Expertise of the professionals and their practical experience are instruments that Latvia may put to use to promote the stability and development of the near-by region hence strengthening the impact of the country internationally which is an important objective in Latvian foreign policy.
How is Latvia strengthening the stability of the near-by region?
The G8 summit in Scotland and debt relief for 18 poorest countries of the world is an illustration about the commitment of the developed countries to increase their assistance that has been provided until now. These developments are mainly related to preparatory activities for the UN World Summit 2005 this September where progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals will be assessed. Even though assistance has been provided for years - for instance in 2003 it reached 69 billion US dollars, a large part of which came from the European Union – the attainment of the objectives requires increased support.
Latvia as an EU and NATO member state is among the developed countries  and has initiated provision of aid to less developed states. While focus of the large donor countries is mainly aimed at the African region, we are mostly interested in economical growth, stability and strengthening democracy in the nearest regions. Therefore, Latvia in the course of development cooperation implementation has put the prime focus of activities on the former soviet republics in the Eastern regions of the EU. An essential element in activity planning is the importance of the European Neighbourhood Policy that largely covers Latvian priorities for the provision of bilateral aid. Hence Latvian assistance is mainly aimed at Georgia and Moldova, resulting from the interest of these countries and passing on the experience gained during the implementation of national administrative reforms, building democratic society, promoting economical and social development, environment related activities and improving the educational system.
Together with Moldavian representatives we have defined the areas where Latvia could assist in implementing reforms and until the end of the year our experts will implement several projects. For instance, in June representatives from Moldavian State Administration were advised on Latvian experience building a model for coordination of EU integration issues. At the end of July representatives from the Association of Customs Brokers will share their experience on the collection of customs payments and combating corruption. Within the project framework it is planned to establish a non-governmental organization in Moldova that would keep an on-going dialogue with Moldova customs authority to decrease corruption in the introduction of the system. Latvian State Border Guard services and Customs Board will implement several projects to strengthen the capacity of the Moldavian Border Guard and to meet the EU requirements and principles.
State Chancellery, National Administration School, Vidzeme University College and Riga School of Economics with the support from various donors, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is planning to organize the 1st International National Administration Summer School at the end of July with participation of state administration representatives from the development cooperation recipient countries, including Moldova and Georgia. Saeima has stepped up its cooperation with Georgian and Moldova Parliaments and is sharing experience on EU integration, including harmonization of legislation and coordination of European Affairs. Support came also from the top political level as was demonstrated through the visit of our Prime Minister to Georgia as well as through the planned visit of the President to the Caucasus in October.
It is possible to successfully implement development cooperation policy side by side with the national administration NGOs, the private and academic sector partake in the process. NGOs are currently actively involved in these activities – last year 21 NGOs founded the Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation (LAPAS). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is planning to launch support programs next year that would serve as a framework for NGOs regular participation in tenders to implement their development cooperation policies. Georgia has demonstrated interest in building civic society and LAPAS partner organizations can share their experience through common project implementation. Hence, Latvian NGOs will simultaneously gain experience that in the future will allow to partake in international projects with EU and other organization funding.
Representatives of the academic sector have a significant role in the research area and in public education on development issues. At the moment academia is mainly involved in drafting Latvian Country Strategy Papers for cooperation with Moldova and Georgia; the strategies will outline the needs of the recipient countries, most efficient means for provision of aid and our own capacity in that as we are interested in the sustainability of the assistance provided. In order to promote the training of new specialists and raise awareness, study programs at University of Latvia, Riga Stradin’s University and Vidzeme University College already offer courses on development-related issues in a wider context.
The interest of these various sectors and their active involvements in development cooperation shows that Latvia is prepared to assist countries that are on the way to reforms. Expertise of the professionals and their practical experience are instruments that Latvia may put to use to promote the stability and development of the near-by region hence strengthening the impact of the country internationally which is also an important objective in Latvian foreign policy.
 In 2003, Latvia among 175 UN assessed countries was among the 50 developed countries of the world. See: http://hdr.undp.org/statistics/data/pdf/hdr04_table_2.pdf
This publication is made in the framework of the UNDP Latvia and Latvia Ministry of Foreign Affairs joint project “Strengthening Institutional Capacity for Development Cooperation Framework of the Government of Latvia”.