Welcome to the first edition of Development Sweden
A newsletter on Swedish development cooperation and policy
Sweden is one of the key actors in the development cooperation field. Sweden is also a significant donor, contributing to the core funding of multilateral organisations and several large Swedish and international CSOs.
Traditionally, Sweden has been one of the major donor countries in the world, championing the idea of one percent of GDP to ODA. Now, drastic changes are taking place with a new government in power since September 2022.
What will this mean in practice? How will the budget be reduced and how will this affect the role of Sweden in the international donor community?
Since much of Sweden’s decision-making process and policy debate is conducted in Swedish, it is difficult for international actors to follow the process. Therefore, we decided to start the Development Sweden newsletter.
Development Sweden will include news on Swedish development strategy processes, disbursement of funds, updates on new contracts and staff in the Swedish development sector, and insight into policy discussions and political processes.
The newsletter will be published bi-weekly.
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About the team
Development Sweden is published by the team behind Global Bar Magazine.
With new articles published daily (mainly in Swedish), Global Bar Magazine is Sweden’s leading online magazine on global development and development cooperation. It provides in-depth analysis and fast news coverage on issues that matter for everyone working with development cooperation or in the foreign policy field with an interest in climate and development.
Major changes in Sweden’s ODA
Since the present government took power, the following have been the major changes in Sweden’s ODA.
The government has abandoned the one percent goal.
The ODA will be a total of 56 BSEK per year for the coming three-year election period.
Several UN agencies and program areas have received substantial cuts.
Swedish aid will have a strong focus on Ukraine and the geographic areas close to Sweden. Ukraine will be the biggest receiver of Sweden’s ODA.
Sida’s Director-General, Carin Jämtin, will be replaced.
As expected, the new Swedish ODA budget is a cold shower for many UN bodies. Not even civil society has a reason to be happy. The government’s promise not to cut support for civil society was not fulfilled: there were many cutbacks in this field.
Moreover, the government instructs Sida to avoid signing new contracts; if necessary, contracts should be as short as possible.
The largest decrease is for communication, followed by research, Latin America, and peace.
The appropriation directions for Sida mean that civil society’s opportunities to conduct advocacy are severely curtailed.
Sida’s appropriation – this is how aid will change
Significant cuts to the Info grant and funds for research collaboration and sharp reductions for UNAIDS. Those are some of the significant changes to the aid managed by Sida based on the letter of appropriation that became public on December 23. The letter contains the appropriation directions from the government, which articulates the specific changes to programs.
SIDA’s information allocation is to be cut from SEK 155 to SEK 20 million, a reduction of 87 percent. The research cooperation grant is significantly reduced and will only receive 440 million SEK. Strategic initiatives for journalistic activity, independent review and transparency must be prioritized within the remaining funding. In the appropriation letter, the government indicates that new agreements or extensions of agreements must be avoided as far as possible.
Expenditures in area 7 (International aid) are shown below. Amounts are stated in SEK 000 (amounts in parentheses indicate the previous year before the so-called limits), and percent data reflects the change from last year.
Allocated by the Board for International Development Cooperation 42,705,696 (47,658,600) (89%)
ap.1 Humanitarian efforts 5,100,000 (4,535,000) (112%)
ap.2 Information and communication activities 20,000 (155,000) (~13%)
ap.5 Support through Swedish organizations in civil society 1,760,000 (1,955,000) (90%)
ap.6 Asia 1,440,000 (2,000,000) (72%)
ap.7 Latin America 570,000 (890,000) (64%)
ap.9 Africa 6,770,000 (8,100,000) (84%)
ap.13 Human rights, democracy and the principles of the rule of law 1,000,000 (1,000,000) (100%)
ap.17 Middle East and North Africa 1,070,000 (1,510,000) (71%)
ap.23 Reform cooperation with Eastern Europe, Western Balkans, and Turkey 1,715,000 (1,715,000) (100%)
ap.26 Sustainable peace 260,000 (430,000) (60%)
ap.28 Capacity development and Agenda 2030 456,000 (710,000) (64%)
ap.30 Multilateral development banks, funds, and debt write-offs 4,650,000 (4,200,000) (111 %)
ap.31 Multilateral and international organizations and funds 10,700,000 (12,686,000) (84%)
ap.32 Research cooperation 440,000 (960,000) (46%)
ap.33 Strategically oriented contributions 3,794,696 (3,092,600) (123%)
1:1 Aid activities
ap.34 Sustainable development (framework) 2,960,000 (3,720,000) (80%)
Several UN agencies also receive reduced funding, including the UN organization for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. Other central parts of the strategy are below:
Do not extend agreements – and no new ones
Several places in the strategy state that Sida should avoid extending or renewing agreements. This means that civil society organizations and collaboration partners in Myanmar should do the same.
Ukraine will be the largest recipient country. The government will formulate a new strategy for the cooperation with Ukraine.
Program areas and countries that expect major budget cuts
Myanmar -60 percent
Guatemala -60 percent
Bolivia -46 percent
Social development -44 percent
Palestine -43 percent
UN programs will also face major cuts
The largest reduction occurs in support for UNAIDS. In addition to UNAIDS, several other UN programs are receiving large reductions in the support managed by Sida. WFP will receive – at least on paper – a decrease of almost 50 percent.
Among the worst hit is UNAIDS, whose budget will shrink by a third. UN Women will lose a quarter of its funding, the UN Population Fund and the UN Development Programme, UNDP, as well. And UNODC, the UN agency against drugs and crime, will see its funding reduced by 20 percent.
Compared to the budget outcome for 2022, the UN food program WFP is affected by cuts of almost 50 percent. In 2022, the core funding to WFP amounted to SEK 1,750 million, while in the government’s appropriations letter it amounts to only SEK 886 million. At the same time, the appropriation directions show that the budget for humanitarian aid has increased slightly compared to the outcome in 2022.
Smaller UN bodies are also affected
Several lesser-known departments within the UN are also having their grants reduced. The UN Department for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UNDPPA) receives a 40 percent reduction in funding. The UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) will have its grants reduced by 40 percent. The International Financing Facility for Immunization (IFFIM) and the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) will also have their funding reduced by 40 percent. This is in line with the slowdown of the Covid pandemic worldwide. The United Nations joint programme against HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) will have its funding cut by a third. The Green Climate Fund, established by 194 governments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries and help vulnerable communities adapt to the effects of climate change, is losing almost 20 percent of its grants.
On the other hand, the impact of reduced funding for the UN organization for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) is less than expected. UNRWA gets its funding reduced by five percent, less than what many observers thought. The fact that the US resumed its support for UNRWA under President Biden may have had some significance for the Swedish decision.
Government to replace Sida’s Director-General
Sida’s Director-General Carin Jämtin is not given a renewed vote of confidence by the government and will leave in May.
Carin Jämtin’s six-year term will end in May 2023. The Director-General had publicly expressed her interest to continue for another six-year period but will not be given a new vote of confidence by the government when her appointment expires in May. By then, she will have been on the post for six years.
“It is a long time that she has led the agency in a good way. But now that we are entering a new phase in aid policy, we see it as natural that there will also be a new leadership at Sida”, says Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Johan Forssell to the Swedish News agency TT.
The minister says that development policy is facing a transition, and they will soon announce the post to be filled by someone who can meet the government’s ambition to find synergies between trade and development policy.
Carin Jämtin was party secretary for the Social Democrats from 2011 to 2016. Between 2003 and 2006, she was Minister for Development Cooperation in then Prime Minister Göran Persson's government. Jämtin stepped down from her political duties and her seat in the Swedish parliament when she was appointed Director-General of Sida in May 2017.
In an internal email to Sida staff, Carin Jämtin wrote that she is happy and proud of the work done under her leadership.
“I know it would not have been possible without all the amazing Sida colleagues. It is no news that I would have liked to stay and continue this work, but at the same time, a fixed-term appointment means that sooner or later it will end.”
With her political background, it is no surprise that the government wanted to replace Carin Jämtin. However, actors in civil society are now worried that the replacement will be politically motivated as the new government intends to strengthen its control over the agency.
Aid to Palestine expect a 40 percent cut
The government’s appropriation directions for Sida for 2023 contain a reduction in aid to Palestine by roughly 40 percent compared to 2022. The directions show that Sida will receive a maximum of SEK 165 million to distribute.
As Sida prepares for these drastic reductions, violence and tension in the region are increasing with new attacks from Palestinians and settlers. There is a risk that the reduction will also negatively impact the organizations within civil society that work to reduce tensions, monitor human rights violations, and document abuses.
The majority of Swedish aid to Palestine goes to civil society, and only two percent of the total aid budget for the country goes to the Palestinian Authority. But when the cuts are so significant, the money is not enough to guarantee that civil society’s efforts are fully maintained. For example, about 58 million of the 2022 budget went through the International Red Cross (ICRC).
Currently, Sida and staff at the Swedish consulate in Jerusalem are working to decide how the remaining budget will be distributed. Discussions are being held with various partners, and a draft proposal has been circulating between Stockholm and Jerusalem, but reportedly no formal decisions have yet been made.
According to information obtained, Sida will, in addition to purely humanitarian efforts, prioritize support for Palestinian – and Israeli – organizations that work with human rights. These include Al- Haq, Al- Mezan, BADIL, DCI-PS, BTselem, Breaking the Silence, Gisha, and Yesh Din.
In August 2022, the Israeli military stormed six Palestinian rights groups’ offices due to allegations of links to terrorist organizations. Equipment was destroyed during the raids, and several organizations were closed down. Computers were smashed, and office equipment was seized and locked up. The organizations attacked included Al- Haq, Addameer, Bisan Research Center, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, which receive extensive Swedish support.
After Israel’s accusations, both Sweden and the EU investigated the affected organizations, but no information emerged that could prove that the organizations had any links to terrorist activities.
Among other programs that are likely to see major cuts are UNDP’s program in Gaza as well as the support that goes through the World Bank. Programs for business development (one of the government’s mainstays) are also likely to see major cuts.
One program that may be affected is the work on climate issues and human rights run by the organization We Effect. Programs to support entrepreneurship and technology development are also likely to see major cuts, as are initiatives for climate, water, and the environment. Support for independent media may also be affected.
What do you think we should write more about? Give us feedback and suggestions.
Editor in Chief, Global Bar Magazine
Monika Gutestam Hustus
Editor, Development Sweden