Culture is increasingly prominent on the international agenda. But the discussion about whether and how culture contributes to combating poverty and sustainable development has far to go. Part two in a series about culture and development policy by donor countries.
Finland believes that culture is the primary, sector-crossing factor in development cooperation. The country has therefore adopted an innovative position within the donor world. Changes in the Finnish way of thinking about development cooperation were initiated in 1996 and fostered on the basis of the UNESCO Decade for Cultural Development in 1997.
Finland supports art projects and artists in developing countries with the primary objective of strengthening cultural identity and increasing participation in cultural life. A significant evaluation analysed the cultural policy that had been in operation until then. Local evaluation groups in three of Finland’s priority countries were also asked to evaluate Finland’s bilateral, multilateral and NGO projects. As a practical guide for all involved internationally in development cooperation, the Finnish Department for Development Policy, part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published a report called Navigating Culture: a Road Map to Culture and Development.
Finland currently has bilateral relationships with nowadays fewer, but mainly eight long-term partner countries in Central America, Africa and Asia in order to improve the effectiveness of cooperation. In some places the Department for Development Policy supports cultural funds and associations, giving these countries more say in the manner in which their cultural sector is financed. Finland also gives financial support to cultural festivals and projects aiming at maintaining cultural heritage.
Finland seeks opportunities for cooperation and harmonisation with other donors and funding organisations. Bilateral cooperation is based on the development plans of the partner countries, or on those of the regional organisations.
Besides bilateral cooperation, Finland follows an interregional approach, such as the project "Cultura - Localidad y Creatividad " in Central America, in which local cultural institutions like the Casa de los Tres Mundos in Nicaragua take part. Kepa is a Finnish NGO that focuses partly on culture and development.