On Monday, April 3, 2023, Finland’s Prime Minister and the world’s former youngest state leader Sanna Marin conceded electoral defeat after her Social Democratic Party (SDP) came in third place to the center-right National Coalition Party (NCP) and the nationalist Finns Party. NCP leader Petteri Orpo is set to be the next prime minister and state leader, as Marin steps aside from her role as party leader. Under her, Finland had a steadfast commitment to the U.N.’s 2030 agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that aim to end global poverty and create a safer and fairer world. Here is some information about Marin’s record on international development, the fallout from this recent election and what it might mean for Finland’s foreign aid budget.
Foreign Aid Under Marin
Marin has governed as prime minister since 2019 as the leader of the SDP. During this time, she has overseen an increase in the amount Finland spends on fighting poverty in developing nations. In 2018, Finland spent 0.36% of its gross national income (GNI) on Official Development Assistance (ODA). This had increased to 0.47% of GNI by 2021.
A core priority of Finland’s foreign aid is to promote the rights of girls and women worldwide. This is in line with the U.N.’s SDG number 5. Finland has historically been at the forefront of political gender equality. It was the first European country to grant women voting rights. It was also the first in the world to allow them to stand as candidates.
Finland’s proud history of championing women’s rights manifests in its support for women and girls around the world facing extreme poverty. In 2020 Finland spent more than $220 million to promote gender equality and female empowerment in developing nations. As the U.N.’s SDG number 5 has decried, the empowerment of women is not just a basic human right – it is also an incredible catalyst for economic growth and development.
Despite the progress made under Marin, the SDP’s opponents have shown less enthusiasm toward Finland’s humanitarian commitments.
The campaign of the center-right NCP won 20.6% of the vote. It was fought on the promise of reducing government spending and debt. In second place, with 20.1% of the vote, was the nationalist Finns Party. They had previously stated their desire to cut Finland’s foreign aid spending by at least €200 million.
The last time the NCP and the Finns Party were in government together, from 2015 to 2019, they reduced Finland’s spending on foreign aid. However, during the administration’s final year, they began to reverse their cuts to ODA. The Social Democrats embraced this trend.
The third-placed SDP remained committed to increasing the amount Finland spends on international development, campaigning on a promise to keep Finland on the path toward spending 0.7% of GNI on ODA.
Hope for the Future
There remains uncertainty as to whether the far-right Finns Party will constitute the government. The SDP may have come in third place but with 19.9% of the vote, their popularity remains high. It is not unforeseeable that they enter into a coalition government with Orpo’s NCP.
As the biggest party, the NCP will take the lead in attempting to form a new coalition government. They may not share the same enthusiasm for ODA as the SDP, but their party platform confirms its commitment to assisting developing nations and lifting people out of extreme poverty.
In the wake of Marin’s departure, there remains hope that Finland’s history of supporting the world’s poorest will continue. Marin’s time as prime minister reinforced Finland’s global reputation as a leading light in the fight for gender equality and the mission to end global poverty.
– Henry Jones