Foreign ministry survey on Afghan aid reveals party splits

While many said efforts to reduce poverty and inequality were important, most did not see development programmes as efficient or effective.

Around 1,200 people took part in the survey, which was carried out at the end of August, as international forces, diplomats and others evacuated the war-torn country, leaving the Taliban in power, raising fears about the uncertain future of Afghan women and girls. File photo of women and girl in Afghanistan. Image: EPA-EFE/All Over Press

A clear majority of people in Finland said they felt sad about the situation of women and girls living under the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to a survey commissioned by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The survey, carried out by market research firm Taloustutkimus, found that 86 percent of respondents thought the situation of females in Afghanistan was either "somewhat" or "completely" sad.

Around 1,200 people took part in the survey, which was carried out at the end of August, as international forces, diplomats and others evacuated the war-torn country, leaving the Taliban in power, raising fears about the uncertain future of Afghan women and girls.

According to the survey, around 75 percent of respondents agreed somewhat or entirely that Finland should provide emergency aid to Afghanistan, such as food, shelter and water.

On the other hand, just 39 percent said they somewhat or completely agreed that Finland should make immediate efforts towards long-term development programmes in Afghanistan. Forty-eight percent of women and 31 percent of men were in favour of such goals.

Party divides

The survey responses often differed due to party affiliation. Around 79 percent of Green Party supporters were in favour of immediately resuming development programmes in Afghanistan, while only 10 percent of opposition Finns Party adherents supported the idea.

About two-thirds of respondents said they thought development programme cooperation was very or quite important but, at the same time, one quarter said their attitudes had become more negative about Finland offering that kind of support.

Among supporters of various Parliamentary parties, the most critical of the idea of Finland offering aid to Afghanistan were faithful to the Finns Party and Movement Now party — with 70 percent saying they were not in favour or indifferent to aid efforts.

Around 80 percent of Green Party supporters and 70 percent of Left Alliance supporters said development cooperation was very important.

Good but ineffective

The majority of those surveyed said they think Finland's development cooperation efforts over the 20 years it spent in Afghanistan had improved the standing of women and girls there.

The ministry noted that while many respondents said they thought Finland's efforts to reduce poverty and inequality were important, a majority did not think development programmes were efficient or effective.

"We must listen to this concern carefully and make sure that people get enough information about our work and its effectiveness in future. Prolonged conflicts and disasters, for example, may give rise to doubt whether we can achieve sustainable results at all. Based on our own monitoring, we know that we have achieved results," Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Ville Skinnari (SDP), said in a statement.

The ministry is to submit a report about the effectiveness and results of Finland's development cooperation to Parliament next autumn.

A total of 1,173 people from across Finland took part in the survey, which was carried out with online panels and in-person interviews. There was a 2.7 percent margin of error in either direction, according to the ministry.