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Sweden provides support to refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar

In light of the escalating conflict in Myanmar, where about 7,000 refugees have fled attacks by the military regime, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has committed SEK 3 million (US$360,000) in emergency cash grants, primarily for basic kitchen equipment and hygiene kits, to be administered by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

With a large proportion of the refugees being children, part of Sweden’s support has also been allocated toward educating parents and school personnel on how to provide psychosocial support to children and toward school kits, as many schools have been closed.

"The situation has escalated rapidly, and many people have left their homes without even having brought the essentials, which is why it is especially important that we now act quickly to get the most basic things out, such as pots, hygiene kits, and more,” said Sida's Director-General, Carin Jämtin.

In 2020, Sweden's official development assistance (ODA) to Myanmar was SEK 309 million (US$37 million), SEK 26 million (US$3 million) of which was humanitarian support. Sida has since suspended some of its ODA for Myanmar, following the military coup in February 2021. Sida nevertheless continues to support activities focusing on strengthening democracy and human rights.

News article – Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (in Swedish)

Sweden develops new strategy for development cooperation with Zimbabwe for 2022-2026

On April 1, 2021, the Swedish government commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to develop a foundation for its new development cooperation strategy with Zimbabwe for 2022-2026.

The strategy will focus on strengthening democracy and gender equality as well as reducing poverty through inclusive economic development. The strategy will additionally address issues related to human rights violations, the rule of law, environmental degradation, and the climate crisis.

Sida has also been requested to explore possibilities of expanding efforts in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden pledges US$97 million in humanitarian support to address Syrian crisis

On March 30, 2021, during the fifth Brussels Conference on 'Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region' hosted by the UN and the EU, Sweden pledged SEK811 million (US$97 million) toward humanitarian support efforts in Syria in 2021.

After ten years of conflict, more than half of Syrians are displaced, 90% of the population lives under the poverty line, and it is estimated that 13 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance.

Sweden has been one of the largest donors of humanitarian support since the beginning of the conflict and it helped negotiate a solution for delivering cross-border humanitarian assistance to Syrians. 

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden supports UN declaration on global access to COVID-19 vaccines

On March 26, 2021, alongside more than 170 countries, Sweden gave its support to a UN declaration on global access to COVID-19 vaccines, initiated by Lebanon. In addition to signing the UN declaration, Sweden has endorsed a similar resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva as well as contributed SEK 200 million (US$24 million) to COVAX, the global initiative formed to provide equitable access to COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

“COVID-19 is a global health crisis, but also a humanitarian disaster,” said Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation. “The indirect effects of the pandemic on the economy, mobility, and democracy risk rolling back years of global development. It is in everyone's interest to get a quick and global stop on COVID-19 as quickly as possible."

Fridh pointed out that the UN declaration signed on Friday underlines the need for further global collaboration to ensure that everyone can have access to a COVID-19 vaccine. "This is incredibly important, and Sweden has played an active role in producing the declaration," said Fridh.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden develops new strategy for development cooperation with Ethiopia

On March 24, 2021, the Swedish government commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to develop the foundation for its new development cooperation strategy with Ethiopia.

The strategy will cover the period of 2022-2026 and support continued economic and democratic reforms, human rights, and peaceful and inclusive societies. The outcome of Ethiopia’s national elections in June 2021 will be important for the subsequent reform agenda and for the design of Sweden's future official development assistance (ODA).

The strategy will also focus on efforts to improve the environment, reduce the impacts of the climate crisis, and strengthen resilience to climate change. In its draft strategy, Sida is expected to address how Swedish ODA can help strengthen Ethiopia's resilience to crises affecting the environment and climate, peaceful societies, and livelihoods.

The recent conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia has further deepened tensions in the country and resulted in widespread suffering and devastation, challenging the democratic and economic reform process initiated in 2018.

"We are deeply concerned about the situation in Ethiopia with the rising tensions," said Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation. "It is important that Sweden commits itself to contributing to peaceful and democratic development in Ethiopia and to strengthening the country's ability to deal with key challenges such as climate change and youth unemployment."

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden develops new strategy for sexual and reproductive health and rights with countries in sub-Saharan Africa

On March 24, 2021, the Swedish government commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to develop the foundation for a new, strengthened strategy for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) with countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The five-year strategy aims to cover the period of 2022-2026 and will total between SEK 2.5 billion and SEK 3.0 billion (US$300-360 million). This is an increase compared to the previous SRHR strategy, which amounted to about SEK 460 million (US$55 million) annually.

“Shortcomings in sexual and reproductive health and rights are one of the root causes of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation. “SRHR issues have become increasingly politicized in the region, and the pandemic has at the same time led to increased shortcomings in the SRHR area. Sweden has an important role to play in strengthening the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and men, girls and boys in Sub-Saharan Africa—as one of the few donors in this area, our assistance can make a difference."

In addition to strengthening the framework for SRHR, the new strategy will focus on increasing access to SRHR interventions, strengthening knowledge of SRHR, and changing social norms and strengthened accountability, with a special focus on the most deprived areas and the most vulnerable groups, including LGBTQI people.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden develops new strategy for development cooperation with Asia and Oceania

On March 18, 2021, the Swedish government commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to help build its new development cooperation strategy with Asia and Oceania, as the current strategy expires at the end of 2021.

The new strategy will focus on:

  • The environment and climate;
  • Human rights, democracy, and the rule of law; and
  • Gender equality.

As Sweden’s bilateral development strategy for Cambodia has recently been dismantled, within the framework for the new strategy, Sida will also develop a specific proposal for how work in the areas of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law can be carried out specifically in Cambodia.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Former European leaders in WHO expert advisory group call for "rethink" of policy to prevent future pandemics

Former European leaders on the independent Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) have issued a call to action for policy reform to prevent future pandemics. 

In their report, the members of the expert advisory group called for using lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis to fundamentally rethink policy priorities to implement a ‘One Health’ approach, address issues that have caused so many people to be vulnerable to the pandemic, make changes to the global financial system, promote global public goods for health, strengthen existing global health institutions, and support innovation in health systems. 

The group was chaired by Mario Monti—the President of Bocconi University and former Prime Minister of Italy—and included former presidents, prime ministers, ministers, CEOs, leaders of multilateral organizations, and other eminent leaders.

Report - WHO

Sweden’s Minister for Gender Equality and Housing attends 65th session of UN Commission on Status of Women

The Swedish government announced that on March 15-19, 2021, Sweden’s Minister for Gender Equality and Housing, Märta Stenevi, will be leading the Swedish delegation participating in the 65th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65).

In addition to government representatives, 12 civil society organizations will be part of the Swedish delegation. The event will take place in a hybrid format with mostly virtual meetings and the Swedish delegation will be participating digitally. The theme is women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as addressing gender-based violence.

Stenevi said she looked forward to representing Sweden at the CSW65 and welcomed the theme, saying "Women's power and influence and ending gender-based violence are priorities for the Swedish government. This is in line with Sweden's interim goal of both an equal distribution of power and influence and the fight against men's violence against women."

During the CSW65, Sweden will be hosting two side events—one focusing on sexual education and rights and the other focusing on strengthening economic equality, with Stenevi giving the opening speeches at both.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Donor Tracker webinar will focus on donor governments' funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights; accompanying publication available now

On March 11, 2021, at 4:00 PM CET, the Donor Tracker will host its third gender equality webinar with a focus on development finance for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The webinar accompanies the recent publication of a Donor Tracker Insight which analyzes the current funding landscape for the SRHR sector across three subsectors (STD control, including HIV/AIDS; reproductive health; and family planning), highlights trends in the last ten years of spending in the sector, profiles donor countries and multilaterals, and provides recommendations to donors for increasing engagement and impact in the sector.

The Donor Tracker will be joined in the March 11 webinar by Adam Wexler of the Kaiser Family Foundation, an expert on US funding flows to HIV/AIDS projects and global development funding for family planning.

The publication of the final Insight piece completes the Donor Tracker's Pillars of Gender Equality bundle, which also includes the previous two publications on funding for women's economic empowerment and financial inclusion and efforts to end gender-based violence.

Webinar registration - Zoom

Generation Equality? Trends from a Decade of Funding for SRHR - Donor Tracker

Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs member appointed Ambassador to Uganda

On March 11, 2021, the Swedish government appointed Maria Håkansson as the new Ambassador to Uganda.

Håkansson will take up her position during the fall of 2021. She has previously served as Sweden’s Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and has been stationed at the Swedish Embassies of Rwanda and Finland. She is currently working in the African Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Donor Tracker webinar to host webinar on donor finance for sexual and reproductive health and rights

On March 11, 2021, at 4:00 PM CET, the Donor Tracker will host its third gender equality webinar with a focus on development finance for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The webinar accompanies the recent publication of a Donor Tracker Insight which analyzes the current funding landscape for the SRHR sector across three subsectors (STD control, including HIV/AIDS; reproductive health; and family planning), highlights trends in the last ten years of spending in the sector, profiles donor countries and multilaterals, and provides recommendations to donors for increasing engagement and impact in the sector.

The Donor Tracker will be joined in the March 11 webinar by Adam Wexler of the Kaiser Family Foundation, an expert on US funding flows to HIV/AIDS projects and global development funding for family planning.

The publication of the final Insight piece completes the Donor Tracker's Pillars of Gender Equality bundle, which also includes the previous two publications on funding for women's economic empowerment and financial inclusion and efforts to end gender-based violence.

Webinar registration - Zoom

Generation Equality? Trends from a Decade of Funding for SRHR - Donor Tracker

EU releases new humanitarian assistance strategy to tackle growing needs from COVID-19, climate crises

The European Commission released a new strategy on EU humanitarian assistance with a series of proposed key actions to expedite the provision of assistance and tackle the growing humanitarian impact from the COVID-19 and climate crises.

The strategy recognized that global humanitarian needs are at an all-time high but that there is a growing funding gap. To help address this, the EU will set up a new European Humanitarian Response Capacity, which will help member states and partners to rapidly deliver assistance. 

The strategy calls for stepping up the EU’s leadership role, promoting respect for international humanitarian law, increasing the speed and efficiency of vaccine delivery including through innovative digital tools, promoting flexible and efficient funding mechanisms, and mobilizing more resources by engaging with other donors and the private sector. It also seeks to tackle the root causes of crises through coherent humanitarian, development, and peace policies on education, health, food security, disaster preparedness, and climate resilience. 

The EU and its member states together provide the most humanitarian assistance globally. The largest single donors are the United States, Germany, and then the European Commission, the latter of which provides 12% of global humanitarian assistance. The top humanitarian donors within the EU are Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, and France, in descending order.

Press release - European Commission 

Policy communication - European Commission

Speech - European Commission

Q&A - European Commission 

News article - Euractiv 
 

Sweden increases support for strengthening democracies in southern Africa, adding US$6 million to regional strategy framework

On February 25, 2021, Sweden decided to add SEK 50 million (US$6 million) to its regional strategy for development cooperation with 'sub-Saharan Africa'. The increased allocation will be used to strengthen democratic movements, which have been shown to be at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in southern Africa.

“The pandemic reinforces current inequalities and hits already marginalized groups hardest, suppressed by discrimination and against those living in poverty”, said Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation. “This decision gives new impetus to democratic forces and their ability to demand accountability, commitment, and organization."

The increased support will be directed toward strengthening the capacity to promote, anchor, and defend democracy of key actors in civil society, media, parliaments, faith-based organizations, and trade unions.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden adopts new 2021-2024 strategy for cooperation with International Fund for Agricultural Development

On February 18, 2021, the Swedish government adopted a new five-year strategy for its cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The strategy aims to strengthen IFAD's global efforts to eradicate hunger, food insecurity, and poverty, particularly focusing on women, small-scale farmers, and other vulnerable groups in poverty-stricken areas.

"Food security is under pressure in many parts of the world. And climate change and disappearing biodiversity make the situation even more difficult”, said Per Olsson Fridh, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation. Fridh highlighted that IFAD promotes sustainable agriculture in low-income countries that enables populations to be fed while also protecting the soil.

In particular, Sweden’s objective is to promote IFAD’s work in the areas of climate resilience, climate impact, and biodiversity protection. In addition, the strategy aims to support gender equality and female economic empowerment.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden reduces ODA to Myanmar following military coup

On February 16, 2021, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, decided to suspend part of its official development assistance (ODA) to Myanmar. The decision comes after a military coup on February 1.

Swedish ODA to Myanmar has primarily been focused on supporting peace, democracy, and health care, and while Sida has now decided to suspend all ODA directed to state actors, the agency will continue to support initiatives implemented by independent actors that promote democracy and human rights.

In practice, this means that the Swedish ODA that has been channeled through the UN Development Program to support accountability mechanisms and strengthen democratic institutions, including Parliament, has now been suspended. In addition, support channeled through the anti-corruption program out of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has also been terminated.

After the military coup, all three programs were immediately frozen by the UN and the principles of the UN’s engagement with Myanmar are currently under review. In conflict areas where other health services are lacking, exceptions have been made to allow for limited continued cooperation with the Access to Health Fund and the UN Population Fund to promote lifesaving operations, such as ambulance transport and COVID-19 protection equipment for field personnel.

In 2019, Sweden's ODA to Myanmar amounted to SEK 306 million (US$37 million).

Press release – Sida (in Swedish)

Sweden contributes additional US$12 million to promote access to COVID-19 vaccines in low-, middle-income countries

The Swedish government has decided to double its support for the global initiative COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) by providing an additional SEK 100 million (US$12 million) grant to make vaccines against COVID-19 available in low- and middle-income countries.

The COVAX initiative is aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines and is led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization, among others. In early February, COVAX announced that vaccine doses will be delivered to 145 countries in the first half of 2021.

Sweden is a member of COVAX through the EU and the new grant is intended to benefit 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

ACT-A Facilitation Council announces funding gap of US$27.2 billion, asks countries not to compete with COVAX vaccine contracts

The Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) had its fourth meeting on February 9, 2021, to discuss its 2021 agenda and needs, including closing the funding gap of US$27.2 billion for 2021.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, co-hosted and began his introductory remarks by welcoming the newly-joined US under President Joe Biden to ACT-A. 

Ghebreyesus stressed that more than 90% of countries currently administering COVID-19 vaccines are wealthy, and 75% of all doses given have been given in just ten countries. Nearly 130 countries, he said, have not administered a single dose.

ACT-A and the COVAX Facility were created as part of global efforts coordinated by the WHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, among others, in order to increase access to vaccines and promote vaccine equity internationally, and these goals are being threatened, said Ghebreyesus.

He called for:

  1. Full financing of ACT-A and COVAX: The financing gap is at more than US$27.2 billion for 2021. He called on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries to commit a proportion of stimulus financing and to unlock capital in multilateral development banks to help close the gap.
  2. Respect for COVAX contracts from all countries and a non-competition commitment: He referred here to countries who continue to sign bilateral vaccine deals while many nations have no vaccine doses at all. Ghebreyesus reiterated WHO's goal that the vaccination of health workers should be in progress in all countries within the first 100 days of 2021, which means that countries with more doses need to share and donate doses before going on to vaccinate their lower-risk populations. He warned that if COVID-19 is not suppressed globally, that variants of the virus could result in the world "back at square one".
  3. An urgent increase in manufacturing to increase the volume of vaccines: This could include "innovative partnerships including tech transfer, licensing and other mechanisms to address production bottlenecks".

Experts have warned that all countries need to take an "internationalist", not nationalist, approach to vaccination rollout and tacking COVID-19, otherwise experts fear that some low-income countries may not receive vaccines until 2024.

Visuals from the 'ACT-A Prioritized Strategy & Budget for 2021' presentation illustrate the contributors of a total of US$6.0 billion to ACT-A, as of February 3, and the breakdown of the US$27.2 billion needed for 2021. According to an update as of February 12, ACT-A has an additional US$4.0 billion in projected funding, so the US$27.2 billion funding gap "will be reduced to US$23.2 billion as projected funds are operationalized."

Transcript - WHO

Event website - WHO

Green Party parlimentarian, former Swedish State Secretary promoted to Minister for International Development Cooperation

On February 5, 2021, Per Olsson Fridh of Sweden’s Green Party was appointed Minister for International Development Cooperation, replacing Peter Eriksson.

Until recently, Minister Fridh served as State Secretary for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He previously also served as State Secretary at the Ministry of Culture.

The government also appointed Janine Alm Ericson as State Secretary to Minister Fridh. Ericson has been the group leader of the Green Party's parliamentary group, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and a spokesperson for gender equality policy.

News article – Omvärlden (in Swedish)

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden and Canada jointly commit US$28 million to pandemic research in low-income countries focused on artificial intelligence

The Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) have agreed to jointly invest SEK 232 million (US$28 million) in the Global South AI4COVID Program, which is supported by Pulse Lab Jakarta (a joint data innovation facility of the government of Indonesia and the UN).

The new research program will support multidisciplinary research in low- and middle-income countries focused on evidence-based artificial intelligence (AI) and data science methods to facilitate emergency management and recovery from COVID-19, as well as strengthen readiness for future pandemics. Three specific areas will be targeted: policy research, AI innovations, and training for local researchers. The program will support about 130 researchers in countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America over a period of two to four years. Currently, methods are being developed to collect more inclusive COVID-19 data as well as data on the impacts of the pandemic on socio-economic variables, gender-based violence, and human rights.

"Research depends on large amounts of local and specific data. The data available today for more advanced automated systems with artificial intelligence is often adapted for people in our part of the world, and in many cases not very useful in Sida's partner countries," said Anna Maria Oltorp, Head of Research Collaborations at Sida. "This is something that the research program within AI will address."

Website - The Global South AI4COVID Program

Press release – Sida (in Swedish)