Democracy and development come from below

The popular movement assistance is an effective tool for strengthening accountability and democratic development from below. If Sweden - with its long and unique tradition of popular movements - in accordance with the government's priorities is to contribute to democratic development, the threatened popular movement assistance must be allowed to remain, writes Johanna Bergsten, student.

The place of the popular movements in future Swedish development aid must be secured

Swedish development assistance is undergoing change, but it is still unclear exactly what proposals exist and how development assistance will be organized in the future. However, popular movement assistance seems to be threatened by cut funding, sharply reduced information subsidies and increased self-efforts. If this is done in such a way that the popular movements' aid co-operation must close down, it would have major consequences for democracy work and affect already weak groups. The lack of openness in the process is of course a problem in itself and I want to highlight here how popular movement aid contributes as a tool for democracy development and hope for a more open debate.

Sweden has a long tradition of active popular movements, the labor movement, the sobriety movement, various Christian movements and movements for rural areas, nature, sports and international solidarity. The diversity of movements has a deep-rooted place in Swedish society and has also been reflected in development aid. Part of the aid has been channeled through these popular movements, which at grassroots level through small-scale collaborations with partners in the south and east contribute to democracy, human rights and the improvement of people's everyday lives.

Popular movement assistance is also an international advantage for Sweden and something that we, together with other countries in the Nordic region, are very good at and can contribute in a unique way among other development assistance initiatives.

A significant theme area for Swedish development assistance initiatives under the current government is precisely democracy and human rights. In line with the government's goals for strengthening democracy and democratic processes, the international work of the Swedish popular movement organizations should continue to develop. Popular movement assistance is also an international advantage for Sweden and something that we, together with other countries in the Nordic region, are very good at and can contribute in a unique way among other development assistance initiatives.

Strengthens civil society

The popular movement assistance is built through cooperation from one organization to another and at the same time develops the civil societies in the different countries. Global sustainable development must be based on meetings and collaborations between people across national and cultural borders. With a strong civil society in the recipient countries, mechanisms are also being developed for the accountability of politicians and larger organizations, which will lead to other types of bilateral aid being able to function better.

Locally adapted

Successful development projects and development collaborations are often based on locally adapted initiatives, local ownership of the projects and cannot be controlled from meeting rooms far from the reality in which they are to be implemented. The popular movements' development co-operation in close contact with the co-operation organizations is an example in this. As these projects often start on a very small scale and then grow, it becomes natural to invest the resources locally and where they provide the most benefit.

Open to everyone

The appropriations for popular movement assistance are open to all people and organizations in Sweden. This form of small-scale aid is fair and democratic from a Swedish point of view because everyone is free to start a non-profit organization, run self-financed activities for at least a year and then together with a partner organization in the south or east seek funding to start a project. However, you should be prepared for and have the opportunity to put in hundreds of hours of unpaid work to write project applications and financial reports and also be able to collect for a financial self-effort. There are no personal financial gains to be made from these small-scale aid projects. The first and only person who is usually paid is often an accountant to review the accounts.

Cooperation for a common future

To address the major global injustices, both structural change and the opportunity for change at the individual level are needed to give people in developing countries tools to change their lives here and now. Swedish popular movement assistance has an important role to play in this and contributes to democratic development. In addition to helping to give people opportunities to develop themselves and their communities through locally adapted projects, it also provides a point of contact between people from different countries. Meetings and collaborations between people in Sweden and in the south and east contribute to increased understanding and personal commitment to the global challenges we face. In order to secure Sweden's contribution to global democratic development, popular movement assistance must continue to have a prominent place in Swedish development assistance and development cooperation.


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