Sweden - Gender equality

Sweden's bilateral ODA for gender equality

For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

Sweden's bilateral ODA for gender equality by sector

For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

Sweden takes international leadership on gender equality issues; gender mainstreaming is a long-standing priority for Sida

In 2018, Sweden spent US$2.7 billion (83%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on development activities that targeted gender equality in a principal or significant way, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) gender equality policy marker (DAC average: 44%). This makes Sweden the third-largest donor to the area in relative terms (following Canada at 87% and Iceland at 86%), and the sixth largest in absolute amounts.

Funding for gender equality has been increasing steadily since 2015, when it was at US$2.0 billion (+35%). This is in line with overall increases in bilateral ODA. In 2015, funding for gender equality represented 87% of Sweden’s bilateral allocable ODA.


Gender policy marker: Projects which “advance gender equality and women’s empowerment or reduce discrimination and inequalities based on sex” are tagged in the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database.

Recent research by Oxfam found that around 25% of projects self-reported by donors using the gender equality marker were mismarked. This has implications for the validity of funding figures.

The marker rates projects based on three possible scores:

1) principal, meaning that gender equality is the main objective of the project or program,

2) significant, for projects in which gender equality is an important and deliberate goal but not the main objective, or

3) not targeted, used in cases where programs do not target gender equality.

Not all projects are screened against the gender marker; this funding falls into the ‘not screened’ category.

In its 2019 peer review, the OECD DAC commended Sweden’s leadership on gender equality and gender-focused development assistance. In 2014, Sweden became the first country in the world to adopt a feminist foreign policy, allowing it to use all its foreign policy tools (including development cooperation) to address gender equality globally. The policy focuses on six areas.

  1. Full enjoyment of human rights;
  2. Freedom from physical, psychological, and sexual violence;
  3. Participation in preventing and resolving conflicts, and post-conflict peacebuilding;
  4. Political participation and influence in all areas of society;
  5. Economic rights and empowerment; and
  6. Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

In addition to mainstreaming gender equality across its ODA programming, Sweden adopted its first ODA strategy for gender equality and women’s empowerment in May 2018. The strategy focuses on the full enjoyment of human rights by all women and girls, (including through work on normative frameworks, discrimination, gender-based violence, safety, and security for actors and organizations that promote gender equality) and increased access and use of sex-disaggregated data and research. It is backed by a funding envelope of SEK1.0 billion (US$115 million) between 2018 and 2022. This envelope only includes funding for projects directly under the new gender strategy; gender-focused funding overall will continue to be much higher, due to Sweden’s strong emphasis on gender mainstreaming.

Sida, Sweden’s development cooperation agency, uses a three-pronged approach for gender mainstreaming: 1) Targeted support to gender equality interventions, 2) integration of a gender perspective in all operations and sectors, and 3) highlighting of gender equality and women’s rights in dialogue with partner organizations.

Because of its longstanding practice of gender mainstreaming throughout its ODA programming, Sweden’s largest funding areas for gender equality correspond to its largest funding areas overall: Government and civil society received the largest share of Sweden’s bilateral allocable ODA (US$658 million, or 25% of funding for gender equality), followed by humanitarian aid (US$439 million or 17%), and health and populations (US$237 million or 9%).

In addition to its bilateral funding, Sweden partners with multilateral organizations on gender equality, and is a large contributor to the United Nations (UN) system. It is the largest contributor in total resources to UN Women (according to the OECD DAC), and the fourth-largest donor to the UN Populations Fund (UNFPA), with whom it has signed a multi-year contributions agreement of US$286 million for 2018 to 2021 (see sector Global Health). In line with its feminist foreign policy, Sweden strongly focuses on SRHR, and supports initiatives such as ‘She Decides’ (see sector Global Health).

Sweden is the second-largest donor to gender equality as a principal goal

When looking at projects and programs that target gender equality as a principal goal, Sweden is the second-largest donor in absolute term (after the US) in 2018, spending US$624 million, punching well above its weight. This corresponds to 20% of Sweden’s total bilateral allocable ODA, putting it in second place in relative terms as well (following Spain) and well above the DAC average (6%).

Funding for projects with a principal gender focus has steadily and significantly increased since 2015, rising from US$380 million to US$624 million (+41%) in 2018. In the same period, funding for projects with a ‘significant’ gender focus increased from US$1.6 billion to US$2.0 billion (+27%).

The remainder of Sweden’s bilateral allocable ODA (US$452 billion or 14%) was spent on projects that did not target gender at all, while US$77 million (2%) was not screened against the gender marker in 2018. This is a low proportion compared to other members of the DAC: in 2018, the DAC average for bilateral ODA that had not been screened against the gender policy marker stood at 11%.

MFA leads Sweden’s feminist foreign policy; Sida manages implementation

As gender equality is a fundamental aim of Sweden’s overall foreign policy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is responsible for the implementation of the feminist foreign policy, including through the work of the Minister for International Development Cooperation and of the Minister for Foreign Trade, with responsibility for Nordic affairs (Sweden also adopted a ‘Feminist Foreign Trade Policy’). Among the MFA’s functional departments, the Global Agenda Department is responsible for the overall coordination within the framework of the 2030 Agenda, and for coordinating and developing the feminist foreign policy, including gender equality issues in development cooperation. Given that gender is a cross-topic priority, all departments are, in turn, responsible for integrating a gender lens into their policies. Within Sida, the most relevant department for gender topics is the unit for Global Social Development in the Department for International Organizations and Policy Support (INTEM). For country-specific programming, the respective regional departments take the lead.