Tiit Riisalo to Head the Estonian Centre for International Development

The board of the Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV) has elected Tiit Riisalo as the organisation’s new CEO. Riisalo brings valuable experience as the former Ambassador-at-large for Trusted Connectivity at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former head of the Office of the President, Kersti Kaljulaid. Riisalo will begin his new position as head of ESTDEV on 1 January 2023.

Tiit Riisalo

Photo: Priit Mürk/ERR

“Development cooperation plays an important and growing role in Estonia’s fulfillment of its foreign and security policy goals, as well as in growing Estonia’s international influence. Tiit Riisalo has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors, and has worked with NGOs, making him well-equipped to manage the administrative side of things. Riisalo has been successful in the role of CEO in organisations that have required much from their leadership,” explains Jonathan Vseviov, chairman of the board at ESTDEV and Chancellor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Riisalo comes to ESTDEV with decades of experience conducting cooperative efforts with Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership countries. As Estonia’s special envoy for trusted connectivity, he also has excellent knowledge of communication within the European Union. He knows how to bring different parties together to achieve goals.”

According to Tiit Riisalo, events with global impact – the environmental crisis, the pandemic, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine – have highlighted the value of strong partnerships. “It is through development cooperation that the vital foundation of partnership is laid. Through its presidency of the UN Security Council, Estonia proved that our foreign policy is a model ready for the global stage. It is time to take our efforts in development cooperation to a new level. Our contribution is both expected and valued,” stated Riisalo.

Operating under the administration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ESTDEV coordinates Estonian development cooperation and humanitarian aid in the Eastern Partnership and the African continent. In 2022, ESTDEV’s greatest task was to organise reconstruction projects in Ukraine, financed by the Estonian state. At this time, in Zhytomyr Oblast, the construction of the Ovruch kindergarten is underway and the restoration of the Malon bridge is in the planning process. ESTDEV’s other projects support the development of key areas in Estonia, including strengthening democracy, developing digital solutions to reduce poverty, promoting education, and building sustainable economies.

In 2021, the Estonian government allocated 47.6 million euros for development cooperation and 3.25 million euros for humanitarian aid, totaling roughly 0.17% of Estonia’s gross national income (GDP). The Estonian government is committed to increasing allocations for development cooperation to 0.33% for the GNP by 2030.


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The Estonian Center for International Development is a state foundation that organises and coordinates Estonia’s participation in international development cooperation and humanitarian aid projects, with the aim of increasing Estonia’s contribution to global security and sustainable development.