The new Concept of Russia’s state policy in the field of international development assistance will contribute to the adaptation of state policy to “new international realities,” and will also improve its efficiency, including the participation of the business community.
On March 13, 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to amend the Concept of Russia’s state policy in the field of international development assistance (IDA) concerning relations with developing countries. This Concept has been in force for almost nine years; it was approved by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 259, dated April 20, 2014 – and has been updated, taking into account new challenges and tasks facing Russia in the international arena.
The Concept was revised quite seriously, including in terms of adjusting priorities and emphasis: many of them “swapped places”, while remaining in the updated document in updated wording.
At the same time, it is impossible not to notice a number of rather significant changes. As rightly noted in Kommersant newspaper, the item on “the focus on strengthening equality and democratizing the system of international relations” has been excluded from the list of state policy principles. Another adjusted principle in the updated text of the document was “the provision of targeted assistance and the desire for dialogue with the recipient states, taking into account the political, economic, social, environmental and other characteristics of each of these states.” In the new version of the Concept, it is formulated as “refusal to impose political conditions for the provision of assistance, and respect for the right of the recipient states to independently choose a model of socio-economic development, taking into account the characteristics of each of these states.”
In the context of criticism of multilateral formats that are currently experiencing a certain crisis of efficiency, it is important that “the Russian Federation will continue to participate in the proven formats of multilateral cooperation in the field of IDA.” At the same time, it is noted that “along with this, Russia intends to further increase its own potential in the field of assistance, using it to implement targeted bilateral IDA programmes.” Another detail that makes it possible to judge the greater pragmatism and complexity of the policy is the desire to supplement the IDA efforts with mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of trade, investment and technology with recipient states.
The updated concept contains a number of new priorities in terms of the list of IDA recipients. In particular, the EAEU member states are ranked first among them, followed by the CIS member states, other states in the post-Soviet space, as well as neighbouring states pursuing a course of neighbourliness or an alliance with Russia. Separately, the list of recipients of the Russian IDA includes states, mentioned by the UN in the list of least developed countries (LDCs), which includes many states in Africa.
The need to strengthen the “force of attraction” and obtain an adequate response to the implementation of the IDA policy was reflected in the new policy task to implement “information support for the state policy of the Russian Federation in the field of IDA in order to form and strengthen a positive perception of Russia throughout the world.”
Unfortunately, not all objective results of the Russian policy in the field of IDA that contribute to the capitalisation of Russian “soft power” receive worthy coverage. For example, according to the results of 2014, the volume of food assistance provided by Russia exceeded 97.5 million US dollars, which is more than 6.5 times higher than its minimal annual commitments under the Food Assistance Convention. However, this fact went almost unnoticed by both the international community and the Russian media, largely due to insufficient information support.
The new Concept also expanded the number of areas of state policy in the field of IDA. Thus, they were supplemented by “creating conditions for the development of the digital economy in the recipient countries” and “taking measures aimed at ... countering climate change, including adaptation to it, and facilitating a gradual transition to the low-carbon development of the economy, increasing cooperation in the field of reproduction and the use of natural resources.”
The updated Concept also changed the list of multilateral formats where Russia should take part in initiatives: the G8 has been excluded and the EAEU included, immediately after the G20. In addition, in the updated Concept changes were made to the institutional structure and procedure for the provision of IDA.
In conclusion, I would like to express the opinion that, thanks to the changes, the new document, it seems, will contribute to the adaptation of state policy to “new international realities,” and will also improve its efficiency, including the participation of the business community.