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Estonian development cooperation


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. Estonia is committed to the values 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 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.

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.

Estonia’s main partner countries are Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. In the African region, the focus is primarily on East Africa and Kenya.

Organisation of Development Cooperation

To cope with growing challenges of increased demand, the Estonian government has separated the creation and carrying out of development cooperation vs humanitarian aid. By 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 increase and enhance Estonia’s development cooperation and long-term humanitarian aid projects. ESTDEV is focused on accomplishing strategic, wide-ranging, coherent projects in countries and regions that have been named as priority targets from the point of view of the state. Concentration is also given to essential areas such as the development of democracy and green and digital transitions.

Priorities of Estonian Development Cooperation
  • Developing democracy and states governed by the rule of law and good governance;
  • Supporting economic development;
  • Empowering civil society;
  • Establishing quality health care;
  • Promoting quality education;
  • Raising public awareness;
  • Horizontal priorities are sustainable development, gender equality, the widespread use of information and communication technologies, and the introduction of e-governance solutions.

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 imitating 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 development cooperation funding, 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), and 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).

Providing Humanitarian Aid

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. In 2021, 3.25 million euros of humanitarian aid was provided, and the lion’s share of these funds was allocated to support for Ukraine.

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 through 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).