Economic Development & Business Consulting
Contact me to find out what value I can add to your project. Full CV available upon request.
My expertise is in International Development, International Trade and facilitating business succeeding in the developing world. Most of my experience is on Aid for Trade, Private Sector Development and Economic Development as whole – often with regional integration, poverty reduction, gender equality, reduction of inequality and climate sustainability lenses on. I am a capacity enhancement and trade mainstreaming practitioner, with sound track record on trade policy, trade facilitation and other trade and exports development disciplines as well as in development policy, cooperation and programming, and business consulting.
I have twenty years of experience in project cycle management (project formulation, appraisal, management, monitoring and evaluation), Logical Framework Approach and Results Based Management. I am an able strategist, analyst and researcher with great keenness on problem-solving, tangible results and connecting people and businesses for success. I have covered the ground working in-country for the UN, from the headquarters’ positions of UN-agencies and the WTO, as a donor government representative (MFA Finland) and as an International Consultant. I am particularly familiar with the English-speaking Africa, parts of Asia-Pacific and increasingly with the Balkans.
My Recent Work History
International Consultant / CEO Sari Laaksonen Consulting Ltd
Global, with focus on Africa, Asia, the Balkans
Assignments from clients including MFA Finland, various UN organizations and the WTO have thus far included project and programme development, appraisal, reviews and evaluations, as well as analytical research pieces. Particular focus areas have been regional integration, capacity development, facilitation of business linkages, standards development and trade facilitation. Assignments in facilitating Finnish businesses “going to Africa” are also underway.
12/2011 - 08/2013
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
Global, with focus on Africa
Trade and development; Aid for Trade/Management of Finland's support to the WTO DDA GTF, EIF, ITC, UNIDO and a limited number of other agencies and programmes; Trade and Africa-desk; support to "doing business in developing countries"-activities/incl. member of the Steering Committee of Finnpartnership; Investment and development; Corporate Social Responsibility.
02/2007 - 11/2011
EIF Executive Secretariat/WTO
EIF = Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance for Least Developed Countries. Provided guidance and support in all EIF-related activities in LDCs during every stage of the EIF process; assisted in fostering greater communication among donors, LDCs and agencies to ensure a coordinated delivery of assistance; ensured cooperation with drivers of the Aid for Trade initiative and including with programmes such as the STDF; Liaised with all EIF stakeholders on pre-DTIS activities and on post-DTIS follow-up and resource mobilization. Collection, compilation and dissemination of information related to the EIF-process in general and on all EIF-related activities by country. Ensured quantitative and qualitative monitoring of progress of implementation for each EIF LDC; undertook communication, publicity/outreach activities in general for the whole of the EIF, and on a country by country, and regional basis and including undertaking EIF-related missions to LDCs or elsewhere as required; Provided secretarial services to the EIF interim Board and Board, and the EIF Steering Committee.
05/2006 - 12/2006
United Nations Development Programme
Working for UNDP's Regional Bureau for Africa (RBA), I was positioned at the UNDP Geneva Office as a part of the Trade and Human Development Unit. I provided support to the Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries in trade mainstreaming and the Integrated Framework (IF). Under trade mainstreaming, I supported the SSA countries in the following: Technical assistance on trade policy and processes, including integrating them into the national development plans; Assistance in on-going international trade negotiations (i.e. WTO and EPAs); Monitoring proposals on Aid for Trade for better appreciation of opportunities and drawbacks of the process; Assistance to better appreciate the importance of diversification into new emerging sectors that create value-added; Assistance in identifying the flexibilities and policy space available to African countries in trade and development policy; Assistance in better understanding rules of origin and application of product and environmental standards. Under support to the IF processes, I provided the following services: Support to operationalization of national mainstreaming processes; Sensitization of the country stakeholders with the IF Trust Fund and bilateral donor support to the IF project implementation under the 'old' and enhanced IF; Training of the UNDP Country Office IF desks in facilitating the IF in-country; Promotion of focus on employment, entrepreneurship and other poverty reduction measures in the diagnostic studies and the IF projects; Participation in the Geneva-based process of enhancing the IF to sensitize the in-country stakeholders with the Enhanced IF (EIF).
03/2005 - 04/2006
United Nations Development Programme
Programme Officer (Trade and Development)
Global; with focus on LDCs
As a staff of the Trade and Human Development Unit (THDU), that served as the UNDP global focal point for the Integrated Framework (IF), I provided in-country advisory services on the IF including substantive inputs as well as process support both to the UNDP-led DTIS for Maldives and a number of other African and Asian IF countries. The in-country IF process support I provided resulted in the creation of a number of knowledge products - mainly in a form of presentations focusing on the IF trade capacity building aspects - and providing the IF website with inputs on the IFTF. I provided substantive inputs to UNDP's position papers and responses to the processes of enhancing the IF and designing the Aid for Trade initiative. During the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December 2005, I worked with the WTO Secretariat's staff in running a trade capacity 'clinic' which helped to raise not only the IF's but also JITAP's and STDF's profile.
10/2003 - 02/2005
United Nations Development Programme Cambodia
Trade and Private Sector Specialist
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
I served as a portfolio manager for trade & development and private sector development (PSD) in the mainstreaming and project implementation phase of the Integrated Framework (IF) when Cambodia acceded to the WTO and when the heavily garment-export reliant Cambodia prepared for the phase out of export quotas under the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing.
10/2002 - 09/2003
Kehitysyhteistyon Palvelukeskus (KEPA) / Service Centre for Development Cooperation
Global; with focus on EU policies
I coordinated a Food Security Campaign that was implemented by 50+ Finnish Civil Society Organizations and was managed by KEPA, the platform for developmental CSO's in Finland. The campaign had two objectives: First, to lobby for food security and development-friendly national policy positions in agricultural trade and in development cooperation. Second, to harness public pressure towards the Government pronouncing such policy positions by encouraging, through outreach, Finns to become advocates for non-trade distorting agricultural trade policies and fair trade on agricultural products. My main task was to analyze the impact of international trade agreements and their implementation on agricultural production and products in the developing countries (focus on WTO Agg and TRIPS as well as on the EU Common Agricultural Policy/CAP) and to advocate for Finnish positions in the related negotiations to become development supportive. I also advocated for an increase in the Finnish ODA in general and for higher proportion of the ODA for agricultural production and processing in particular as well as for improved coherence between the policy sectors with an impact on developing countries. In this context, I participated the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancun as a Member of the Finnish Delegation to advise and advocate the Minister of Trade and Development in development issues. In addition, I served as the secretary for the Food Security Campaign Steering Committee, was in charge of the Campaign's media outreach and supervised a staff carrying out the daily campaign coordination with the participating CSOs.
09/2000 - 07/2002
United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok
Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia
My duties included research on the Foreign Direct Investment - sustainable development nexus in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as representing UNEP in various international, regional and national conferences / workshops as a speaker and resource person with the following topics covered: Sustainable and Responsible Investment (SRI), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and environmental risk management for the financial sector. At the beginning of my consultancy, I carried out a research study for UNEP and for my Master thesis on Environmental Due Diligence processes of the Filipino banks (this included a three months empirical research phase based in Manila) and presented the results in UNEP's Asia-Pacific Conference on Financial Institutions in Manila, April 2001.