Policy Updates

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Cuts in Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency's administration have diminished effectiveness, experts argue

Swedish experts argue that because of cuts to its administration, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has merely become a financier that moves and manages funds; its country knowledge and experience now reside with its implementing partners, such as Swedish non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations (UN) agencies, and other Swedish authorities. This has undermined the effectiveness of the country's development assistance.

These experts now are calling on the government to undertake an internal investigation to look into the consequences of Sida having lost much of its previous country knowledge capacity, to determine how knowledge exchange can be strengthened, and to make recommendations on how partner country context can be given greater prominence in staff’s reporting back to Sida headquarters.

News article – Utvecklingsmagasinet (in Swedish)

Donor Tracker to host webinar on donors’ international COVID-19 response following Global Goal Summit pledges

On July 2, 2020, from 16:00-17:00 (CEST), Donor Tracker will host a second webinar on donor countries’ international COVID-19 responses following the Global Goal Summit. The Summit, held on June 27, raised US$6.9 billion for developing globally accessible COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments.

The Donor Tracker's expert team will analyze the Summit's outcomes and discuss implications for donor countries’ further international responses to the pandemic.

Registration - Zoom 

Swedish development cooperation ranked number one by Center for Global Development

The Commitment Development Index (CDI), an annual survey conducted by the Center for Global Development (CGD), has ranked Sweden first amongst 40 countries providing development assistance to low-income countries.

In addition to levels of development finance, policy areas surveyed included climate, migration, security, technology, trade, and investment. Sweden scored well across six out of the seven components and ranked first in the area of migration, third in development finance, and in the top ten in trade, investment, environment, and security.

"Sweden has a tradition of listening, learning, and improving," said Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation. "The result of this year's Commitment to Development Index is proof of this constant work. We are now working on further and deepening our work to ensure long-term sustainable green development for poor people where we safeguard climate, biodiversity, gender equality, and democracy."

In previous rankings, only the G-20 and OECD DAC countries were examined, but the 2020 survey was expanded from the original 27 countries.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency updates brief on COVID-19 response

On June 25, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) updated its two-page brief summarizing Sida’s support to address COVID-19 related challenges affecting Sweden’s partner countries.

So far, Sida had allocated SEK797 million (US$82 million) to support existing and new partner countries in their fight against COVID-19. Out of this, SEK147 million (US$15 million) has been allocated for humanitarian support.

Sweden is a supporter of a well-functioning multilateral system and, as such, Sida has directed substantive amounts of its financial support through the UN’s three-pronged response to COVID-19: 1) the health response, 2) the humanitarian response through UN’s global appeal, and 3) the socio-economic response. To ensure flexibility in the COVID-19 response, Sida’s support has often been channeled as core support to its partner organizations.

The Sida brief is complementary to 'Sweden’s global COVID-19 response' published by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Brief  - Sida

Press release - Government Offices of Sweden

Sweden initiates new development cooperation strategies for Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, greater Latin American region

The Swedish government has commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to initiate preparations of new development cooperation strategies with Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, as well as the larger region of Latin America. The strategies will cover the period between 2021 and 2025 and proposals should be submitted by October 30, 2020.

All strategies will focus on areas such as democracy, human rights, the rule of law, gender equality, inclusive economic development, environment, climate, and biodiversity. In addition, Sida will explore options to strengthen Swedish support for sexual and reproductive health and rights in Bolivia and migration in the Latin America region.

The strategy for Colombia will be developed in collaboration with the Folke Bernadotte Academy and emphasis will be also put on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies and continuing to support implementation of the FARC peace agreement.

"Latin America is a heterogeneous region marked by widespread inequality. Although developments in Latin America have been positive in many respects in recent decades – democracy has spread, economies have modernized and poverty has been reduced – the challenges remain great," said Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation. "A regional strategy for Latin America enables Sweden to contribute to a positive development in the region.”

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Bolivia strategy - Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Colombia strategy - Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Cuba strategy - Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Latin America regional strategy - Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden approves new strategy for development cooperation with Palestine

On June 25, 2020, the Swedish government adopted a new strategy for its development cooperation with Palestine, covering the period between 2020 and 2024. The strategy aims to support poverty reduction, improve conditions for democratic development, and help foster greater respect for human rights in the country. Out of a total funding envelope of SEK 1.5 billion (US$154 million), SEK 1.46 billion (US$150 million) will be managed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) while the remaining SEK 40 million (US$4 million) will be managed by the Folke Bernadotte Academy.

"Through the new strategy, Sweden will contribute to democratic development and increased respect for human rights, as well as to strengthen the conditions for conducting Palestinian elections, including in East Jerusalem," said Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Majority of Swedes favor maintained or increased levels of development assistance

According to a recent survey from Sifo, a Swedish opinion and social research company, a majority (62%) of Swedes are in favor of maintaining or increasing Sweden's spending on official development assistance (ODA). Only 29% of those who participated in the survey reported wanting to see a reduction in the development assistance budget.

Meanwhile, both the Moderate party and the Sweden Democrats are advocating for a reduction of the ODA budget.

The Sifo survey was carried out on behalf of Diakonia (a Swedish-based non-governmental organization) and the Transmitter newspaper. The results contradict those published by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in late 2019, which showed a decrease in the willingness of Swedes to provide ODA.

"It is gratifying that even in times of COVID-19, such a large proportion of the Swedish people see the need for strong international commitment and support generous assistance," said Diakonia's Secretary-General, Lena Ingelstam. 

News article – Omvärlden (in Swedish)

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency reports slight decrease in corruption cases

During 2019, 261 new cases of suspected corruption or irregularities in funding were recorded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

With higher levels of official development assistance (ODA) flowing from Sida since 2007, there has been a marked increase over that time in the number of suspected corruption cases. A large number of these cases are reported from fragile and conflict-affected states, where humanitarian crises are prominent, and states are often too weak to fight corruption. In particular, cases in Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen are featured in the report.

Although the number of reported cases may not fully capture the number of instances of corruption, the number of reports did decline slightly from 265 in 2018. The reduction was likely due to increased scrutiny of cases by Sida’s contracting partners.

News article – Omvärlden (in Swedish)

Sweden contributes US$944 million in concessional funds to World Bank’s International Development Association

On June 17, 2020, the Swedish government approved a grant of SEK 9.2 billion (US$944 million) to the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) to be paid over a period of nine years.

IDA provides concessional loans or grants to the world's 72 poorest developing countries, with the aim of reducing poverty by boosting economic growth, reducing inequalities, and improving people’s living conditions.

“The contribution to IDA will be crucial for many poor countries as they tackle the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on public health, the economy, and the labor market," said Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation. "Sweden is IDA's eighth-largest donor and has played a significant role in shaping the work program, and thus what the money will be spent on, for the next three years.”

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Citing degradation of democracy, Sweden will phase out cooperation with Cambodia

On June 11, 2020, Sweden decided to phase out its bilateral strategy for Cambodia and focus forthcoming development cooperation with the country on promoting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The support will be aligned with a new objective in Sweden's strategy for regional development cooperation with Asia and Oceania.

“The democratic space in Cambodia has been severely restricted in recent years. This has made it difficult for broad and close cooperation," said Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation. "The [Swedish] government, therefore, chooses to refocus development efforts now in order to better support a change in human rights, the principles of democracy and the rule of law in the country. We will continue to support civil society, human rights defenders, and the voice of democracy in Cambodia. Sweden stands up for the principles of democracy and resigns when they are overridden."

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden commissions new development cooperation strategy with Middle East, North Africa

On June 11, 2020, the Swedish government commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to initiate work on developing a new strategy for Sweden's development cooperation with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Due to the specific problems facing several MENA countries, Sida has been tasked with including strategy proposals related to the promotion of democracy, human rights, gender equality, peaceful societies, inclusive economic development, the environment and sustainable use of natural resources, and the conservation of biodiversity.

The strategy will cover the period between 2021 and 2025 and the draft is due to the Swedish government by October 15, 2020.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden and EU organize humanitarian airlift to Sudan

On June 10, 2020, Sweden, on behalf of the EU and in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, organized an airlift with 100 tons of humanitarian supplies to Sudan. The cargo included medicines and medical equipment and is the first of two private humanitarian aircraft to Sudan organized by Sweden and the EU, as commercial flights are unavailable. The second flight is scheduled to depart later in June and will contain equipment from the UNHCR, UNDP, and the Swedish Red Cross, as well as humanitarian workers.

"Sweden has had a large commitment to Sudan in recent years," said Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation. "I am proud that we can help establish air bridges to the country that supplies important medical supplies and bring down personnel to support Sudan's fight against the corona epidemic."

Sweden is a major humanitarian partner to Sudan and co-finances the airlifts through supplies from UNICEF, UNFPA, and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

At Gavi's Global Vaccine Summit, world leaders exceed funding target with historic US$8.8 billion

Representatives of 52 countries, including 35 heads of state, joined the June 5, 2020, Global Vaccine Summit, convened by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to raise a total of US$8.8 billion in financing for childhood immunizations and vaccine infrastructure. World leaders, meeting with representatives of 12 organizations and corporations for the London-based pledging moment, hoped to reach a US$7.4 billion funding target. By the time the pledging ended, the target had been overshot by US$1.4 billion.

Against the backdrop of a still-raging COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and laid waste to the global economy, attendees of the summit spoke passionately about the need for global cooperation and solidarity in ensuring that a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, once developed, be accessible to all.

The US$8.8 billion will support Gavi's campaign to vaccinate 300 million children in the world's poorest countries against diseases including diphtheria, polio, and measles by 2025. Disruptions to Gavi's regular immunization activities, caused by COVID-19, have endangered an estimated 80 million children under one year old. The funding will also bolster Gavi's efforts in strengthening health systems in low-income states which have been ravaged by the pandemic and will help build out infrastructure to support the eventual provision of a vaccine against the virus.

A further US$567 million was also raised for 'Gavi Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines' (Gavi Covax AMC), a new financing instrument designed to provide access to the eventual COVID-19 vaccine specifically in low- and middle-income countries.

“To beat the COVID-19 pandemic, the world needs more than breakthrough science. It needs breakthrough generosity,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “...When COVID-19 vaccines are ready, this funding and global coordination will ensure that people all over the world will be able to access them.”

Press release - Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Sweden to analyze impact of COVID-19 on development assistance, propose new initiatives for proactive pandemic measures in partner countries

On May 14, 2020, the Swedish government instructed the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to author a report analyzing the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak for the agency’s support to low-income countries. A first draft of the report is due on July 31 and should be finalized by October 15.  

Sida will also propose how Swedish development assistance initiatives could be reprioritized to enable Sweden to proactively address the pandemic in its partner countries, in the medium and long term.  

“In several developing countries, people are at risk not only of COVID-19 but also of food shortages and of a severe deterioration in the economy as a result of the crisis," said Peter Eriksson, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation. "Swedish aid must change in order to respond effectively to both the urgent needs and the risks we see in the long term." 

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish) 

Sweden invests US$39 million of official development assistance in international COVID-19 response

Sweden, one of the world’s largest humanitarian donors, announced on May 25, 2020, a SEK 380 million (US$39 million) support package to further support the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The funding has been allocated from the regular official development assistance budget and will be disbursed through the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (SEK 100 million; US$10 million), World Food Program (SEK 100 million; US$10 million), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SEK 100 million; US$10 million), World Health Organization (SEK 50 million; US$5 million), and International Monetary Fund (SEK 30 million; US$3 million).  

"The cost to life and health and to the world economy will be greater if we do not act quickly in support of the international humanitarian response,” said Isabella Lövin, Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment and Climate. “Through our support package, Sweden takes joint responsibility for helping the worst affected and helps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.” 

The Swedish government will make a formal decision regarding the support package on June 17.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)  

Sweden’s ultra-lean ODA administration may compromise effectiveness, says new report from Expert Group for Aid Studies

According to a recent study by the Expert Group for Aid Studies, the Swedish government explicitly aspires to maintain a low level of administrative costs within its official development assistance (ODA) projects. However, the study shows that striving for this objective may sometimes be counterproductive. 

“Administrative spending should, of course, not be given a free rein, far from it”, said the author of the report, Professor Daniel Tarschys. However, “Saving on peripheral functions and knowledge building easily leads to missteps. There is much to suggest that the share of the administration in aid is not too large, but, on the contrary, too small.” 

The report points to several possible negative consequences of cutting administrative costs in ODA projects. These include selecting projects based on too little information, selecting inferior projects because they have lower administrative costs, distorting public funds, and distorting the choice of service provider. According to the report, the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) has at times - in order reduce its own administrative expenses - been encouraged to outsource project implementation to providers whose administration is excluded from their cost estimates. 

The report concludes that investment in knowledge usually pays off in the long run and that oft-maligned bureaucracy could actually make important contributions to the effectiveness of Swedish ODA. 

OpEd article – Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish) 

News article – Omvärlden (in Swedish) 


Sweden develops COVID-19 strategy

In the interest of securing access to a future vaccine against COVID-19, the Swedish government has developed a vaccine strategy consisting of three parts: continued international collaboration, development of a national vaccination plan, and appointing a national vaccine coordinator. 

"There are many pieces of the puzzle that need to be in place in order for us to be able to vaccinate against COVID-19. A vaccine must be developed, we must have access to the vaccine, and there must be an effective distribution structure here at home. This requires determined, proactive work and a broad vaccine strategy,” said Lena Hallengren, Sweden’s Minister for Health and Social Affairs.  

The first part of the strategy concerns Sweden’s continued collaboration with the European Union and the World Health Organization. The objective of the collaboration is to ensure a fair distribution of a future vaccine around the world while the global demand for a vaccine will be extremely high.  

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)  

Projected 4% drop in Swedish GDP may affect ODA budget in coming years

The Swedish government has estimated that, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Sweden’s GDP will fall by 4% in 2020. As Sweden’s official development assistance (ODA) is normally calculated as a percentage of the country’s economic output, this large drop could lead to a significant drop in the level of Swedish ODA going forward. According to SVT News, the fall could be in the range of SEK 2 billion.

News article – Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish)

Swedish National Commission for UNESCO appoints new Secretary-General

Sweden has appointed Anna-Karin Johansson as new Secretary-General for the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO. Johansson currently serves as Secretary-General of the National Association for Sexual Education (RFSU) and has previously held positions at the Swedish Afghanistan Committee, Living History Forum, Swedish Government Offices, and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Johansson will assume office in August 2020.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden to develop new strategy for humanitarian assistance with eye towards gender, climate, conflict resolution

On May 7, 2020, the government instructed the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to initiate work on a new strategy for humanitarian assistance for the period between 2021 and 2025. Sweden is currently one of the world’s largest humanitarian development partners.

The new strategy is to explore synergies between humanitarian assistance, long-term development cooperation, and support for peacebuilding, as well as the impact of climate change and gender equality on humanitarian assistance. The new strategy will be developed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to be adopted before the end of 2020.

"Sweden must have absolute world-class humanitarian aid and be a leading humanitarian voice. Swedish core support enables humanitarian organizations to act quickly in the event of new and unforeseen crises. We will work for efficient and flexible financing and for more countries to take global responsibility," said Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, Peter Eriksson.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)