What does exactly mean the term: Bilateral development assistance? How much does Slovakia spend on this kind of overseas aid to Least developed countries? Why should ordinary citizens be interested in it? Is Slovakia doing it well?
Till 1989 Czechoslovak Socialist Republic provided “international aid” towards less developed socialist countries. After the Velvet revolution (between 1989-2000) Slovak Republic became a recipient of foreign aid – Slovakia was country in transition. Since 2000 Slovakia has become an emerging donor country. Official development assistance (ODA) is financial assistance given by Slovak government through its agency to support the economic, environmental, social and political development of developing countries.
Bilateral development assistance is the particular set of development programs, development projects and particular support provided by Slovak ODA to few priority developing countries (Afghanistan, Kenya, Moldova and South Sudan – selected by political, economic, historical, logistical and practical reasons and motives).
Important actors in development aid pool
Development professionals use to use the term ‘cooperation’ (rather than assistance or aid) because ‘partnership’ is a key for successful implementation and sustainability of projects in particular local communities. Slovak development cooperation projects are focused on improving the level of health care and access to it, increasing the quality of education at all levels, support for socio-economic development of rural areas, agricultural production and environmental protection support, as well as strengthening the good governance activities (by NGDOs, universities and private companies).
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic (MFA), through the Slovak Agency for International Development Cooperation (SAIDC) under the program Slovak Aid, has supported development projects and projects of development education with overall sum of 5 715 000 euros in 2011. This means that every single citizen of Slovakia contributed to this aid with the sum of one euro. It should be our general interest to spend this money in effective way. In 2013 64 842 480 euros (0.092 % share of gross national income) were spent in Slovak ODA projects. Of this amount, 12 156 334 euros were spent on Bilateral aid (which represents 18.75 % of total ODA). Slovak citizens should keep asking the questions about accountability and effectiveness of Slovak ODA because this year every one contributed to overseas aid more than twice as much as in 2011.
Slovak commitment to delivering international aid
The EU 13 countries, which joined the European Union between 2004 and 2013, as new donors of international aid began setting up the institutional framework for development aid provision.These 13 states (Slovakia as well) should devote 0.33 % of their national income to development aid by 2015. If political leadership and citizens’ interest (bottom up demand) is not strengthened enough, there is a very serious risk that Slovakia will not meet its target of 0.33 % ODA of GNI by 2015 (it’s predicted to be 0.1 %).
In October 2013 Slovak Aid program celebrated its 10th anniversary. Country Strategy Papers (CSP) for priority/program countries were prepared in close cooperation with the NGDO community; the strategy for private-sector involvement in development cooperation was prepared by the MFA; brand new MFA program for sending volunteers and experts to developing countries was realized; one of Slovak NGDOs: Pontis foundation uploaded 9 files to International aid transparency initiative (IATI) database. This shows that some of expected results were met indeed. Slovakia also became a member of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and thus strengthened its position in the international donor arena. But will Slovakia meet its commitment – aid target by 2015? Very unlikely…
Challenges and recommendations by 2015
What should the Slovak government do to fulfill its commitments? One of the recommendations could be: To emphasize poverty reduction in the strategy for business involvement in development cooperation, as well as to prioritize the program of involving the business sector into Slovak development assistance (to contribute to sustainable projects, to create job opportunities and to increase living conditions in target countries); to increase the amount of bilateral assistance to development projects and projects of development education; to increase the access of the Slovak public to up-to-date, complete and understandable information about provided development assistance. Not a big deal – with the support of governmental representatives and well informed Slovak citizens.
Written by: Boba Baluchova (Slovak journalist, Palacky University lecturer & development field worker)