which are instrumental in ensuring access to life-saving FP/RH services, is unclear.
Väestöliitto, together with the Finnish All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population and Development, are carrying out rigorous advocacy work towards new Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Lenita Toivakka, in order to ensure that financing for FP/RH remains a priority in Finnish development policy and that sexual and reproductive health and rights are strongly positioned in the work done for girls and women in development policy and development cooperation. Väestöliitto and the C2015E consortium will continue to monitor the situation very closely.