The second FLC (Fund for Local Cooperation) Regional Meeting for Finnish embassies in Asia was organized recently in Jakarta. The meeting successfully combined a traditional two-day training and experience sharing session within the four walls of the embassy in Jakarta and a slightly more adventurous two-day field trip to visit a FLC funded project in the rural outskirts of the city of Yogyakarta.
The expectations for the meeting were running high as the first FLC Asia regional meeting organized last year in Kathmandu turned out to be an excellent platform for information sharing among the FLC project coordinators. The tone for the meeting was set by Mr. Marko Laine (Counsellor) and Mr. Ramses Malaty (Senior Officer) from Helsinki in the welcoming session early Monday morning along with our Ambassador Mr. Kai Sauer. From the get-go it was clear that this group of people had come to Jakarta to work – with no formalities restraining free, bubbly conversation.
And throughout the two-day training free, bubbly conversation it was! One of the most vivid discussions among the participants concluded that communication and experience sharing among the LCF coordinators and with Helsinki is vital in ensuring the future success of the FLC development cooperation instrument. In the discussions the importance of quality assurance with reference to funding decisions was also emphasized.
In the midst of the training, the advantages of the embassies having the decision-making power when it comes to the FLC projects became clear. As the working conditions in each country vary widely, for example in terms of the strength and scope of the civil society, the expertise of each embassy on its respective area becomes crucial in the management of the FLC projects. Indeed, any amount of communication between the embassies and Helsinki, with reference to the project management, would hardly depict the reality of the challenges of working in the field.
This local management approach of the FLC projects has proven to be successful, as in many cases the local governments of the project sites have adopted the systems approach example set by the FLC project, for example in terms of improving local food security. Thus, the FLC projects have not only provided the local communities with measurable short-term benefits or outcomes but also with long-term enhancement of local public administration.
After leaving the city of Jakarta behind and stepping on a plane for the field visit in Yogyakarta, we were on our way to see such a project. The embassy in Jakarta has been working with the FLC partner in question, InProSuLA, since 2008 with the funded project focusing on improving the conservation of local food resources. The cooperation between the embassy and the FLC partner in question has been exceptionally fruitful. This was without doubt felt by our group as we arrived in the actual site of the project and received a very warm welcome. The entire local community – from the grandmother to the toddler – had come to see the guests and to display their food products developed with the help of the FLC project.
Another highlight of our field visit was to meet the vice-Sultan Sri Paduka Paku Alam IX of the Yogyakarta Special Region. Our group was honoured to be greeted by the highest level of local government and was glad to hear the vice-Sultan´s encouraging words on the positive effects of the FLC development cooperation in the Yogyakarta region.
Before heading back to the hotel for our last dinner with the whole group, we had the chance to visit the magnificent Borobudur temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a 9th century Buddhist monument decorated with 2672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. While enjoying the breathtaking views on the top of the temple at the time of sunset, it was unanimously agreed that the FLC regional meetings, combining theoretical sessions and practical field visits, are an excellent way for the FLC coordinators to see the fruits their hard work is bearing.