Latvia provides humanitarian aid mainly on an ad hoc basis and in cooperation with, or through international organisations. Humanitarian assistance is currently implemented under its national development cooperation policy.
Health, Protection, Emergency Shelter
Women and children, Refugees, Victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters
Following its international commitments, Latvia provides humanitarian aid on an ad hoc basis through multilateral and bilateral channels. Most Latvian aid is delivered in cooperation with, or through the UN organisations and the Red Cross Movement. Conflict and disaster situations that received humanitarian aid from Latvia in recent years include: Ukraine (2014, 2008), Syria (2013, 2012), Philippines (2013), Turkey (2011), Haiti (2010), Uzbekistan (2010), Georgia (2008), Moldova (2008), Myanmar (2008) and Lebanon (2006). Aid provided ranged from first aid medication to financial contributions to central emergency response funding, and further to expertise in preserving historical and cultural heritage.
Latvia’s priority regions are the EU’s Eastern Partnership countries, Central Asian and Balkan countries and countries in which Latvia’s military and civil missions with NATO, UN, EU and OSCE are located, such as Afghanistan.
After the restoration of its independence, joining the EU and other international organisations, and the implementation of a development cooperation policy Latvia became a donor country. Currently, Latvia is advancing towards an operative approach in providing humanitarian assistance. In 2014, the European Council on Foreign Relations lists Latvia as a leader in both increased humanitarian and development aid.
Latvian Red Cross and Adventist Development Relief Agency Latvia (ADRA) are the most active organisations, providing humanitarian aid on ad-hoc basis depending on national and international needs assessment.
Latvian armed forces contribute to the Nordic Battle Group, a rapid reaction force adhering to the Common Security and Defence Policy of the EU, which could be deployed for humanitarian and rescue tasks.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia (MFA) is the main coordinator of humanitarian aid. The Advisory Council for Development Cooperation Policy Matters advises the MFA on the planning and implementation of the development cooperation policy.
Currently humanitarian aid is being implemented under the Latvian Development Cooperation Policy Strategy 2011-2015, in which ad hoc aid and humanitarian assistance is defined as part of Latvia’s official development assistance (ODA). The Law on International Assistance (as amended in 2009) guarantees effective and transparent planning and implementation in compliance with international standards set by the UN, EU, NATO, OSCE and OECD.
Complying with the international principles of aid effectiveness, Latvia focuses on providing aid to a limited number of countries, preferring those with which successful cooperation has already been developed and where there is a clear demand for Latvian expertise. Latvia has committed to the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) principles as defined in the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid (2007) and regularly reports to international institutions such as the European Commission and OECD.
Since 2013 the Latvian Platform of Development Cooperation (LAPAS) has started active discussions to promote cooperation amongst different stakeholders in the humanitarian aid sector – NGOs, local municipalities and governmental institutions.
As Latvia’s Presidency of the European Union in 2015 coincides with the year of assessing the UN Millennium Development Goals, it aims to actively participate in international discussions, planning and implementation of the EU’s development cooperation policies. During the preparation of the year, focus will be placed on awareness raising, capacity building and coordination of humanitarian aid among the different stakeholders.
Latvia was President of the UN Women Executive Board (2013) and has put forward its candidature to the UN Human Rights Council (2014). The Regional Office of the UNHCR for Latvia and the other Northern European countries is based in Stockholm and has a Liaison Officer in Vilnius.
Whilst there is no course solely dedicated to humanitarian action, several universities offer subjects relevant to humanitarian aid workers at diploma, undergraduate and post-graduate level. These are namely: Riga Graduate School of Law, Riga Stradins University, Vidzeme University College and University of Latvia. The relevant subjects are primarily offered within the Faculties of Law, Politics, Social Studies and Medicine.
The most active educator in the NGO sector is the Latvian Red Cross, courses are delivered overseas to employees, coupled with in-house and field training. Furthermore, special programmes are developed specifically to increase awareness regarding the importance of humanitarian aid and relief work.
A local NGO Education Development Centre (EDC) has developed several projects to incorporate the subjects relevant to the humanitarian aid sector into primary and secondary school syllabi.
The Latvian Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) under the Ministry of the Interior is the national body for disaster management and response and a contact point for the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) and NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC). Along with the Estonian Rescue Board and Lithuanian Fire and Rescue Department, VUGD takes part in BaltFloodCombat (BFC), a flood response capacity under the Preparatory Action on an EU Rapid Response Capability framework. BFC has been deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014), Moldova (2010) and Poland (2010).
Latvia focuses on providing assistance in areas where its expertise has comparative advantages in cooperation with partner donors and on initiatives that assist in long-term political and economic reforms.
Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia, Regulation No 299 of 6 July 2011, Latvian Development Cooperation Policy Strategy 2011-2015, [Online] Available: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/data/file/AttistibasSadarbiba/asppamtnostadnes.pdf [8 May 2014]
Law on International Assistance (28 May 2008), [Online] Available: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/policy/DevelopmentCo-operation/BasicDocuments/International-Assitance/ [8 May 2014]
European Council on Foreign Relations, 2014 European Foreign Policy Scorecard, Latvia, [Online] Available http://www.ecfr.eu/scorecard/2014/countries/latvia [8 May 2014]
Information on the HA provided by the Republic of Latvia 2008-2013, [Online, in Latvian] Available http://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/Arpolitika/Attistibas-sadarbiba/palidziba/humana-palidziba/ [8 May 2014]
Arina Melse, Riga Graduate School of Law
Evita Cikute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia
Sanita Marnauza, Latvian Red Cross