Conflicts, natural disasters, famines, and economic disasters – sooner or later, crisis like these drop from the headlines and the lips of politicians, but they continue to be an acute reality for the people on the ground. When we talk about forgotten and neglected crises, what do we mean?
1. NO CRISIS IS EVER TRULY FORGOTTEN.
That is why we prefer to talk about neglected crises. Being privileged individuals, we may often forget about individual crises; as such crises do not affect us directly and thus do not require our constant attention. These crises can better be described as neglected – by the international community, which may either be unable to respond with sufficient money, or even find the required political willpower.
2. CRISES ARE OFTEN COMPLICATED.
Conflicts between two states are easy to grasp, as are natural catastrophes. But many other crises have multifaceted reasons – the Syrian conflict, for instance, began after a climate-change-caused dry period and cannot be reduced to a mere geopolitical, historical, and ideological squabble. Events that we find hard to understand are also difficult to follow and identify with.
3. CRISES DO NOT HAVE QUICK ENDINGS.
The recovery period is a part of the crisis. Peace treaties are signed, typhoons die down, but these things still do not mean the crisis itself is over. Rebuilding infrastructure, institutions and citizenship takes a long time and requires a lot of resources, whether it is war or a natural catastrophe.
4. FORGETTING IS UNDERSTANDABLE.
An individual person cannot carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, especially if they also are facing issues in their personal lives. Continuous obsessive monitoring of media – doomscrolling – benefits nobody. We often see compassion fatigue – a situation where the sheer burden handicaps or short-circuits our feelings of compassion, particularly when there is no solution in sight.
5. MORE NEWS, FASTER FORGETTING.
There’s not enough room for many crises in the news at the same time. Also at play are geographical and cultural relationships, which have their effect on what the news finds important. It is easy for Finns to pay attention to the Ukrainian crisis, for example – the attacker is familiar to the people of Finland and is also Finland’s neighbor. Continuous access to news means that existing crises are buried by new ones. Moreover, instead of civilian suffering, the news often finds battles and political squabbles more important.
6. WHO BELIEVES WHOM?
The Internet offers more information about various crises than ever before – and a wealth of differing viewpoints. An enormous amount of information is swirling about online and when crises have complicated and far-reaching reasons, it is all too easy to assume simple, even false points of view and fake news. All of this affects the way we view these crises and their potential solutions.
7. THE LACK OF POLITICAL WILL IS BOTH A REASON AND A CONSEQUENCE.
Politicians, parties, and the international community may, due to their lack of ability or will to act, be unable to solve or prevent certain crises, and this may also serve as a reason for them to not pay attention to certain crises. On the other hand, if people do not demand actions from their leaders, the resulting political apathy may also be a factor in the low amount of attention the crisis receives.
8. LOW LEVELS OF ATTENTION, LOW LEVELS OR AID.
Enormous crises, like the tsunami in Asia or Russia’s attack on Ukraine, bring aid organizations vast amounts of funds from private individuals and organizations. Which is good! Getting aid without media attention is always more of a chore, though. Traditional funders still understand the importance of long-term aid work, but even established actors like the World Food Programme and the UN Refugee Agency have troublecollecting the funds they need for their work.
9. BEING FORGOTTEN INCREASES HOPELESSNESS.
Those living in the middle of long-lasting conflicts may feel abandoned and isolated, if the international community ignores their problems. This lack of vision and feelings of hopelessness then provide grist for extremist mills. Hope and belief in one’s future are important – through these, people and communities have, throughout history, managed to survive various awful crises.
10. THE SCALE OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE IS DIZZYING.
The climate catastrophe and nature loss will cause natural disasters, weaken food security, and drive refugees and armed conflicts far to the future. The scale of changes is enormous, but the effects are distributed unequally and there are considerable differences in the level of community preparations and available resources. This is hardly a new situation, however: in the 2010s, over 80 percent of all catastrophes were related to climate and weather. One way or another, this crisis is showing up in everyone’s backyard. We cannot ignore it any longer.
10+1. THROUGH FCA, WE CAN PREPARE AND GROW STRONGER.
FCA’s work is not over even when the most acute part of the crisis is. The organization also helps prepare for coming crises and prevent them in advance. Additionally, FCA collaborates with communities to strengthen their ability to prepare and survive by searching for nature-based solutions and innovating to always be a little bit better. FCA also works in crisis areas with its partner organizations.
For this story, we interviewed FCA’s humanitarian aid manager Jan De Waegemaeker and political history researcher Noora Kotilainen, a communication, crisis, and political violence expert at the University of Helsinki. Additional sources include materials drawn up by the Norwegian Refugee Council on forgotten refugee crises and the World Disasters Report.
Teksti: Anne Salomäki Kuvitus: Carla Ladau Translation: Tatu Ahponen
Finn Church Aid and The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers gathered with African Union delegates to inaugurate new liaison office in Addis Ababa.
A THREE-DAY EVENT, held in the capital of Ethiopia, marked a significant step toward realising shared objectives between FCA and the African Union (AU), a continental body that comprises 55 African states.
The inauguration of the new office was attended by diplomats, international organisation representatives, AU delegates, government officials, and civil society organisations. In line with FCA’s priority areas, of education, livelihoods and peace, speakers from the AU outlined the union’s commitment to inclusive education and its agenda for peace and security.
The liaison office will be a focal point for FCA’s collaboration, coordination, advocacy and partnership with the African Union, focusing on meaningful participation of African civil society actors; especially youth, women and religious and traditional actors.
A shared vision
Ambassador Sinikka Antila, Finland’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union celebrated the establishment of FCA’s AU liaison office, underscoring its role in peacebuilding amid numerous conflicts worldwide.
She also highlighted FCA’s extensive experience in emergency education contexts, especially during 2024, which the AU has designated as the ‘year of education’.
“In Finland, like in Africa, education is a top priority. The most precious resource for any country is its human resources. Therefore, education, by leaving no one behind, is the priority investment for development.”
Ambassador Antila also lauded FCA’s work in fostering livelihoods, especially in a continent with a young population where job creation and entrepreneurship are of utmost importance.
“FCA’s efforts in livelihood development, including promoting entrepreneurship and start-ups, have the potential to play a pivotal role in empowering Africa’s young population and fostering economic growth. This aligns with the increasing importance of job creation, especially in innovative and creative industries,” she said.
2024 a year of education
Sophia Ashipala, Head of the Education Division at the African Union, conveyed her enthusiasm for the occasion in her address and commended FCA for its pivotal role in bringing the event to fruition.
“Education, science, technology, and innovation are the cornerstones of progress and development for any nation or continent. As we embark on this journey together, it is crucial to recognise the immense potential that lies within Africa’s youth and the transformative power of education,” noted Ashipala.
Africa, like many other regions, faces profound challenges in its education systems, spanning from early childhood education to tertiary and higher education levels. These systemic issues have widened the gap towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education, a challenge mirrored in the Continental Education Strategy for Africa.
“Having education as the theme of the year 2024 is a significant step that is expected to shine a continental spotlight on building resilient systems for increased access to inclusive, quality, and relevant education in Africa,” Ashipala stated. This theme year will involve concrete and impactful activities and initiatives at various levels.
FCA hosts the Secretariat of the Network, a global movement of over 100 members (primarily religious and traditional actors, women, and young people) working across 40 countries worldwide to achieve peace through mediation and dialogue.
Network members had the opportunity to meet with Ambassador Frederic Gateretse-Ngoga, the Senior Advisor on International Partnerships, the AU border program and regional security mechanisms in the office of the Commissioner for Political Affairs and Peace and Security.
He pointed out the vital role of religious leaders in peacebuilding, conflict prevention, and post-conflict resolution, their respected status within communities making them key figures in sustaining peace.
“There is need for Africa to have its own strategy for the world,” he said, adding that “there can be no successful peace process without the involvement of religious leaders and traditional mediation methods,” he said.
The Network’s Regional Programme Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, Gina Dias, shared that “84% of the world’s population has a religious affiliation, and in recent years, roughly two-thirds of all conflicts have or have had a religious dimension. Religious leaders and faith-based organisations play an important mediating role in many conflict situations and yet are often not fully acknowledged, and their potential contribution remains underutilised.”
FCA operates in five African countries and, as an organisation, recognises the critical importance of establishing deeper connections with the AU. This commitment comes at a time when Africa is resolutely working towards realising the aspirations of ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.‘
All of FCA’s Country Directors for African countries were present at the inauguration from Central African Republic, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda.
Mahdi Abdile, FCA’s Executive Representative to the AU, emphasised the strategic importance of the inauguration, “the reason why this event is important is because the AU is a strategic partner for us as FCA, and we want to enhance our collaboration and strengthen our partnership, understand their priorities, and identify areas where we can work together.”
There is hope even amid multiple crises – our latest report shows over 1 million people were supported through our work
2022 WAS A YEAR OF CRISES that shook and challenged our worldview and affected us on many levels, perhaps more deeply than anything else ever before.
Crises always lead to a great deal of suffering, and no matter the causes, and no matter where in the world we are, we all feel the impact.
People are starting to question the rules we play by. Long-simmering discontent is boiling over. The world is changing; but listening to discussions – not only between experts, but also ordinary Finns – I believe it is changing for good.
For Finn Church Aid, 2022 was a year of changes. Just a few years earlier, we had discontinued our European operations, thinking our work there was done. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 changed everything overnight, and for much longer than we anticipated.
Thanks to unprecedented support from Finnish people, Finn Church Aid was able to quickly mobilise programme work in the country. In no time at all, a country office and one of our organisation’s biggest aid programmes were up and running.
Despite their own sense of shock and disbelief, people wanted to help. Individuals, businesses, churches and public authorities were ready and willing to give money and their time to support people in Ukraine.
By the end of February 2023, our partner Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) reached 275,860 people in the humanitarian response supported by FCA. Our country office’s work focused mainly on education and reached 18,400 people in Ukraine already in 2022.
What happens in Ukraine also has repercussions for our activities elsewhere, including in Africa. The Horn of Africa is facing its worst drought in decades and our local employees, particularly in Kenya and Somalia, are fighting it on a daily basis.
Cereals from Ukraine used to be a major part of the region’s food security, but the war stopped grain shipments, causing an acute food crisis and rapid inflation in a region suffering from various challenges.
Meanwhile, our efforts to build long-term development cooperation are hampered by the ruling military junta in Myanmar, the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and the impacts of the climate crisis.
What this shows us above all, is that the work of Finn Church Aid is still needed. We can alleviate suffering and offer a ray of hope for many in times of despair.
In addition to the very tangible crises caused by war and disasters, we are facing a global political crisis. In times of crises, it is easy to withdraw mentally and physically; this is a natural protective mechanism and how we instinctively react to danger.
But in today’s world, no one can make it alone – this is what the crises mentioned above have shown us. We need others. We must learn to work together.
At its essence, this involves recognising the needs of others and acting for the common good – within and beyond Finland’s borders.
It is fair to ask if there is hope left in this world? To answer that, I want to bring your attention to things we can do with your support.
We can help children and youth go to school and learn, we can provide water to those who are thirsty and food to those who are hungry, we can offer asylum for refugees and strive for those who have no livelihood.
In all crises, human response is of key importance. With the support of our donors, we supported over one million beneficiaries in 2022. We have been able to empower people living amidst crises to take action to improve their lives.
FCA is looking for an inspiring and experienced Deputy Executive Director
The Deputy Executive Director assists the Executive Director and, when necessary, officiates as the substitute for them.
FINN CHURCH AID (FCA) is Finland’s largest international aid organisation with operations in 12 countries and more than 70 years of experience. We seek positive change by supporting the most vulnerable people in fragile contexts. We specialise in supporting local communities’ right to peace, livelihoods and quality education.
FCA is a faith-based organization, grounding its work in human rights and international humanitarian law, norms, standards and principles. FCA is a founding member of the international aid alliance of churches, ACT Alliance. FCA is certified against the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS).
Currently, FCA is looking for an inspiring and experienced Deputy Executive Director. The Deputy Executive Director assist the Executive Director and, when necessary, officiates as the substitute for them. The role also supports the work of the Executive Director in other tasks as agreed on separately and they report to the Executive Director.
We’re looking for an experienced and inspiring person with the capacity to lead a diverse work community to utilise its full potential. Excellent organisational skills, and fluent spoken and written English, are essential in this position. Finnish or other language skills are an asset. You have superb communication skills, and you don’t shy away from the media.
We expect you to have a suitable education and proven experience of several years in successful management positions. You should also have experience in non-profit organisations working in international aid or the humanitarian sector, as well as experience in cooperation within the sector. FCA focuses on three thematic areas: Right to Quality Education; Right to Livelihoods; and Right to Peace. A solid understanding of the interconnection between the themes is essential.
In addition, we appreciate a good understanding of how digital solutions can benefit international aid work, experience in practical cooperation with private sector, and how climate crisis can be addressed from the organisation’s thematic perspectives. Proven experience of successful proposal development for donors is essential. You should have experience in developing and evaluating an international organisation’s strategy as well as building an evidence base to demonstrate organisational impact. We highly value an understanding of the role of faith-based organisations in the international aid sector.
As the Deputy Executive Director you are the convener and chairperson of the Service and Accountability Centre (SAC) Management Team in Helsinki. You manage FCA’s Strategy Development Department. The department is responsible for monitoring and evaluating FCA’s global strategy and program as well as for guiding the development and implementation of country strategies and programmes’ thematic content by providing timely support to FCA’s country offices. The department is also responsible for global programme content planning, monitoring and evaluation. It hosts the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers Secretariat, and you are the supervisor of the Secretariat’s Executive Director. In addition to the Secretariat, you lead the work of Strategy Development Unit and Humanitarian Emergency Response Team.
We can offer you an inspiring and meaningful job in a value-based and truly global environment. You will be in charge of a professional, committed and multicultural team. We are a trusted partner and a widely known actor both in Finland and globally. The position is based in Helsinki, Finland, and the ideal timetable for starting in it is 1st of April 2023.
Qualified and interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, religion or ethnicity are encouraged to apply for the vacancy.
Interested? For more information, please call Eezy Personnel’s Senior Executive Search Consultant Johanna Ahola, tel. +358 400 739 308 or send an e-mail email@example.com
Please submit you application by 6th of February 2023. You need to prepare a CV, application letter and salary expectations for the application.
FCA practices zero tolerance on sexual exploitation and abuse, including child abuse in all forms. FCA has zero tolerance concerning aid diversion and illegal actions and may screen applicants against international lists to ensure due diligence and compliance with Anti-money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism requirements.
Tomi Järvinen selected as Executive Director of Finn Church Aid
Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) Board of Directors has appointed Tomi Järvinen as the new Executive Director of Finn Church Aid.
TOMI JÄRVINEN, PhD of Educational Sciences and M.A. of Theology, joined FCA in 2013 and has worked as FCA’s Deputy Executive Director and Director of Strategic Development since April 2021. He has a long experience in development cooperation, particularly in Africa, where he has also worked for World Vision and Fida International in leadership positions. He has served as FCA’s acting Executive Director since the end of October when Jouni Hemberg announced he would retire from the position. Järvinen assumes the position on the 1st of January 2023.
“I am delighted and excited. FCA was founded after War World II to channel assistance to Finland. In time, the helped became the helpers. Today Finland is proud to be the shoulder others can lean upon.”, Järvinen says.
The Executive Director was selected through an open process. FCA received over 30 applications and four were called in for interviews conducted by FCA’s Board of Directors’ working committee. “After a thorough process we are satisfied with our decision and know that FCA continues to be in good hands”, says the Board’s Chair, Tarja Kantola.
“Besides leadership, Tomi has solid competence in FCA’s thematic areas, such as education, and a strong grassroots level experience from working particularly in African countries. He knows very well the circumstances of the world’s most vulnerable populations as well as FCA’s staff”, Kantola adds.
FCA staff are committed to stand for the rights and dignity of people
Finn Church Aid is Finland’s largest international aid organisation with 12 country offices in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe, where FCA opened an office in Ukraine this year in support of its humanitarian response. FCA represents the international diaconal work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
“Our staff are committed to stand for the rights and dignity of people, which is crystallised in our mission: Action for Human Dignity”, Järvinen says.
“Now, more than ever, we want to be the channel for realising that mission. The support of the Church and parishes, private donors, companies, Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and an increasing number of international donors are the preconditions for our work. We continue to make every effort to be a dependable and effective actor for what we most of all want to be – neighbours to each other.“
Tarja Kantola, Chair of FCA’s Board of Directors firstname.lastname@example.org, +358 50 555 0833
Tomi Järvinen, Executive Director (from January 1, 2023) email@example.com, +358 406 418 209
Finn Church Aid Executive Director Jouni Hemberg to retire, recruitment process for a new director launched soon
Tomi Järvinen, Deputy Executive Director, will take over as temporary Executive Director.
Jouni Hemberg, 66, Finn Church Aid’s Executive Director since 2015, will retire in late 2022.
Hemberg joined Finn Church Aid in 2008 to serve as the Head of Humanitarian Assistance. Since then, he has been the FCA’s Director of International Cooperation (2009–2013) and Executive Representative in Washington (2013–2015).
“My years at FCA have been inspiring and rewarding. What I remember particularly well is the countless field trips and conversations with beneficiaries,” Hemberg says.
Hemberg says that he is happy to retire.
“FCA is in good shape and ready to face future challenges. We have had our fair share of challenges during my time as Executive Director: in 2015–2016, the government cut development aid spending dramatically, in 2020 the coronavirus pandemic broke out, and now there is a war in Ukraine. And this is just scratching the surface. I’ve never had a boring day.”
For decades, Hemberg has had a front row seat when it comes to international aid work. Before joining Finn Church Aid, he held international positions in UN organisations, the Red Cross and Save the Children International. In the 90s, he worked in an aid organisation in India which was supported by Prince Charles, now King Charles III.
Hemberg will be on vacation from October 20, after which Tomi Järvinen will take over as temporary Executive Director. Järvinen has worked for FCA since 2013 and was appointed Deputy Executive Director in April 2021.
The recruitment process for Hemberg’s successor will be launched soon, with the objective of having a new Executive Director in office in early 2023.
Finland’s largest international aid organisation
Finn Church Aid, which recently celebrated its 75 anniversary, is a major aid organisation with country offices in 12 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and with the latest addition to country offices just opened in Ukraine. The organisation employs 4,000 people, most of them in different locations around the world and about 120 in Finland.
When asked about FCA’s recipe for success, Hemberg lists increased funding, innovations, successful recruitments and broad-minded elected representatives who have supported the changes. He also thinks the decision to focus on education, livelihood and peace was the right one, and measures have been successful.
“Since 2008 FCA has transformed from a 20-million-euro to an 80-million-euro organisation with the number of employees growing from a hundred to nearly 4,000. This is quite remarkable,” Hemberg says.
FCA ready to face future challenges
Today, there are many complex global challenges to solve. War is raging in Europe, and East Africa is suffering from a historic drought that affects the region’s food security and the lives of millions of people.
“Over the past 15 years, our fundraising efforts in all sectors have been quite successful. Now, dark clouds loom on the horizon in terms of both public and private financing,” Hemberg notes.
Despite challenges, the retiring Executive Director is optimistic about the future.
“Our strategy and FCA 2030 work reflect the steps we have taken to prepare for the future. Our strengths include flexibility, ability to react and respond quickly when necessary and, last but by no means least, skilled personnel.”
Various organisations have been engaged in development cooperation for decades; Finn Church Aid for as long as 75 years. While global efforts to reduce child mortality and to increase girls’ access to education have been successful, mistakes have also been made. We listed 10+1 lessons learned in development cooperation over the years.
1. From selfish beginnings.
The 1950s and 1960s were the early days of development cooperation. Back then, Finland’s eagerness to participate stemmed partly from the need to distance ourselves from the Soviet Union and instead be identified as a Western country and as part of the Nordic countries. Over time, development cooperation adopted traits from export promotion: Finland used money intended for development aid to export Finnish machinery and workforce to developing countries, hoping to increase trade in equipment such as forest machines. Many other countries had similar projects.
2. Lack of results necessitated a different approach.
It soon became painfully clear that the modernisation-driven development cooperation model failed miserably, and a new approach was needed. This was when the needs-based approach emerged. But although local beneficiaries were consulted for needs assessment purposes, donors failed to understand the structures and systems that perpetuate poverty and simply saw beneficiaries as passive victims of circumstances.
3. Material assistance is not the way to address inequality.
Today, development cooperation is no longer about addressing poverty as a material need but rather as a human rights issue. Political advocacy can also contribute towards eradicating structural inequality in developing countries, with the objective of creating an effective and informed civil society and an accountable state. Unlike in the early days, the focus is not on supporting industry; instead, social development, health and education are now in the forefront.
4. Strong communities will not depend on external aid.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson we have learned is that there is no point in giving man a fish; you need to teach him how to fish. In other words, our work must be aimed at building on and strengthening local capacities. It is extremely important to discard any forms of aid that create a risk of dependency instead of forging stronger local communities. Paradoxically, however, financing decisions are still made somewhere else. It is funding providers in the western countries who decide how much money will be given to which projects.
5. Giving a voice to the local community.
In some cases, the aid we provide is not what people really need. Sometimes people affected by a crisis may feel that they have not been consulted on what kind of assistance they need, or what would be the best way to channel it. In the worst cases, relief supplies have been unsuitable for the local culture. Modern development cooperation recognises the key importance of local engagement and ownership.
6. Better control and accountability.
Organisations in the development cooperation sector are accountable to their beneficiaries as well as to their funding providers and donors. Recently, there has been much talk about transparency. In the humanitarian sector, the concept of the accountability of aid organisations to their beneficiaries emerged in the 1990s, and the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) was published in 2015. Similarly, technical standards for aid work are being developed and monitored more closely.
7. Climate must be a key consideration in development cooperation.
Environmental work has been a part of development cooperation since the 1970s, but more recently climate has begun to dominate public discussion. The loss of biodiversity is now also on the agenda but while the importance of climate work is recognised, so far policymakers have failed to put their money where their mouth is. Another contradiction that characterises climate work is the reluctance of western countries to compromise on their standard of living while they expect climate action from developing countries.
8. Public opinion supports development cooperation.
In the late 1960s, the Vietnam War made Finns realise that we are not an island. Other subsequent events such as the 1990s recession have shaped the opinions and attitudes of citizens, including their support for development cooperation. According to a recent survey by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, two thirds of Finns consider development cooperation very important or fairly important. For Finns, the most important reason for supporting development cooperation is that it offers Finland a way to strengthen global stability.
9. New partners, new tools.
Today, development cooperation cuts across multiple sectors, with more traditional actors working with research and educational institutions to improve effectiveness and outcomes. Another, more recent development is cooperation with the private sector. Corporate social responsibility provides opportunities for employment and education in developing countries.
10. Change must be constant.
We have learned many lessons, but there is still room for improvement. Sometimes organisational and funding silos can negatively affect efficiency, and putting documented commitments and declarations into practice may take years. Staying relevant is another challenge for western development cooperation, as there is no shortage of competitors. China, for instance, provides funding to many developing countries without making any demands on human rights and environmental protection.
+1: CHS certification a compass for FCA’s work.
In 2017, Finn Church Aid received the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) certification, which emphasises our human rights-based approach and the quality, transparency, and effectiveness of our programme work. It also proves our commitment to the humanitarian sector’s quality and accountability standards. In addition to CHS certification, FCA undergoes an extensive external audit annually. CHS provides us an opportunity and a tool for critically assessing our operations and improving our practices and procedures.
Sources: Anna Muinonen, Senior Quality and Accountability Adviser at Finn Church Aid; Juhani Koponen, Professor Emeritus from the University of Helsinki; development cooperation surveys commissioned by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Corehumanitarianstandard.org
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.