May 22, 2024

Adaptation is the key to sustainability – Fin Church Aid

Finn Church Aid Annual report 2021 has been published.

AS I LOOK BACK ON THE PAST TWO YEARS, I see how dramatically the world has changed. The Covid-19 pandemic restricted our lives but at the same time encouraged us towards a huge digital leap. Crisis and conflicts are more multifaceted, and climate change exacerbates the situation further. More and more people need our help. And so, I have to ask, what will come next?

A message that has echoed throughout our country and field offices is the effect that Covid-19 has had. I am grateful to everyone across whole the whole organisation for working throughout it, particularly the staff who met the direct challenges posed by the pandemic and found new ways of working. Our localisation strategy puts a lot of responsibility on our country offices, and we reaped the benefit of this trust during the pandemic. Only when government restrictions in our programme countries prevented us, did our activities halt. We came out of the last two years with fresh ways of thinking and new partnerships.

Localisation must be strengthened and it should be advanced at all levels – what we need to do is ensure that our understanding of aid is shared and that we stand with those at the coalface and support local actors. Within FCA, 95 per cent of our staff are from the countries where we work; our Uganda country office is, for example, bigger than our Helsinki office.

”We have proven that we can do things differently and that we can be an agile, responsive organisation.”

But with all that has happened, also considering the recent escalation of the Ukraine crisis, we need to be even more prepared to face the challenges still to come. Conflicts are plenty and protracted, and they exacerbate human rights violations. Addressing difficulties requires a much broader perspective – we need to be open to new solutions, and as humanitarians, we need to do this with optimism. We have to find technical solutions that are grounded in science. We did this during the pandemic, using digital technology in education. We can do the same thing with climate change to find ways to mitigate and adapt to it.

In the Horn of Africa or countries such as Cambodia and Nepal, populations are finding it more and more challenging to adapt to climate change. People are no longer able to survive in areas where they have always lived. The places that were once difficult to live in are now uninhabitable, and these areas are expanding. Climate change is affecting all of us even more, and war, armed conflicts and unrest do not help.

In South Sudan, it seems like the country lurches from one disaster to another, and most of them are linked to the climate emergency. Our job tackling the changing climate is difficult enough, but with conflict, the task before us can seem impossible.

All of our work is made possible by our partners

One thing that gives me hope is that our concerns are shared, particularly across the private sector, and this creates opportunities. Particularly in livelihoods, an example is our creative industries partnership in Kenya, where we are working with small companies, and our vocational education in Uganda that links skills-trained youth to jobs in the private sector.

We have proven that we can do things differently and that we can be an agile, responsive organisation. We started founding country offices only in 2010, and our ways of doing things are not set in stone, making it easier to adapt to changing circumstances. So, we can ask ourselves, what is the best way to work going forward? Is it to provide certain support as a private sector organisation? Working through parents’ and teachers’ associations in schools? Or acting as a consultant to the government? Or mixing new elements to our modalities of work, in addition to traditional development cooperation, humanitarian assistance and peace building? This flexibility
is evident when you look at our work in Asia, which is very different from
how we work in for example Africa.

All of our work is made possible by our partners. Often, when people try to help, they focus their efforts on the people closest to them, sometimes forgetting the rest of the world. But, like us, our partners understand that events occurring anywhere in the world can affect us all, which is why we need to work together. We thank all our partners and donors for your unwavering support and fruitful collaboration.

Text: Jouni Hemberg, Finn Church Aid Executive Director
Photo: Antti Yrjönen

Finn Church Aid Annual report 2021 can be accessed online here.