The overarching vision of Estonian development cooperation is to ensure peace and stability, contribute to the eradication of poverty, and help attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by sharing its reform experience with transition countries.
To achieve its goal, Estonia’s cooperation with partner countries is focused on strengthening governance, supporting the availability and quality of education and healthcare, contributing to economic development, and fostering digital transformation, all while securing peace, stability, and a civil society. Estonian is committed to following the principles of human rights, gender equality, and environmental sustainability.
Estonia’s official development aid rose to 50.8 million euros in 2021, an 18% increase from 2020. 47.6 million of these euros were allocated for development cooperation and 3.25 million euros for humanitarian aid. Estonia’s official development aid in 2021 was 0.17% of the gross national income (GNI). Estonia has made an international commitment to increase this amount to 0.33% by 2030.
Compared to 2020, in 2021, the amount of Estonia’s official development aid fund increased by more than seven million euros. From this financing, 21 million euros went bilaterally to priority countries, and over 29.5 million euros were directed to development aid through multilateral organisations. Estonia’s main partner countries are Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. In the African region, the focus is primarily on East Africa and Kenya.
2021, like the year before, was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Estonia joined international efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan in order to flexibly and quickly help the suffering population there.
To cope with growing challenges and volume of demand, the Estonian government separated the formation and implementation of development cooperation vs humanitarian aid policies. According to this decision, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will remain responsible for the development of international development aid policies, state strategies, and action plans. The Ministry will also continue to represent Estonian interests in the fields of development cooperation and humanitarian aid in international organisations.
The purpose of the Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV) is to enhance the implementation of Estonian development cooperation and long-term humanitarian aid projects. ESTDEV is focused on accomplishing strategic, wide-ranging, coherent projects in priority target countries and regions from the point of view of the state. It also concentrates on important areas such as the development of democracy and the green and digital transition.
In the last few years, Estonia has linked development cooperation and business diplomacy more than ever by including innovative digital solutions from the private sector in development cooperation projects. In connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in the construction of Estonia’s e-state and digital solutions has grown by leaps and bounds across the world. This makes it possible to include more and more Estonian private sector solutions in development cooperation projects. Even now, together with representatives of the private sector and with funding from development cooperation, the Estonian state is collaborating on projects from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Organisation (ITU) to develop a global digital vaccination passport.
Among UN organisations, Estonian cooperation partners are the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the World Food Program (WFP). Estonia also hosts multilateral cooperation projects with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
3.25 million euros of humanitarian aid was provided in 2021. The largest portion of this was allocated to supporting Ukraine. The purpose of humanitarian aid is to save human lives in natural and man-made disasters, to reduce suffering, and to ensure the essentials for a decent life. The provision of humanitarian aid is based primarily on specific needs, and the fastest and most efficient way to deliver Estonian aid is identified according to those needs.
Estonia bases aid on specified needs. This is most often established through analyses done by the United Nations, the European Commission, or Red Cross organisations. However, this aid may also be addressed toward countries’ direct requests for help. In 2020, Estonia helped mitigate the effects of the coronavirus in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, North Macedonia, Venezuela, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Bangladesh.
Every year, Estonia supports the activities of the following international humanitarian aid organisations with voluntary donations: the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).