Development cooperation includes financial assistance and the transfer of know-how to developing countries. The development cooperation policy of Estonia is based on the globally agreed sustainable development goals and the priorities of the international partnership of the European Union. The Estonian development cooperation policy is based on the needs of the geographically defined target countries, which are defined in the country and regional strategies of the target countries.
Priority areas of Estonian development cooperation:
- the development of democracy and the state governed by the rule of law and good governance;
- supporting economic development;
- empowering the civil society;
- developing quality health care;
- promoting quality education;
- raising public awareness;
- the horizontal priorities are sustainable development, gender equality, the widespread use of information and communication technologies, and the introduction of e-governance solutions.
Bilateral and multilateral cooperation
Development cooperation is carried out bilaterally and multilaterally in cooperation with other countries and donors, which makes it possible to ensure greater influence in the target country and increase the visibility of the contribution of Estonia.
Bilateral development cooperationBilateral development cooperation – direct support or action of a (donor) country to promote the development of another country.
Multilateral development cooperation
Multilateral development cooperation – support from (donor) countries to the recipient country through international organisations.
Bilateral development cooperation
Estonian bilateral development cooperation focuses on priority partner countries. The primary interest of Estonia in the countries on the eastern border of the European Union is to promote a secure and economically successful region based on a democratic state governed by the rule of law and its gradual integration into the European Union. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has developed country strategies for development cooperation for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, the three partner countries that have concluded association and free trade agreements with the EU.
Estonian development cooperation is increasingly focused on Africa as well, and in February 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs adopted a comprehensive regional strategy for Africa for 2020–2030. Estonian development cooperation with the countries there focuses mainly on supporting the digital revolution, education, health care, entrepreneurship, and innovation. For more information, please visit the website of the Estonian Centre for International Development.
Ukraine was the first country to which Estonia started providing international assistance in 1998. Ukraine has been one of the priority target countries for Estonian development cooperation since 2006.
In order to support the reform efforts of Ukraine and mitigate the consequences of the military conflict, Estonia has significantly increased its development and humanitarian aid to Ukraine in recent years, focusing on the eastern part of Ukraine.
In addition, the partnership will continue in areas where Estonia has already cooperated with Ukraine in the past: regional development, sustainable economic development, enhancing the efficiency of the education system, and empowering the civil society.
Important areas in Estonian development cooperation in Ukraine:
- the development of democracy and the introduction of good governance;
- supporting the business environment and innovation;
- development of the education system and curricula.
Estonia has supported Georgia since 2000. It has been one of the priority target countries for Estonian bilateral development cooperation since 2006. Estonia supports the integration of Georgia into the EU and offers a partnership to facilitate the implementation of the association and free trade agreement.
- strengthening democratic state structures and systems;
- improving the quality of education;
- supporting entrepreneurship.
Estonia has supported the implementation of development cooperation projects in Moldova since 2000. Moldova has been a priority target for development cooperation since 2006. Estonia supports the integration of Moldova into the EU and offers a partnership to facilitate the implementation of the association and free trade agreement.
- the development of democracy and the strengthening of good governance; introduction and implementation of ICT and e-governance solutions;
- rural development through support for local authorities and entrepreneurship;
- modernising the education system of Moldova, promoting lifelong learning.
Belarus has been a priority country for Estonian development cooperation since 2011. Due to the situation in Belarus, the implementation of development cooperation projects in Belarus has been suspended. Projects supporting Belarusian civil society activists, independent media, and the opposition outside Belarus continue.
Focus countries in Africa
Estonian development cooperation in Africa has intensified since 2017, when Estonia chaired the Council of the European Union and launched an active campaign to become an elected member of the UN Security Council. At the beginning of 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs adopted a regional strategy for Africa for 2020–2030, which establishes important areas and countries on which Estonia will focus in its cooperation in Africa.
Estonian development cooperation in Africa is based on equal partnership and mutual interest. The focus countries for development cooperation are Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, and Botswana.
Based on the development needs of the countries, the priorities of Estonia are:
- environmentally sustainable development;
- digitalisation in development cooperation (including cyber capabilities, e-governance, e-education, digital skills, e-health);
- the rights of women and children.
As a small country, increasing cooperation with other important partners, including the Digital for Development Hub (D4D) of the European Union, the United Nations, and the World Bank Group, is important to ensure the effectiveness and visibility of Estonian development cooperation. As the first D4D project, the AU–EU D4D Hub will strengthen cooperation and dialogue between African and European stakeholders for a fair and inclusive digital society and economy in Africa.
- Estonian regional strategy for Africa
Other target countries
Based on the foreign policy goals of Estonia and internationally agreed principles to allocate more development cooperation funds to vulnerable and less developed countries, Estonia will continue to respond flexibly to the needs of other countries, including the least developed and post-conflict countries, in areas where Estonia can provide clear added value. Based on the needs and interests of the target country, Estonia also contributes to the development of the countries of Central Asia and the Western Balkans as much as possible.
Afghanistan has been one of the most important target countries for Estonian bilateral development cooperation since 2006. Due to the sudden change in the security situation in Afghanistan, Estonia stopped implementing development cooperation projects in Afghanistan in August 2021. The support was restructured into humanitarian aid provided by Estonia to Afghanistan through international organisations.
Multilateral development cooperation
An important part of Estonian development cooperation and humanitarian aid policy is participation in shaping the development and humanitarian aid policy of international organisations. International organisations play an indispensable role in reducing global poverty and ensuring stability and human rights.
Estonia participates in discussions on topical issues in the development cooperation working groups and in the preparation of policy documents in accordance with the priorities and political interests of Estonia. Estonia contributes to the EU development cooperation budget, which finances EU aid programmes and funds targeted at the poorest and most vulnerable countries.
Since the Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2017, digitalisation has become a major topic in development cooperation. In 2020, the Digital for Development Hub (D4D Hub) was established in cooperation with Estonia.
Digital for Development Hub
In December 2020, Estonia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and France established the Digital for Development Hub (D4D), which aims to boost the digital revolution worldwide.
The D4D flagship project ‘African Union and European Union D4D Hub’ was launched at the same time. The EU-funded project aims to support African countries in achieving their digital goals. In 2021, regional branches of Africa and Latin America were established under the D4D Global Hub, in which Estonia also actively participates. In the African branch, we are co-leading the issue of e-governance with Germany and are actively participating in the working group on connectivity and closing the digital gender gap.
Twinning and TAIEX
Twinning is an EU-funded cooperation programme in which public authorities or public bodies in EU Member States implement projects in the European Neighbourhood Policy countries to achieve the transposition, enforcement, or implementation of a piece of EU legislation in a specific sector. TAIEX is an EU-funded technical assistance initiative that supports the approximation, application, and enforcement of EU law by state agencies and the sharing of EU good practice.
- Twinning manual (updated 2020, valid from 25 September 2020) (PDF)
- The basics of twinning – what is twinning and how to get involved in projects?
- The basics of TAIEX – what is the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument and how to get involved?
The broader objective of twinning is to support the neighbourhood of the European Union in building an efficient and modern administrative structure, including human resource development and management capacity building.
- improving governance and communication in the target country;
- promoting the best EU governance practices;
- approximation of legislation to the EU jurisdiction;
- know-how partnerships between twinning partners;
- establishing a long-term employment relationship and a professional network.
National contact point: [email protected]
The organisational side is handled by the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) of the European Commission. TAIEX activities often precede Twinning projects. Interested experts from ministries and agencies can register in the TAIEX expert database.
- enhancing partnership between the target country and the EU through partnership;
- assisting the target country in implementing structural change;
- establishing working-level contacts between the EU and the authorities of the target country;
- sharing best practices between experts in areas such as the legal system, legislation, competent authorities, and practices.
United Nations and other organisations and initiatives
In order to achieve the goals of Estonian development cooperation, Estonia supports the work of international organisations, incl. financially, to contribute to supporting the poorest and most vulnerable countries, especially where Estonia does not have representatives on the ground. Estonia has representatives in several organisations engaged in international development cooperation, which enables us to actively participate in shaping their development cooperation policy and budget.
United Nations Children’s Fund
The United Nations Children’s Fund is an international organisation that provides assistance to children under the auspices of the United Nations and supports programmes in more than 190 countries. Estonia supports UNICEF with voluntary donations and actively participates in the work of the organisation. Estonia was elected a member of the Council for the second time in 2014–2016 and was the Vice-President of the UNICEF Bureau in 2015. Estonia is a member of the UNICEF Executive Board for the third time in 2020–2022.
United Nations Development Programme
The United Nations Development Programme is a global development cooperation network of the United Nations, which aims to support national and regional development programmes in more than 170 countries. It focuses on sustainable development, democratic governance and peace-building, and crisis prevention and recovery. Estonia actively participates in the work of the United Nations Development Programme and supports it with voluntary donations.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Development cooperation activities are carried out in the framework of Official Development Assistance (ODA). This is decided by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which also compiles international development aid statistics. Estonia participates in the work of the Committee as an observer and implements the principles approved by the Committee in its development cooperation policy. The goal of Estonia is to play a more active role in shaping development finance policy at DAC meetings.
World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The organisations belonging to the World Bank Group are: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).
In 2008, Estonia joined the IDA, which supports the least developed countries. Estonia also participates as a donor in IDA funding rounds. It is important for Estonia to take part in the work of the organisations of the World Bank Group (especially the IBRD, IDA, and IFC), being an active member of the constituency uniting the Nordic and Baltic countries. The views expressed by the constituency are used in the World Bank Boards of Directors, through which the policies of the Bank are influenced.
Global Partnership for Education
The Global Partnership for Education is a multi-stakeholder partnership and funding platform that aims to strengthen education systems in developing countries to significantly increase the number of children in school. It brings together developing countries, donors, international organisations, the civil society, teachers’ organisations, the private sector, and foundations. Estonia joined the initiative in July 2021 to help improve education systems in developing countries.