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Canada helps Slovakia help others

WHEN it becomes a full EU member in 2004, Slovakia will take over, together with the status of being a developed European country, moral responsibilities towards the poorer countries of the world. Just as Slovakia had been receiving aid from countries in the West, now it is duty-bound to help reduce social tensions and poverty in other parts of the world.
Though Slovakia already acts as a donor it still needs some further assistance to improve and formalise a structure for its official development aid.

WHEN it becomes a full EU member in 2004, Slovakia will take over, together with the status of being a developed European country, moral responsibilities towards the poorer countries of the world. Just as Slovakia had been receiving aid from countries in the West, now it is duty-bound to help reduce social tensions and poverty in other parts of the world.

Though Slovakia already acts as a donor it still needs some further assistance to improve and formalise a structure for its official development aid. Canada, with its 50-year experience as a donor country, has offered its help through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and its ODACE (Official Development Assistance for Central Europe) programme.

"CIDA adopted ODACE in November 2001 with the goal of using the experience of donors, avoid mistakes they have made and create an operational and self-sufficient system of development assistance in [countries of central Europe] as soon as possible" explained David Chaplin, Canadian field manager for ODACE in central Europe.

ODACE, headquartered in Bratislava, is a five-year program with total funding of CAD15 million (€9.8 million). Along with the creation of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) organisational structure in central European countries, it aspires to help these countries to implement their own ODA programmes in other countries.

The first CAD5 million (€3.3 million) of ODACE funds was put into building a new system of ODA - institutions, mechanisms and human resources.

The remaining CAD10 million (€6.1 million) will be spent as a Canadian contribution to joint projects. "In the future, Canada is prepared to share the costs of Slovak ODA programmes by 50 percent," added Chaplin.

CIDA closely cooperates with the Slovak foreign affairs ministry to identify the main areas where Canadian assistance is needed. The ODACE programme provides technical help, experience and knowledge of Canada as a donor country, while ODA projects are particularly targeted at non-governmental organisations, universities and the private sector.

"We share our experience with NGOs of how to get involved in official development assistance, with universities in educating people - future civil servants working in ODA projects and the business sector, how to manage and engage in tenders, etc.

"We also provide advisory services in the creation of legal documents needed for ODA programmes. The tasks can be various; for example, right now we are sharing the Canadian experience in communicating our government's plans and policies for ODA to Canadian citizens", explained Chaplin.

However, goals of the development assistance programmes also reflect the fact that Slovakia is not and will not be a strong donor in terms of amounts of assistance provided. The more important and more challenging issue is to find a firm place among the donors.

Slovak participation in donor activities should focus on transferring the Slovak experience and know-how. It should include the involvement of Slovak experts and entities in international development activities and projects, together with the expansion of economic cooperation with developing countries, and assistance to ethnic Slovaks living outside Slovakia.

An important step in developing official assistance in Slovakia was the approval of its annual budget - totalling Sk161 million (€3.83) in December 2002. These funds were allocated to the Slovak foreign affairs ministry.

Serbia and Montenegro were chosen as the first programme countries for Slovak development assistance. The list of project countries also includes Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kirghizstan, Macedonia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Sudan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The ODACE programme will end its major contribution to Slovakia after the country's accession to EU is completed.

"Afterwards, however, there will probably still remain the possibility of consulting and sharing experience for about three years", concluded the ODACE field manager.

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