Finn Church Aid Annual report 2021 has been published.
AS I LOOK BACK ON THE PAST TWO YEARS, I see how dramatically the world has changed. The Covid-19 pandemic restricted our lives but at the same time encouraged us towards a huge digital leap. Crisis and conflicts are more multifaceted, and climate change exacerbates the situation further. More and more people need our help. And so, I have to ask, what will come next?
A message that has echoed throughout our country and field offices is the effect that Covid-19 has had. I am grateful to everyone across whole the whole organisation for working throughout it, particularly the staff who met the direct challenges posed by the pandemic and found new ways of working. Our localisation strategy puts a lot of responsibility on our country offices, and we reaped the benefit of this trust during the pandemic. Only when government restrictions in our programme countries prevented us, did our activities halt. We came out of the last two years with fresh ways of thinking and new partnerships.
Localisation must be strengthened and it should be advanced at all levels – what we need to do is ensure that our understanding of aid is shared and that we stand with those at the coalface and support local actors. Within FCA, 95 per cent of our staff are from the countries where we work; our Uganda country office is, for example, bigger than our Helsinki office.
”We have proven that we can do things differently and that we can be an agile, responsive organisation.”
But with all that has happened, also considering the recent escalation of the Ukraine crisis, we need to be even more prepared to face the challenges still to come. Conflicts are plenty and protracted, and they exacerbate human rights violations. Addressing difficulties requires a much broader perspective – we need to be open to new solutions, and as humanitarians, we need to do this with optimism. We have to find technical solutions that are grounded in science. We did this during the pandemic, using digital technology in education. We can do the same thing with climate change to find ways to mitigate and adapt to it.
In the Horn of Africa or countries such as Cambodia and Nepal, populations are finding it more and more challenging to adapt to climate change. People are no longer able to survive in areas where they have always lived. The places that were once difficult to live in are now uninhabitable, and these areas are expanding. Climate change is affecting all of us even more, and war, armed conflicts and unrest do not help.
In South Sudan, it seems like the country lurches from one disaster to another, and most of them are linked to the climate emergency. Our job tackling the changing climate is difficult enough, but with conflict, the task before us can seem impossible.
All of our work is made possible by our partners
One thing that gives me hope is that our concerns are shared, particularly across the private sector, and this creates opportunities. Particularly in livelihoods, an example is our creative industries partnership in Kenya, where we are working with small companies, and our vocational education in Uganda that links skills-trained youth to jobs in the private sector.
We have proven that we can do things differently and that we can be an agile, responsive organisation. We started founding country offices only in 2010, and our ways of doing things are not set in stone, making it easier to adapt to changing circumstances. So, we can ask ourselves, what is the best way to work going forward? Is it to provide certain support as a private sector organisation? Working through parents’ and teachers’ associations in schools? Or acting as a consultant to the government? Or mixing new elements to our modalities of work, in addition to traditional development cooperation, humanitarian assistance and peace building? This flexibility is evident when you look at our work in Asia, which is very different from how we work in for example Africa.
All of our work is made possible by our partners. Often, when people try to help, they focus their efforts on the people closest to them, sometimes forgetting the rest of the world. But, like us, our partners understand that events occurring anywhere in the world can affect us all, which is why we need to work together. We thank all our partners and donors for your unwavering support and fruitful collaboration.
Text: Jouni Hemberg, Finn Church Aid Executive Director Photo: Antti Yrjönen
Finn Church Aid Annual report 2021 can be accessed online here.
The impact of the war in Ukraine isn’t limited to Europe
The war in Ukraine not only transformed European security policy – it also has global effects that can bring about new security threats. Whilst we support Ukraine and tackle a humanitarian crisis in Europe, the wider consequences of the war must be noted, too.
By various measures, the world has taken a turn for the better in the past few decades. Economic developments, investments in public services, and development co-operation for its part have been successful. Extreme poverty has halved, an increasing number of girls go to school, and the global child mortality rate has decreased, although the differences between countries remain sizeable.
The covid-19 pandemic has undermined human development significantly, and the need for humanitarian aid around the world is at a historic high. Lengthy school closures have led to enormous learning loss particularly in developing countries, where the opportunities for providing remote teaching have been limited. In Finn Church Aid’s countries of operation, for example in Uganda, schools were closed for two years.
The war in Ukraine has raised the prices of food and fuel, which undermines food security in developing countries, already weakened by the pandemic and climate crisis. The food crisis also has an immense impact on education. Longstanding positive progress is about to grind to a halt and extreme poverty is on the rise again. An increasing number of countries are threatened by a prolonged and deepening crisis.
“Longstanding positive progress is about to grind to a halt and extreme poverty is on the rise again.”
The food crisis increases the likelihood of more and more children and young people suspending or quitting their studies. In poor households living off small-scale farming, children and young people are needed for work and making a living for their families. Girls are particularly at risk of having to drop out of school, because growing poverty leads to a rise in the number of child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
In addition, governments in Finland and some other European countries are planning cuts on development funding or reallocating funds to Ukraine. Dealing with one crisis in a way that threatens to increase instability in other nearby areas is a poor solution, as well as damaging important partnerships with developing countries.
For the European Union, building equal partnerships with developing countries, such as African states, should be an important strategic direction. In a multipolar world, developing countries can choose their partners too. Democracy, human rights and a rule-based international community are best promoted through equal partnerships. The warmer welcome to Ukrainian refugees in comparison to those from elsewhere has been noted around the world. Compare also the EU recently being unwilling to compromise on questions that African states find important, such as patent waivers on covid-19 vaccines and treatments, and migration issues.
The war in Europe only emphasises the fact that investments in education, livelihood, conflict prevention, peace work, and genuine partnerships are the most effective and affordable forms of crisis management. As a counterbalance, there is a danger of growing instability in the vicinity of Europe. This is not unavoidable, if we’re ready to invest in positive solutions.
The author is the Executive Director of Finn Church Aid.
Finn Church Aid (FCA) embarks on a transformation journey by making an organisational renewal to better serve the world’s most vulnerable populations.
The renewal answers to the needs of the changing world. The work of FCA is affected by, among other things, climate change, changes in global power structures, decrease in empathy, digitalisation, urbanisation and the changes in the financial structure for development cooperation and reductions in funding.
“There is a continued need to have actors amplifying the voices of the most vulnerable. We need to remain able to function amidst these changes in order to deliver aid effectively also in the future,” says Executive Director Jouni Hemberg.
FCA is making its leadership structure more effective and transfers decision-making to the local level in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The organisation’s global decision-making will be strengthened by appointing two representatives from FCA’s country offices to the Global Leadership Team, which will have a significant role in strategic decision-making. The new organisational structure aims to serve better the people FCA works with and emphasis accountability.
There are also new positions in FCA. PhdEd Tomi Järvinen, formerly Director of International Cooperation, is appointed as Deputy Executive Director of FCA to lead strategic planning. FCA’s former country director for Cambodia Saara Lehmuskoski, M.Soc.Sc., is appointed as Head of Transformation and Katri Suomi, MA, MSc, as Director of Stakeholder Relations.
The new organisational structure will come into force on 1stApril and the implementation will continue over the coming months.
1. Donation: The blockchain creates a reference for each donation. The reference allows users to track exactly how their donation is used.
2. Beneficiary registration: Blockchain technology enables electronic registration of beneficiaries, for instance, biometrically through fingerprint or iris scans or with smart cards.
3. Verified retailers: Retailers of food and other necessities are equipped with the relevant technology for identifying beneficiaries and trained in using the system.
4. Redemption: The retailer receives payment from the NGO that coordinates the operation for the items they have sold to identified beneficiaries.
5. Monitoring: If transactions are made electronically, the smart contract enables the donor to follow up on how the beneficiary spends the assistance in real-time through an online link.
The benefits and challenges of cash assistance
Cash transfers are one way to ensure that a greater amount of assistance funds directly reaches those in need while also enabling vulnerable families to decide for themselves what they need and prioritise their procurements. Local retailers benefit from increased activity at local markets.
Distributing cash does also bring challenges. The beneficiary is subject to risks by carrying relatively large amounts of cash in a fragile context. To ensure that the money does not instigate fraud or corruption, organisations need to allocate staff for monitoring and follow-ups.
The spread of the coronavirus has also complicated arrangements of cash distributions, and the use of cash increases the risk of transmitting the virus between people at local markets.
With the support of blockchain technology, an organisation can create a virtual wallet for each beneficiary. The beneficiary can then buy necessities from verified retailers equipped with the appropriate identification equipment. Transactions are followed virtually, making monitoring easy, and the blockchain enables safer transactions that protect the identity of the beneficiaries.
The board of Finn Church Aid has named Katri Suomi as Director of Stakeholder Relations Department from 1st March 2021. Suomi holds Master of Arts degree in Political Studies and Master of Science degree in International Environmental Science.
The position is new. The responsibilities of the department include advocacy, communications, and church and ecumenical relations and other international partnerships.
‘Cooperation with different stakeholders and efficient and timely communications and advocacy are all the more important for Finn Church Aid and so we happy to have Katri Suomi leading this important work. We warmly welcome her to this new position,’ says Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director of Finn Church Aid.
Katri Suomi has worked in different positions in Finn Church Aid since 2008. She has been, for example, Head of Advocacy and Global Ecumenical Relations and Climate Change Adviser. Earlier Suomi has worked, among other things, in the Finnish Ministry of the Environment and in Finland’s Permanent Representation to the European Union.
‘The appointment is both a joy and an honour. I look forward to developing and strengthening stakeholder relations at Finn Church Aid together with my skilled and committed colleagues,’ Suomi says.
FCA has decided to change its operation to better answer to future challenges. There will be communication during this spring about other changes in the work and organisation of Finn Church Aid.
‘Achieving the sustainable development goals requires wide-spread cooperation with different stakeholders. – The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the earlier development results and the situation has worsened in several of FCAs countries of operation with regard for example to gender equality, education and livelihoods. In this situation, it is even more important to bring advocacy, communications, church and ecumenical relations, and international partnerships into one unit. It makes it stronger and enables better and more efficient work with stakeholders,’ Katri Suomi notes.
Ms. Tarja Kantola, Chair of Finn Church Aid’s Board of Directors, has been appointed to co-chair the Faith-Based Advisory Council for the United Nations Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development. The other co-chair for the Council is H.E. Faisal Bin Muaammar, Secretary General of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID).
“As co-chair of the Advisory Council, I look forward to the opportunity to advance human rights and build upon the experience of faith-based organisations with the UN”, says Ms. Kantola.
The UN Interagency Task Force was formed in 2010 as a mechanism to generate more learned and systematic knowledge about faith-based engagement around the development, peace building and human rights’ agendas of the United Nations. In April 2018, the UN Task Force and over 50 of the faith-based NGO partners agreed to develop an Advisory Council.
The responsibility of the Advisory Council will be to provide strategic advice to the UN Inter-Agency Task Force in order to strengthen human rights-based policy advocacy, coordinate engagement with faith-based entities, and to focus on the representation of religion in peacemaking.
In celebration of Mr. Annan’s legacy of engaging with faith-based actors, the Task Force will launch an Annual Kofi Annan Faith Briefings’, which will uphold the importance of strategic partnerships by the UN system with faith-based civil society actors around the world.
“Finn Church Aid and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers applaud the efforts of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Development. It is a significant development to see this effort being institutionalised through the first-ever Advisory Council of faith-based organisations. It is a tremendous recognition to Finn Church Aid’s thematic work to have its chair, Ms. Tarja Kantola, as the co-chair the Advisory Council”, states Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, Executive Director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and Advisory Council member.
Ms. Tarja Kantola has an extensive career in international relations and promoting human rights. She is Member of the Church Council of the The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and Chair of Board of WISE Wider Security Network. Prior to serving as Chair of Finn Church Aid’s Board of Directors, she worked for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland as political Advisor in Foreign Ministers Cabinet with four Foreign Ministers and chaired the Advisory Board on International Human Rights Affairs set by the Finnish Government. Kantola has also worked with several civil society organisations, including the International Solidarity Foundation, the Finnish Refugee Council and Save the Children Finland. She has been Member of the City Council of Helsinki and Member of the City Board.
For more information
Ms. Tarja Kantola, Chair of Board, Finn Church Aid
tel.+358 050 555 0833, kantolantarja(a)gmail.com (Time zone GMT +3, Eastern European Summer Time)
Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, Executive Director, The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers
tel. +1 317 506 2835 (Time zone GMT-4, Eastern Daylight Time)
Finn Church Aid (FCA) has become a globally valued expert in education and peace work. At the end of September, the 70 years of FCA’s aid work were celebrated in Helsinki.
FCA’s anniversary year culminated in the #courage2017 seminar held in Helsinki on 27 September. Among the speakers were Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, Archbishop of Finland Kari Mäkinen, the UN Under-Secretary General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng, and Alice P. Albright, the Director of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which is the world’s most important funder of education in developing countries.
“It is admirable, that despite the risks, Finn Church Aid has decided to work in the world’s most fragile countries”, Prime Minister Sipilä said in his speech.
The Prime Minister commended FCA’s practical work in peace mediation and in the fight against violent extremist groups, as well as its courage to open-mindedly try out new methods and partnerships.
“My office receives some of its greatest support from civil society actors like Finn Church Aid”, said UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng.
Partnership with Finn Church Aid, and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers working in connection with it, has led to concrete results.
UN Special Adviser Adama Dieng answered questions from the audience. The seminar was hosted by Baba Lybeck.
“At the heart of all religions is the belief in our common humanity and respect for others. Together we have succeeded in placing a discussion about the positive power of religion at the heart of the work of the United Nations”, Dieng said.
The importance of education was a recurring theme in the event’s speeches. According to the latest estimates, there are 264 million out-of-school children and youth in the world.
“Hundreds of millions of young people are being left behind. They will never acquire the skills they need to break out of poverty or to compete in an increasingly globalised world. The countries they live in are deprived of their input in the building of economically stable and sustainable societies. As a result, we are all less well off”, said GPE’s Director Alice P. Albright. GPE is working to improve education in developing countries.
Albright reminded the audience that we live in an increasingly interconnected world, and inequality of opportunity leads to discontent and conflict, which in turn can spill over national borders. It is the responsibility of everyone – whether from traditional donor countries, emerging economies, developing countries, foundations, civil society or the private sector – to invest in education.
New direction and a wider reach
Ten years ago, Finn Church Aid completely changed its direction. Where earlier FCA had focused on funding the work carried out by its partner organisations it now decided to specialise in peace work, education and improving livelihoods. It also began sending its own relief workers abroad and set up country offices to manage the implementation of its own projects.
“We wanted to take a bigger responsibility for the results of our work. On a global scale we are a small organisation and it is not sensible for us to seek out projects in areas that already have a large number of actors in them. Our work has its biggest impact in the world’s most fragile countries”, says FCA Director Jouni Hemberg.
In ten year, FCA’s income has doubled, partly as a result of international funding. FCA currently employs 350 people, which is nearly ten times more than a decade ago. Last year, 132,500 children and youth received access to education as a result of FCA’s work.
Among the guests at the anniversary event were representatives from FCA’s Finnish and foreign partners, the Finnish government, the Finnish church, other civil society organisations, the media and parishes.
Deaconess Heidi Karvonen from Oulu has been FCA’s contact point in her parish for 20 years.
“International charity work is important for me and I have always wanted to bring FCA’s work forward in my parish. Initially, disaster relief was closest to my heart, but now I feel most strongly about peace work, about how conflict and human suffering could be avoided. At the event today, we’ve heard a lot of emphasis put on the importance of education as the foundation for peace work”, Karvonen says.
“Finn Church Aid’s courage is a result of it recognising its roots and identity and drawing from them”, said Archbishop Kari Mäkinen.
The Archbishop spoke of how after the Second World War, churches understood that they were part of a reality in which people’s basic security had been shaken. Talk of a loving God rang hollow when people were not fed, clothed or cared for. The foundation of the churches’ work was the principle of mutual dependence and reciprocity. God’s world is one; its hope and despair are common to us all.
“This courage is needed now as Finn Church Aid works around the world from Central Africa to South Sudan, from Syria to Nepal and Europe. The vulnerable must be protected, the hopeless must be afforded hope, peace must be brought to places of violence.”
The theme for FCA’s anniversary is #courage2017.
In the 70 years worship preceding the seminar, the World Council of Churches General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit thanked FCA for its contribution in the ecumenical movement. In his sermon Tveit said: ”We live in a world that is getting divided, polarized, focusing on the differences and the dividing forces between us as human beings and between us and nature. We need the courage to live with a vision for unity.”
Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) work in the world’s most fragile states brings significant results in all areas of operation. The results are published in FCA’s annual report 2016.
FCA is an established actor within the education sector, specialised in securing education for everyone, building learning spaces after disasters and enhancing the level of education.
“2016 was a challenging year for us, but we achieved remarkable results in all areas of our work. Especially our work with quality education grew significantly. This is very important now that less and less global aid is allocated to education”, says FCA’s Executive Director Jouni Hemberg.
The decreasing share of funding to education puts other development goals at risk, according to the U.N. Aid allocations to education are falling for the sixth year in a row and last year education received only 2.7 per cent of total aid available.
Despite the overall trend, FCA doubled the amount of its education projects in 2016 with the aim of increasing access to quality education for children and youth.
The achievements include the incorporation of career counselling into Cambodia’s national curriculum and the construction of hundreds of learning spaces in Nepal, where FCA is the second biggest international organisation to reconstruct earthquake-damaged schools. Last year FCA’s work resulted in access to education for 63 000 children in the Central African Republic.
A total of 132 000 children and youth benefited from FCA’s education projects in 2016 and 4 693 teachers took part in trainings in program countries.
Last year was also marked by budget cuts when the Finnish government’s decision to reduce funding for development cooperation came into force. FCA’s government funding was reduced from 15,5 million euros to 8,3 million. However, FCA continued to see positive development in the cooperation with international donors , and the international funding exceeded that of the state. Private and corporate donations exceeded targets for 2016.
In 2016 FCA’s expenditures were 34,7 million euro, of which 29,1 million was allocated to international aid. FCA is Finland’s largest organization in development cooperation and second largest in humanitarian aid. FCA is specialised in three themes: quality education, sustainable livelihoods and peace.
The work for sustainable livelihoods reached impressive results for instance in Nepal where 98 percent of families participating in women’s entrepreneurship programme have risen past the poverty line at the conclusion of the programme. In South Sudan local peace agreements were signed among stakeholders within Boma state and between Boma and Jonglei states, and over 90 percent of participants expressed their satisfaction in the process supported by FCA.
FCA works for peace in Finland. Since last autumn the project Reach Out supports religious communities in their grassroots level work against prejudice and hate speech.
A vehicle belonging to a national non-governmental organisation fell into a deadly ambush on its way to Pibor in South Sudan on Saturday 25th of March. The incident is a grave attack against aid workers causing calls for investigation.
Six staff members of the South Sudanese humanitarian aid agency GREDO were reportedly killed when their vehicle fell into an ambush last Saturday. The incident occurred in the early morning hours on the road leading from the capital Juba to Pibor town, which is approximately 250 kilometres away.
The aid workers were traveling in a convoy when the attack happened. The bodies of the aid workers were found on the road by the convoy members who reached the area after some time.
GREDO has been a partner to Finn Church Aid in South Sudan since 2016. Together the two organisations have supported sports for peace activities for the youth in Pibor and its neighbouring counties with the aim of increasing peaceful co-existence and unity among them.
“I’m aghast and infuriated by the despicable murder of six courageous humanitarian colleagues”, says Pio Ding, FCA’s Country Director from Juba.
“This is particularly tragic at a time when humanitarian needs have reached unprecedented levels. It is entirely unacceptable that those who are trying to help are being attacked and killed. We urge the authorities to investigate and bring the killer to justice.”
The convoy, which included several vehicles and trucks, was transporting items belonging to a number of humanitarian organisations. Among these items were school construction materials for FCA, intended to be used to build new schools in Pibor, and in neighbouring Gumruk town.
FCA has implemented quality education projects in the area since 2016.
One of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers
This incident brings the total number of aid workers killed in South Sudan to 79, counting from the beginning of the conflict in December 2013. Attacks against humanitarian workers and their premises have been on a dramatic rise in the past couple of months. This illustrates the deteriorating situation in war-torn South Sudan.
FCA’s presence in South Sudan, one of the most fragile states in the world, stretches back to 2010 when it established its country office in Juba. In 2017 FCA implements projects in the states of Jonglei, Central Equatoria and Lakes.
Open conflict, insecurity and a failing economy are making it increasingly difficult for aid workers to deliver desperately needed lifesaving assistance to the most affected communities.
The killing of aid workers will further hinder the provision of humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of the South Sudanese people.
“The appaling trend of attacks and intimidation against aid workers and assets remain a feature of the operating environment. This has to stop immediately and perpetrators must be brought into account”, says Ding.
In February, famine was declared in parts of South Sudan, where the lives of 100 000 people are now threatened. A further 5 million are considered to be at the brink of starvation.
The conflict, which began from a rivalry between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, is now in its fourth year, and it has led to the death of thousands and to the displacement of millions.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Finland evaluated the work of six civil society organisations. Results are considered well in line with Finnish development policies, and FCA’s results are valued highly.
Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) work is described as innovative, effective and efficient in a new independent evaluation on civil society organisations (CSO) in development cooperation.
The evaluation ordered by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) was published on Tuesday. FCAs genuine presence in its programme countries and ability to deliver results in challenging contexts were valued highly.
The report also found that the work of FCA and other organisations does well in reaching vulnerable, poor and marginalised people, especially in fragile contexts. That’s well in line with Finnish development policies.
”MFA’s evaluation shows that the support for CSOs clearly has an impact”, says Executive Director of Finn Church Aid Jouni Hemberg.
“The work of CSOs plays a key role in enhancing opportunities to livelihoods, quality education and dignified lives of the most vulnerable people. Finland should continue supporting this valuable work.”
FCA has expertise and a comparative advantage in its three closely interlinked themes: Right to Quality Education, Right to Livelihood and Right to Peace.
The strong emphasis on linking learning to earning received particular praise in the report. The lives of programme participants had improved in for instance the Democratic Republic of Congo and Jordan.
True partnership and strong trust
FCA’s strong presence in its countries of operation and emphasis on fragile contexts ensure an in-depth understanding of the local contexts. This supports good coordination and relevant programming, according to the report.
Results also point out that FCA’s Country Offices work cost-effectively even in the most challenging circumstances. FCA is also considered able to share relevant, up-to-date information to partners and stakeholders in Finland, and advocate effectively on both local and international levels.
FCA’s partners evaluate their relationship to FCA as true partnership. FCA’s insistence on transparency and accountability both from itself and its partners builds trust within communities as well – even in areas controlled or influenced by radical groups. Donors value FCA for its ability and willingness to undertake innovative interventions in contexts where other actors are less present.
Humanitarian funding needs more flexibility
CSO’s strive to strengthen linkages between relief, rehabilitation and development. This objective could be supported by the MFA through multi-year funding instead of only funding one year at a time.
”The protracted crises of today demand long-term presence in order to ensure continuity and efficiency. The funding of humanitarian assistance should be more flexible”, Hemberg says.
The MFA evaluates a total of 22 organisations receiving its Programme Based Support in three parts. The first part was published in September 2016. The second part that was published this week included FCA and five other CSOs and focused on the period of 2010–2016.
Both reports acknowledged the efficiency of development cooperation and humanitarian assistance performed by CSOs.
For more information: Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director, Finn Church Aid, tel. + 358 50 325 9579