With a few exceptions, the year 2021 was in the development cooperation system of the Slovak Republic (ODA SR) viewed rather in the spirit of a missed opportunity. Read more about reviewing the ODA SR system in the AidWatch‚s Executive summary – produced by Slovak NGDO platform Ambrela on behalf of Slovak civil society.
The second pandemic year could have provided room for greater reflection and opened up a dialogue about the vision of development cooperation, regrouping of forces, innovations, or the launch of more fundamental improvements to the system.
Although Slovakia has a good-quality medium-term development aid strategy on paper, the goals for any given year are often not clarified or prioritized. Even if they are pinpointed, they are not assigned adequate importance at the political level, with sufficient resources allocated for their fulfillment. Thus, there is no vision that could be concretized.
It is alarming that, despite growing global challenges in the neighborhood of the EU and Slovakia with an ever-increasing impact on the inhabitants of the Slovak Republic, despite the partial economic recovery, International commitment and the promise in the Government’s Manifesto that it will „… strive to accelerate the increase of financial resources on bilateral development cooperation activities, in accordance with our commitments to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).“ the Slovak Republic still did not systematically increase the volume of development aid in 2021.
In 2021, the Slovak Republic spent euro 131 million on development aid, not even close to its international commitment of reaching 0.33% of GNI by 2030, which was short by 190 million euro. Last year, bilateral aid reached 17.3 million euro.
In an attempt to show at least a nominal increase, the Slovak Republic resorted to the unsystematic step of including the sum of 9.42 million euro of development aid in the form of donated vaccines for partner countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Without this amount, the nominal value of the Slovak Republic’s development aid would have been even lower than in 2020.
In order for the Slovak Republic to achieve its international commitment of 0.33% GNI by 2030, it would have to continuously increase development cooperation by approx. 45 million euro annually.
Considering inflation’s rapid rise, there is a risk that both the true impact of projects in SlovakAid partner countries and the capacities of Slovak actors will be decimated. In recent years, inflation has been growing by tens of percentage points. It climbed to 13.2% year-on-year in June 2022, reached a 22-year high, and has been skyrocketing continuously for more than a year and a half.
On the other hand, the capacity of actors is affected by the fact that the volume of genuine bilateral aid is not growing. The discrepancy between bilateral and multilateral aid is increasing, to the detriment of the bilateral part. In 2021, genuine bilateral aid compared to multilateral was only 14% (19% in 2019, 16% in 2020).
It is worrying that up to 41 euro cents from every euro reported as bilateral development aid represents inflated aid (money that never reached the developing country, or did not significantly contribute to poverty reduction in the Global South).
Slovak development cooperation also has other problem areas: (i) too many partner countries, (ii) an overload of development interventions that are out of proportion with its limited financial, personnel, expert, and other resources (iii) program countries receive only 12% of the entire volume of bilateral assistance (iv) the percentage of funds allocated to projects and financial contributions is significantly unfavorable for projects.
In addition, the predictability and consistency of processes and decisions in development aid at multiple levels have declined. On the one hand, the decision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic to direct limited resources to a reduced number of partner countries (a decrease from 24 to 14 countries) makes sense. On the other hand, we cite the examples of Afghanistan and Ethiopia to illustrate that the way in which countries are added and removed from the list of recipients is not sufficiently predictable, justified, or consistent with strategic documents or previous statements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic. This makes it much more difficult to focus on results, and for Slovak organizations in SlovakAid partner, countries to plan and operate. In addition, the focus is not completely clear when it comes to other tools such as financial contributions, the high number of development interventions, cooperation with selected international organizations, etc. From the point of view of predictability, it is not clear whether and how the humanitarian strategy drafting process, which was interrupted in December 2021, will continue.
From the point of view of consistency, it is unclear why, in the second year of the pandemic, humanitarian appeals for help with COVID-19 were no longer made, in contrast to 2020. Ambrela considers the initiative, introduced in 2020, which presents a report on development aid to the foreign committee of the National Parliament to be absolutely essential for shaping public discourse. However, this did not take place in 2021. It is also a pity that, unlike in 2020, a call for strategic partnership/framework contracts was not published in 2021, although the budget for grants did not fundamentally change between those two years.
Although the overall communication between civil society and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic is relatively open, this has not translated into a result that would manifest an improvement in the environment for civil society, which the government has committed itself to in the Government’s Manifesto or at the international level in fulfilling the goal of sustainable development no. 17. On the contrary, the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic that manifested in inflation and other negative externalities were not addressed. Several suitable opportunities for strengthening cooperation remained unused.
However, increased transparency in the evaluation process of calls for proposals can be positively assessed. In 2021, SAIDC began to publish a point assessment of approved and unapproved project proposals, a brief description of projects and a list of external expert evaluators. It also revised its Anti-Corruption Action Plan for 2021
The fact that in November 2021, SAIDC signed an agreement to implement the first EU delegated cooperation project in Moldova, where the agency will be positioned as a leading partner, is also a step forward.
I. Volume and reporting of official development cooperation
1. Increase the budget for development aid in 2024 to 0.21% of GNI and prepare a realistic, binding plan for increasing development aid until 2030.
2. Systematically connect the Slovak Republic’s bilateral and multilateral development cooperation with the institutions of the EU and its member states, including the effective involvement of the Slovak Republic in Team Europe Initiatives.
3. Adopt solutions to mitigate the effects of high inflation on Slovak actors and the impact of Slovak interventions.
4. Increase the volume of calls for proposals intended for NGOs, increase financial allocations for institutional financing of NGOs and create a format for tripartite negotiations on the development aid budget between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Economic Development of the Slovak Republic, the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic and civil society
5. Refrain from reporting ODA expenditures that do not have a real impact on improving
people’s lives in partner countries, thereby distorting the true picture of ODA
provided. These include the costs of securitization, refugee integration, scholarships, and debt relief.
II. Quality of official development cooperation
1. In an effort to shape the vision of Slovakia in development aid, introduce an annual ODA conference, with a presentation of evaluations and a discussion on the further direction of the sector, to organize several smaller formats of discussions on partial or topical issues during the year, to continue organizing development forums in the SlovakAid program countries.
2. Strengthen the focus on results. Reduce fragmentation at the level of territorial priorities, interventions, and tools. Increase predictability and consistency in decisions and processes.
3. Focus on reducing poverty and inequality. Adopt the principle of leaving no one behind. Include at least one least developed country among the program countries.
4. Strengthen dialogue with civil society. Increase participation in decision-making processes. Increase the quality of informed decisions supported by relevant data, evaluations and analyses.
5. Transform the Coordinating Committee in order to strengthen its competence. Increase the importance of the agenda at the government level and make its working groups functional.
Copyright 2023 Ambrela - Platform for Development Organisations. This site is funded by the EU and SlovakAid. Ambrela is solely responsible for its content and does not necessarily reflect the views of the EU.