Presentation of key issues
Among the new members of the European Union Poland is perceived as an economically successful country. Developing countries, particularly the less affluent ones, regard Poland as a rich country. The international community expects Poland to share its economic success to a larger degree by providing increased levels of foreign aid. The Polish people are aware of the difficulties faced by the poorer social groups within the Polish society; nevertheless, we still express our readiness to support other countries. The readiness is driven by the moral obligation and the belief that helping others is necessary to pay the "aid debt" dating back to Poland's own transformation phase when our country was supported by the West.
The majority of developed countries have special legislation which regulates development assistance. In the case of EU member states, development assistance is an obligation resulting from EU's treaties, e.g. from the Treaty of Lisbon. The main advantage of legislative regulation stems from organizing the roles of particular public institutions involved in assistance activities. Such legislation usually also defines the process of support, in line with the international ODA (Official Development Assistance) standards which state when certain donations may be treated as development assistance.
Poland's experience as a development assistance donor is relatively short. By adopting the UN's Millennium Development Goals, Poland has undertaken (similarly to other EU member states) to gradually increase assistance expenditure. In 2005, new EU member states agreed to target 0.17% of their GNP to development assistance by 2010 and 0.33% by 2015. Meeting these commitment levels requires a significant increase in the amounts directed to development assistance by our country (in 2009, Polish aid amounted 0.08% GNP). Moreover, it has to be taken into account that the volume of Polish development assistance may be largely increased due to climate-related obligations, part of which can be expended within the framework of development co-operation.
The four main premises mentioned above - external expectations, the Polish society's willingness to help, benefits from legislative regulation and commitments to increase assistance - clearly indicate that it is reasonable to regulate Poland's development assistance by means of an act of law.
The Act will co-ordinate various assistance activities performed by different administrative entities. It will also guarantee structured co-operation with NGOs. The collaboration will be ensured by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Minister will be able to delegate this task set to the National Co-ordinator of International Development Co-operation in the rank of Secretary or Under-Secretary of State.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs will define the main directions of Poland's development policy. These will result from the general goals of our foreign policy towards the group of recipient countries, e.g. support for democracy, good governance, transformation and implementation of the Eastern Partnership programme. Achievement of these goals will be more viable thanks to good implementation of development co-operation and application of its instruments.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be responsible for the totality of development co-operation activities, including the selection of geographical and thematic priorities and allocation of funds. Planning will take place in the appropriate unit within the Ministry, with contributions from Polish embassies. In setting the direction of Polish development policy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will be supported by Development Co-operation Programming Committee (Rada Programowa Współpracy Rozwojowej), a consulting and advisory body composed of a few members. The Committee members will be appointed by the Minister and will represent the ministries involved in development assistance as well as representatives of NGOs.
Implementation of assistance programmes and undertakings will take place through the Polish Development Assistance Agency (an executive agency as defined in the Act on Public Finances). From the formal-legal point of view, this will be a new institution within the central government structure. In practice, however, the new Act will simply transform the Co-operation Fund Foundation which has existed for 20 years now. The Foundation is currently completing implementation of a number of support programmes directed to public administration financed by the EU. The Agency, along with some of the current staff of MFA, will constitute the "executive arm" of the Ministry, responsible for development co-operation. Launching the Agency will therefore not trigger any additional expenses for public spending.
The Agency's tasks will include management of public procurement and competitions through which funds for implementation of assistance projects will be granted. The Agency will provide humanitarian aid in the form of ad hoc financial and material support. It will also manage informational activities and promotion of Polish development policy. Yet another task of the Agency will be gathering and processing statistical data pertaining to development assistance. The Agency will also facilitate acquisition and management of funding from a variety of external sources, e.g. EU funds or programmes and funds from other countries.
The Agency's budget will be defined each year in the annual budgetary act adopted by the Polish parliament. The Act on development co-operation ought to facilitate a more efficient, more co-ordinated and internationally aligned use of public funding. A significant advantage resulting from the Act will be the possibility to implement long-term projects spanning periods of time longer than a few months (e.g. projects lasting 2-3 years) thanks to the planned capacity to commit for a number of years.
It must be underlined that the proposed legislation takes into account many comments and postulates from the Polish NGOs involved in international development co-operation and humanitarian aid.
- will be helpful in a more efficient execution of development assistance;
- will introduce institutional order to the activities which are currently implemented in a way which is not entirely co-ordinated;
- will indicate the scope of responsibility of particular institutions and how they are supposed to meet the goals of Polish foreign policy through bilateral assistance;
- will establish a new executive body; de facto, however, this body will be created by transforming an existing entity with its staff, fixed assets and significant experience.
Upon analysis of social consultation results, the draft version of the principles of the Act will be submitted for inter-ministerial consultations which are due to finish by the end of June 2010. Based on the principles of the Act adopted by the Council of Ministers, the Government Legislation Centre will prepare an official bill. Upon approval by MFA, the bill will be submitted for scrutiny to the Council of Ministers. It is expected that the final Government bill will be submitted to the Marshal of the Sejm in September 2010.
Warsaw, March 31, 2010