Windhoek-The outgoing Ambassador of Finland to Namibia, Anne Saloranta, says the government has the right to decide what to prioritize in terms of budget cuts.
Saloranta, who had kind words for the Namibian government, said in an interview with New Era on Friday that the working relationship between the government and non-governmental organisations is a healthy one, despite current financial constraints.
Responding to a question on how the government could replicate the Finnish model of government funding civil society, Saloranta said her impression is that the government takes civil society seriously.
Saloranta, who admitted Finland’s funding for development cooperation is decreasing, said the Namibian government does engage civil society, particularly in political discussions.
Since Namibia’s classification as a middle-income country many donors have stopped funding NGOs, a situation that saw many NGOs, particularly those at grass-roots level, closing their doors.
“Many NGOs that are working here, especially the bigger ones, are actually working very closely with the government. The two that we (Embassy of Finland) have been funding for many years, for instance Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), are working wonderfully with the government,” added Saloranta.
These organisations do this by providing their expertise, their studies, their research and their services for the purpose of the government’s work, said Saloranta.
“I think the partnership is very much there but of course funding is always an issue,” said the ambassador.
In Finland the government has funded civil society for a very long time, she said.
“But then a couple of years ago when we had to face strict budget cuts civil society’s budgets were cut quite drastically and there was quite an outcry about it,” said Saloranta, adding that even though NGOs play a crucial role in communities, the funding can fluctuate depending on funding.
She also said there is an understanding and appreciation of the work civil society does. “It requires a political decision and obviously funding set aside for NGOs,” said Saloranta, whose term as ambassador comes to an end on August 31.
She noted that NGOs work directly with communities and are a link between communities and government.
• See full interview in this Friday’s edition of New Era.