This week the Swedish parliament decided to scale down the number of countries it helps with foreign aid. It wants aid to be more closely tied to democracy and human rights in recipient countries. The number of recipient countries will be cut in half, from 70 to 33—Though the total amount of money will remain the same. Radio Sweden’s Azariah Kiros has more:
“We have not concentrated on checking results – we historically have been more eager to spend money…..And I think we should be a good donor in many ways – but that is not only about statistics, its also about content and political leadership.
This year Sweden is spending nearly 16 thousand million kronor, almost US$ 2300 million, to help finance development projects in scores of countries around the world. The lion’s share of the help goes to Africa.
While fighting poverty in Africa will still continue to be given priority, African countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone who’ve gone through bloody conflicts can expect more assistance from Sweden. The government also wants to pay attention to the needs of countries in Eastern Europe such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and the Ukraine as well as the West Bank and Gaza. Peace promoting programmes in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia will also benefit from the new development cooperation policy.
The rich donor nations have agreed in what is known as the Paris Declaration to streamline their assistance and make sure that the help reaches those who need it most. And the Minister for International Development Cooperation, Gunilla Carlsson, believes it is high time that Sweden reviewed its development cooperation programme in line with the Paris Declaration.
“We have to focus on the fewer countries where we have development cooperation due to the Paris agenda – but also because I need to see results. If Sweden spreads itself too thin we won’t be the champions I would like us to be. For example in sectors like human rights and democracy – to promote women’s rights especially. Also to see what we can do in the area of the environment – and other important areas we must focus on.”
The focus will also be on making sure that the new development cooperation policy reflects Sweden’s moral obligation in promoting democracy and human rights in the world. But not everyone is happy with the proposal.
One of the parties represented in parliament, the Left Party, says the democratic goal, as desirable as the it is, it should not always be the only and guiding objective. Hans Linde, the Party’s spokesperson on development issues, told Radio Sweden recently that the fight against global poverty should be given priority.
“I think there is a contradiction in saying that we should fight poverty all around the world and attain the millennium goals, but at the same time say that Sweden will only support countries that are democracies. We know that we have to fight poverty and inequality between men and women – even in dictatorships today. So, it is important that if we want to promote human rights, that we have a dialog and open doors. Today I feel we are talking about closing doors and ending dialogue”
“We do see poverty reduction as our main goal. And in order to be able to achieve that – we need to see results. In Sweden we have been a major donor in many countries, but now we see that there are more and more donors as countries around the world try to fulfill their millennium goals.”
Minister Gunilla Carlsson has given assurances that her government will study the repercussions of the new policy in an effort to reduce the impact on the countries losing Swedish development assistance.
“We have been carefully scrutinising the individual programmes in the beneficiary countries, together with our development assistance authority SIDA and analysed the consequences of phasing out assistance to particular countries, the timing etc – so we are not simply axing beneficiary countries – we have looked into how we can be more focused and have better results in the countries we stay in.”