Chapter 7. The Slovak Republic’s humanitarian assistance

Strategic framework

Peer review indicator: Clear political directives and strategies for resilience, response and recovery

The Slovak Republic has ambitions in the humanitarian domain, signalled by its commitments at the World Humanitarian Summit and increased humanitarian budget. However, its humanitarian approach remains complex. It would benefit from an overarching strategy covering all humanitarian and civil defence resources across government to identify when to respond and what assistance to offer. The regional approach currently under consideration could help the Slovak Republic to link its different tools and funding instruments to address the humanitarian needs in the crises in which it chooses to engage.

A strategy for engaging in crises could guide new ambitions

Humanitarian aid is an increasing part of the Slovak Republic’s ODA.1 Its engagement in humanitarian aid is regulated by both the Act No. 392/2015 Coll. on Official Development Aid of the Slovak Republic (GSR, 2015) and the mechanism for providing Slovak humanitarian aid abroad (GSR, 2006). Both documents define humanitarian aid as a solidarity gesture towards people in need, and explain the organisation of relief assistance between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior. However, the Slovak Republic’s objective for its humanitarian aid is not clear enough to meet the six commitments it made at the World Humanitarian Summit.2 The Slovak Republic’s humanitarian assistance is historically a civil protection mechanism, and today is based on two pillars. Item-based humanitarian assistance represents the first pillar, and involves the Ministry of the Interior managing emergency stocks to be deployed in the case of crises. This pillar was recently strengthened by legislative modifications to exempt the purchase of humanitarian material from some taxes.3 The second pillar is managed by the MFEA, and consists of financial support to humanitarian partners.

The MFEA’s role is changing in response to complex crises such as those in the Middle East (see below). The Slovak Republic could increase the coherence of its aid by developing a unified vision that reflects the evolution of humanitarian policies and practice, and gives the MFEA a clear role to co-ordinate international co-operation, other government ministries and multiple partners during humanitarian responses.

The Slovak Republic could standardise its new regional approach to crises

As noted in Chapter 5, the crisis in Syria and the ensuing migration flows were a turning point for the Slovak Republic in 2015. These events forced it to mobilise its development co-operation alongside the two pillars of its humanitarian aid portfolio to support countries receiving migrants, as well as to support the health system in Syria. This new regional approach has allowed for a more coherent response, including participation in the EU financial instruments, support to its humanitarian partners’ financial appeals and bilateral support to affected governments. In finalising its new humanitarian strategy, the Slovak Republic could learn from this experience in the Middle East to standardise its regional approach to programming aid in crises.

The Slovak Republic has increased its budget for crisis response

The Slovak Republic has been increasing its humanitarian budget since joining the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in 2013. Budget increases are in line with its commitments at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit to “launch efforts to double the volume of funds provided for humanitarian aid and continually raise public funds for development and humanitarian projects, with the goal of facilitating the greatest possible synergy between development cooperation and humanitarian aid” (AFH, 2016). The most substantial increase was registered in 2015, with USD 2.4 million allocated to humanitarian aid, reflecting the Slovak Republic’s participation in the global crisis response in the Middle East. Unlike some other DAC members, it does not label its contribution to the EU facility for refugees in Turkey as humanitarian aid.4 As for many DAC members, the crisis in the Middle East has blurred the distinction between short-term humanitarian assistance and the Slovak Republic’s more structural response to crises and migration. With 7.8% of its ODA allocated to humanitarian aid in 2015-16, however, the Slovak Republic remains below the 11.8% DAC average for the period.

Effective programme design

Peer review indicator: Programmes target the highest risk to life and livelihood

Guided by its own information sources, co-ordinated with the EU humanitarian system, the Slovak Republic’s humanitarian aid focuses its limited budget on just a few crises. As it manages large relief stocks, the Slovak Republic contributes meaningfully to the EU Civil Protection mechanism, but the value for money and the relevance of sending material relief outside such a co-ordinated response should be carefully analysed case by case.

The Slovak Republic makes the best of the EU’s humanitarian system

Guided by information from its embassy network, its partners and the EU, the Slovak Republic focuses its humanitarian aid on a limited number of crises, making the best of a small budget. The Slovak Republic makes good use of the EU systems – such as the EU information networks (the European Council working party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid - COHAFA - and the EU mechanisms for crisis response) – to programme and co-ordinate its crisis responses. Contributions to EU emergency trust funds represented up to 27% of the Slovak Republic’s overall ODA in 2016,5 strengthening the coherence of the EU’s emergency and long-term response in crisis contexts.

The civil protection mechanism is efficient, but item-based aid requires extra care

The Slovak Republic’s contribution to international disaster relief operations is mainly provided through the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism.6 Material humanitarian aid is provided by the Division of the Integrated Rescue System and Civil Protection, of the Ministry of the Interior. Managing a large stock of emergency items allows the Slovak Republic to make a meaningful and co-ordinated contribution to disaster response. However, reliance on material-based humanitarian aid does not always allow for the best use of humanitarian resources in response to protracted and man-made crises where the economy is functioning and the items sent by the Slovak Republic are available in local markets. The Slovak Republic should make sure it conducts a careful value-for-money analysis before launching a material-based response abroad, especially when it is not part of a consolidated EU response.

Effective delivery, partnerships and instruments

Peer review indicator: Delivery modalities and partnerships help deliver quality assistance

As its humanitarian budget grows, the Slovak Republic is increasing its support to multilateral organisations. However, it uses a multi-bi type of aid, which does not make the most of the multilateral organisations’ potential. As Slovak NGOs will remain strategic partners for delivering aid and raising public awareness, the Slovak Republic could increase its efficiency and reduce its bureaucracy by developing specific partnership framework with these NGOs.

Support to multilateral organisations is prudent, but increasing

In response to the Syria crisis, the Slovak Republic has increased the share of its financial humanitarian aid to those multilateral organisations7 with whom it has developed a partnership. Support to multilateral organisations now represents the biggest share of the Slovak Republic’s humanitarian assistance. The Slovak Republic does not provide core funding to these multilateral partners. Instead it softly earmarks its funds to the specific crisis and sector, thus responding to its partners’ appeals, which is good practice. Going forward and with an increased budget, the Slovak Republic could consider making its funds even more flexible, for example by contributing to specific UN pooled funds such as the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and Country-Based Pooled Funds (UN CBPF).

A stronger partnership with NGOs can increase humanitarian cost efficiency

The Slovak Republic has developed a solid relationship with its civil society. In the most challenging contexts, such as South Sudan, NGOs are the only providers of Slovak aid, and NGO presence has proven to be instrumental in selecting partner countries. Slovak NGOs are also a great vector for public awareness of development co-operation and humanitarian aid. However, NGOs can only access the Slovak Republic’s funds after an open call for proposal. Although this increases transparency, it prevents predictability, which can put humanitarian NGOs at financial and operational risk in the most difficult places. The Slovak Republic could develop a stronger partnership with Slovak NGOs, for example through developing framework partnership agreements, and taking advantage of its ability to support multiyear funding to increase the cost efficiency of its humanitarian response.

Organisation fit for purpose

Peer review indicator: Systems, structures, processes and people work together effectively and efficiently

The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for co-ordinating the humanitarian response, managing the physical stock of relief items, and co-ordinating with the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and the Slovak Ministry of Defence. However, with the Slovak Republic increasingly engaged in complex crises, such as in the Middle East, where a broad range of political actors and operational partners are involved, the MFEA will need to take a more prominent role in co-ordinating the whole-of-government response in such contexts.

The MFEA is well placed to take on whole-of-government humanitarian co-ordination

When a crisis strikes, the Ministry of the Interior is in charge of convening a co-ordination meeting with the MFEA and other relevant ministry or institutions. This allows the Slovak Republic to decide its response to the crisis: i.e. a material response provided through the civil protection mechanism or the Slovak Republic’s defence forces; or a financial response through its humanitarian partners. However, as the Slovak Republic responds mainly to protracted crises, such as the Syria crisis, the material part of its aid represents a lower share, limited to some very specific actions or responding to a natural disaster through the EU Crises Response mechanism. To reflect this trend, the Slovak Republic could consider devolving the responsibility for whole-of-government humanitarian co-ordination to the MFEA, which is by nature more able to link its aid with its development action in complex crises, and to liaise with other international donors.

Specific attention should be paid to the use of the armed forces in delivering humanitarian aid

The Slovak Republic engages its armed forces in many multilateral operations under the UN, EU or NATO umbrella (Chapter 1). It systematically trains its units in international humanitarian law and human rights before deployment, which is good practice (SRMD, 2018). The Slovak Republic’s armed forces are also required to be prepared to provide humanitarian aid,8 while the Ecumenical Pastoral Service of the Armed Forces distributes the material assistance released by the Ministry of the Interior. Using military logistical capacity can be an efficient way to bring relief assistance to disaster areas or to hand over material aid to an affected country’s government. However, care should be taken to respect humanitarian principles in those conflict areas where using the armed forces to provide direct assistance or to monitor humanitarian projects is not in line with the Good Humanitarian Donorship principles (GHD, 2003) or the Oslo Guidelines (UNOCHA, 2007), as in Afghanistan.

Results, learning and accountability

Peer review indicator: Results are measured and communicated, and lessons learnt

The Slovak Republic lacks a specific humanitarian monitoring system, and its humanitarian system cannot be evaluated effectively without a strategy stating what it wants to achieve in responding to crises. As the Slovak Republic increases it ODA spending in challenging environments, it will become important to deepen political leaders’ awareness and clarify in the upcoming strategy how risks are assessed and results measured. If staff in the field are to become more involved in conflict-sensitive programming, they will also need proper training.

Further engagement in fragile contexts will require specific training

As noted in Chapter 6, project monitoring is a normal part of the Slovak Republic’s management process. However, the Slovak Republic cannot monitor all its humanitarian projects due to the shorter cycles, different ministries in charge and a sometimes difficult security environment. In countries where it has no monitoring capacities, such as Afghanistan or South Sudan, it could introduce a proper risk analysis before engaging in complex crises in order to put mitigation measures in place where the risks are particularly high.9 If the Slovak Republic strengthens its engagement in conflict prevention in fragile contexts, this will require the development diplomats in the relevant countries to be trained in assessing the conflict sensitivity of all programmes.

Political awareness could be deepened

As noted in Chapter 6, the Slovak Republic raises awareness of development co-operation and humanitarian assistance through public events. As the Slovak Republic increases its engagement in complex crises, it could build more robust communication with political leaders and decision makers. This communication could help build a deeper understanding of the humanitarian challenges in complex situations, such as migration crises, and prompt stronger support for the institutional changes required for the Slovak Republic to better address those challenges.


Government sources

GSR (2015), “Act No. 392/2015 Coll. on Development Cooperation and on Amendment to Certain Acts”, Collection of laws No 392/2015, Government of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava.

GSR (2006), “Mechanism for providing Slovak humanitarian aid abroad”; unpublished, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava.

SRMD (2018), “Acts under the competence of the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic”, webpage, Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava,

SRMD (2013), “The White Paper on Defence of the Slovak Republic”, Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava,

Other sources

AFH (2016), Agenda for humanity, platform for action, commitments and transformations,

Danida (2013), “Guidelines to risk management”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Copenhagen, http://www.danida/guidelines/guidelines-risks-management.pdf.

GHD (2003), “23 Principles and Good Practice of Humanitarian Donorship”, Declaration made in Stockholm 16-17 June, Good Humanitarian Donorship initiative, available at

UNOCHA (2007), “Guidelines on the use of foreign military and civil defence assets in disaster relief: Oslo Guidelines”, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, New York,


← 1. Creditor Reporting System, accessed 30 April 2018,

← 2. See combine=Slovakia

← 3. Notably the Act No. 595/2003 Coll. on Income Tax, the Act No. 222/2004 Coll. on Value Added Tax, as amended, amending Act No. 331/2011 Coll., amending Act No. 563/2009 Coll. on Tax Administration (Fiscal Code) and on Amendment to Certain Acts.

← 4. The USD 3.3 million Slovak contribution to the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey in 2016 is reported to the Creditor Reporting System (CRS) using the purpose code 99810 “sector not specified”. The same applies to the Slovak Republic’s contribution to all EU multi donor trust funds.

← 5. The Slovak Republic’s contribution to the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the EU Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis (MADAD), the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia, and the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey amounted to USD 7.37 million in 2016, out of a total of USD 27.15 million of ODA (Creditor Reporting System, accessed 30 April 2018,

← 6. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was established in 2001 to enable co-ordinated assistance by the participating states to victims of natural and man-made disasters in Europe and elsewhere. The mechanism currently includes all 28 EU Member States, in addition to Iceland, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Turkey (

← 7. Creditor Reporting System, accessed 4 May 2018, datasetcode=CRS1.

← 8. The 2013 White Paper on Defence of the Slovak Republic states (para 80) :“The international crisis response operations, as the most probable future form of deployment of the AF SR, will be mainly carrying out the following tasks of: peace enforcement, peacekeeping, post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction, providing of humanitarian aid, support for the security and defence sector reforms and development of local security forces” (SRMD, 2013)

← 9. For example, the DANIDA Guidelines to Risk Management Contextual Risk categorise three main risks in fragile and crisis contexts: Contextual Risk covers the range of overall potential adverse outcomes that may arise in a particular context and hence could impact a broader range of risks at programmatic and institutional level. The context will usually be a country or region but could for certain programmes also be a global thematic or political frame. External actors usually have very limited control over contextual risk. Programmatic Risk includes two kinds of risk: (1) the potential for a development programme to fail to achieve its objectives; and (2) the potential for the programme to cause harm in the external environment. Institutional Risk is sometimes also called political risk and includes “internal” risk from the perspective of the donor or it’s implementing partners. It includes the range of ways in which an organisation and its staff or stakeholders may be adversely affected by interventions (Danida, 2013).

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