Cablegate: Estonia's Evolving Development Assistance

DE RUEHTL #0264/01 2111210
R 291210Z JUL 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary. While a relative newcomer to the field
of foreign assistance, Estonia continues to expand its
role as a donor nation. The GOE goal is to spend at
least 0.1 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) on
development assistance by 2010, still short of the EU
target of 0.17 percent for new members. Since 2006,
Government of Estonia (GOE) assistance has focused on
four priority countries - Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and
Afghanistan - although it has increased humanitarian
donations to crisis countries in Asia and Africa. End


2. (U) Total development assistance by the GOE has
increased dramatically since Estonia was first listed as
a donor country by the OECD in 1999. Data collected by
the European Commission reflects that Estonia's
development assistance constituted 0.09 percent of GNI
in 2006. According to Marje Luup, Development Assistance
Division Director of the MFA, preliminary numbers for
2007 suggest that the GOE is close to raising official
development assistance to at least 0.1 percent GNI. The
GOE is also striving to meet the 0.17 percent figure, as
suggested in the Council conclusions of the EU Council
of Ministers in May 2005. Bi/trilateral development
assistance amounts in the MFA budget have also doubled
during recent years: in 2006 it was USD 1,815,000 and in
2007 it reached USD 3,790,000. (Note: Estonia's total
assistance budget for 2008 is USD 22 million. Two
thirds of this sum is earmarked for multi-lateral
assistance projects funneled through the European Union.
End Note.) At the same time, according to public
opinion surveys, public interest in global issues has
increased in Estonia - growing from 57 percent to 67
percent since 2005. These polls also indicate that
support for assistance to poorer countries increased
from 65 percent to 76 percent in the same time period.


3. (U) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the lead
agency for development assistance in Estonia, with an
allocated assistance budget of USD 6 million for 2008.
Other ministries, state agencies and local governments
have budgeted over USD 2.3 million for 2008, including
the Ministry of Defense with USD 650,000. The MFA,
through its Office of Development Cooperation, has
primary responsibility for coordinating all development
assistance policy planning and implementation. The
Ministry identifies potential assistance projects based
on requests from partner countries, international
organizations or NGOs operating in partner countries.
Estonian civil society associations like the Estonian
Development Cooperation Roundtable (EDCR), an umbrella
organization for NGOs, also play an important role in
identifying and developing assistance policy projects.


4. (U) In 2006, the GOE adopted a strategy for
development assistance establishing Georgia, Moldova,
Ukraine and Afghanistan as priority partner countries
through 2010. Since that time, overall assistance to
these countries has steadily increased. Citing
Estonia's own remarkable success in rapidly
transitioning to a stable democracy with a competitive
market economy, the GOE feels uniquely qualified to
offer assistance to other emerging post-Soviet
societies. Assistance to these countries has focused
largely on Estonia sharing its experiences with NATO and
EU accession by sending civilian and military experts to
offer advice on defense planning, integration into Euro-
Atlantic security structures and implementing democratic
civilian control over the armed forces. Estonia has
also assisted these countries in civil society
development by sending expert advisors as well as
inviting politicians and civil society leaders to
Estonia to gain first hand knowledge of a functioning
democracy. Moldova, for one, has benefited from
training received from Estonian tax and customs experts.

5. (U) Afghanistan is one of Estonia's highest foreign
policy priorities. Estonian troops have served in
southern Afghanistan since 2002. Between 2002 and 2007,
the GOE, in partnership with agencies like the
International Red Cross, UN High Commissioner on
Refugees and Counter Narcotics Trust Fund, spent more
than USD 336,000 in Afghanistan. Projects included
provision of blankets, linen, first aid kits and
supplies to assist refugees, counter narcotics

TALLINN 00000264 002 OF 003

operations, support for a 2009/2010 Population and
Housing census project, construction of an academic
center and improvements in pediatric and women's care at
the Helmand provincial hospital. In 2008, GOE assistance
to Afghanistan will reach USD 500,000. The funds are
being used to provide medical equipment and winter fuel
for the Helmand provincial hospital, as well as to
support the clearing of land mines. In March 2008, the
GOE also sent a civilian medical advisor to Helmand to
support the development of a sustainable healthcare
system in the province and to help coordinate
international aid.


6. (U) The GOE also seeks opportunities for trilateral
cooperation with other donors to leverage its assistance
resources. MFA contacts have indicated a strong
interest in collaborating with the Unites States.
Estonia has already partnered with Sweden, Finland,
Iceland, Canada and the United Kingdom on projects
supporting Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. The Estonian
MFA, in conjunction with Sweden and Finland, is
currently lending financial assistance to young
Georgian, Ukrainian, Armenian and Moldavian diplomats
and civil servants who wish to study at the Estonia
School of Diplomacy. The Estonian MFA, through the
Council of Nordic Ministers, is also supporting (USD
45,000) the European University of Humanities, a
Belarusian university based in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Under this program, young Belarusians denied educational
opportunities due to their political beliefs have access
to higher education. Estonian Foreign Minister, Urmas
Paet has commented that, 'Allocating funds for the
university is a good way to support democratic movements
in Belarus and provide young people with the experience
of learning in an open society.'


7. (U) Estonia is also increasingly proactive in
providing international humanitarian assistance. In
2006 and 2007, Estonia provided assistance to victims of
the Indonesian earthquake as well as refugees in
Lebanon, Darfur and the Congo. In 2008, Estonia pledged
USD 50,000 in humanitarian assistance to Tajik children
suffering from a cold wave, internationally displaced
persons in Kenya, and Burmese victims of Cyclone Nargis.
In February 2008, the GOE pledged USD 1 million dollars
to Palestine at the Paris Donors' Conference and USD 1
million over the next four years for reconstruction
efforts in Kosovo. These were the two largest single
donations ever made by Estonia.

8. (U) In addition to successful economic and democratic
development, Estonia has also created a niche for itself
in the realm of internet technology. As such, many
emerging democracies look to Estonia for assistance in
development of their own IT sector. The GOE's main
assistance partner in this field has been the e-
Governance Academy. The e-Governance Academy, founded
in 2002, is an Estonian non-governmental, non-profit
organization, founded for the creation and transfer of
knowledge concerning e-governance, e-democracy and the
development of civil society. Its mission is to train
and advise leaders and stakeholders in using information
and communication technology (ICT) to increase
government efficiency and to improve democratic
processes with the aim of building open information

9. (U) One of the more successful IT assistance programs
has been the joint GOE e-Governance Academy 'Leap'
program supporting the transfer of knowledge and
expertise in information and communication technology
(ICT) to educators in partner nations like Georgia and
Moldova. The e-Governance Academy has also conducted IT
training and support sessions with government and public
sector officials in Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia and

10. (SBU) Comment. In its Consensus on Development
(signed in December 2005), the EU set a goal for new
member states to spend 0.17 percent of GNI on official
development assistance by 2011. The Consensus also
identified poverty eradication as the EU's primary
objective. Estonia is not on track to meet either of
these goals. The GOE has also been criticized for
focusing its assistance in its own foreign policy
neighborhood and not expanding its programs to Africa.
However, GOE efforts to administer assistance in Africa

TALLINN 00000264 003 OF 003

are hampered by the fact that currently, the GOE has
only one diplomat in the region working out of the
Swedish Embassy in Cairo.

11. (SBU) Comment Continued. Despite having been a
donor nation for less than 10 years, the GOE has clearly
demonstrated its commitment to not only promoting
democratic principles, but to increasing its role in
humanitarian assistance as well. While recognizing that
up to this point the GOE has focused the majority of its
assistance efforts towards countries with which they are
familiar, there are indications that they are gradually
branching out to areas in Asia and Africa. Post is
confident that as the GOE continues to gain experience
in regions outside the former sphere of Soviet
influence, their capacity to identify and address
assistance needs will increase as well. Post will also
continue to encourage Estonia's active promotion of
democratic government and reform in priority countries
in pursuing our core MSP Goal of Strengthening Estonia's
Role in the World. End Comment.


© Scoop Media

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