Chapter 1. The Slovak Republic’s global efforts for sustainable development

Efforts to support global sustainable development

Peer review indicator: The member plays an active role in contributing to global norms, frameworks and public goods that benefit developing countries

The Slovak Republic is an engaged member of the international community and particularly active on issues of peace and security. Its willingness to be involved in global fora has given the Slovak Republic international visibility and recognition. This nonetheless comes with opportunity costs in a context of limited financial and human resources. The Slovak Republic is taking significant steps towards translating the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into a national development plan.

Multilateralism is a hallmark of the Slovak Republic’s foreign policy

A relatively young and small country, the Slovak Republic is a proud member of the European Union and the Euro area, and an avid advocate of global partnerships and effective multilateral co-operation. Following independence in 1992, the Slovak Republic joined a large number of international organisations and groupings, in particular the United Nations (1993), OECD (2000), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) (2004) and European Union (2004). It positions itself within regional groups such as the Višegrad Group (V4), an informal co-operation of four Central European countries (Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland); and Slovak Cooperation (S3) - a platform for regional co-operation among Slovakia, Czech Republic and Austria. Within the World Trade Organisation, the Slovak Republic actively participates in accession negotiations, in particular for its strategic trade partners such as Ukraine, Russian Federation, Belarus, Lithuania and Croatia (MFEA, 2017).

The Slovak Republic has been active in hosting and participating in global conferences and events on a wide range of issues. It is now starting to be more selective in deciding where it will have most impact and relevance and undertakes a biennial review of its membership of international organisations (Chapters 2, 5). It has recently taken on an impressive range of formal roles in a phased and considered manner, identifying a set of policy priorities in each case. Examples include:

  • successfully laying the groundwork for the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) and its associated instruments during its Presidency of the European Council during the second half of 2016

  • making full use of its Minister of Foreign and European Affairs’ role as President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly in 2017-18. While representing the interests of all UN members, the Presidency’s priorities mirror Slovak foreign policy on issues of peace and conflict prevention, migration, a sustainable planet, human dignity and modernising the United Nations

  • using its membership of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from 2010-12, with a chairing role in 2012, to enhance ECOSOC’s role in global sustainable development, particularly through engaging more with international finance institutions, civil society, youth, business and the academic community.

In 2019, the Slovak Republic will chair the Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the OECD Ministerial Council.

These roles nonetheless have opportunity costs in terms of financial and human resources and, in the context of a single budget for the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MFEA), might affect the growth of its official development assistance (ODA) budget (Chapter 3). It is thus important for the Slovak Republic to be careful not to over-stretch its limited resources in pursuing its global leadership ambitions.

Peace and security are political priorities, though not all its actions are coherent

Three out of seven of the Slovak Republic’s foreign and European policy priorities concern elements of peace and security (MFEA, 2015). In light of this, the Slovak Republic is an engaged member of OSCE and NATO and actively participates in EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and UN Peacekeeping operations.1 It is a permanent Co-Chair of the UN Group of Friends of Security Sector Reform (SSR) and recently signed up to the new EU Structured Cooperation initiative on defence, known as PESCO. In addition, the MFEA collaborates with non-government organisations (NGOs) on foreign and security policy, organising annual events such as the Globsec Security Conference and the Tatra Summit.

However, the high political priority given to peace and security is not consistent across all of the Slovak Republic’s international engagements. As noted in Chapter 2, very little development co-operation funding is directed to stabilisation or peacebuilding activities in fragile states.

The 2030 Agenda is being converted into a national development plan, but effective co-ordination will require sustained leadership and political support

Like other DAC members, the Slovak Republic took part in negotiations on the 2030 Agenda and has taken steps to plan for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): in March 2016, the government adopted a resolution on the “Implementation of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development”. In 2017, Slovakia ranked 23rd out of 157 countries covered by the 2017 SDG Index and Dashboards report, with an SDG Index score of 76.9, compared to an OECD average of 77.7 (Sachs et al., 2017). In April 2018, a public consultation was underway to identify six national priorities for implementing the 2030 Agenda. The Slovak Republic is currently on track to achieve 13 of the 17 goals, with particular progress on environmental issues and poverty reduction. Performance in areas such as gender equality and infrastructure is weaker than the OECD average (OECD, 2017a). A full report on the Slovak Republic’s progress towards the SDG targets is planned for late 2019.

While the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office for Investments and Informatisation is responsible for overall implementation, MFEA is responsible for co-ordinating the international aspects (MFEA, 2017). The government has committed to presenting a national voluntary review of the SDGs to the UN high level political forum in July 2018. This will require input across government and should help the ongoing effort to build national awareness and co-ordination. It is not yet evident whether this process has broad political support or an adequate governance structure. This is despite participation by President Andrej Kiska in a high-level thematic debate in New York in April 2016 on achieving the SDGs (MFEA, 2016). A government council to drive implementation of the 2030 Agenda, with membership at ministerial level, met for the first time in December 2017.

The Slovak Republic is participating in an OECD pilot project2 to support strategic planning and preparations for a National Investment Plan, intended to translate the 2030 Agenda into a national development strategy. The pilot covers institutional mechanisms, strategic foresight and measurement as well as priority setting and a financing framework for the National Investment Plan. A number of these elements were raised in the 2015 OECD public governance review, and in particular the need for an appropriate institutional framework within central government for strategic planning (OECD, 2015).

Policy coherence for development

Peer review indicator: Domestic policies support or do not harm developing countries

While Slovak ministries have demonstrated a solid understanding of policy coherence for development and identified a number of relevant issues, no plan has been put in place to assess and remedy issues of incoherence. The upcoming mid-term strategy for development co-operation provides an opportunity to correct this.

Early progress on policy coherence has run aground

In 2014, a Working Group on Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) was created within the Coordination Committee of the Slovak Development Cooperation, which is an advisory body to the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. This group got off to a positive start and a number of ministries identified potential issues of incoherence in areas of national or EU competence – including trade, export of weapons to conflict areas, agriculture subsidies and climate change. This demonstrated good understanding of policy coherence for development and a degree of political support across government (MFEA, 2017; CONCORD, 2015). However, in its peer review memorandum, the MFEA identified the need for a national strategy on policy coherence, noting that the Coordination Committee has since run aground and there has been little follow-up (MFEA, 2017). Rather than developing a stand-alone strategy, the next mid-term strategy for development co-operation (see Chapter 2) could include a limited number of priority areas and a clear monitoring and reporting framework. This would allow the Coordination Committee to track the impact of relevant European or national policies on developing countries. A renewed PCD Working Group could also be linked to the 2030 Agenda co-ordination structures once they gain momentum.

Global reports identify several priority policy coherence issues

The 2017 Commitment to Development Index – which considers aid, finance, technology, environment, trade, security, and migration – ranks the Slovak Republic 21st out of 27 countries. The country performs best on environment and security, with its contributions to international peacekeeping and humanitarian interventions noted as above average. It scores less well on trade and technology due to trade barriers and low investment. Its scores on migration are also low because the Slovak Republic welcomes relatively few migrants, students, asylum-seekers and refugees from developing countries (CGD, 2017). Concerns about climate action and innovation are echoed in the SDG Index as well as in recent analysis of the negative spill over effects of poor SDG performance (Sachs et al., 2017), which similarly ranks the Slovak Republic 23rd out of 157 countries.

In relation to taxation, the Slovak government expanded its “Action plan to combat tax fraud” in 2015 to include 30 additional measures. In 2017, an additional action plan to fight tax evasion was adopted (OECD, 2016). Progress has also been noted in relation to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, adopted in 1997 and ratified and implemented by the Slovak Republic from 1999. The Slovak Republic acted upon shortcomings noted by the Anti-bribery Working Group over the period 2003-14 and updated its Law on the Criminal Liability of Legal Persons (CCL) to largely conform to the standards of the convention. However, this is a new law that has yet to be tested by the courts (OECD, 2017b). The 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranks the Slovak Republic 54th out of 180 countries, well below the OECD average (TI, 2017).

Global awareness

Peer review indicator: The member promotes whole-of-society contributions to sustainable development

The Slovak Republic has a comprehensive approach to global awareness and building global citizenship, which includes integrating these themes into the formal education system. There is a broad understanding of what constitutes global citizenship, with an emphasis on tolerance, diversity and understanding the root causes of violent extremism.

The Slovak Republic understands global citizenship well, with a number of initiatives building global values across society

Global education has been regarded as an integral part of the Slovak Republic’s development co-operation from the outset and a total budget of approximately EUR 1 million was invested in this area from 2005 to 2011. A National Strategy for Global Education from 2012 to 2016 shaped initiatives across a number of ministries, notably Foreign and European Affairs and Education (GSR, 2012). The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports leads on formal education, while MFEA leads on informal education. The scope of global education is broad with a focus on diversity, integration of migrants, religious tolerance, sustainable development and violent extremism. This broad scope and the mainstreaming of global issues and the challenges of developing countries at all levels of the Slovak education system is considered good practice.

Complementary work by the Ministry of Environment focuses on climate change and environmental sustainability, including through an innovative funding mechanism drawing on private sector resources.

The Global Education Network Europe (GENE) produced a national report in 2013 on the Slovak Republic’s global education system and performance, which was generally positive. Recommendations included increased funding; anchoring the work more solidly in school curricula; compulsory continued professional development for teachers; and updating the national forum and definition of global education (GENE, 2013). This area of work has become more important and relevant in the light of negative public attitudes to illegal migration and there is further scope to bring together the work of the three ministries in an updated strategy.

Government and NGO efforts to increase public awareness and development education are not yet reflected in public opinion

Since 2005, MFEA in conjunction with the Slovak Agency for International Development Co-operation (SAIDC) have supported the activities of Slovak organisations working in development education and building public awareness of development co-operation. The 2014-2018 mid-term strategy includes plans to build public support for SlovakAid’s activities and to integrate development issues into school plans and curricula (MFEA, 2013). In spite of these efforts, awareness of the SDGs in Slovakia is below the EU average (27% vs. 36%). More concerning is that Slovak respondents are less positive about development aid than Europeans in general, and a high proportion do not consider development co-operation a tool to discourage irregular migration (EC, 2015). The Slovak Republic has launched a series of media activities to reverse this trend.

References

Government sources

GSR (2012), “Národná stratégia pre globálne vzdelávanie na obdobie rokov 2012-2016” [National Strategy for Global Education 2012-16], Government of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava, https://www.mzv.sk/documents/30297/2649510/National+Strategy+for+Global+Education+for+2012+-+2016.

MFEA (2017), “OECD DAC Peer Review 2018: Memorandum of the Slovak Republic”, unpublished, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava.

MFEA (2016), “Foreign and European policy in 2016: Annual report of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic”, Bratislava, https://www.mzv.sk/documents /30297/2784161/2016+V%C3%BDro%C4%8Dn%C3%A1+spr%C3%A1va+ministerstva+EN+170609.

MFEA (2015), “Slovak foreign and European policy agenda in 2015”, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava, https://www.mzv.sk/documents /30297/2568657/150108_SK_Foreign_Policy_Agendadoc.pdf.

MFEA (2013), “Mid-term strategy for development cooperation of the Slovak Republic for 2014-2018”, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava, https://www.mzv.sk/web/en/foreign_policy/slovak_aid.

Other sources

CGD (2017), “Commitment to Development Index”, Centre for Global Development, Washington DC, https://www.cgdev.org/cdi-2017/country/SVK.

CONCORD (2015), “Operationalising policy coherence for development: A perspective of civil society on institutional systems for PCD in EU member states”, CONCORD research, Spotlight report 2015 policy paper, https://www.concord.se/wp-content/uploads/Spotlight-2015-PCD-in-Member-States-Oct.pdf.

EC (2015), “EU Development Cooperation and Aid, Special Eurobarometer 441: Slovakia”, European Commission, Brussels, https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/sites/devco/files/eb-eu-development-cooperation-and-aid-slovakia-122015_en.pdf.

GENE (2013), “The European Global Education Peer Review Process - National Report on Global Education in Slovakia”, Global Education Network Europe, Amsterdam, http://gene.eu/wp-content/uploads/Gene_NationalReport-Slovakia.pdf.

Goda, S. (2015), “In search for greater v4 engagement in international crisis management”, SFPA - Slovak Foreign Policy Association, Bratislava.

OECD (2017a), “Measuring distance to the SDG targets: an assessment of where OECD countries stand”, OECD, Paris, http://www.oecd.org/sdd/OECD-Measuring-Distance-to-SDG-Targets.pdf.

OECD (2017b), “Implementing the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention Phase 1bis Report Liability of Legal Persons - Slovak Republic”, OECD, Paris, http://www.oecd.org/slovakia/slovakrepublic-oecdanti-briberyconvention.htm.

OECD (2016), Tax Transparency: 2016 Report on Progress, Global Forum for Transparency and the Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, OECD, Paris, http://www.eoi-tax.org/keydocs/e2b5ae5ef7d0fd73396bb5fea4fcc979#default.

OECD (2015), Slovak Republic: Better Co-ordination for Better Policies, Services and Results, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264247635-en.

Sachs, J., Schmidt-Traub, G., Kroll, C., Durand-Delacre, D. and Teksoz, K. (2017), SDG Index and Dashboards Report 2017, Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), New York, http://sdgindex.org/assets/files/2017/2017-SDG-Index-and-Dashboards-Report--full.pdf.

TI (2017), “Corruption Perceptions Index”, Transparency International, Berlin, Germany, https://www.transparency.org/country/SVK.

Notes

← 1. The Slovak Republic’s military and civilian experts have participated in the European Union Advisory Mission (EUAM) in Ukraine, the European Union Force (EUFOR) Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Police mission (EUPOL) in Afghanistan, the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia, the European Rule of Law mission (EULEX) Kosovo, the European Union Border Assistance mission (EUBAM) in Moldova and Ukraine, EUPOL in Palestinian territories, and the European Union training Mission (EUTM) in Mali. Slovakia has participated in and completed 24 missions with personnel of up to 10 000 under the mandates of the UN, NATO, the EU and the OSCE, and is currently taking part in another five missions (Goda, 2015).

← 2. OECD pilot projects on SDG-aligned national strategies are also underway with Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

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