Human rights of marginalised groups
Upholding and defending human rights is crucial to poverty alleviation. The rights-based approach, which FELM employs in its development and church work, requires that people be made aware of their rights and supported in demanding that they be respected. Our advocacy work aims to promote respect for the rights of vulnerable and marginalised groups, such as women, the disabled and ethnic minorities.
In south-west Ethiopia FELM is working to improve the living conditions of the marginalised Mandsa ethnic group and also to promote better relations between the Mandsa and the majority population. In Nepal FELM supports work among the Dalit (‘untouchable’) community that aims to increase their opportunities to participate in decision-making processes and in wider society.
The Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN) is an organisation of the World Council of Churches whose advocacy work on behalf of people with disabilities is supported by FELM. EDAN aims to support organisations working on behalf of the disabled in their work to achieve the goals set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In Finland we work together with human rights organisations and other NGOs. FELM is also working to ensure that human rights issues be given greater prominence in Finnish and European Union development policies and development cooperation.
FELM believes that access to food is a human right. This human right can, however, be threatened by various human rights violations and limits on smallholder land ownership. Food insecurity can typically be explained by problems with food distribution systems rather than by a lack of food. FELM’s advocacy work aims to address the root causes of hunger, which include a lack of education, health issues, land ownership and ineffective political structures. Smallholders and women have a central role to play in ensuring food security in developing countries.
Our local partners, whose work we support, frequently work in the poorest and most marginalised communities. FELM supports its partners’ grassroots food security advocacy work.
FELM also supports its partner organisations in participating in international networks’ food security-related processes and training. FELM supports the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance’s Food for Life campaign, along with organisations from Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe. The campaign aims to alleviate hunger and strengthen the livelihoods of smallholders in developing countries.
FELM advocates for changes to development policy in Finland that would strengthen the means with which to address structural problems that lead to food insecurity. To this end FELM raises food security issues with the Finnish Parliament and the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. FELM also takes food security into consideration in its cooperation with other Finnish NGOs.
HIV and AIDS
HIV and AIDS are intertwined in people’s lives in many ways. The health effects of HIV and AIDS are just one dimension. FELM employs a holistic approach that gets to the roots of the spread of HIV and AIDS in order to prevent it spreading further.
FELM supports its partners in combating the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS and in various types of prevention work. Through our networks we aim to keep HIV and AIDS on the agenda of decision-makers, both in Finland and internationally, and to demand that the international community fulfil its commitments to improve the quality of life of HIV positive people.
Important focuses in this work include providing treatment to all who need it and reducing the stigma of people living with HIV and AIDS. FELM actively participates in the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and the World Aids Day working group as well as in the Finnish All-Party Group on Population and Development.
Peace and reconciliation
Unjust social and economic structures cause conflicts. Defending and upholding human rights can prevent conflicts flaring up. The goal of FELM’s peace and reconciliation work is to support the kinds of cultures and structures in which human rights, international humanitarian law and the just division of resources can take place.
FELM supports individuals’, communities’ and civil society’s ability to work constructively in conflict situations and to prevent such situations from occurring in the first place. We aim, in particular, to strengthen the ability of religious leaders, churches, women and other local groups to work on behalf of peace and reconciliation. We place special emphasis on ensuring that the human rights of marginalised groups living in conflict situations are respected and that civil society is allowed to operate freely. We also work on the issue of land rights.
We support the activities of our local partners and work through international ecumenical networks. Our geographical focus areas are: Columbia, Nepal, the Middle East, Ethiopia and Pakistan.
Faith and development
The vast majority of the world’s population have a religious worldview through which they interpret their surrounding reality. Each religion has elements which both help and hinder development. In many cases it is difficult to differentiate between what are solely the effects of culture and what are the effects of religion.
FELM has experience and expertise in harnessing the positive effects of religion in development.
In our work on faith and development we aim to promote research and dialogue into the interaction between faith and development in developing countries. FELM participates in dialogue with the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and organises events and seminars in which scholars researching faith and development can meet with development professionals.
FELM also supports the Lutheran World Federation’s ‘Role of Religion in Development Work’ programme, which aims to clarify the development cooperation principles and practices of church and religious organisations, especially concerning challenges related to faith in the global working environment.