The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) discussed the current state and the future of the Estonian development cooperation at its public sitting today, and found that stronger political support for financing of development aid and involvement of private sector were necessary for taking development cooperation to a new level.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson said that Estonia had a long-time experience in development cooperation. He added that in a few decades the resources for development cooperation and humanitarian aid had increased from 440,000 euro to 38.2 million euro in 2017 in Estonia. The goal is to increase the finances targeted for development cooperation from current 0.17% of gross domestic product (GDP) to 0.33% of GDP by 2030.
“If we expect such an increase of aid, then it is inevitable to discuss where that money should be sent, how important the target countries are, how we can implement meeting of the UN sustainable development goals better, and how to link that sector with our foreign economic activities,” Mihkelson said. Mihkelson also underlined that after the coming elections of the Riigikogu, it would be reasonable to consider bringing foreign economy and development cooperation under one political leadership.
Deputy Chair of the Committee Keit Pentus-Rosimannus pointed out that private sector and companies that provide solutions to local problems and contribute to the economy through their activities in target countries within the framework of development aid have an important role in the development aid of many countries. Member of the Committee Mart Nutt agreed with her, and admitted that the countries that have involved the private sector have greater possibilities for development cooperation.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser gave the Committee an overview of using the resources for development cooperation, and of projects in different regions. In his opinion, Estonia as a visible and perceivable provider of development aid has greater moral right to have a say in international organisations.
The Minister said that until now, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, where support has been targeted for integration towards the European Union, had been the priority countries for Estonia. He added that the action plan for Africa was also being prepared. “Considering the smallness of Estonia and the largeness of Africa, it is clear that it is necessary to select the priority countries where to send the development aid,” Mikser said. “The expected increase of development aid should be used for achieving sustainable development, but we will not turn our backs to the current priority countries, because the Eastern partners are vulnerable and continuation of support to them is necessary.”
Member of the Board of NGO Mondo Riina Kuusik-Rajasaar recommended in her report that in financing of development cooperation projects, Estonia should proceed from the competences it can share with others. As an example, she mentioned the digital midwifery training in Afghanistan, and emphasised sharing of e-governance experience besides health and education. “If we strived for making it possible, for example, for African girls to get secondary education, it would significantly reduce the reproduction of poverty and allow to check the increase of population better.”
Associate Professor of Recreation Management at Tallinn University Mart Reimann gave an overview of how Estonia had turned from a receiver of aid to a donor country in his presentation, and emphasised Estonia’s special role in contributing to the development of Eastern Partnership countries and Central Asian countries. “We are believed and our experience is appreciated in the countries with whom we share similar history and whose progress towards strengthening the rule of law may offer possibilities for promoting Estonia’s security and foreign economy,” Reimann said.
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