The Finnish Refugee Council supports the civil society in all of its countries of operation, with the goal of strengthening democracy both in Finland and abroad. An important part of the work is supporting local NGOs in their day-to-day activities.
The Finnish Refugee Council strengthens civil society by supporting NGOs, the current focus being on Finland and Myanmar. Even though the countries are nearly 7 000 kilometres apart and have immense cultural differences, NGO activities have a lot in common. In both countries, NGOs engage in remarkable grassroot-level activities that help strengthen democracy. Their work is done with passion and its basis lies in a genuine desire for a positive social impact. The NGO actors have wide networks and possess profound knowledge of the challenges present in their societies. Therefore, NGOs are important partners and clients for the Finnish Refugee Council.
NGOs in Finland and Myanmar also face similar challenges: finance, administration as well as monitoring and evaluation cause difficulties in both countries, and their third sector is defined by a high turnover people. New staff and volunteers bring fresh perspectives and new skills to the organisations but can also lead to a lack of continuity. FRC tackles these challenges through support for NGO capacity building in the form of training and consultation.
Through KNWO and FRC’s cooperation, the situation of women in Myanmar has improved, and a 24/7 helpline has been launched for the victims of gender-based violence.
FRC aims to strengthen NGOs to better organise and conduct their own work. The end goal is that NGOs are able to carry out proper administration and make realistic plans for their activities. NGO activities should also reflect the principals of democracy. The final result should be stable and transparent activities, where all members and active participants may equally take part in decision making. The target level of capacity building is where an NGO is able to apply for funding independently and report about their projects and other activities in a professional manner.
The results of FRC’s work are evident in Finland and Myanmar
FRC works in Myanmar in cooperation with the Karenni National Women’s Organisation (KNWO). KNWO is FRC’s long-time partner and is known in the region it operates in as the leading women’s rights organisation working in refugee and displacement camps. KNWO especially works with vulnerable women, such as widows and survivors of gender-based violence.
In Finland, FRC’s work with NGOs is led by its Organisation Incubator (Järjestöhautomo) which was started 2005. The Organisation Incubator specialises in supporting NGOs founded by immigrants and ethnic minorities, as well multicultural NGOs. The goal is to support diversity in the civil society and to promote multilateral integration.
81% of NGO actors who sought consultation with Organisation Incubator’s said that they had gained knowledge that was important for their NGO.
The support given to NGOs has yielded concrete results. KNWO’s administrative capacity has markedly improved due to better training. According to training participants, their confidence and know-how in project management has increased significantly. Through KNWO and FRC’s cooperation, the situation of women in Myanmar has improved, and a 24/7 helpline has been launched for the victims of gender-based violence.
As for the Organisation Incubator, as many as 287 NGO actors from across the country took part in training in 2019. The consultation services were popular as well and reached a total of 289 participants. 81% of NGO actors who sought the Organisation Incubator’s consultation said that they had gained knowledge that was important for their NGO. Among the consulted NGOs was Finland-Somalia Association, and organisation which provides support for immigrant youth and which – through consultation with the Organisation Incubator – strengthened its project management skills and later secured significant funding from Finland’s Funding Centre for Social Welfare and Health Organisation, STEA.
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