New procedures for implementing Estonian development cooperation and humanitarian aid

The government has approved new procedures for the provision of Estonian development cooperation and humanitarian aid, with the aim to improve the impact of Estonian development cooperation and strengthen Estonia’s position as a partner and donor in international development cooperation.

According to a government decree, from 1 January 2022, the implementation of development cooperation and integration projects will be transferred from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Estonian Center for International Development (EstDev). The Centre will carry out development cooperation projects in countries and regions that are a priority for Estonia, in the areas Estonia has its own successful reform experience to share such as digital transformation. The aim of the Centre’s work is to increase and consolidate Estonia’s ability to participate in international development cooperation projects by accumulating experience from Estonian public and private sectors, and civil society.

The role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will remain in shaping Estonia’s development cooperation and humanitarian aid policy and assessing its impact. The Ministry will continue to provide small-scale grants and make allocations to the development cooperation or humanitarian aid organization. It will also continue to provide urgent humanitarian aid.

“As a small country, Estonia cannot be involved in everything, everywhere. We need to be smart in organizing our activities, so we will invest in the areas where we can add the most value.” – Kadri Maasik, CEO, EstDev

Kadri Maasik, CEO of the Estonian Center for International Development, why was it necessary to change the current procedure for implementing development cooperation and humanitarian aid?

Kadri Maasik:  As a small country, Estonia cannot be involved in everything, everywhere. We need to be smart in organizing our activities, so we will invest in the areas where we can add the most value. The Estonia´s foreign policy strategy, approved in the summer of 2020, clearly states that Estonia must become more influential in solving global problems, both through development cooperation and humanitarian assistance.

Until now, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been responsible for the policy-making and project implementation. In order to keep up with growing global challenges and volumes, the government decided to separate the policy making from the implementation of development cooperation projects in order to increase Estonia’s capacity in both areas, and, ultimately, be more strategic, efficient and have more impact in partner countries.

In reality, what will change after 1 January 2022 regarding to development cooperation?

Kadri Maasik: EstDev will take over the responsibility of implementing Estonia’s bilateral cooperation projects. It doesn’t mean that from now on all projects will be carried out by EstDev alone. We will work closely with Estonian civil society, public and private sector organizations and involve them through calls for proposals and procurement. Information about joining opportunities will be available on our website www.estdev.ee and our social media channels.

How will the change in the area of responsibility affect ongoing projects? 

Kadri Maasik:  As of 1 January, more than 130 projects will be added to the EstDev’s project portfolio. For the organizations who have signed a development cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, only the contract partner will change to EstDev.

Does EstDev have plans to re-organize Estonia´s development cooperation?

Kadri Maasik:  The government decree is the result of a long-running reform, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to re-organize the development cooperation sector. The goal of establishing EstDev was, in addition to implementing development aid projects, to create and consolidate relevant know-how and competence, in order to increase the impact and visibility of Estonian development cooperation. We have been given a clear mandate to grow the share of foreign funding, which would help to create stronger linkages between our development cooperation and Estonia’s economic interests. Increasing the number of large-scale projects with other donor countries, we create more opportunities for Estonian experts, and motivate the private sector to share and scale up their innovative development solutions. We hope to build effective partnerships with Estonian public and private sectors and civil society. We value transparent processes and strive to involve the best expertise. Though we have expanded our geographical focus, the Eastern Partnership countries will remain our top priority.

What are the strategic goals of development cooperation for the coming years?

Kadri Maasik:  The Estonian foreign policy strategy sets the goal of increasing the share of Estonian development cooperation to 0.33% of GNI by 2030 and focusing on passing on Estonia’s experience, especially in the Eastern Partnership countries and Africa. The thematic focus – supporting digital transformation, strengthening the rule of law and democracy, and carrying out education reforms in developing countries – is rooted in our own reform experience, and we are proud to share it with our partners.