The government's new aid policy means increased support to Ukraine, but also several reductions – including in support to the UN, information work and research. These priorities and away priorities were in focus when Diana Janse, State Secretary for International Development Cooperation, met civil society in an armchair conversation at FUF.
On Tuesday, the Association for Development Issues (FUF) held a conversation with Diana Janse, State Secretary for International Development Cooperation, about Sweden's new aid policy - which faces extensive changes this year.
The changes were not least noticeable in the regulation letter which Sida received from the government just before Christmas. It included, among other things, increased support for Ukraine, which was something that Diana Janse touched on in the conversation with FUF.
- Geography matters. That is one reason why we have an extra big responsibility to support Ukraine. If we don't manage to help Ukraine win this, not much else will matter, she says.
Another priority for the government is to use aid as a foreign policy tool, including by tying aid closer to foreign trade. In practice, this may mean, for example, increased support for trade organisations. According to Diana Janse, it should "strengthen Swedish interests where there are synergies".
- Ultimately, it is not aid that will lift people out of poverty, it is the market economy and that people have a job to go to, she says.
"Prioritizing is also prioritizing away"
The increased support to Ukraine also means that other aid areas are deprioritized. For example, core support to several UN agencies is being reduced.
- To prioritize is also to prioritize away. Ultimately, what is aid money must primarily be for poor countries, says Diana Janse and points out that Sweden is still one of the top five largest donors to the UN.
Another cut that the government has made in aid is Sida's funding for information and communication, which is reduced from 155 million to 20 million. This has been met with strong criticism from several aid organizations who works with information work. In part, several of them are coming have to lay off employees because of the cutbacks, and they will no longer be able to spread knowledge about Swedish aid and Agenda 2030. But Diana Janse points out that civil society must have other sources of income than expenditure area 7, i.e. international aid.
- We think aid money should be used in poor countries. It (the Infokom grant, editor's note) is the only strategy that targets a Swedish audience, says Diana Janse.
She does not agree that there has not been an impact analysis of the reductions, something like several civil society representatives has criticized the government for.
- There are many ways to spread information. It does not fall with the infocom grant, she says.
Less money for skills development and research
During the conversation, Diana Janse was also asked questions about how she views the development of the Swedish resource base and competence in the development industry when money for competence development and research is greatly reduced, something that civil society representatives mean risks being negatively affected by the government's aid policy.
- Basically, no one can dispute that research is good and healthy. We have had to look at the priorities and prioritize accordingly, based on a need to find funding for Ukraine, says Diana Janse.
She also believes that the government does not want to use aid money to build Sweden's competence.
- That can be done, but is it a priority? Probably not, says Diana Janse.
Something that the government, however, wants to prioritize, according to their strategies, is the work for human rights and democracy. Despite that, Guatemala, for example, receives less support, a country where aid has previously gone to precisely these areas.
- There are several ways to cut this sausage. We chose to cut down on Guatemala, says Diana Janse.
Further reading about the government's aid policy
Today's news: Aid to Palestine is sharply reduced
The outside world: Criticism after the government's letter to Sida: "We have tried to meet the minister"
Althing Debate: The government's new aid policy risks hitting the world's children hard
Today's News Debate: "Cutting aid makes Sweden less secure"