H.E. Ville Skinnari

H.E. Ville Skinnari
Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade of Finland
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Date of birth: 21 February 1974
Place of residence: Lahti, Finland
Education: LLM (Master of Laws), BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) and BA Hons

Political career
Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade of Finland, Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Member of Parliament, Social Democratic Party
3rd Deputy Party Leader Member of Lahti City Council, 2012 to present

Before devoting his work to politics full time, Ville Skinnari has worked in various positions in the field of international trade, including developing Nokia’s service business for the Asian and European markets and serving as the Business Development Director for the Koillismaa region. He has also run a small company of his own and worked as a specialist in international law. Sports have always played a major role in Ville Skinnari’s life. He has played ice hockey as a junior and in the men’s team until 1995 and continued to play while studying in the Netherlands and the UK. In his free time, he enjoys sports and culture in many forms, as well as fishing. His wife is a Physical Education Instructor and they have three children.


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Q: Why is capacity building on taxation so important to the debate on financing for development today? 

A: Countries can develop, grow and protect human rights only if they have the capacity to collect taxes. A properly functioning tax system and a competent tax administration are prerequisites for the development of all aspects of societies. Taxes provide funding for education, infrastructure, legal institutions, social protection and other public services.

According to recent international studies, the difference in developing countries between the amount of tax that should, in theory, be paid, and what is actually being to paid accounts is between 30% and 60%. Finland is committed to the Addis Tax Initiative and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Contributing to capacity building in order for countries to be able to collect taxes effectively and legitimately is a key priority for us.   

While domestic resource mobilisation is one of the most promising sources of finance for sustainable development, tax-to-GDP ratios, for instance, in most African countries have remained very low. Under-collection of tax revenue is largely associated with considerable illicit financial flows in the region. The African Union’s High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows has calculated that Africa loses more tax revenues due to illicit financial flows than it receives through official development assistance or foreign direct investments. Finland has joined the efforts to tackle tax-related illicit financial flows in Africa together with the AU, the European Union, Germany and other partners.

The reform of the international tax system, negotiated at the OECD, is a welcome step in the right direction in ensuring that multinational enterprises pay a fair share of tax wherever they operate and generate profits. Policy level solutions are well complemented on a practical level by the TIWB initiative’s activities to curb tax avoidance, tax evasion and illicit financial flows.


Q: What is Finland’s approach to tax and development and how do TIWB programmes fit into this approach?  

A: Finland’s Government Programme states that we will contribute to improvements in the taxation systems of developing countries. Our policy is more accurately defined in the Taxation for Development Action Programme 2020 – 2023.

The main objective of the Taxation for Development Action Programme is to strengthen developing countries’ taxation capacity. This objective is promoted by co-operation projects, both by Finnish actors such as the Finnish Tax Administration (VERO), as well as joining international and European Union projects. Our focus is in Africa, and we also provide direct funding for organisations such as the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF). In addition, funding for civil society is essential also in the tax sector.

Another key objective of the Action Programme is ensuring the tax responsibility and transparency of companies supported with development co-operation funding. The work is underway, following the guidelines set in the policy paper Tax Responsibility Principles in Finland’s Development Cooperation Funding to the Private Sector.

The Action Programme also seeks to strengthen the position of developing countries in global tax policy discussions and to ensure that the perspectives of developing countries are better taken into consideration. This objective was taken into account in the design of our co-operation projects, which cover tax policy aspects, in addition to the focus on tax administrations.

The TIWB initiative and our Taxation for Development Action Programme are well aligned as both include as key objectives strengthening the taxation capacity and enhancing the voice of developing countries in global tax policy.


Q: Finland is a longstanding funding partner of the TIWB initiative. What are Finland's key objectives in supporting the TIWB?  

A: The OECD and the UNDP are indeed among our first partners in the field of taxation and development, as our first ever Tax for Development Action Programme covered the years from 2016 to 2019 and Finland has supported the TIWB initiative since 2017.

Finland’s support to the TIWB was further extended in 2021 and new areas are being covered. This extension project is called Tax for Sustainable Development Goals (Tax for SDGs Initiative) and co-funded by Finland and Norway. Finland’s funding for the 4-year period from 2021 to 2024 totals EUR 9.2 million.

While continuing the capacity building of national tax authorities through TIWB’s learning-by-doing approach, a new goal will be to integrate taxation capacity questions more strongly into the national SDG agendas in 25 countries, particularly in Africa. The presence of UNDP country offices in every country in the Global South is being taken advantage of and South-South co-operation encouraged.

We support TIWB because it has proven itself as a very successful initiative in the important field of taxation capacity building, contributing to more effective domestic resource mobilisation. This work also supports other elements of Finland’s international development co-operation, such as the promotion of gender equality and sustainable climate policy. Well-designed taxation can reduce inequalities, enhance employment opportunities for women and contribute to sustainable use of natural resources. A reliable, efficient and equitable tax system – both domestically and internationally – is an essential part of the economy of well-being.