Debate

Important investments in the development assistance budget

Sweden is, after Switzerland, the country within the OECD that erodes aid the most. It is unfortunate that the new government is now signaling that the erosion will continue. Other budget solutions exist and should be discussed, write Sten Rylander and Annica Solhström from Forum Syd.

This week, the new government presents its budget. The government statement said that Sweden should be a global role model - this should be realized, among other things, in the development assistance budget. In many developing countries, optimism and confidence in the future are in the wake of high economic growth. Poverty decreases and more people can improve their living conditions. However, democratic development is not as great and the gaps between rich and poor are growing with violence and conflict as a result. At the same time, people living in poverty are hard hit by climate change. It is up to the government to prove whether Sweden should be a global role model and Forum Syd wants to see clear investments in that direction in the budget.

More on environmental and climate work
We welcome the fact that the government has promised increased environmental and climate assistance. There is great support in Sweden for participating in the international climate work. A survey conducted by TNS / Sifo on behalf of Forum Syd shows that 84 percent of the population think it is important that Sweden participates in the global development work for climate initiatives.

We therefore view very positively the signals that the Minister for Development Aid has given that increased funding will be provided for the UN Green Climate Fund and that Sweden will be a leading country here. Sweden's GDP corresponds to one percent of the OECD countries' total GDP. Sweden's contribution to the climate fund should therefore in the long run amount to one percent of the OECD countries' total promised SEK 700 billion, which corresponds to SEK 7 billion. We hope to see a clear first step towards this in this budget.

Use the development aid budget for development - not erosion
After Switzerland, Sweden is the country within the OECD that erodes aid the most. Forum Syd and many other organizations have long warned of this development as it runs counter to the goals of poverty reduction and human rights in Sweden's policy for global development. The development we are now seeing in the world means that migration to Sweden is expected to increase. It is important that Sweden takes its responsibility for receiving refugees, but to continue to erode the development assistance budget with these costs is to pit vulnerable groups against each other. We therefore regret that the government is now signaling that it intends to continue the erosion. There should be a different budget solution than taking these increased costs from the development aid budget.

There may therefore be reasons for the government to open up for a discussion on the financial transaction taxes that eleven EU countries have introduced, including Germany, France, Spain and Italy, may be an alternative for Sweden. A low fee for trading in shares and securities would, according to the European Commission's calculations, give the Swedish Treasury revenue between SEK 14-18 billion.

The government should also urgently review the standard costs on which the calculations are based. For example, for every refugee who is not received but sent back directly, SEK 100 is taken from the development assistance budget. This is not reasonable!

Invest more in support through the diaspora organizations
Forum Syd and many other actors in the world see great development opportunities through the organizations formed by emigrants, not least the Swedish diaspora organizations. Our experience is that migrants through skills, commitment and deep roots in their home countries can contribute to poverty reduction and development. We want to see a clear investment in the development assistance budget to build up more comprehensive development cooperation through diaspora organizations.

Tax evasion is an obstacle to development  
For developing countries, the problems of tax evasion are enormous. Today, countries in southern Africa lose a net $ 58 billion every year. Resources that can be used for poverty reduction and development are disappearing from the countries. Forum Syd wants to see a much clearer Swedish commitment to international regulations that curb tax evasion. In the long run, it would provide more resources to developing countries and reduce their aid dependency. We believe that clear priorities are needed in the development assistance budget to provide support to vulnerable countries that want to build stronger institutions, e.g. tax authorities.

Clearer prioritization for support to civil society
A strong civil society is a prerequisite for democracy and for resources to be distributed more fairly and sustainably. Sweden's popular movement-based organizations have a unique experience of building democracy from below by collaborating with grassroots organizations in many countries. But just as important for achieving the goals in Swedish development policy is that Swedish organizations advocate for poor and marginalized people, in our part of the world, to influence the policies pursued and our lifestyle. Giving space for Swedes' commitment to global issues creates understanding and the opportunity for a solidary and sustainable policy. Forum Syd therefore wants to see the government invest in support for civil society in the world and the cooperation that takes place between Swedish organizations and their partners, and improves the opportunities to conduct public opinion work for a fair and sustainable world.

These are some important steps to take if the new government wants to stand up for Sweden to be a global role model in terms of development, effective poverty reduction and human rights and to be equipped for the increased needs for resources for climate aid and migration.

Sten Rylander, chairman of Forum Syd
Annica Sohlström, Secretary General of Forum Syd

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

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