On 19 July 2011, the Council of Ministers adopted the draft Development Cooperation Act.
Thanks to the Act, Poland - like other EU countries - will have at its disposal a system which will enable it to provide development and humanitarian aid based on standards and procedures guaranteeing efficient and coordinated action. The need to develop such a system stems from our sense of solidarity with developing countries and the willingness to respect our international commitments.
The development cooperation system is based on three elements which simultaneously serve as the three main pillars of our activity in developing countries:
development assistance consisting in support for sustainable socio-economic development, poverty reduction and improving the public health, as well as raising the level of education and professional qualification among the population;
humanitarian aid consisting in the provision of support, care and protection for populations suffering as a result of armed conflict or natural or man-made disasters;
promoting democracy through civil society, independent media, democratic institutions, rule of law, and through the promotion of human rights and freedoms in non-democratic countries and transition countries.
The draft Act streamlines the organizational structure by defining the objectives, principles and forms of development cooperation, introducing coherent terminology and specifying the tasks and coordinating function of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. A Programme Board - acting as an advisory body - will support the minister with regard activities carried out by government administration and the MFA's civil society partners.
The draft Act also closely regulates the development cooperation programming process. The five-year development cooperation programmes and the two-year operational plans designed pursuant to the programmes will ensure that Polish development cooperation remains consistent and oriented for the long-term.
The shape of the instruments provided for in the draft Act were also influenced by the recent events in the European Union's neighbourhood: firstly in Belarus, then in Tunisia, Egypt and other North African and Middle Eastern countries. The draft Act therefore provides for the establishment of an external operator - independent of the MFA - of actions to support NGOs, independent media outlets, democratic institutions, as well as to promote the protection of the rights and freedoms of the individual. The Foundation for International Solidarity, created on the basis of Polish Know How Foundation for International Development Cooperation, will serve as the operator, to which the Minister of Foreign Affairs will be able to commission the performance of certain tasks by way of the Foundation's re-granting of funds.
The draft Act will be submitted to Parliament shortly. The new regulations are planned to enter into force on 1 January 2012.