• Assistance to victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
  • Assistance to refugees of the Russo-Ukrainian war
  • Support the activities of the Hungary Helps Program

Last week, we talked about how the law coming into force on January 1, 2024, will bring significant changes to the Agency’s operations. What does this change mean for your day-to-day work?

Péter Kovács: The new law enables us to transition from grant managers to implementers, enhancing our ability to respond to challenges with greater efficiency and speed. Previously, we used to transfer funds to a third party, such as a Hungarian or international NGO, who would implement the programs. Although we have always worked with organizations in whom we had full trust and thus these partnerships have always been successful, in office in Budapest, we often felt pretty disconnected from project activities. Now that we may become implementers, we can take on responsibility and control, which in some cases can have many advantages.


In what scenarios might these advantages be evident?

Péter Kovács: With our legal status and expanded infrastructure, along with access to diplomatic channels, we are better positioned to be effective and support NGOs working on-the-ground. For instance, as a public organization, we can navigate bureaucratic hurdles more smoothly in e.g.: African locations where NGOs, despite their local expertise, may face licensing complexities. Additionally, our enhanced status grants us improved access to high-risk areas, increased opportunities to secure external funding, and greater potential for collaboration with similar agencies, thereby amplifying our impact. Determining when to leverage these advantages requires project-specific judgment, but the opportunities are abundant.


Hungary will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July 1 to December 31, 2024. What opportunities does this present for the Agency?

Péter Kovács: During the presidency, policy meetings are chaired by the incumbent country. This also applies, for example, to the Committee on Development (CODEV), so that Hungarian priorities will be given greater emphasis. As the implementer for international development, the Agency will play a crucial role in advancing these priorities. Essentially, we will serve as catalysts, driving initiatives forward and fostering collaboration. The presidency also offers a significant platform to raise awareness of the nascent development agenda and thus attract potential partners.

How do you envision the Agency in 5-10 or even 20 years?

Péter Kovács: This entails considerations of financial, operational, and personnel aspects. Financially, our goal is to continue augmenting international funding and forge deeper cooperation with like-minded agencies. We aim to leverage Hungarian expertise, connections, and commitment alongside partners with greater resource potential. We also believe that it is important that the activities of the Hungary Helps Program are managed coherently. Mere disaster relief isn’t sufficient; the next step is to help rebuilding and development. And when the disaster situation is over, and there are homes to live in, schools to go to, or hospitals, etc., we must also try to lift the community economically. Staying in one’s homeland requires more than just keeping someone’s life safe. You also need to see how you are going to support your family, educate your children, sustain your business. There are different phases of assistance, and the key is not to fragment your resources. When a region or a community goes from a very bad situation to a prosperous situation with our help, then we can truly say that we have been successful.


That sounds as a monumental task for such a small agency.

Péter Kovács: Here, we can reflect on the human aspect of the previous question. I often think of Mother Teresa, whose human qualities and attitude are exemplary, but only a few people know that she was also an extremely strong-willed and determined person. She excelled as a professional organizer and manager, effectively building up her network, which continues to operate successfully around the world even without her presence. We aspire to emulate her, combining our professional organizing skills with the compassionate assistance for which Mother Teresa and her sisters were renowned – aiding those in need where we encounter suffering. Earlier, I mentioned the importance of seeking understanding to make rational decisions. Empathy is equally crucial, especially since we primarily assist communities affected by tragedy. One of our recent experiences involves collaborating with the Diocese of Makurdi in Nigeria, specifically in a part of Benue State inhabited by the Tiv tribe. Here half of the community is Muslim, while the other half is Christian, and typically these groups coexist peacefully. However, the recent surge of political Islamism, mainly due to the infiltration of Boko Haram, has resulted in dire consequences, including the massacre of Christian villages. The number of internally displaced people has now soared to hundreds of thousands, enduring horrendous conditions and unspeakable atrocities. It’s vital to provide assistance methodically to ensure proper accountability. Yet, if we fail to empathize with people who have lost everything, with half of their families slain, and who rely on our support to feed themselves each day, then we cannot fulfil our mission.