Finns’ attitudes concerning development cooperation have become more positive than before. Almost one in four would increase appropriations for development cooperation.
Nearly one in four Finns, or 23 per cent, would raise appropriations for development cooperation. A year ago the corresponding figure was 16 per cent. A respective decrease occurred in the percentage who felt that development cooperation appropriations should be cut, from 20 per cent last year to the present 14 per cent.
The figures are among the findings of a survey on Finns’ attitudes about development cooperation and development policy commissioned by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and conducted by the market research company Taloustutkimus Oy.
Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala stated at a press conference on Tuesday that Finland is committed to the European Union’s decision to allocate 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to development cooperation by the year 2015. The survey indicates that Finns support this goal; the figure corresponds to the most widely held view of what would be a suitable level for development cooperation appropriations.
Hautala said that we can move towards that goal even though it is not recorded in the Government Programme. “There is no question of giving up. The objectives are the same as before.”
The Minister for International Development is pleased that the weightings of the Government Programme can be seen in the research results. As a motive for development cooperation, promotion of democracy and human rights has nearly doubled in support since last year’s questionnaire.
This means that ever more citizens think that effort should be made to strengthen democracy and human rights in developing countries and that this is even possible by means of development cooperation.
Hautala pointed out that development policy is part of the broad spectrum of foreign and security policy.
“In this Government, the portfolios of the minister for foreign trade and the minister for international development are assigned to different people; nonetheless I hope we shall be able to work together,” she continued.
Citizens’ responses to questions about motives for development cooperation show an interesting change since last year. Aside from moral responsibility and poverty reduction, a third reason, “improving the living conditions of people in developing countries and thereby preventing illegal migration”, was supported twice as often as a year ago.
In other words, some citizens see development cooperation as a way to help people “in their own homelands” in order to control the flood of migration and keep the poor outside our borders.
On the other hand, this finding could also indicate that people are more aware of migration and its impact. Minister Hautala pointed out that illegal migration and refugees are often seen as greater threats than they are in reality.
“People fleeing from Libya, for instance, have not come to Europe but have gone mainly to Tunisia and Egypt.”
Nearly all Finns believe that development cooperation increases security. Nearly all Finns also consider humanitarian aid to be important.
Finns are famously proud of education and aware of the importance of education and know-how to societal development. It is therefore not surprising that education is seen as a sector in which Finland’s development cooperation should invest the most.
The new Government Programme emphasizes the importance of education as the focal area of development policy, especially in order to enable a worthy life for the quickly growing population of young people in developing countries.
Citizens ponder both the question of ensuring that aid reaches its destination and the effectiveness of assistance every year. Some suspect that development cooperation does not reach its target groups or that weak governance in the recipient country prevents cooperation from succeeding and having impact. These issues are constant food for thought among people conducting development cooperation and experts studying it.
Learning from past experiences, various means are applied in an effort to promote the impact and effectiveness of Finland’s development cooperation. The Government is committed to giving a report on the effectiveness and coherence of development policy.
The findings of the survey prove that development cooperation still has widespread support among Finns.