Introduction

During the four decades of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, the state regularly provided developmental and humanitarian assistance to friendly regimes. As with all government functions, this aid was tightly controlled by the Communist Party apparatus and managed according to its political and ideological dictates, with no accountability to common citizens for whom “donations” to aid initiatives were often mandatory.

The advent of democracy in 1989 brought profound changes to this system. Foreign aid (non-trade) was suspended altogether for five years while government ministries were reorganized and the country underwent economic restructuring and privatization. The Czech Republic re-instituted a foreign aid program in 1995 – the first formerly Communist nation in Central Europe to do so – with an annual budget appropriated by an elected parliament set to have reached $20 million in 1999. At the same time, a number of Czech NGOs (i.e. ADRA, Caritas, People in Need Foundation) have also established their own fundraising and operational capacities in this area and provided millions of dollars in direct relief aid to crisis-stricken countries in Eastern Europe, particularly former Yugoslavia, as well as territories of the former Soviet Union. Volunteer programs are flourishing, especially among university students. These developments are indicative of a strong civil society with a sense of global responsibility, and have figured prominently in the Czech Republic’s acceptance into the OSCE and NATO and its pending membership in the European Union.

Czech foreign assistance

Today, foreign assistance in the Czech Republic is regarded by the State as “a crucial and inseparable feature of our foreign policy. It displays our sympathy and co-responsibility for the development situation in developing and transforming countries. It is our way of contributing to stability in these parts of the world and of preventing conflicts. It is also a way of expressing our support to the democratic trends in those countries where such path is being taken.” Foreign aid is an expression of our co-responsibility for the solution of global problems. Czech foreign assistance is provided in correspondence with the interests and needs of the Czech Republic and within the capacities of the Czech economy. It is provided in accordance to international norms and principles.

The main criteria for the provision of Czech foreign development assistance are the urgency of need, relations between the Czech Republic and the receiving country, the level of democratization and adherence to human rights principles, and the effectiveness of cooperation, including control of the use of funds.

Foreign development assistance is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while authorized ministries run individual projects. Originally, in 1995 and 1996, it was foreseen that Czech developmental assistance would consist of stipends for foreign students and provision of experts to foreign countries. Special attention was paid to development assistance for Czech communities abroad, such as in the Banat region of Romania. In the next phase (1997 – 2000) the focus was to be broadened to include projects of technical assistance. However, the weakening economy of the Czech Republic has prevented any increases in foreign assistance during the past three past years. For the future, the Czech government has established a target for foreign aid expenditures of about 0.1% of GDP, the minimum level for OECD member states.

Czech developmental assistance will nominally be targeted to sub-Sahara Africa, the Near East (Palestine, Yemen), Asia (India, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia, Afghanistan), Latin America (Bolivia, Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras), selected regions of Eastern Europe (Albania, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Ukraine, Belarus), the Caucasus and Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan).

Humanitarian assistance

The government resolution no 153 of 15 March 1995, on the principles of humanitarian aid provision, remains the fundamental legislative document on Czech foreign assistance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinates humanitarian assistance in the Czech Republic and addresses the majority of the requests for its realization. There is no specific department devoted to humanitarian assistance within the institution, though.

Czech humanitarian assistance (termed ‘humanitarian aid’ in governmental materials) is provided “based on current needs which are very difficult to predict in advance. It is mainly aid provided in cases of natural disasters or when people find themselves threatened by war. A specific form of humanitarian aid involves aid to refugees on our territory (i.e. building and maintenance of infrastructure, covering refugees basic needs, etc).”

In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Department of External Economic Relations (OVEMO) takes responsibility for dealing with a concrete proposal. First, OVEMO asks the relevant area department to prepare a working paper on the issue/situation. The next step is a meeting of the working group, which consists of representatives of all area departments and other sections of the Ministry. The working group acts as an ad hoc advisory committee and is appointed by the senior OVEMO department director to discuss suggestions for the provision of humanitarian assistance that OVEMO has received since its last meeting. The working group either recommends or rejects the proposals. A positive decision must then be confirmed by the minister’s cabinet and either signed by the minister (for project proposals up to 5 millions Czech crowns) or by the government (proposals exceeding 5 million Czech crowns). The agreement of the cabinet is necessary from the legislative point of view. However, the minister and his cabinet have never yet changed the decision of a working group. If a proposal is approved, OVEMO either orders the release of funds, which takes about three days, or initiates a tender (in most cases, in accord with act 199/1994 paragraph 49, 1). According to this legal provision, at least five applicants have to bid for the tender, after which OVEMO signs a contract with the winner.

Cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NGOs

Significant cooperation between the Czech government and non-governmental organizations in the area of foreign assistance began in 1995, when NGOs were first invited to participate in the implementation of government-funded programs. “The hand-over of the corresponding amount to the civic association ADRA and the People in Need Foundation was the least problematic as far as the organizational and working issues are concerned,” stated a report on Czech government aid for Chechnya. “Given the current conditions, using a contract-based system for organizing humanitarian aid seems to be the most convenient for the Foreign Affairs Ministry (given the fact it isn’t only financial help)”, the report continues.

Due to several personnel changes since 1993 and due to an imperfect system of documentation it is almost impossible to get a detailed inside view of the projects completed. This situation is even more alarming in the light of the fact that the Ministry is obliged to keep the material concerning the public bid for five years. Moreover, no evaluation of a project has ever been made, and no written account which would shed light on the experiences of the Ministry’s employees concerning the collaboration with various humanitarian organizations has been made.

General problems of Czech humanitarian organizations

The financial situation of the countries in transition is not satisfactory and the tradition of charity nearly non-existent. Therefore Czech humanitarian organizations cannot rely on the humanitarianism and financial support of individuals and private companies to such an extent as their counterparts in Western Europe or North America.

It has been shown clearly within the past ten years that the shortage of financial means for improving technical support and organizational structure was one of the major problems of humanitarian organizations. State funds are intended exclusively for each of the single projects. The insufficient investment into the infrastructure of organizations led to situations where the organizations were not able to introduce specialized training courses for their field staff. Given this situation, it is not surprising that humanitarian workers have only a vague knowledge of humanitarian law and other related issues.

In the past, there have been only a few humanitarian organizations able to accommodate larger international humanitarian projects. Since 1993, only four of them received state orders repeatedly, and two of them grew as real partners of the state institutions: ADRA and People in Need Foundation (PINF). However, in the last two years, PING has significantly increased its reputation as a partner of the state. It was prominently more successful in the competitions of both Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior.

A significant shift towards more effective collaboration between humanitarian organizations and the state has been made during the Kosovo crisis. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has organized several coordination meetings with NGOs. On the other hand, problems in cooperation between state authorities and NGOs remain.

Czech humanitarian organizations

The most prominent humanitarian organization in the Czech Republic is the People in Need Foundation (PINF), which has been operating for five years. PINF was the first NGO from Central and Eastern Europe to gain the status of implementing partner of UNICEF (for their operations in former Yugoslavia). In 1993, PINF ran its first major fundraising campaign  (SOS Sarajevo), which brought it closer with Czech TV, the country’s public service television network. In 1994 PINF affiliated with Czech TV. The move presented two major advantages: Czech TV provided material assistance and access to information and at the same time it provided the means for PINF to reach a far greater audience in the country with its message. PINF runs direct humanitarian aid and reconstruction and rehabilitation programs in crisis regions of Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union. At the same time, PINF seeks to promote the larger values and ideas that are fundamental to open democratic society.

PINF has prepared annual reports since 1995. They are open to the public (which is not always the case with other Czech humanitarian agencies) and usually available in both English and Czech. Income statements compare with the most complete information given to the public by other humanitarian agencies. Since 1997, an auditor’s statement is included. The annual report for 1998 was published as a thematic inset in the weekly newspaper “Respekt” (circulation 20 000). In general, PINF seeks to be a transparent organization that manages entrusted funds efficiently. In the course of its existence, the Foundation managed to become humanitarian agency of regional importance. It is an accepted partner of UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, ICRC and other organizations.

ADRA, a country office of international network of ADRA is second to the PINF in terms of government funds granted for the realization of humanitarian and development projects. However, in the last two years, ADRA was clearly less able to win public tenders for humanitarian programs.

Czech Caritas is one of the most significant humanitarian organizations in the Czech Republic. The core of its work lies in social programs in the Czech Republic, but they remain active in the field of foreign assistance too. However, their share of government-provided funds for these programs declined significantly over the past three years. In 1997 and 1998 Caritas did not win any tender for governmental funds.

Foreign humanitarian assistance in not a priority for the Czech Red Cross. There have been only a handful of programs of foreign assistance run by the Czech Red Cross in the last five years. The records of these programs is in any case incomplete, in other cases non-existent.

Geographical distribution of humanitarian aid

The material assistance projects undertaken so far show that the regions of Eastern Europe and of the former Soviet Union are at the center of the focus of both non-governmental humanitarian organizations and state institutions. Considering the effectiveness in crisis areas, Czech humanitarian organizations have a somewhat advantageous position, which can be explained by certain common history, and similarities in mentality and institutional structure, especially in terms of the state bureaucracy. Another important advantage is knowledge of languages spoken in these areas. The geographical proximity to these regions enables effective realization of humanitarian assistance, while reducing expenses. Finally, it is acknowledged by the Czech state authorities that the activities of Czech humanitarian organizations help to shed a positive light on the Czech Republic and to improve its international position not only in the eyes of the receiving countries, but also within the international community more generally.

At present, the policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs slows diversification of the receivers of humanitarian assistance against a few larger fund concentrations, because it has been viewed as more advantageous in the light of the international relations of the Czech Republic. However, the Ministry remains committed to public orders intended to supply a few major humanitarian projects per year. Further, efforts are undertaken to spend all of the means for humanitarian assistance the Ministry has at its disposal.

Although the Czech Republic has claimed that there will be an increase in the funds intended for international aid, the funding for developing countries has been reduced in past years and that for humanitarian assistance has remained – at least nominally – the same. Since 1995, about 1 million USD (30-40 millions of CZK, depending on the exchange rate) were released annually for humanitarian assistance. However, the amount not used in any one year cannot be transferred to the next one. A profound change to the amount of money available for humanitarian assistance has been made so far in the year 1999 with an unexpected increase of funding aimed to assist in the Balkan countries. However, this decision once more highlights the absence of coherent strategy (conception) on humanitarian aid.

The tendencies, aims and shortcomings, of Czech humanitarian assistance

Today it is clear that existing institutional backing is insufficient, the more if one takes into account the future, when there is likely to be a multiple increase in foreign aid funding. The present reality is that the system of foreign aid is not fully in agreement with the priorities of the foreign policy of the Czech Republic and it does not allow the employment of foreign aid as a means to this end.

The shortcomings in the provision of Czech foreign aid can be summed up as follows: Absence of a specialized professional coordination center within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; absence of governmental conception and political interest to solve existing problems; insufficient interconnections between projects and a lack coordination between them; insufficient records and lack of planning and evaluation; problems in communication with relevant NGOs and aid-receiving countries; and insufficient education of humanitarian and development assistance personnel.

Conclusion

In 1999 the Foreign Ministry came with several proposals aimed at an increase of effectiveness of Czech humanitarian assistance. Foremost, they proposed the exemption of humanitarian assistance from the law no. 199/1994 on public bids and suggested that humanitarian agencies should work within a system of accreditation. However, a detailed proposal on accreditation is not in the preparation process yet. An implementation of the implementation system will come in one or two years, at the very earliest. Further, the Ministry proposes the establishment of a fund for humanitarian assistance, so that money that was not spent in a particular year can be transferred for the years to come. The need for a monitoring and evaluation system is also acknowledged.

However, a theoretical, strategic and systematic approach to Czech foreign aid remains non-existent, and the decision-making process haphazard. In recent years, the government has requested assistance from USAID, the Know How Fund (UK) and other agencies to help it develop more effective mechanisms for targeting and implementing its aid program, but these efforts have been severely hampered by political instability and ministerial in-fighting. Meanwhile, there is little attention given to humanitarian aid and conflict resolution by national universities, and no formal curricula devoted to the subjects.

*Department of Russian and East European Studies, Institute of International Studies, Charles University, Prague. This article is a Summary of the second part of  an MA thesis, which received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding MA thesis in 1999. Contact details: Sládkovicova 1306; 142 00 Praha 4; Czech Republic ph: +420 2 4724402; +420 606 251333; e-mail: blankahancil@hotmail.com

Projects in 1995

Destination

Amount released

In mil. crowns

Amount drawn

In mil. crowns

Coordinator

Chechnya

10

(10)

5,6 mil. – UNICEF; joint project PINF a Czech Caritas 0,9 mil +

PINF 1 mil; ADRA 1,14 mil and 1 mil.

Japanese children

8

4, 768*

Ministry of Foreign Affairs + governmental partners

Fugitives from Croatian Krajina

5

4, 768

ADRA 1,4 mil, Czech Red Cross 0,9 mil, Czech Caritas (2,5 mil.)

Bosnia

10

Ministry of Interior

Turkey

2,5

Ministry of Defense

Total

35,5

19, 062**

*in reality this should be 4, 293

**corrected amount

Projects in 1996

Destination

Amount

Gov’t resolution

form* / coordinator

Lebanon

2 mil. Kč

M / ADRA

Georgia

3 mil. Kč

n. 311/1996 (May)

M / ADRA

M / Volonté

Costa Rica

0,28 mil. Kč

(10 thousand USD)

n. 423/1996 (August)

F

Cuba

0,3 mil. Kč

n. 601/1996 (Nov)

F, medication purchase

Great Lakes area in Africa

7,7 mil. Kč

(356 thousand CHF)

n. 600/1996 (Nov)

F, check for UNHCR (realization in 1997)

ICRC

Cca 1,5 mil. Kč

(65 thousand CHF)

F, not from gov’t reserves

Total

14, 78 mil. Kč

*M-material, F-financial

(The total amount doesn’t correspond to the sum of the financial resources released for the individual actions, these would have climbed up to 15,28 million Czech crowns. If we don’t count in the contribution made by the ICRC it should be 13,28 million crowns. There is a mistake in the calculations of the Ministry.)

Projects in 1997

Country

Reason for aid

Approved aid in mil CZK

Material aid

Transport in mil CZK

Amount drawn in v mil CZK

Coordinator

Bulgaria

Desperate situation in children’ medical centers

5

4,25

0,75

5

PINF

Albania

Critical situation in the country

4,1

3,5

0,6

4,1

PINF

Iran

earthquake

up to 3

Not charged yet

cca 1,5

Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Defense

KLDR

famine

0,52

Financial aid

0,52

ICRCRCS

VSR

Typhoon Linda

1,5 (45000 USD)

Financial aid

1,5

Czech Red Cross

Total

14, 121

12, 621

The projects decided on in 1996 whose funding wasn’t due to technical reasons carried out till 1997.

Country

Reason for aid

Released in mil. Kč

Drawn in mil. Kč

Great Lakes area in Africa

Desperate situation of the refugees

7,7

7,3

Cuba

Medications purchase, hurricane

0,3

Total

8

7,6

In order to be able to finance these two projects the budget of the Foreign Affairs Ministry for 1997 was raised (additional 8 million crowns were put in). These projects weren’t covered from the public funds allocated for the humanitarian aid in 1997.

Projects in 1998

Recipient

Reason for assistance

Amount approved

Drawn in mil. Kč

Approved on (1998)

realization: M – material + coordinator, F – financial

Afghanistan 1

Earthquake

USD 20 th.

0,66

February 26

F

Afghanistan 2

Earthquake

USD 20 th.

0,67

June 9

F

Argentina

El Niňo

USD 30 th.

0,93

May 22

F

Bolivia

Earthquake

USD 25 th.

0,82

July 2

F

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mines destruction

USD 40 th.

1, 24

November 5

F

China

Floods

USD 20 th.

0,62

November 12

F

Ecuador

El Niňo

1 mil CZK

0,98

June 8

F

Guatemala

Hurricane Mitch

USD 23 th.

0,71

November 12

F

Honduras

Hurricane Mitch

USD 69 th.

2,09

November 12

F

Italy

Soil slide down

USD 100 th.

3, 40

May 22

M – Fagus s.r.o

KLDR

Famine

USD 20 th.

0,67

February 12

F

Kyrgyzstan

Flood

USD 20 th.

0,61

November 12

F

Moldova

Soil slide down

0,5 mil. Kč

0,50

April 29

M – PINF

Nicaragua

Hurricane Mitch

USD 49,5 th.

1, 5

November 12

F

Peru

El Niňo

1 mil. Kč

0,99

February 12

F

Papua New Guinea

Tsunami

USD 20 th.

0,62

July 30

F

Romania

Flood

4 mil. Kč

4

July 16

M – PINF

Salvador

Hurricane Mitch

USD 23 th.

0,71

November 12

F

Slovakia

Flood

10 mil. Kč

10

August 5

F (9,8 mil. Kč)

M – Sigma (0,2 mil. Kč)

Yugoslavia 1

Mining disaster

DEM 29 th.

0,71

January 26

F

Yugoslavia 2

Kosovo

1,1 mil. Kč

1,1

November 5

F

Tajikistan

Floods

2,5 mil. Kč

2,5

June 9

M – PINF

Ukraine

Floods

0,67 mil Kč

0,67

November 20

F

Uruguay

El Niňo

USD 20 th.

0,66

May 23

F

Uzbekistan 1

Epidemics – jaundice

2 mil. Kč

2,00

March 23

M – Lachema

Uzbekistan 2

Floods

0,30 mil. Kč

0,30

November 20

F

Total:

39,21

Total M

12,6

In 1998 five times more projects were agreed upon than in 1997, most of it however were financial aid ones.

Governmental funds released for the implementation of humanitarian and rehabilitation and reconstruction projects by the Ministry of Interior (amounts in mil CZK)

funds received by

1995

1996

1997

1998

ADRA

4,12

15,61

16,33

9,34

PINF

5,42

43,53

12,69

12,05

Governmental funds released for the implementation of humanitarian projects by the Foreign Ministry (amount according to the Ministry/amount according to the organization), in mil CZK

funds received by

1995

1996

1997

1998

ADRA

3,8/3,93

3/1,75*

ČČK

0,86

ČKCH

2,5 + 0,9**

PINF

1 + 0,9**

9,1

6

Volonté

2

Sigma

3,4

Fagus s.r.o.

0,2

Lachema

2

* unclear information on Lebanon, according to ADRA ADRA did a project worth 1,75 mil. Kč; ** 0,9 mil.  joint project of PINF and ČKCH, both organizations claim to be the receiver of this amount

Material humanitarian assistance and its receivers in Eastern Europe (including the Balkans and in the former Soviet Union

1995

1996

1997

1998

Material assistance – total

14,7

5

9,1

12,6

Material assistance for Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union

14,7

3

9,1

9,2

Material assistance for EE and FSU in procent of Material assistance total

100

60

100

73

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