Chapter 2. The Slovak Republic’s policy vision and framework


Peer review indicator: Clear policy vision aligned with the 2030 Agenda based on member's strengths

Development co-operation is well integrated into the Slovak Republic’s foreign policy. The Mid-Term Strategy 2014-2018 spells out clearly development co-operation priorities and objectives to reduce poverty and support human development. In preparing its new mid-term strategy, the Slovak Republic will need to involve all relevant ministries more fully and build a common vision for its development co-operation that is integrated within the national implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Doing so will also help the Slovak Republic to identify its comparative advantage in its partner countries, drawing on its own transition experience.

A cross-government vision is yet to emerge

The Slovak Republic’s development co-operation derives from the 2007 Act on Development Cooperation and on Amendment to Certain Acts, revised in 2015 (GSR, 2015). The act legislates on the principles and sets the basis for the Slovak Republic’s development co-operation, whereas its vision and scope are defined in the Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation of the Slovak Republic for 2014-2018 (MFEA, 2013). This states that, in engaging in development co-operation, the Slovak Republic wants to “contribute to sustainable development, mainly via reducing poverty, strengthening democracy and good governance” (MFEA, 2013).

The mid-term strategy provides clear guidelines for the MFEA and the Slovak Agency for International Development Co-operation (SAIDC) in programming aid. Other ministries, such as the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports also engage in bilateral development co-operation and humanitarian aid. However, their contribution is not fully reflected in the mid-term strategy. As a result, the sum of all Slovak development activities does not add up to a single vision for development co-operation. In order to remedy this situation, the MFEA has launched a broad consultative process involving all relevant ministries, NGOs, private sector and other relevant stakeholders, with a view to preparing the next mid-term strategy for development co-operation. The preparation of the government’s National Investment Plan to implement the 2030 Agenda should also be a good opportunity to involve all relevant ministries and build ownership of the next mid-term strategy for Slovak development co-operation, as well as to reflect on the Slovak Republic’s overall vision and comparative advantage.

The Slovak Republic’s comparative advantage may need to evolve

The Slovak Republic, like many countries in Central and Eastern Europe, sees its comparative advantage in sharing its specific experience and skills in transforming its public administration during the transition to a democratic market economy. Building upon its Centre for Experience Transfer in Integration and Reforms (CETIR) programme and its partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (Chapter 5), the Slovak Republic has developed a set of instruments for transforming the state administration, making the most of its expertise and its government-to-government bilateral relations. Other DAC members in Europe with a similar transition experience share the same views on the added value of their development co-operation. Members of the Višegrad Group, for example, could therefore co-ordinate their support to public administration transformation when they have the same partner countries. As this transition experience becomes less relevant in the future, the Slovak Republic will have to find a new niche in which it can add value, notably to least developed countries (LDCs).

Principles and guidance

Peer review indicator: Policy guidance sets out a clear and comprehensive approach, including to poverty and fragility

The Slovak Republic’s system is lean and constructed around broad priorities that focus on the poorest and the most vulnerable. Cross-cutting issues are integrated in all country strategies. However, not all cross-cutting issues are systematically reflected in programming or reporting, making it difficult for the Slovak Republic to measure progress. Policy and guidance on a selected number of priorities would help the Slovak Republic to clarify its objectives and ensure that its aid is effective, including in fragile states.

A certain amount of new guidance is needed

The Slovak Republic’s development co-operation system is nimble and relatively flexible, thanks in part to a light touch on strategies, documentation and guidance. Nonetheless, high staff turnover and a rapidly evolving policy framework make it particularly important to establish a shared understanding of the principles and priorities that underpin decisions across government in a select number of policy areas. The Mid Term Strategy for 2014-2018 committed the Slovak Republic to fighting poverty in the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustainable development (MFEA, 2013). This commitment was reflected in broad priority sectors – mainly social sectors such as education and healthcare, water and sanitation – that focus on the poorest and the most vulnerable. With the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals now setting the scene, the Slovak Republic is aware that additional policy and guidance is needed.

As noted in the DAC special review and mid-term review of the Slovak Republic (OECD, 2011 and 2013), a number of strategies have been planned but are still outstanding. The new mid-term strategy will need to clarify the Slovak Republic’s objectives for poverty reduction and cross-cutting issues; and its priorities in areas such as multilateral aid, policy coherence for development and its approach to fragility, so that the strategy can be implemented coherently through all development co-operation channels. Stand-alone policies, such as for humanitarian aid, and an updated policy on engaging with the private sector in development co-operation, would also help staff in Bratislava and the embassies develop effective programmes for these policy priorities. The Slovak Republic needs to be realistic about how many strategy documents are required to ensure that its aid is effective, and in turn should formulate a limited number of strategies as a matter of priority.

The Slovak Republic could be more strategic in fragile states

Up until the Syria crisis, the Slovak Republic’s response to crises mainly took the form of humanitarian assistance. As noted in Chapter 1, peace and security are political priorities for the Slovak Republic. Moreover, in 2016 50% of the Slovak Republic’s bilateral development co-operation went to fragile and crisis-affected states.1 However, the share of ODA allocated to conflict, peace and security remains low.2 As detailed in Chapter 5, the Slovak Republic could change how it uses micro-grants to become a more strategic actor in fragile contexts, notably to prevent conflict at community level, where contextual understanding and a swift response can matter more than a large financial contribution. There is scope for the Slovak Republic to be more strategic in the fragile states in which it has an embassy, combining its multilateral contributions with conflict-sensitive bilateral aid in those contexts. This would require the Slovak Republic to make fragility a cross cutting issue in those particular countries and to review how its support can make a meaningful contribution to one of its foreign policy priorities.

Cross-cutting issues could be better integrated

Four broad cross-cutting issues are part of the mid-term strategy 2014-2018:

  1. 1. environmental protection and climate change

  2. 2. gender equality

  3. 3. good governance

  4. 4. human rights and human dignity.

Taking advantage of its role in multilateral institutions (Chapter 1), and notably during the 2016 Slovak EU Presidency, the Slovak Republic has focused on climate change adaptation, for example securing consensus on the ratification of the Paris Agreement at EU level at the 2016 Bratislava Summit. The Slovak Republic has also shown real commitment to gender equality, with national strategies and programmes in place to combat discrimination domestically (EP, 2017). Gender equality was also high on the agenda during the Slovak EU Presidency, namely in the Working Party on Humanitarian and Food Aid, where elimination of gender based violence in emergencies was one of the national priorities.

These cross-cutting issues are integrated into all country strategies. However, not all of them are systematically reflected in programming or reporting, making it difficult for the Slovak Republic to measure progress in these four areas. For example, the Slovak Republic is an advocate of women’s empowerment and takes Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality seriously: the SAIDC supports development projects which are gender sensitive and are screened by a gender focal point. However, the capacity of this focal point is stretched and the agency does not monitor whether projects have a sustainable impact on gender equality. In order to make efforts to mainstream gender more systematic and coherent, the MFEA has started to elaborate its first strategy for gender equality and women’s empowerment within the context of development co-operation. The Slovak Republic could build on solid work undertaken by other similar-sized donors, and could learn from the expertise and knowledge of its multilateral partners in this field.

Human rights and human dignity is another cross-cutting issue for the Slovak Republic, reflected in some of its technical assistance projects in the Western Balkans and Eastern partnership. However, the Slovak Republic also contributes to EU instruments that have been associated with some human rights concerns, such as its financial contribution to the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy (OHCHR, 2017) and to the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey (AI, 2017). Cross-cutting issues can strengthen the overall coherence of the Slovak Republic’s development co-operation, but this will require a thorough review, and greater guidance and capacity to follow through on the priority given to those areas (Chapter 3).

Basis for decision making

Peer review indicator: Policy provides sufficient guidance for decisions on channels and engagements

The Slovak Republic’s rationale and criteria for selecting partner countries and sectors are based on its perceived comparative advantage and on pragmatic considerations of development opportunities that can be effectively seized by individual ministries. The result is a less consistent development co-operation approach, in which the reasons for differences in partnership selection and approaches between countries are unclear. The broad priorities in the current strategy do not help the Slovak Republic decide on the best type of partnership for achieving its objectives. Clarifying its objectives, for example in fragile contexts, could help the Slovak Republic choose its instruments more strategically.

The differences in partner country categories remain unclear

The Slovak Republic bases its partnerships on its perceived comparative advantage, notably in its immediate neighbourhood; but also on the history of engagement by its civil society, as in Kenya or South Sudan; or by its armed forces, as in Afghanistan. Following the DAC special review (OECD, 2011), the Slovak Republic gave its 2014-2018 mid-term strategy for development co-operation a limited geographical focus, with partner countries divided into three main categories:

  1. 1. Three programme countries (Afghanistan, Kenya, Moldova)

  2. 2. Six project countries (Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Ukraine)

  3. 3. One country with exceptional humanitarian and development needs (South Sudan).

The Middle East was added as a priority region in 2016, and rapidly took up 19% of the Slovak Republic’s total ODA, while ODA to programme and partner countries has been decreasing.3

A review of the Slovak Republic’s engagement in these countries does not however reveal a clear difference between the projects implemented in these different types of partner countries. The nature of projects and activities in the three programme countries and six project countries is similar. Further, the priority sectors in the three programme countries are often too broad for the Slovak Republic to have a durable impact. Some project countries receive more comprehensive support than some programme countries, with a deeper government-to-government relationship, blurring the concrete difference between the types of country partnerships. It will be important for the Slovak Republic to review the nature of its partnerships according to the depth of its engagement with the host government. Doing so will allow the Slovak Republic to better calibrate its programming and engage the various Slovak ministries in a more coherent manner.

Selecting partner countries could be a cross-government exercise

The Slovak Republic’s mid-term strategy for 2014-2018 has a clear geographic and thematic focus. It is, however, mainly identified with the MFEA and the SAIDC. Other ministries provide ODA based on different criteria and according to their own country focus, which does not always coincide with the MFEA’s priorities. For example, in 2016 the Ministry of Finance had activities in only one of the MFEA’s programme countries (MFEA, 2017).4 Given its limited resources, the Slovak Republic needs to rationalise its bilateral strategy further by focusing on the geographic priorities agreed at national level. A well-defined set of priority countries and sectors that applies to all ministries would clarify how decisions are made. As noted above, a common approach by all ministries and a set of guidance on priority sectors, such as on engaging with the private sector, would also link individual projects more coherently. The upcoming regional approach to fragile or crisis contexts (Chapter 5) is an opportunity for the Slovak Republic to focus its development co-operation effort where its ministries can clearly add value and maximise the impact of interventions.

More focused objectives can help decision making

The Slovak Republic’s mid-term strategy for 2014-2018 describes clearly the different instruments available for programming its development co-operation, allowing it to decide which programmes it wants to use to achieve its objectives. The mid-term strategy is built around seven priority sectors: (1) education, (2) healthcare, (3) good governance and building of civil society, (4) agriculture and forestry, (5) water and sanitation, (6) energy, and (7) support to a market environment (MFEA, 2013).

With a limited budget, however, such broad priorities can result in fragmented development co-operation and incoherent projects. Moreover, opening calls for tenders to a wide range of different actors, such as NGOs, private sector and government bodies alike, prevents the Slovak Republic from deciding on and keeping control of the results that can be achieved through each type of partner. The sharing of its expertise and transition experience, a demand-driven activity by default, is a good example of the way the Slovak Republic can focus its aid on very specific sectors.


Government sources

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

MFEA (2017), “Annual report of the development cooperation of the Slovak Republic”, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava

MFEA (2014), “Strategy of the Slovak Republic for Development Co-operation with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for 2014-2018”, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava,

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,

Other sources

AI (2017), “EU: Human rights cost of refugee deal with Turkey too high to be replicated elsewhere”, press article, Amnesty International,

EP (2017) “Gender equality policies in Slovakia”, Study for the FEMM Committee, European Parliament, Brussels IPOL_STU(2017)583140_EN.pdf.

OECD (2015) “DAC mid-term review of the Slovak Republic, unpublished, 7 October 2015.

OECD (2011) “DAC special review of the Slovak Republic”, Paris

OHCHR (2017) “UN human rights chief: Suffering of migrants in Libya outrage to conscience of humanity”, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights news, 2017,


← 1. Including Ukraine, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Creditor Reporting System, accessed 09 April 2018,

← 2. In 2016, the Slovak Republic reported to the Creditor Reporting System allocating 4.8% of its ODA to conflict, peace and stability (Chapter 3). See, accessed 03 May 2018.

← 3. Creditor Reporting System. See, accessed 03 May 2018.

← 4. In 2016, the Ministry of Finance reported bilateral co-operation with seven countries. Amongst these, only Ukraine is a SAIDC programme country. Conversely, a project country like Montenegro received support from the MFEA, the SAIDC, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Interior. Creditor Reporting System, consulted 12 April 2018,

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