Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation works towards global sustainable development

22. Jun 2018
Photo: AKÜ
Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation (acronym: AKÜ) is fighting for those that are not as fortunate as us here in Estonia, no matter how far from us they live. We sat down with the organisation’s managing director Sigrid Solnik to discuss how they are doing with this noble task.

When was AKÜ established?

The roundtable was first convened in 2002 for the purposes of giving input from Estonian NGOs to the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with regard to their positions on formulating the fundamental principles of the national development cooperation policy. AKÜ was registered as a non-profit organisation in 2007.

Why was AKÜ established?

NGOs already engaged or interested in development cooperation needed and umbrella organisation for exchanging information, especially for the purposes of jointly defining the area that was at that time still in the early stages of development in Estonia, and also for disseminating information about this topic. Not to mention advocacy, especially for serving as a civil society partner on these issues for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

How do you fund your activities?

AKÜ’s regular operation is sustained by an operating subsidy from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and our advocacy work receives project-based funding from the European Commission. In addition, over the years our work has also been supported by the Open Estonia Foundation, National Foundation of Civil Society, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

What’s the most interesting thing you are currently working on?

We are actually working on three fascinating projects that are setting the stage for three new activities for our organisation.

First, we are working on building an active coalition for sustainable development. Our goal is to bring together organisations and institutions from all sectors from all over Estonia that prioritise sustainable development and want to contribute to this cause. Together we want to figure out and work proactively towards making sustainable development a priority in Estonia both at the government and also individual level. Global sustainable development starts from home and can be achieved only if we all pool our efforts.

Second, we have launched an initiative called “Small communities in a larger world”. We want to come out of our bubble, and learn how to approach sustainability issues from another perspective, specifically from the perspective of local communities in Estonia, whether they are in Ida-Virumaa, Võrumaa or in Pärnu. Our hope is that this initiative will eventually lead to more interesting local initiatives.

Third, we offer workshops on cultivating a sustainable lifestyle. You can’t change people’s attitudes or behaviour via facebook, and meeting face-to-face has already led to many wonderful ideas!

What could other NGOs learn from you?

Cross-sectoral collaboration, proactive attitude, and that no matter the central focus of an organisation, it is always possible to adopt more sustainable practices.

What about AKÜ – is there still room for improvement?

There’s always room for improvement! Our team put forward the following issues: communication and collaboration with the private sector, increasing visibility in the society at large, and political communication. The work continues!

What would you do if you were given 3 million euros to use at your own discretion without any terms of conditions attached?

This question was answered by several AKÜ employees, and the result is multifaceted. We could invest the three million somewhere that could generate the next three million, i.e. invest it in improving our financial capacity. This amount of money would allow us to consider real estate investment, or perhaps investing in stocks, or focus on seeking out new partnerships or perhaps finding some other and even more innovative solutions.

Three million euros would allow for a considerable escalation of our communication activities about issues of development cooperation and sustainable development – we could inundate all channels with our messages. We could create a platform for developing sustainability initiatives for promoting global sustainable development, there’s no such thing as too many workable and self-sustaining ideas.

Or perhaps we could buy up land in different parts of the world and give it to native peoples who would manage their land much more sustainably than we would.  If someone has three million euros or good ideas lying around then please send your proposals to