2023 marks the 20th anniversary of SlovakAid and Slovakia’s development cooperation as a donor—a history in which UNDP has played an important role.  

Regardless of size, all countries have development cooperation contributions to make and footprints to leave. Slovakia’s know-how, readiness to share its experience, and long-lasting cooperation with UNDP have resulted in several reforms and projects that are now changing the lives of millions.  

UNDP’s partnership with Slovakia has been a remarkable one, being one of the first of its partnerships with the new donor countries, which it now defines as ‘New Strategic Partners’. UNDP was involved in the birth of Slovak ODA from its beginning, even before the creation of SlovakAid itself in 2003.  

From recipient to donor

Interest in working with UNDP arose as soon as the realities of the EU accession and supporting Brussels-based development cooperation became apparent. According to Ben Slay, then director of UNDP’s Regional Centre in Bratislava, thinks that the Slovak interest focused on UNDP “not as a donor or supporter of Slovakia’s domestic development, but rather as a platform to support Slovakia’s own donor aspirations”.   

Slovakia has moved from being a recipient of official development assistance (ODA) to a donor and has established itself as such on the international development cooperation scene now as a member of the OECD-DAC1 

Through its cooperation with UNDP, Slovakia now supports other partner countries going through similar development paths, while also contributing to UNDP’s core resources strengthening its capability to address global issues in an agile manner. “Our experience with Slovakia clearly shows how a small donor country with limited ODA budgets can create strategic development impact,” said Steliana Nedera, Manager of the UNDP’s Istanbul Regional Hub.

Expertise leads it all 

For small country donors like Slovakia, developing a strategic ODA approach with proper identification of partner countries and thematic areas of expertise to be shared is critical. Slovakia’s development cooperation offer builds on the expertise the country has accumulated in the governance and market reforms needed to join the European Union, and then to make good use of the opportunities afforded by EU membership.

This expertise is particularly valuable for partners in the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries, who have embarked on similar development and reform pathways—including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Ukraine. Slovakia’s orientation “has helped to avoid mistakes made by some other countries, whose assistance has been spread too broadly and thinly to have much impact,” believes Ben Slay.  

Nowadays, partnerships are becoming the core of ODA. “UNDP’s presence in the Western Balkans is priceless for us as a donor. We have a first-hand knowledge on the countries’ needs, professional steering in topics related to public financial management, and links to governments that are key for smaller countries to implement their programmes and deliver results,” said Martin Polónyi, Director of International Relations Section at Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic. 

Flexibility and innovations are way to go

UNDP’s partnership with the Slovak Republic as a donor is one of the oldest and most effective in the Europe and Central Asia region. Led by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, the partnership features such flagship initiatives as the Public Finance for Development programme, the Alternative Finance Lab, and the City Experiment Fund. Slovakia’s long-term strategic approach, flexibility, and willingness to innovate, experiment, and test new approaches are key strengths of the partnership.  

In time, our partnership with Slovakia evolved from generic aid delivery topics to strategic and well-targeted interventions building on Slovakia’s expertise in its transformative journey. Slovakia’s agility, innovative approach and flexibility are key to its success. Going forward, our focus should be on new solutions for interconnected and multilayered problems-we look forward to accompanying Slovakia in the next 10 years of cooperation. Future of development is not on quantity but rather quality solutions,” Steliana Nedera concluded. This is a space for Slovak ODA.  

More about Public Finance for Development programme here.

More about the partnership here.