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 by sharing its reform experience with transition countries. It does so by focusing its cooperation with partner countries on improving basic services, strengthening governance and human rights, supporting the provision of quality education, contributing to economic development, digital transformation, and promoting environmental sustainability. As a supporter of the European Green Deal, Estonia is committed to fight climate change and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
In 2020, Estonia provided USD 49.3 million for International development cooperation, representing 0.16% of its gross national income (GNI). The government has committed to strive to achieve a 0.33% ODA/GNI ratio by 2030 and Estonia is committed, at the European level, to collectively achieve a 0.7% ODA/GNI ratio by 2030.
Estonia’s development cooperation focuses on sharing its experience with transition countries, in line with the principles of humanitarian assistance, relying on the international frameworks of the UN, the OECD and the EU. Estonian development aid is channeled mainly through multilateral and civil society organisations. In 2020, Estonia provided 29.4 million euros of gross ODA to the multilateral system, and its bilateral spending reached 13,9 million euros.
While the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains in the lead of Estonian development cooperation strategy and policy planning, a new implementing body – the Estonian Centre for International Development – was established in April 2021 to separate the policy planning from implementation.
The Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV) is managing and implementing Estonia’s international development cooperation and humanitarian assistance projects through partnerships and investments that reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, build sustainable economies, and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance. By sharing its own successful reform experience, the objective of Estonia’s development cooperation is to support partner countries to become self-reliant and capable of leading their own development journeys. With stronger ties with Estonian public and private sectors and the civil society, the Estonian Centre for International Development will become the centre of excellence for Estonian development cooperation and humanitarian aid.
Eastern Partnership (EaP) is the priority area of Estonia’s foreign policy, supporting the growth of security, stability, and prosperity in the European neighbourhood. Since 2014, a total sum of EUR 33 million has been disbursed to support the EaP countries. Along with partners from the six countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, the Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV, formerly known as the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership), together with other Estonian partners, has been implementing numerous cooperation projects. These projects focus on countering disinformation, supporting the rule of law in the areas of police, public prosecution, anti-corruption, and good governance, and sharing best practices in the field of digitalisation and e-services. Estonia is ready to increase the implementation of multilaterally funded development cooperation activities
Geographically, bilateral cooperation has been centred on the countries, where Estonia’s transition experience is directly relevant. Ukraine, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus have been Estonia’s closest partners for two decades. In Afghanistan, Estonia is supporting efforts to improve the situation for women and children.
As one of the global leaders of digital transformation, Estonia has been increasingly sharing its e-governance experience and sustainable economic development models in Africa and Asia. Wider cooperation objectives are also set for Eastern, Southern and Western Africa with a focus on Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, and Botswana.
Estonia’s main multilateral partners are the European Union, the United Nations (OCHA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNRWA, WHO, WFP) and the Red Crescent Society. Estonia participates in the OECD Development Assistance Committee as an observer and is a recent member of the Practitioners’ Network. Estonia’s strong allies and bilateral partners are the United States of America, Sweden, and Norway.
The core objective of Estonia’s humanitarian aid policy is to preserve life, alleviate suffering and protect people affected by crises. Strengthening resilience and protecting the human dignity of local populations has become increasingly important. In recent years, humanitarian aid has constituted 10% of Estonia’s Official Development Assistance. The budget for 2020 was ca €3.5 million.
With the aim to provide humanitarian assistance effectively and efficiently, Estonia supports Eastern Ukraine, in strengthening education services and food security. In Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, Estonia provides sustainable livelihoods, vocational education, and offers psychological support to Syrian refugees. Estonia has also been supporting Palestinian refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for many years.
In 2020, Estonia helped alleviate the impact of the coronavirus in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Syria, Venezuela, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Bangladesh.
Estonia also contributed to the Global Humanitarian Response Plan.