Survey: Finns back development aid in spite of tough economic times

The vast majority of Finns see development cooperation as extremely or quite important, according to a Foreign Ministry survey. However the poll shows greater uncertainty about the efficacy of development programmes in light of the economic recession.

Image: Kalle Niskala / Yle

The Foreign Ministry survey showed that an overwhelming majority of respondents – some 82 percent – felt that development assistance was highly or rather important. Backing for development programmes was especially high among supporters of the Green League as well as the Christian Democratic and Swedish People’s parties.

Just three percent of Finns interviewed were indifferent to development cooperation while 13 percent said it was insignificant. Finns party supporters stood out in this regard as nearly 30 percent held this view, while the corresponding proportion for other large parties was between 14 and 18 percent.

Most Finns said they believe that rich countries have an obligation to help developing nations. Improving the status of women and strengthening societal structures were also seen as key objectives of development aid.

The survey showed that the general view of development assistance is that it promotes public morality and humanity. Moreover Finns believe that such programmes should above all focus on basic pillars of development such as education, which was seen as having primary importance.

The United Nations has prioritised the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger as its most important millennium development goals. The second is ensuring access to primary education to all, followed by gender equality and improving the status of women.

Half of Finns would fix the domestic economy first

An even 50 percent of respondents to the ministry’s survey said they would first focus on economic recovery at home before considering helping other countries in need -- if resources allow.

The ongoing economic slide in particular has been responsible for dampening Finns' enthusiasm for increasing development aid to 0.7 percent of GDP. The poll showed that just 14 percent of Finns said they’d be willing to increase overseas aid allocations, compared to 23 percent in a similar survey last year. Responses also indicated greater uncertainty over the effectiveness and performance of aid programmes.

Nearly 60 percent of respondents however said what while development programmes do have an impact, that alone isn’t enough. As many as one in four believed that aid programmes could be used to relieve urgent distress, but cannot achieve lasting development.

The survey was conducted by pollster Taloustutkimus for the Foreign Ministry by way of face to face interviews with 1,000 respondents during May. The margin of error was three percentage points in either direction.