November 2019 Engagement – Policy Dialogue on the Finnish and EU Africa strategies in the making

Policy Dialogue on the Finnish and EU Africa strategies in the making

On the 1stof November Finnish Society for Development Research together with the Finnish Development Policy Committee (KPT), Fingo, Development Studies (University of Helsinki), and UniPID, organised a policy dialogue “Financing for Sustainable Development in Africa” at Think Corner, University of Helsinki.

The event was timely as Africa’s prominence as the main development partner of Finland and the European Union is becoming ever more evident. Within the past five months, both the Government of Finland and the new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, have announced that they will start drafting new Africa strategies. The event was organised to discuss the different drivers and aspirations behind the “rise” of Africa in Finnish and EU’s foreign policies and international cooperation. The event also asked how well the aspirations between different stakeholders in Africa and EU align with each other and whether real changes are to be expected in the future relations between Finland, EU and Africa as well as in the financing of sustainable development. The Policy Dialogue sparked notable interest with well over a hundred participants attending the event (166 pre-registered participants).

The video of the event can be watched here:

Details on the event are available here:

The first keynote speaker Johanna Sumuvuori (State Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs) confirmed that partnerships with African countries will be increased and diversified, and that the new strategy will be broad covering all ministries. Development cooperation will continue to be important but its relative role will diminish as the engagements with private sector, research institutions and civil society are increasingly emphasised. Sumuvuori also pointed out that the strategy aims to get rid of the out-dated views of perceiving Africa as a problem continent. Sumuvuori promised that the strategy process will be consultative and inputs from civil society and researchers are expected. She also highlighted the momentum of Finland to influence the new EU’s Africa strategy with Jutta Urpilainen as the new commissioner of international cooperation.

The second keynote speaker Paul Okumu (the Head of Secretariat of the Africa Platform) started with pointing to Europe’s problematic colonial legacies by asking rhetorically “what does it mean that Europe is now getting in Africa, when actually it has never gotten out”. According to Okumu motivations behind developing new partnerships in Africa by China, U.S., Russia as well as EU and European countries importantly include interests related Africa’s richness in natural resources. He emphasized that it is about time to broaden the focus from aid money to fairness of trade agreements, taxation and tax evasion, as well as to multinational companies, especially in the sector of extractive industries, and how they perform in relation to sustainable development.

Diverse perspectives were added to the discussion by the panelists Gutu Wayessa (University lecturer, Development Studies, University of Helsinki), Leena Vastapuu (Visiting research fellow, Tampere Peace Research Institute), Saara-Sofia Sirén (Member of Parliament and Vice-Chair of the Development Policy Committee), Jannika Ranta (Senior Adviser on Trade Policy at the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK), Katja Ahlfors (Director, Unit for Development Policy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland).

In the lively discussion with the audience the issues highlighted included the importance of de-colonising the development discourses, the problematic framings and hidden agendas related to immigration, the importance of recognizing potentially valuable contributions from the African diaspora in developing new Finnish partnerships in Africa as well as the need to increase and diversify knowledge of Africa in Finnish (e.g. through the education system). The discussion also extended to Twitter: #ThinkAfrica2019.

The organising committee of the Policy Dialogue consisted of Marikki Stocchetti (FSDR, KPT), Katja Kandolin (KPT), Niina Tenhio (Fingo), Mira Käkönen (FSDR, Development Studies) and Anja Onali (FSDR, UniPID).

Visit of Professor Jacquleen Joseph from Jamsetji Tata School of Disaster Studiesista/Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai at HELSUS/DS at the University of Helsinki as a guest of Marjaana Jauhola. A two-day workshop “Beyond Disaster Recovery: Cascading Risks and Wellbeing in the Age of Climate Change” was held 15-16 October focusing on the intersections of inequalities in both research and teaching on disasters and climate change. The discussions are feeding into a new MA level course Climate Change and Global Justice at the Societal Change (UH) 2020-23, and with possible multi-campus learning environment development.