On 24 April 2013 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized a public debate entitled “Why is it worthwhile to help? Development cooperation as an instrument of foreign policy”. The meeting consisted of a discussion on Poland’s place in the international development cooperation system. The panellists were MFA Undersecretary of State for Development Cooperation Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, Head of the President’s Chancellery Jacek Michałowski, and Paweł Samecki, Director of the National Bank of Poland’s International Department.
In 2012 Poland allocated PLN 341 million towards development cooperation. Together with Austria, Latvia and Luxembourg, Poland is one of the four countries to have increased nominal development aid last year, even while the remaining countries lowered or maintained their level of contributions. Seventy-five percent of Polish aid for developing countries is channelled through multilateral aid systems – including over EUR 246 million via the European Commission budget and EUR 45 million via the European Development Fund. Bilateral aid represented 25% of the aid and included programmes carried out by the Polish government, loan and debt cancellations, scholarships for student and young scientists, and projects implemented by Polish NGOs to benefit citizens of developing countries.
The debate was moderated by the journalist Dariusz Rosiak. While presenting the panellists, he noted their experience in working to benefit developing countries. The discussion focused on a presentation of the reasons for Poland’s involvement in development cooperation and on the 2012-2015 Polish aid priorities. Minister Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz outlined the definition of development cooperation, underscoring the partnership-based nature of activities. She also referred to the political goals that can be achieved using development tools, e.g. through democracy-building activities. She also spoke of ways of bolstering diplomatic and economic ties through development cooperation – by supporting democratic processes, which includes building an effective public administration and promoting good governance and education systems.
Minister Jacek Michałowski – who has many years of experience in building civil society in Poland and implementing projects in foreign countries – then talked about the key factors determining the effectiveness of development assistance. He underscored that measures must focus on the needs of the beneficiaries and on building bonds of partnership on both sides. Minister Michałowski also noted Poland’s recent experiences in using the Polish potential to share its know-how in the field of peaceful transformation.
Paweł Samecki – Director of the National Bank of Poland’s International Department and someone who has both theoretical knowledge and practical experience in supporting transitions in developing countries – spoke of the necessity to engage aid beneficiaries in well-designed measures. He pointed to the interaction of external factors and domestic politics in the beneficiary countries as the determinant of effective development cooperation. He also highlighted the economization and commercialization of development assisted, going on to note the greater effectiveness of aid that mainly focuses on economic benefits for the beneficiary.
The discussion between the panellists and audience members also touched upon other aspects of development aid. In reply to a question concerning development cooperation with Eastern European countries, Minister Pełczyńska-Nałęcz used the Ukrainian example to discuss the details of such assistance, which consists of transferring funds and know-how standards, and underscored the role of such contacts in promoting Poland and improving mutual relations. Later on in the debate she also pointed the development aid as a way of promoting business ties, by making Polish goods available to development aid beneficiaries and thereby acquainting them with these products. She underlined the MFA pilot programme supporting aid measures that partly consist in Polish business promotion in the framework of the small grants programme implemented by Polish diplomatic missions. She also emphasized the importance of long-term planning, as well as monitoring and evaluation of implemented projects, as a way of increasing the effectiveness of development assistance.
Polish aid for Belarus – in particular the Konstanty Kalinowski programme – was also mentioned. This project is addressed to students who were barred from obtaining their education in Belarus. In the context of future plans for Polish development aid, the Stefan Banach scholarship – which will focus on foreign students studying fields of key importance for the development of partner countries – was also shortly discussed. The creation of a network of contacts and a community centred on the development aid agenda is one of the long-term goals of this scholarship.
A publication entitled “Polish Development Assistance. New Dimensions. Perspectives for NGOs, local governments, and businesses” (in Polish) – commissioned by the MFA and published by Think Tank – was distributed during the meeting. The publication aims to describe measures connected to development assistance and boost public awareness of development aid. The booklet poses specific questions and depicts the challenges facing Poland on the path to making its system of providing aid to developing countries more professional.
For more information on the meeting, visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.