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Radical cuts, radical consequences

Updated: 4 days ago

Opinion from the House of Helsinki chairperson, Artem Kuosti.


Dear Government, the cuts will come at a high cost for Finland of tomorrow.


The consequences of the cuts could prove distressingly expensive for Finland. It's not that savings aren't needed — they are. The issue lies in concentrating economic and administrative pressures over too short a period.


This is not optimising, but rather paralyzing NGO activities. Progressing in small steps will take us further. Slowly, sustainable results are achieved. The cuts themselves cause administrative pressure, and their timing is baseless and downright harmful. Structures like NGOs need time to adapt.


Large cuts are symbolically significant, and their consequences create a dismal future for Finland. While reducing funds may streamline some processes, at this scale and timeline it is not sensible. We must distinguish between optimization and paralysis.


We must distinguish between optimization and paralysis.

The impulsive changes resulting from the budget session appear rushed and not well-considered. The decision-making is clearly driven by "economic goals," not a "Strong and caring Finland" (Name of the governmental program).


The cuts themselves cause concern, and their timing increases urgency. The real damage to society will only be revealed years later, and the true consequences will only emerge through analyses by experts, NGOs, and researchers. Public discussion on the subject may unfortunately be very brief.


Next year, STEA grants will be receive 80 million euros less than this year. The Social and Health Organization Assistance Center STEA supports NGOs that aid people in vulnerable positions. By 2026, grants will decrease to 278 million euros, and by 2027 only 252 million will be awarded—a third less than this year. Our Prime Minister has stated that "everyone participates in the effort". But if the cuts affect structures that have supported the building of Finland's welfare state for decades and helped those in vulnerable positions, this is not a “Strong and caring Finland”. Or is this a “Strong and caring-for-the-strong Finland”?


Measuring the impact of NGOs and social services is now more important than ever. Impact measurement needs an economic dimension and comparison across all sectors. NGOs must also be more visible in economic indicators so that future decision-makers can make sustainable decisions. The value of volunteer work in Finland is nearly 3.2 billion euros annually. Coordinating, training, and maintaining volunteer work requires professionalism and development.


We are ready to participate in these efforts, but not on this scale and timeline — not at the expense of the well-being of those in vulnerable positions. NGOs need to diversify their funding models and develop their activities. This requires time and collaboration.


Future NGO work must emphasize economic performance indicators, so that we have influence in political decision-making. It is important to ensure that the fundamental and human rights of vulnerable people are equally respected. Funding NGOs is not just an expense; it's an investment in well-being and health. There are reasons why Finland is a welfare state — one of them is decades of NGO work.


One cut euro is not of equal value in all situations. Not everyone should participate in the effort to the same extent. Today's saved euro may be tomorrow's debt. A cut is not always a saving, but a future multiple cost. 


Today's saved euro may be tomorrow's debt.

The results of preventive work are not visible, precisely because they don't create a larger price tag for the state, as support has been timely. It would indeed be unfortunate if the savings produced by NGOs are only seen after the cuts have been made. 


"Cutting" is not the solution. It's just part of a solution. Future decisions must be based on facts and economic indicators that take into account the effectiveness of investments in the longer term and serve social sustainability.


The statement was authored by Artem Kuosti, the House of Helsinki chairperson, and signed by all board members in unanimous support.


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