Posts by admin

How does “business as usual” fit development?

Lyydia Kilpi

The Finnish NGO Platform (Kepa)

Nearly 50 researchers, activists and other interested citizens gathered together on 7 June to discuss the current role of private sector in development discourse and practice in the seminar “Private-sector driven development: Views from Academia and Activists”, organised by the Finnish Society for Development research.

The trend is clear: the Sustainable Development Goals and the official development policies of European countries rely increasingly on leveraging private sector investments. Funds are allocated through development finance institutions (DFIs) and policy documents underline private sector development.

Matti Ylönen, a doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, described the shift as “new instrumentalism”. Traditional instrumentalism that considered aid as a lever to further Finnish interests is now coupled with an altruistic idea that Finnish companies can strengthen the private sector in the Global South and create jobs, which has intrinsic developmental value.

This resonates with Dr Bonn Juego’s (University of Jyväskylä) idea that the state’s role is reduced to creating an enabling environment for business and, on the other hand, the export-promoting orientation is a logical result of the stagnation of developed economies and the growth potential of many emerging ones. Dr Marikki Stocchetti confirmed that the recently published report by the Development Policy Committee (of which she is Secretary general) found that private sector instruments focused too much on Finnish companies and too little on strengthening the private sector of partner countries.

Dr Juego argued that in Finland’s relations with Asian countries, business interests had overtaken democratic values. He explained how under “authoritarian neoliberalism” unfree regimes adopt free market policies. Finland’s current export and development policies seem to enforce this trend at the cost of democratic institutions.

Aid has become more financialised, argued Ylönen. As more development finance is directed through funds and to private companies, the rules of private finance enter the sphere of development aid. Transparency is one of the obvious victims. Many researchers and civil society actors looking for information about the investments made by the Finnish DFI Finnfund have hit a wall of arguments leaning on business confidentiality, contracts and banking secrecy.

As aid financialises, it tends to become a part of the unsustainable global financial architecture. Tax havens and tax avoidance are some its building blocks. Finnwatch revealed in March how Finnfund had invested in a fund that had avoided taxes in Malaysia by exploiting shady deals with the tax authority of Luxembourg. Sonja Vartiala, the Executive Director of Finnwatch, highlighted that what is considered as “business as usual” in the financing world, isn’t good for development.

That brings us to the important question posed by Dr Stocchetti: When something goes wrong in one of Finnfund’s investments, who is responsible? The mechanisms of accountability aren’t clear.

Professor Barry Gills from the University of Helsinki referred to the Agua Zarca hydropower project in Honduras. Human rights risks related to the project, that led to the murder of activist Berta Cáceres, should have been identified and adequately addressed much earlier.  It is unclear what, if anything, has since changed in how Finnfund operates. Lack of transparency makes assessing this, or following the money, practically impossible.

Professor Gills raised the need to address the “moral dichotomy” between “us” and “them”, noting its colonial history and its present day reproduction. He called for all of us to clarify our moral standards, and hold ourselves true to them also in regard to “others” —rather than to continue to reproduce the dichotomy that separates “us” from “them “ into distinct moral spheres, where we apply very different standards of conduct in regard to “others” in the Global South.

Dr Zerfu Hailu, Senior Advisor of FFD from Ethiopia, reminded about the diversity of private sector. The same applies to the public sphere. Dr Gutu Wayessa raised an important point from the audience: the role of civil society. The public sector is seen as representing the interests of the people, but in authoritarian countries this often isn’t the case. The official development agenda may serve the elite, rather than the poor. Importantly, Ylönen raised the questions of opportunity costs for private sector aid. Is channeling public development funding through the private sector the most efficient way to reach desired development goals?

While more resources have been directed to private sector instruments, such as Finnfund, funding cuts have hit traditional development actors and research institutions. Speakers called for more engaged research that critically assesses the drivers and implications of shifts in development policy and changes in the development paradigm.

Summer Days 2017 – looking at the theme of Private-sector driven development from the Nordic perspective

Bonn Juego

University of Jyväskylä

In the past 15 years, “the private turn” in international development cooperation framework has become more evident. This shift in foreign policy is essentially characterized by a change in strategy from the old state-to-state relations centered on the giving and receiving of aid to the new economic diplomacy focused on the development of private sector business activities.


The implications of this emergent phenomenon for both development theory and practice are however understudied in (Nordic) development research, and no comparative studies have been undertaken. Such study is important in terms of: (i) the past, present, and future of North-South development cooperation; (ii) feasible development strategies for both developed and developing countries; and (iii) the processes of development and democratization in what used to be known as the “Third World” with durable authoritarian political regimes.


At the heart of this foreign policy re-strategizing is the crucial role assigned to the private sector as the driving force of development cooperation to pursue market-based solutions such as the promotion of entrepreneurship and the expansion of business operations to address poverty and other developmental problems. To this end, Nordic donor countries have been investing their resources tremendously to the operations of private enterprise-oriented development institutions and policy instruments.

The government of Finland has formed Team Finland as a crucial institution to embody, coordinate and implement the country’s emergent framework for the internationalization of Finnish private enterprises. Sweden has the Swedfund and Swedpartnership to facilitate the programme for private sector development. Denmark has the Danish Trade Council, the Investment Fund for Developing Countries, and the Export Credit Agency in line with their new foreign policy priority on economic diplomacy that targets growth areas in today’s global economy. And Norway has Nordfund, the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries, as their anti-poverty development finance institution funding private sector development programme and other commercial activities for poor countries.

Historically, the role of the private sector in development cooperation has always been there since the United Nations’ First Development Decade of the 1960s. This began when developed countries committed to transfer one per cent (1%) of their gross domestic product (GDP) to achieve the five per cent (5%) GDP growth target for developing countries. The prescribed formula of one per cent of GDP as an indicator of a successful net positive transfer of real resources from developed to developing countries should have been 0.7% of official development assistance (ODA) from donor governments plus 0.3% flows from the private sector.


However, during the five consecutive development decades, private flows have prevailed over donor government’s ODA whereby resource flows from rich to poor countries are subject to private incentives, rather than to development needs. Importantly, between 80 and 90 per cent of donor countries’ development finance, notably the development assistance budget of Nordic governments, are actually invested in the World Bank Group, Regional/Multilateral Development Banks, and other international development finance institutions together with other finance capital from private lenders and commercial banks that are loaned to developing countries.

What can also be observed in Nordic foreign policy nowadays is the geographical re-focusing of development cooperation partnerships with the economic growth areas of Asia, particularly with “rising China” and the emerging economies of Southeast Asia. Take, for example, the “China Action Plan” in 2010 of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland which identifies start-up and expansion opportunities for investors from both partner countries to do business in their respective economies.
An important phenomenon integral to the Nordic’s private turn in development cooperation is the impact of the policy choices of their governments and the business strategies of the state-supported business enterprises on one of the fundamental objectives of their international development policy ideals: the promotion of democratic values which, at a minimum, means the establishment of the rule of law, respect for human rights, and good governance. The Nordic countries’ priority partners in East and Southeast Asia—specifically, China, Myanmar, and Vietnam—are generally characterized as authoritarian, undemocratic, or non-democratic regimes.

Preliminary observation suggests that the private turn, or the private enterprise-oriented development framework, encourages the economic imperatives for entrepreneurship and investments to take precedence over the political agenda for democracy promotion. As a result, Nordic business interests can be made, or are being made, to operate even within the context of non-democratic political regimes of their developing country partners.


*This is an abridged version of the original article published by the Poverty and Development Research Center.


Join us on 7 June to discuss Private-sector driven development – Views from Academia and Activists! More information and the programme can be found  here.

FSDR Summer Days 2017: Private-sector driven development – Views from Academia and Activists

Time: Wednesday, the 7th of June, 13.00-16.00

Place: House of Science and Letters, Kirkkokatu 6, Hki (Hall 505; 5th floor, lift available)

This seminar, organized by the Finnish Society for Development Research, will explore the drivers and implications of the current “private turn” in development policy and aid practice. The global Agenda 2030 for sustainable development is paving the way for an increased role of the private sector in development. In Finland, the government has made substantial budget cuts in development cooperation, while the funds channeled to the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation (Finnfund) were raised to record height. The seminar addresses questions that are widely discussed among development scholars and activists, Including: Is the private sector taking over the development agenda? How should this private turn be understood in relation to trade policies? Can profit driven activities work for the impoverished? Is knowledge production on development being challenged in new ways? How are development researchers and activists reflecting upon their position and working agendas amidst these changes? Is there a need for new kinds of north-south solidarities and links between researchers and civil society actors?



Business as usual is bad for development: the case of tax responsibility in Finnfund’s forest fund,
Sonja Vartiala, Finnwatch

New instrumentalism in development finance, Matti Ylönen, University of Helsinki

The new private turn in Nordic development cooperation: A question of ethics or opportunities?,
Dr. Bonn Juego, University of Jyväskylä

Dr. Marikki Stocchetti, Development policy committee
Dr. Zerfu Hailu, Finnish Agri-Agency for Food and Forest Development (FFD)
Prof. Barry Gills, University of Helsinki


A roundtable discussion with the speakers and commentators. Seminar participants are encouraged to take part in the debate. Moderated by Dr. Minna Hakkarainen, the chair of FSDR.


Registration by 1.6.2017:
Contact person: Mira Käkönen,

Master’s award in Development Studies 2016

The Finnish University Partnership for International Development – UniPID and the Finnish Society for Development Research (FSDR) jointly seek exceptional Master’s level theses from UniPID member universities to be awarded.

The prize sum is 1,000 euros. There will also be two honorable mentions for exceptionally meriting works. The Master’s Award in Development Studies 2016 will be presented in February 2017, in conjunction with FSDR’s Development Day seminar.

The Master’s Award in Development Studies application criteria are the following:

§  The thesis has been approved during the period 1.8.2015-31.7.2016 at a UniPID University, as a master’s level thesis included in a degree. The language of the thesis is Finnish, Swedish, or English.

§  The grade is at least magna cum laude or higher, or at least 4 if the work has been graded on a scale of 1-5

§  This is a multidisciplinary competition and the disciplines are not limited in advance. The work should however employ one of the development research frameworks: development studies, developing country research, international development, or Global South research.


See the full call for award submissions with details on the qualifications and required attachments on the UniPID website.

All submissions should be sent in electronic format (PDF) to the Secretary of the Master’s Award Working Group Osku Haapasaari [osku.haapasaari [at]] by 31 August 2016 at 16.00 at the latest.

Docnet launched

The Finnish University Partnership for International Development (UniPID) launched UniPID DocNet, a nationwide initiative to support development research doctoral training. As the Finnish development research doctoral network, UniPID DocNet supports the interdisciplinary training and networking of doctoral students in development research. UniPID DocNet is a membership-based network for selected doctoral students and supervisors from UniPID member universities. For more information, visit UniPID webpages.

Kehitystutkimuksen tohtorikoulutusverkosto UniPID DocNet avajaistilaisuus järjestettiin Kehitystutkimuksen päivillä helmikuussa 2016. Verkoston tavoitteena on tuke kehitystutkimuksen tohtorikoulutettavien tieteidenvälistä koulutusta ja verkostoitumista. Verkosto tarjoaa täydentävää koulutusta, opisklijoiden vertaisuten mahdollisuuksia ja lisäohjauksen mahdollisuuksia. Lisätietoja UniPID-verkoston nettisivuilta.

Professor Neera Chandhoke: Keynote speech

Professor Neera Chandhoke delivers her keynote speech titled as “Realising justice” at the Development Research Day 2016 in Helsinki, February 2016.
Video & editing: Mikael Kanerva.

Kesäpäivät 2016

Photo: Kukka Ranta

Hyvä Kehitystutkimuksen seuran jäsen!

(*) For English, scroll down

Lämpimästi tervetuloa viettämään Kehitystutkimuksen seuran perinteistä Kesäpäivää

ti 17. toukokuuta 2016 klo 16:00 alkaen, Tieteiden talo (Kirkkokatu 6), sali 505.

Tänä vuonna haluamme nostaa esille taiteen avaamia mahdollisuuksia kehityskysymysten ymmärtämiseksi ja erilaisten teemojen esille nostamiseksi. Niinpä Kesäpäivän otsikoksi onkin valittu:


Olemme kutsuneet tilaisuuteen kolme taiteen ja kehitystutkimuksen rajapinnoilla toimivaa tutkijaa. Kukka Ranta on asumis- ja maaoikeusliikkeitä tutkiva Helsingin yliopiston tohtorikoulutettava, journalisti ja valokuvaaja, jonka kuvia löytyy myös alkuvuonna ilmestyneestä Kehityksen tutkimus –teoksesta.Antti Erkkilä on Itä-Suomen yliopistossa työskentelevä metsätieteiden tohtori, joka on ollut asiantuntijana mukana mm. Namibian sisäistä muuttoliikettä käsittelevän Home of Heart –dokumenttielokuvan työryhmässä. Riikka Bado puolestaan on teatterin ammattilainen, joka käsittelee työssään mm. puuvillakauppaan liittyviä kysymyksiä. Tule kuulemaan, mitä taide ja kehitystutkimus voivat heidän mielestään antaa toisilleen ja mikä on se yleisö, jolle he työllään kommunikoivat.
Toivomme, että tilaisuus auttaa meitä kaikkia tarkastelemaan myös omaa tutkimustyötämme uusin silmin ja pohtimaan tutkimuksen ja taiteen välisen vuorovaikuksen mahdollisuuksia työssämme.

Tapahtuman jälkeen viiniä ja pikkupurtavaa.

Huomaathan, että tarjoilujen mitoittamiseksi tilaisuuteen tulee ilmoittautua to 13.5. mennessä:

Lämpimästi tervetuloa!

Minna Hakkarainen
pj. Kehitystutkimuksen seura ry

PS. Huomaathan, että tilaisuuteen ovat tervetulleita myös uudet, seuran toiminnasta kiinnostuneet henkilöt, jotka jakavat kiinnostuksemme kehitystutkimusta kohtaan. Välitäthän siten tietoa tilaisuudesta ystävillesi, jotka haluavat käyttää tilaisuutta hyväkseen ja liittyä seuramme jäseneksi. Ohjeet jäseneksi liittymiseksi ja jäsenmaksun maksamiseksi löytyvät seuraavasta linkistä:


Dear member of the Finnish Society for Development Research!

You are warmly welcome to the traditional Development Research Summer Day! This year we want to highlight the role of art in understanding development, and in bringing forward development-related themes. Thus, the theme of the Summer Day is

Tuesday 17th of May, 16:00 at Tieteiden talo (Kirkkokatu 6), Sali 505.

We will be joined by three artist-researchers – Riikka Bado, independent theater artist and researcher; Antti Erkkilä, Doctor of Science and Forestry, Researcher at University of Eastern Finland and field specialist for the documentary movie Home of Heart; and Kukka Ranta, investigative journalist and photographer – who will discuss development relevant themes through arts. They will share their insights and experiences with their own work located at the interface between arts and development. Come and hear their thoughts on what art can provide for development research, and on the audience they communicate with through their work. We hope the event will also inspire all of us to see our own research in a new light, and to think about the possibilities of combining research and arts in our work.

You are cordially invited to some wine & snacks at the traditional Summer Day get-together and chat following the event.

Please register by Friday, 13 May at (

Warmly welcome!

Minna Hakkarainen, chair, Finnish Society for Development Research

PS. Please note that everyone sharing our interest towards development research is welcome to the event! Please spread the word to everyone who might want to use this opportunity to join the Society. Instructions for joining the Society and paying the membership fee can be found at our website: