The Finnish Foreign Ministry listened to Finnish NGOs on human rights-based approach and their existing toolkit and their good practices

Today, representatives of 8 NGOs discussed with the Ministry’s advisors on cross-cutting issues and human rights-based approach. The Ministry is going to create a toolkit reflecting on the new Finnish development policy and wanted to learn from experiences of the NGOs. The new priority articulated in the new Finnish development policy, namely human rights-based approach, has geared some NGOs to modify their activities to fit into it, while it affected all NGOs to think carefully how their activities were associated with this approach. I participated in this meeting, though I am a researcher in this area. Abilis Foundation and FIDIDA (Finnish Disabled People’s International Development Association) were the two invited disability organisations, which I think is an important fact. First, the Ministry staffs introduced human rights-based approach which has three components: mainstreaming, empowerment, and policy negotiation and dialogue. After the brief introduction of the Ministry, each participant presented existing practices in own organisation. Some NGOs has policy guideline, and others checklist mostly relevant to their activities such as children, and persons with disabilities. Those are useful for themselves to raise awareness on cross-cutting themes to be seriously taken into account in their practices. However, they are too frequently neither welcomed nor important per se on the grassroots in Southern countries. At the same time, their human rights-based projects are not enough, when governments are not sensitive to human rights, for instance. Towards the end, there was a consensus that toolkits can work to a limited extent mainly to meet own purposes but are hard to be applied to all situations. Southern ownership in the process of producing a toolkit based on their own needs was pointed out to be crucial. When I reflect on the discussion to the field of disability and development, I feel that human rights-based approach is far from the reality. In my understanding, perhaps the obligation element is one significance of the approach. Is development cooperation based on transnational obligation? I think it is not yet, as it is always under the threat of budget cut and not a long-term commitment. Another question is why persons with disabilities are not prioritised to date? That is most probably because persons with disabilities are too often excluded by actors both in the global North and South. When various actors do not prioritise persons with disabilities, it is essential that a top-down approach takes place to pressure actors to properly include them. For that, toolkit would be useful from the viewpoint of mainstreaming. At the same time, continuous dialogue of DPOs with (and also reminder to) all actors for them to internalise the idea of mainstreaming persons with disabilities as a common sense, while building capacity of persons with disabilities themselves is also necessary simoultaneously. That is to say, a required toolkit is one of many ways towards making sustainable social changes under the circumstance where persons with disabilities are too often excluded. The toolkit of the Ministry will be ready before the summer. I am personally looking forward to seeing how disabilities are included in it as human rights issues.