Crises may pave the way to a brighter future

Crises may pave the way to a brighter future

As I am writing this, the Covid-19 pandemic is dominating the news and daily politics for the second year running. In fact, this topic has overshadowed other news to such an extent that it is hard to remember what went on in the world before Covid-19 testing, vaccines and coronavirus variants. Climate change, protracted conflicts, swarms of locusts destroying crops – does any of that ring a bell?

The work carried out by Finn Church Aid focuses on providing education, securing livelihoods and building peace. The objective of long-term development cooperation is to help entire communities become stable and self-sufficient.  

We also respond to more urgent needs. After a massive explosion in the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut in August 2020, we delivered emergency assistance to those affected. When Covid-19 stopped trade and food deliveries at state borders in several parts of the world, we continued to provide emergency food assistance.  

Some of the areas where we promote development cooperation, humanitarian assistance and peace do naturally overlap, just as global crises are inextricably intertwined. Many of our programme countries faced profound challenges even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Changes in climate and protracted conflicts have caused food crises, health crises and displacement of millions of people. 

In South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, devastating floods have left two thirds of the country’s 11 million inhabitants in need of some form of humanitarian assistance as they are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition. 

Syria also has a disastrous decade of suffering behind it. This conflict-ridden country has spiralled into an economic crisis that, for Syrian people, translates into a shortage of food and lost income opportunities. An entire generation of children has gone to school in emergency conditions. 

Poika kirjoittaa vihkoon luokassa.
Muhammad Abdo Hijzai from East Ghouta is a 13-year-old boy who participated in remedial education in, for example, mathematics, supported by Finn Church Aid. Photo: Abu Talib Al-Buhaya.

The global pandemic has ruthlessly exposed the weaknesses of many countries. In Nepal, more than 25 per cent of the country’s GDP has in recent years consisted of remittances by Nepalese working abroad. With the pandemic forcing migrant workers to return home, families have struggled for more than a year, trying to cope without an adequate income to guarantee a decent living. 

But the pandemic has not brought all progress to a halt, even if we sometimes feel like it. In a number of projects, the situation has forced us to take a big leap forward in technology. For instance, in Kenya we distributed radios to enable women to participate in peace dialogues. Our objective in such projects was to make communities better equipped to resolve conflicts involving natural resources. 

Without a doubt, we will face more challenges in the future. Our climate is becoming increasingly harsh, and in these changing conditions, it is likely that more epidemics will circulate in the population. Natural disasters will force people to leave their homes in growing numbers. According to forecasts, a high population growth rate in Africa will result in massive migration within the continent.  

But the good news is that resilient societies are able to take better precautions and prepare for disasters. In time, the Covid-19 crisis will pass, and this is when Finn Church Aid’s efforts to improve education, support livelihoods and forge peace will bear fruit and produce even more tangible results. Those who have participated in our projects have been building a stronger foundation for their lives, enabling them to pursue a brighter future. 

Ulriikka Myöhänen, Communications Specialist.

This text twas originally published in our Annual Report 2020 that came out recently. Would you like to know more about what was done?

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Emerging stronger after Covid-19

Emerging stronger after Covid-19

Emerging stronger after Covid-19

Distance learning, quarantines and travel bans. Lockdowns, cancelled events, and hundreds of online meetings. Remembered as the year of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 was an exceptional year for everyone, including Finn Church Aid, writes executive director Jouni Hemberg.

Conditions have been dire in our programme countries before; however, this was the first time that a crisis affected the entire organisation. Even though we have experienced conflicts, earthquakes, natural disasters and epidemics, none of us had ever experienced a global pandemic.  

Although what happened during the year took us and everyone else by surprise, we weren’t entirely caught off guard. As our teams are geographically dispersed, remote working is not unusual. In Finland, our entire Helsinki office relocated to employees’ homes practically overnight. When I compare the ease of remote working now to what it was a year ago, it’s as different as night and day. Our country offices in Asia, Africa and the Middle East were also able to ward off coronavirus infections for a long time, which was crucial for our Covid-19 response in 2020 

The pandemic has inevitably affected our education, livelihoods and peace programme work. Schools worldwide switched to distance learning, and some had to shut down entirely in 2020. While families in Finland agonised over remote school and remote work arrangements from home, people in our programme countries needed to be even more resourceful. Without access to internet or any infrastructure, teachers travelled from village to village teaching children, and radio lessons were provided. 

Covid-19 has had a dramatic impact on livelihoods. Unlike in Europe where governments have taken responsibility for helping people and businesses cope, people in developing countries have been left to their own devices. In countries where social safety nets are weak, an epidemic much less dramatic than the Covid-19 pandemic can make life difficult. Unable to earn a living, people are forced to leave their homes and seek opportunities elsewhere. Forced migration is not only a risk in terms of the pandemic, but it also increases regional tensions. Conflicts arise regardless of epidemics, and this has made our peace work all the more challenging.  

Despite such challenging circumstances, we as an organisation have performed extremely well. A significant increase in our international funding shows that partners such as the UN, the EU and other public funding providers, have strong faith in us and our vision. 

However, the Covid-19 epidemic diminished our church collection income. With various social restrictions in place, we have been unable to reach our donors as we normally would. Passing the collection plate online is very difficult, and our hardworking face-to-face fundraisers were forced to stay at home. But while our internal funding in Finland decreased, so did our expenditures, as travel-related costs shrank. With that being said, we were fortunate to not experience significant losses in 2020.  

A year amidst the pandemic has opened our eyes to new opportunities. We must be able to grow as an organisation and learn how to make effective use of new digital tools. Going forward, a large part of our education activities will no longer take place in physical buildings despite a vast number of people in places like Africa will still need access to education. This is where digital learning could come into play. The fact remains that the way we work will never be the same it was before the pandemic. We need to contemplate on the lessons learned during the pandemic and adopt new working modalities in the future.  

As the Executive Director of Finn Church Aid, it is my heartfelt wish that we will soon defeat the pandemic and begin our journey to recovery. Our post-Covid-19 work will focus strongly on sustainable development. We will continue our efforts to promote education, peace, livelihoods and equality. And now that remote working has proved successful, we can start pursuing more ambitious environmental objectives, such as rethinking what constitutes as necessary travel. 

Although 2020 was an extremely tough year for us at Finn Church Aid, it was also a major success story, thanks to our employees, board members and other elected representatives and volunteers. You are our most significant resource, and your valuable input allows us to help those most in need.  

You are also the best indicator of quality and trust in our activities. Thanks to your efforts to develop our operations, our funding has increased. We learned a valuable lesson from the pandemic: when all the parts of our organisation come together, we can weather any crisis. 

Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director for Finn Chruch Aid

This text twas originally published as the preamble of our Annual Report 2020 that came out recently. Would you like to know more about what was done?

Covid-19 increases poverty and aggravates the education crisis in developing countries, but solutions exist

Covid-19 increases poverty and aggravates the education crisis in developing countries, but solutions exist

For more than a year, Covid-19 has dominated the news globally. In March 2020, when the first restrictions were imposed, nobody could have imagined that we would still be combating a crisis a year later. The global impact of this pandemic has been and will continue to be enormous.

The coronavirus pandemic has increased global poverty for the first time in twenty years. The World Bank estimates that up to 93 million people were plunged into extreme poverty in 2020.

“For poor countries, the outlook is grim,” says Saara Lehmuskoski, a Senior Adviser at Finn Church Aid (FCA). When the pandemic hit, she was working as FCA’s country director in Cambodia.

“Many are reaching a level where just getting food on the table is difficult. For them, moving out of poverty will take a long time. In recent years, we have heard positive news about how people are being lifted out of poverty. Sadly, we’re now taking a big step backwards.”

With less economic activity, tax revenue will fall, which then leads to cutbacks. The World Bank estimates that two out of three developing countries have cut their education spending due to Covid-19. Combined with a rise in poverty, families and children who are already poor will be the ones most severely affected.

“In Cambodia, distance learning is only available for the richest children. The poorest rural students, who have limited access to education anyway, don’t own a television or a smartphone,” says Lehmuskoski.

Opetusta kuvataan älypuhelimella.
In Cambodia, video lessons have been used to provide career counselling and guidance supported by Finn Church Aid. Photo: Long Ratana

Children no longer have access to education because schools are closed. And due to rising poverty, some families need children to work to make sure that everybody gets fed.

“In the long term, this is a terrible risk for the children who are now at school age. We will be dealing with the aftermath of this pandemic for another 10 to 15 years. Right now, we need to make sure that children stay at school and continue their learning so that, once the pandemic is over, young people completing their studies will be equipped to earn a living and engage actively with their communities,” says Lehmuskoski.

Digital learning provides access to education

In poorer countries, the education budget is often small in comparison to other expenditure. When a crisis such as Covid-19 strikes, funds are needed for healthcare and other similar items. Deputy executive director Tomi Järvinen at Finn Church Aid points out that decisions about short-term savings should not be taken at the expense of education.

“Research findings show that education is a key to higher gross domestic product and, of course, improved levels of personal income. Each year at school will boost the student’s future earnings. For girls, this rise is even more marked.”

School closures in response to the pandemic raised concerns about whether children, especially girls, would return to school in the poorest countries.

“What we hear from the field is that the scenarios presented at the beginning of the pandemic have, at least in part, materialised. We have seen more teenage pregnancies and child marriages, and the concerns about young people not returning to school are real,” says Järvinen.

Tyttö katsoo iloisena kameraan.
Even during restrictions, it is important that schools maintain contact with their students. Dropping out of school is a risk, especially for girls. Photo: Hugh Rutherford

To prevent children from dropping out of school, it is important to develop ways of communicating with learners and preparing them for the eventual return to school. In Kenya, FCA has supported efforts to ensure that schools maintain contact with students and young people return to school as soon as possible.

Digital learning is part of the solution for developing countries. It contributes to enabling access to education and to providing high-quality education for all. Going forward, digital solutions will continue to make remote education possible, for example when children are ill or unable to attend contact teaching for some other reason.

“We shouldn’t think that developing countries will take up digital learning at some later date. They have already gone digital in fields such as communication and commerce, and now we need to extend these solutions to education,” says Tomi Järvinen.

In fragile countries where FCA operates, the first stage of digitalisation means low-tech solutions, such as radio lessons and WhatsApp messaging. For example, radio receivers have been distributed and radio lessons broadcast to families in refugee camps and rural areas in Kenya.

“The situation is never hopeless; there’s always something we can do. Now we need to invest in digital learning and its development, and analyse the lessons learned from the Covid-19 crisis.”

Text: Noora Pohjanheimo

Finn Church Aid renews its organisational structure and enhances local decision-making  

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 1st April and the implementation will continue over the coming months. 

Katri Suomi to direct Stakeholder Relations at Finn Church Aid

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.

The 100th volunteer to go abroad with Teachers Without Borders: ”Reaching for your dreams gives your life an incredible sense of meaning”

Elina Yli-Hakala first experienced wanderlust as a child when she climbed to the top of a big pine. Today she is an experienced volunteer worker, who never stopped exploring.

This November Elina, soon to turn 70, heads for Cambodia for six months to improve the quality of basic education. This is her third assignment with Teachers Without Borders.

Elina has 33 years of experience as a language teacher in secondary school in the Finnish cities of Kerava and Espoo. After retiring in 2011, Elina was already climbing a mountain in Nepal.

”My grandchildren have learned to trust that their grandma can manage when she’s abroad,” Elina laughs.

Throughout her adult life, Elina has been driven to travel around the world by her endless zest for life and her passion for marathons. She especially remembers the Jerusalem marathon in the late 1990s. On the starting line, Elina noticed that she was one of only two women to participate in the race.

”She was so glad to see me that she walked up to me and hugged me. As the finish line approached, we already knew a lot about each other’s lives.”

From the top of the pine into the wide world

Now living in Järvenpää, Elina is originally from “the backwoods of Kainuu region”, as she puts it.

”Once I made my way out of there, there was no stopping me”, Elina says.

She comes from a family of ten children whose games were rather wild. Keeping up with her brothers required creative thinking. At school, Elina became curious about life outside Kainuu. However, the school could provide the eager pupil with regrettably little information.

One childhood memory from when she was around seven years old remains particularly strong in her mind.

”I climbed to the top of a big pine. The forest and the blue sky seemed to go on forever. That’s when I thought that the wide world was out there, and that one day I would be there too”, she says.

Volunteering here and there, sometimes via Whatsapp

In 2016, Elina volunteered with Teachers Without Borders for the first time, taking part in the Dream School project in the Cambodian province of Battambang. The project’s aim is to raise the quality of basic education and to enhance teachers’ professional competence.

The first career counsellors in the country had just graduated, and Elina was there to train them so that they in turn can continue training future career counsellors. The upcoming trip to Cambodia will be Elina’s third. Her aim is to continue the work on education development that she started in 2016–2017.

”It feels like coming home. It is a privilege to see the results, particularly because you saw how it began.”

Elina volunteers in Finland as well. She does long-distance work by mentoring Ugandan teachers via Whatsapp. Mobile mentoring is Finn Church Aid’s project that enables Finnish teachers to provide their colleagues in Uganda with long-distance support.

In Uganda, as well as in many other African countries, Whatsapp is the easiest way to stay in touch. Stepping into the shoes of a colleague facing entirely different challenges via phone requires good situational judgment.

”One teacher may be in charge of a group with nearly 200 pupils. It takes some eye for the situation to decide what kind of advice to send their way.”

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone enables personal growth

What motivates Elina to travel time and time again?

”I don’t see myself as an adventurer. I have a kind of urge to learn and to challenge myself, to teach and to be of assistance if I possibly can. That feeling is hard to turn off, with so many opportunities still available.”

Elina plans to keep travelling and doing volunteer work as long as she feels like it. The most rewarding part is the feeling after the trip when you know it was worthwhile.

”I would like to encourage everyone to widen their perspective and to take the opportunity in their own life to do things they didn’t imagine they would do. Every step out of your comfort zone inevitably changes you and allows you to grow. Reaching for your dreams gives your life an incredible sense of meaning.”

Text: Elina Kostiainen
Translation: Leena Vuolteenaho

Teacher Without Borders –network provides opportunities for education professionals to do volunteer work in Asia and Africa.

The call for volunteer positions in spring 2020 is now open! Read more and apply by 10.11.2019. 

An emoji for forgiving? Campaign launched in Finland is crowdsourcing ideas

Forgiving increases peace, and there’s no better time to focus on the theme than on the International Day of Peace. None of the current emojis says ”I forgive you”. FCA Network for Peacemakers is one of the partner organizations in the Forgivemoji campaign, launched in Finland this autumn, crowdsourcing ideas for an emoji to be used for forgiving. The winning emoji will be introduced to the official Unicode collection at the end of this year.

You can still join the campaign:  #forgivemoji

The ultimate goal of the Forgivemoji campaign is to get forgivemoji added to the list of emojis.  In November this year, the campaign team will decide on the best idea and send it to the Unicode Consortium. Unicode manages the emoji list and provides framework for services and device manufacturers to use them.

Unicode updates its emoji list once a year. For example, in 2019, Unicode announced they would be adding 59 new emojis to the selection, with variations totalling at 230. The process of introducing a new emoji can take two years, and the application must include explanation for the use and frequency of the emoji.

On the campaign’s website, visitors can vote from a selection of emoji designs or submit their own artwork and sketches. The original idea for the forgivemoji campaign came from a surprising source – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Currently, the ELFC is celebrating their #rauha (Eng. peace) theme year, which highlights peace as a national focus in Finland.  

”In our modern digital communication culture, emojis are an essential way of expressing human feelings beyond words. We were surprised to realise that the official emoji selection has dozens of different cats and even two designs of zombies, but there isn’t an emoji for forgiveness. Through crowdsourcing ideas for the design of an emoji for forgiveness, this campaign also strives to promote a message of peace and mutual understanding the world over,” says Mr Tuomo Pesonen, Communications Director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, one of the founding organisations of the #forgivemoji campaign.

Partnering with a Nobel peace laureate

To kickstart the campaign, the ELCF partnered with various charitable and peace-building organisations, including Felm, Finn Church Aid, Helsinki Deaconess Foundation, and the National Movement for Reconciliation. Another important partner is Crisis Management Initiative CMI, the conflict-resolving organisation founded by former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mr Martti Ahtisaari.

”Our vision comes from President Ahtisaari – all conflicts can be solved. What people has started, people can end. Emojis are a modern way to use dialogue and forgiveness is an integral part of that dialogue,” says Elina Lehtinen, Director of Communications & Fundraising at CMI.

Sara Linnoinen from Finn Churd Aid’s peace network highlights the role forgiveness plays in creating peace.

”Peace is vital for people to be able to lead safe lives in their home countries. Forgiveness is a very important part of peace-creation,” Linnoinen says.

 Additional information:



Finn Church Aid
Sara Linnoinen
Acting Head of Secretariat, Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers
+358 406 216 085

”We need to see a change in attitudes towards including everyone” – education experts around the world gathered in Helsinki to discuss education in emergencies

Finn Church Aid, University of Helsinki and Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) had the honor to host the first ever high-level Education in Emergencies -seminar in Finland on 14th May. Education experts around the world gathered in Helsinki to discuss how education in emergency settings could be made more accessible for all, and how we could step up our efforts to achieve sustainable development goals on time.

It has been widely agreed that sustainable development goals, SDG’s, cannot be achieved by 2030 without ensuring access to quality education for all. Nevertheless, the reality on the ground is still very different from the ideals set out in policy papers, not to mention emergency settings, where inclusive education is far from the targets.

Manos Antoninis, the director for the Global Education Monitoring Report at UNESCO, was one of the renowned education experts who shared his insights in Helsinki on how we could better plan and implement inclusive education programs in emergency settings, if we are to achieve sustainable development goals by 2030. According to him, inclusion should be seen as an inherent and cross-cutting element in all education programs.

Manos Antoninis presented UNESCO's views on inclusive education in Helsinki.

Manos Antoninis delivering a key note speech on why we won’t reach SDG4 without inclusive education.

”Inclusive education needs to be seen as a general approach. We need to see a change in attitudes, beliefs and values towards including everyone in education, only then we have actually genuinely achieved SDG4”, Antoninis stated in his key note speech at the beginning of the seminar.

For the moment, only two percent of girls in the lowest income countries complete secondary education. As outlined in the Agenda 2030, by year 2030 we should live in a world where all girls and boys complete secondary education.

”It is not going to be possible, unless something dramatic changes”, Antoninis continues. ”We still face remarkable challenges, when it comes to e.g. learning environments; 1 in 4 schools in sub-Saharan Africa do not have any sanitation facilities, which is a major obstacle for girls to complete school.”

”Nothing about us without us”

First of all, what does it actually mean that education should be inclusive?

By UNESCO’s definition, inclusive education is “a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion from education and from within education.”

In practice, this means that different needs, such as those originating from disabilities, language, gender or age, should be taken into account and addressed when planning and implementing education activities.

Tuomas Tuure, Development Coordinator at the Threshold Association, shared his insights on addressing the needs of disabled people in planning and implementation of education activities.

Peter Hyll-Larsen and Tuomas Tuure discussed inclusive education in Helsinki.

Peter Hyll-Larsen and Tuomas Tuure.

”In no other group is participatory approach as important as with people with disabilities. Even in countries like Finland, disabled people themselves participate surprisingly little in decisions concerning their policies, their way of life or even their own lives. This is a group where participation is actually the key” Tuure stressed.

According to Tuure, we should first and foremost acknowledge that when it comes to people with disabilities, the best knowledge comes from disabled people themselves. Furthermore, it comes particularly from people with disabilities in that particular area and context.

On the right track with the SDG’s

Susan Nicolai, Acting Head of Programme at Overseas Development Institute (ODI), pointed out the essential difference between Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) from the point of view of inclusion; during the era of the MDG’s, the levels of inequality rose, whereas the ambition of the SDG’s is more transformational.

”The MDG’s showed significant progress on a range of issues and education, however, when one looks behind the numbers in terms of where progress occurred, the gains went to those who were more well-off. On the contrary, the ambition of the SDG’s is genuinely transformational; they explicitly make a commitment to the focus on ’Leave no one behind’”, Nicolai underlined.

It can be concluded that progress has been made, but a lot of work remains to be done in order to include everyone.

Turning the crisis into an opportunity by providing youth vocational education

Tomi Järvinen, director for International Cooperation at Finn Church Aid, stressed the importance of vocational training and accredited education as a way of including youth who are living in crisis-affected areas.

FCA, University of Helsinki and INEE network organized education in emergencies seminar in Helsinki.

Seminar participants discussing in buzz groups.

”In every crisis there is also an opportunity. Waithood can become an opportunity to gain a skill, even a degree, that will then lead to an opportunity in the future”, Järvinen stated while stressing that we need to find new ways of giving young people relevant vocational training in refugee settings.

Furthermore, while introducing an example of accredited education provision in a refugee context, FCA College, Järvinen stressed that we need to emphasize that when possible, education should be accredited in order to provide access to lifelong learning.

”Continuous learning is also a life-saving activity. We need to focus on the quality and relevance of education, not only access”, Järvinen concluded.

Finally, Satu Santala, Director General at the Department of Development Policies at Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Finland, presented the key recommendations of the ”Stepping up Finland’s Global Role in Education” -report, which was prepared last year as a commission of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs by Dr. Ritva Reinikka, Professor Hannele Niemi and Mr. Jukka Tulivuori.

The report recommends that Finland takes a more active role in addressing the learning crisis in developing countries.

The first Education in emergencies seminar was organized in Paasitorni.

The seminar took place in Paasitorni, Helsinki.

”Finland has one of the best education systems in the world, but we haven’t really cracked the nut on how we can share this expertize, and how we can do more and deeply engage with international partners on sharing our own experience”, Santala said.

Finland has a lot of education expertize in the form of research institutions, authorities, civil society and private companies, however, more cooperation and partnerships are needed in order to put all that knowledge into use.

Nonetheless, Santala is optimistic about the way forward.

”There is a strong uptake within the Finnish society for this topic. We have made the report very visibly heard and we have a good sense that it has been well picked up. Now it is very much upto the new government – it remains to be seen how much they will be ready to devote to global development.”

Text: Elina Kostiainen

If you missed the seminar, watch it here.

Links to individual sessions:

Welcome and introductions, Jouni Hemberg, FCA; Arto Kallioniemi, University of Helsinki; Dean Brooks, INEE

Introduction to opening roundtable

KEYNOTE: Manos Antoninis – “Why we won’t reach SDG4 without Inclusive Education”

KEYNOTE: Susan Nicolai – “Why we won’t reach SDG4 without Education in Emergencies”

EXAMPLE: Bente Sandal-Aasen – “Using INEE Minimum Standards and tools for connecting EiE and the SDGs”

Inclusive education in emergencies – Challenges and solutions

KEYNOTE: Kimmo Kosonen – “Language in Education in Emergencies”

EXAMPLE from the field by Barbara Moser-Mercer, InZone Geneva

KEYNOTE: Tuomas Tuure – “Disability in Education in Emergencies”

EXAMPLE from the field by Gregory St. Arnold, Jesuit Refugee Services

EXAMPLE from the field by Ronit Cohen, Safe the Children

KEYNOTE: Tomi Järvinen – “Youth in Education in Emergencies”

EXAMPLE from the field by Sonia Gomez, Norwegian Refugee Council

PANEL DISCUSSION: “Inclusive Education in Education in Emergencies”

PRESENTATION of Finland’s Stepping Up report by Satu Santala, Finnish MFA

PANEL DISCUSSION: “Stepping up commitments for inclusive education in emergencies – the role of funders, governments and agencies”

CLOSING: Jouni Hemberg, FCA

Finnish education export to developing countries on the rise – new batch of students graduate from Finnish entrepreneurship programme in Uganda

Finn Church Aid (FCA) exports Finnish vocational diplomas to Uganda in cooperation with education export company Omnia Education Partnerships (OEP).

The diploma in question is an official Finnish vocational diploma, equivalent in its requirements to a Finnish secondary degree diploma.

The training programme is currently provided at a refugee settlement in Uganda. The first group obtaining Finnish entrepreneurship diploma at Rwamwanja refugee settlement are graduating on March 28, 2019.

There are more refugees in the world than ever, and it is estimated that only one in five will receive a secondary degree education. The average length of displacement is 20 years.

“What makes this programme exceptional is the fact that refugees are able to obtain a diploma while they are displaced, which helps them find employment already during displacement. A secondary degree education that is offered in crisis areas decreases dependence on aid and provides support where it is most needed”, says Tomi Järvinen, Director of International Cooperation at FCA.

In Uganda, FCA and OEP currently provide vocational diplomas in entrepreneurship. In the future, the plan is to also provide vocational qualification in education and instruction. The programme welcomes refugees as well as Ugandans to participate in the training.

Regina Meta, 18, fled to Uganda from Congo with her mother and sister in 2016, and is now studying in the Finnish entrepreneurship programme. With confidence gained from the programme, the young woman has opened her own hair salon, which is now among the most popular in the refugee settlement.

“Hairstyling has always been my passion. Thanks to the programme, I have learned a lot, especially about how to interact with clients. These days, I get lots of new clients based on the recommendations by my old clients”, Regina says.

Thanks to legislation that came into force in Finland last year, all vocational education providers have the opportunity to export vocational education, either as complete diploma programmes or as parts of them.

The reform is an important step forward for the export of Finnish education, and also a new form of sustainable development cooperation. It reinforces the ability of refugees to pursue their livelihood.

The project is a pilot that can be later used to provide vocational training in other refugee settings.

More information:

Ville Wacklin, Project Manager, tel. +358 40 719 0592

Tomi Järvinen, Director of International Cooperation, tel. +358 40 641 8209

Read more about FCA College here.

Translation: Leena Vuolteenaho

Refugee education a hot topic at the UN: “Finland has much more to give”

Humanitarian funding has an increased emphasis on education, but resources do not yet meet the needs. As world leaders gathered in New York for the 73rd UN General Assembly, FCA’s representatives highlight that Finland can gain from its educational expertise.

With one in four of the world’s 1.8 billion youth affected by violent conflict, the need for education for refugees and internally displaced people is dire. The importance of refugee education was highlighted in many sessions of the UN General Assembly this week.

“This year, the topic was not only discussed in sessions related to refugees and education, but also at other important events. The focus was however mainly on children’s education. We cannot afford to forget about the youth, says Katri Suomi, Head of Advocacy and Ecumenical Relations at FCA.

A new global study ‘Missing Peace – Independent Progress Study on Youth Peace and Security’ was published at the UN General Assembly, highlighting what role young people play or should play in peace and security. Currently, 90 percent of direct conflict deaths are young men.

The report highlights that “policy panic”, driven by stereotypes of youth as prone to violence, is counter-productive. There is for example simply no correlation between bulging youth populations and violence.

Education may on the other hand become an enabling factor for an increased political participation of young people. The report outlines three effective ways to activate the youth peace dividend: invest in youth, include youth and collaborate with youth.

Earlier this week, the UN also launched its’ Youth Strategy to ensure that every young person is empowered to achieve their full potential, get their voices heard and advocate for positive change.

Finland should prioritise education in development policy and funding

The emphasis on education has grown within humanitarian funding, but the funds do not meet the needs. Countries, such as Denmark, Norway and Canada, as well as the EU and the World Bank are now investing in refugee education. The UN General Assembly demanded that also leaders of developing countries increase their national budgets for education.

FCA’s Executive Director Jouni Hemberg says that Finland now has the opportunity to raise its profile with its educational expertise. Finland has so far been absent for example at the Global Partnership for Education fund.

The report ‘Stepping Up Finland’s Global Role in Education’, ordered by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, states that the Finnish expertise in the education sector should be prioritised more in the country’s development cooperation policy and funding.

“Finland has so much to give to refugee education and the education sector of the developing countries in general,” says Hemberg.

FCA ready to start post-war reconstruction in South Sudan

In South Sudan three out of four children are out-of-school. The country’s security situation remains extremely poor after conflict parties reconfirmed the peace treaty on September 12.

International donors expressed their strong support to the civil society organisation’s working in the country, and criticized the taxes and fees that the South Sudanese government charges from aid organisations.

There are also severe challenges in accessing areas in need of humanitarian assistance. During the rainy season, around 60 percent of the country is inaccessible due to bad roads and flooding. In addition, one must negotiate with several armed groups to gain access. So far this year, 13 humanitarian workers have been killed and 70 have been detained.

Internally displaced people and refugees from Uganda and other countries hosting South Sudanese refugees have begun the long process of returning home. The war has ruined infrastructure, schools and food production, and everything needs to be built from scratch.

FCA has stayed in the country throughout the crisis, and its employees are now in well positioned to begin assisting in the reconstruction efforts.

“We have already started a vocational training programme together with the Norwegian Refugee Council. In addition, we deliver food aid, build schools and support the peace work of the South Sudanese Council of Churches”, says Hemberg.

New partnerships to step up development

Participants of the UN General Assembly called for investments in African businesses in the session ‘Africa: Open for Business’. What Africa needs to do is invest in the infrastructure and the regulations, for example visa policies, the session concluded.

Africa is on the rise, but not without investing in education. The American economist Jeffrey Sachs emphasised the importance of education to the development of the African private sector: Quality education is a vital condition for businesses.

FCA Investments, a new financing company founded by Finn Church Aid, is investing in small and medium sized enterprises in developing countries. In its initial phase, it invests in Uganda among others.

“FCA has many years of experience from development cooperation in the most fragile states in the world, and we believe that we can lift people from poverty through vocational training and granting loans to small and medium sized businesses”, Hemberg states.

At this year’s UN General Assembly, partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society organisations, including faith-based actors, as well as a search for new ways of working were prominent, Suomi adds.

“Many enterprises, such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft were visibly present, and for example artificial intelligence was discussed in many occasions.”

Finnish expertise and leadership well represented

Faith-based actors have an increasingly significant role within the UN. The Faith-Based Advisory Council to the UN Task Force on Religion and Sustainable Development organised its first meeting in connection with the General Assembly on Friday September 21. Tarja Kantola, Chair of FCA’s Board of Directors, is co-chair of the Advisory Council.

Faith-based actors have a lot to offer to the UN system, and the cooperation benefits both, says Suomi. Churches and mosques are present in almost every community, even in the most remote places.

“Partnerships with them can provide access, help spread information, and do advocacy work. Religion can also be a big resource in difficult circumstances and crisis situations”, she states.

The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers also organised a side event called ‘Demystifying the narrative of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’, together with the UN Office on Genocide Prevention. The event discussed gender issues concerning ISIL.

ISIL strategically projected women’s empowerment to persuade them to travel to ISIL held territories while subjigating them once they arrived through sexual slavery, their physical appearance and limited social interactions. Additionally, the enslavement of women, often as sex slaves, was used as a recruitment tool for ISIL fighters.

“In my interactions with survivors, I heard loudly and clearly from women and girls who escaped ISIL captivity, the desire that ISIL perpetrators be held accountable not only for terrorism, but the sexual atrocities they committed,” stated Pramila Patten, Special Representative to the UN Secretary General.

Other pressing topics discussed were climate change, girls and women’s rights, tuberculosis, the status of International Humanitarian Law, the UN reform and the situation in Syria.

“I was pleased to see that Finland had a broad representation at the assembly. President Niinistö and several ministers were present. A huge part of Finland’s international weight relates to development policy”, Suomi says.

Text: Minna Elo
Photo: Hugh Rutherford