During its political and economic transformation, Poland benefited from support provided by other countries, international institutions and organisations. Now that it is a member of the European Union and the OECD Development Assistance Committee, it has itself become a development aid donor. The “Polish Aid” programme, coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is the main tool used for cooperation in this area.
In 2000, UN member states, including Poland, declared joint actions to ensure a real improvement in living conditions for people in developing countries. The UN formulated the Millennium Development Goals, which werethe international community’s commitment to take action to: improve the situation of those living in extreme poverty and fight hunger (Goal 1, priority), provide universal access to primary education (Goal 2), promote social advancement of women and gender equality (Goal 3), reduce child mortality (Goal 4), improve health care for mothers (Goal 5), combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (Goal 6), ensure sustainable use of natural resources and protection of the environment (Goal 7), and create global partnership for development (Goal 8).
As early as 2002, Poland signed the Millennium Declaration and the Political Declaration and Action Plan, committing itself to take part in the international community’s actions aimed at solving global economic, social, and humanitarian problems.
In October 2003, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Poland adopted the Strategy for Poland’s Development Cooperation that organised the Polish development cooperation system in view of the upcoming accession to the European Union by defining basic goals, rules and mechanisms for providing aid. In accordance with the Strategy, the objectives of the Polish development cooperation included: promoting sustainable economic growth, respect for human rights, democracy, rule of law and principles of good governance, global security and stability; sharing experience of Poland’s political transformation; supporting the development of public administration and local structures; protecting the natural environment and preventing environmental problems; and providing humanitarian aid and food in emergency situations.
Since its accession to the European Union in 2004, Poland has been contributing to the EU budget, which provides funding for EU development aid initiatives under supervision of the European Commission; thereby, since that year, Poland’s budget expenditures for development aid have significantly increased. Pursuant to the provisions of Poland’s Accession Treaty to the European Union, as well as the provisions of the agreement between ACP countries and the European Community and its member states, signed in Cotonou in 2000, Poland committed itself to financially contribute to the European Development Fund, starting from its 10th edition in 2008-2013.
Poland took on yet another commitment in March 2005, when it signed the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. The document highlights the need to respect the development concepts of developing countries, adjust the aid to their development strategies, harmonise procedures regarding the assistance provided, put stronger emphasis on results and donors’ and aid recipients’ reciprocal responsibility for achieved effects. In turn in May 2005, at a meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, Poland adopted, together with other partners, a plan for new EU member states on providing aid.
In August 2005, a Department of Development Cooperation was created in the MFA. Since then, it has been in charge of the national development aid system.
In December 2005, a new strategy for EU development policy, the European Consensus on Development, was adopted. The document describes a vision of how development aid should be provided by the EU countries. It also sets up the main objectives: to reduce poverty and achieve other Millennium Development Goals. It was decided that the aid for Africa shall increase by half, and all initiatives funded shall be implemented with respect for human rights and in accordance with good governance rules.
The key moment in creating the Polish development aid system was the passing of the Law on development cooperation (Dz.U. [Journal of Laws] of 2011, no. 234 item 1386). The law entered into force on 1 January 2012 and was meant to clarify the main notions relating to development cooperation and to establish rules for coordinating it. According to the text of the law, the Polish development cooperation is aimed at creating conditions for sustainable development of the partner countries and their societies, in particular by promoting and consolidating democracy, supporting formation of modern and effective national institutions, reducing poverty, and improving health, education level and professional qualifications of the population.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs coordinates development cooperation acting through the National Coordinator of Development Cooperation who holds the rank of secretary or undersecretary of state. The Coordinator is assisted by the Development Cooperation Policy Council, aconsultative and advisory body to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Council’s main tasks are to provide suggestions for geographical and thematic priorities of development cooperation, to review the draft Programme and Plan, to review annual reports on the implementation of measures in the field by the government administration, and to review draft government documents relating to development cooperation. The Council consists of 21 members and is made up of representatives of ministries, the Sejm, and non-governmental organisations, as well as of one representative for each of the following: the Senate, employer organizations, and academia.
In accordance with the law, the Polish development cooperation is based on the Multiannual Development Cooperation Programme, developed for a minimum period of four years. The document sets the objectives and geographical and thematic priorities of development aid. The first multiannual programme covered the period from 2012 to 2015. It serves as a basis for annual Development Cooperation Plans that specify distribution of financial resources dedicated to aid activities in individual budget years.
On 22 October 2013, Poland became a member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) – one of the key institutions in charge of setting modern development cooperation standards, defining criteria for including countries in the list of development aid recipients, and updating them. The membership of the Committee, operating continuously since 1961, allows Poland to take part in the work of one of the most prestigious forums of international cooperation which brings together the world’s major donors. It is also an expression of appreciation for the fact that Poland has fulfilled conditions regarding the size of development aid provided.
Poland took an active part in the international community's efforts to elaborate a new set of development goals: the Sustainable Development Goals, which replaced the Millennium Development Goals; a new model of development cooperation funding, which culminated in the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development (13-16 July 2015, Addis Ababa); and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was formally adopted at the United Nations Summit on 25-27 September 2015.
Poland’s Second Multiannual Development Cooperation Programme, covering the period 2016-2020 and containing a strategy of action for developing countries, was adopted by the Council of Ministers on 6 October 2015. The programme for 2016-2020 was developed taking into account the experience arising from the implementation of development cooperation in 2012-2015, analysis of strategic documents and partner countries’ needs and directions of development, and the work of the Development Cooperation Policy Council and EU initiatives.