Korea, Czech Republic join hands to help Mongolia, Ethiopia
Korea and the Czech Republic have found a common interest in Mongolia and Ethiopia. Michal Pastvinsky, director of the Czech Development Agency, and Park Dae-won, president of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) met last week and agreed to collaborate on international development projects in both countries. Pastvinsky was in Korea for a two-day visit.
Korea and the Czech Republic have had projects in Mongolia, operating projects to secure clean drinking water. In Ethiopia, Korea is running agricultural projects, whereas the Czech Republic helps the country’s social development and energy sector.The Czech Republic’s historical ties with both Mongolia and Ethiopia are expected to serve as reference for KOICA.
Despite geographical distance, Mongolia, formerly under the influence of the Soviet Union, was close to the communist Czechoslovakia. The Czech Ambassador to Korea Jaroslav Olsa, Jr. said that diplomatic ties were signed back in 1950, with the former government having offered Mongolia development assistance since on.
“One of the most well-known is a geological research where Czech and Slovak geologists discovered huge mineral deposits in the Erdenet region (in the north),” which is still an active mining spot, he said.
The Czech’s support for Ethiopia has a longer story.
In the 1930s when Ethiopia, led by the emperor Haile Selassie, was fighting to keep her independence, the Czechoslovakia supported it. Italy occupied the country between 1936 and 1941.
“It (Czech Republic’s ties with Ethiopia) would be good for Korea, which is recently looking to reach Africa,” the ambassador said.
The Czech Development Agency is a young entity.
Founded only in 2008, the office with 20 permanent staff members handles nearly 40 percent of the country’s annual bilateral development aid budget estimated at around $200 million in 2009, which is 0.12 per cent of GDP.
The rest of the development aid budget is channeled through such multilateral bodies such as the European Union Development Fund and the World Food Program.
Like KOICA, the agency under the Czech foreign ministry is in charge of implementing the nation’s bilateral development aid, supporting non-government organizations in the field and sponsoring citizens of the recipient countries to come to the Czech Republic to study.
Unlike KOICA, the organization doesn’t recruit and send young volunteers.
“That’s under the authority of another organization,” he said.
Having been to KOICA’s headquarters in Gyeonggi Province, the director said he was amazed by the size of resources and the extent of the programs it operates.
“It was good that they(the KOICA) invite people to come and receive training,” he said.
KOICA’s training program is one of its main pillars, inviting foreign civil servants and students for training sessions.
As a member of the European Union, the Czech Republic aspires to join the OECD’s donor’s committee known as the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Korea has been a member since 2010.
“Joining them would say many things” about the effectiveness of the country’s development aid policy, he said.
Since begun in 1995, the Czech government’s development aid had a list of 65 recipient countries. Now it’s down to 14, taking into account a peer review done by international organizations including the OECD and the World Bank.
Among the 14, Mongolia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Moldova have top priority. The Czech government will provide them with an extensive volume and quality of resources and projects between this year and 2017.
“We do this to be more efficient in ODA policy and to use money with added-value,” he said.
Korea will host a high-level meeting on aid effectiveness in November, in which the Czech delegation will participate.