Speaking of land focus

In a debate article earlier this week, Sida's Director General Charlotte Petri Gornitzka wrote that Swedish "gift aid" in middle-income countries such as Iraq, Bolivia, Colombia and Guatemala is not necessarily needed. At a public inquiry on Twitter and Facebook, Gornitzka now explains what she meant by the term.

Sida's budget base for the government, where we emphasize, among other things, the importance of focusing development aid on fewer countries, has created a debate about development aid, especially among individuals and organizations that are active in development aid work. This is good, we need to start a more lively discussion in the area, preferably also within broader groups that might not otherwise be involved in development aid issues. It is not my job to review the debate, but I would still like to make some reflections on how the proposal has been received.

I have been asked what we really mean by donations. Simplified, gift assistance can be equated with support we provide without a requirement for repayment. We can generally call traditional aid gift aid. This does not mean that aid needs to consist of concrete physical gifts (roads, schools, hospitals or the like) but it is about providing support to the countries themselves so that they can, for example, have an education system, functioning institutions, etc. It can also be support for civilians community organizations for democracy development, gender equality projects, etc. Nor does it mean that development assistance is unconditional, we make very specific demands on what we want the money, the "gift", to be used for and what result is expected.

But today we are facing an election. Talking about poor countries is much more complex than before, where we see large groups of poor people in countries that are described as middle-income countries, even high-income countries in some cases (USA, EU). We also see how many countries that were previously described as low-income countries are taking the step up and becoming middle-income countries. The consequence of this is that some countries that have long been recipients of Swedish aid should take the step from being recipients of aid to a new kind of partnership. What these countries need most of all is not traditional Swedish aid, because the resources are there but they are not made available to everyone. Then we need to work with other methods to bring about change.

To meet this development, we at Sida are currently working intensively to create new ways of providing assistance. Through new innovative forms, we want development aid to have a catalytic effect to a greater extent rather than directly. This may, for example, be about giving loan guarantees to projects that have the conditions to be able to bear their own costs, but do not have the opportunity to get started.

The next step is to identify thematic areas where Sweden today and in the future can focus our development assistance, where Sweden can provide added value.

This does not mean that traditional aid has played its role. The next step is to identify thematic areas where Sweden today and in the future can focus our development assistance, where Sweden can provide added value. Even though we already have several priority areas today, we are still present in a relatively wide range of subject areas. The question we must ask ourselves is whether Sweden, with our internationally limited development resources, can afford to spread our efforts on such a large part of the subject scale. I do not think so. Sweden can have a significantly greater return on investment if we decide to invest in a more limited thematic field. Then we can better maintain expertise in these areas, both on site in our partner countries and at home. What areas it may be is a little too early to say, but I would like to discuss this, I am sure that many have important and interesting contributions to such a discussion.

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, CEO of Sida

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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