In March, the Social Democratic government announced that costs for Swedish refugee reception would be deducted from development assistance. Magnus Walan, senior policy adviser at Diakonia, thinks the opposite - more aid to, among other things, promote democracy in the world, not less. He writes this in a guest analysis on Utvecklingsmagasinet. Photo: The Social Democrats. Source: Flickr.

Guest analysis

Five lessons from Russia's war in Ukraine on aid and development policy

There is a debate going on about what lessons we can learn from Russia's war in Ukraine. Much of the debate is about NATO, but there are also lessons for Swedish foreign, development and development policy. How can politics become better at preventing conflicts and wars? Magnus Walan, senior policy advisor at Diakonia, lists five lessons.

More aid to promote democracy, gender equality and conflict prevention - no less

The Social Democratic government has announced future major cuts in development assistance by letting development assistance finance the Swedish refugee reception center. That the OECD-DAC's rules - in certain forms - allow that can Counting refugee costs in the recipient countries as aid does not mean that must count that way.

The importance of development assistance to support democracy activists and women's organizations has become increasingly important.

- The Kremlin sees aid as a weapon against those in power, says the Russia expert Per Enerud to Svenska Dagbladet.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which is supported by the Swedish Development Aid Authority Sida, has revealed Putin's hidden assets in Europe and pointed out that up to 20 percent of Russia's assets are hidden in tax havens such as Cyprus, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands - of which the latter two belong to the United Kingdom. A majority of tax havens are located in Europe.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has challenged donor states not to reduce aid to finance, for example, military rearmament.

Filippo Grandi, head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, warns of the effects if donors use domestic assistance for refugees.

- It will contribute to the aggravation of other crises and will be more difficult to deal with in the future, he says.

The war in Ukraine is leading to sharply rising food prices in many poor countries, and the UN's food program WFP warns that 2022 could be the year of catastrophic famine.

In the Riksdag, the Moderates want to reduce development assistance by 30 percent and The Sweden Democrats can imagine halving aid.

Sweden must support - not block - measures against tax havens, corruption and transparency

The search for the assets of Russian oligarchs highlights the need for measures for a more transparent financial system. The financial system of tax havens, letterbox companies and the lack of transparency make the world a more uncertain place. It fights crime, money laundering, corruption and makes it possible to plunder countries for wealth. Large-scale capital and tax evasion deprives countries of tax revenue needed for investment in welfare. Research shows, for example, that Africa has a net outflow of capital that is five times as large as development aid. Capital flight and tax flight are common linked to elite raw material extraction.

Sweden has blocked proposals in the EU for increased transparency in corporate payments. It is time to reconsider politics - in Sweden, the EU and the UN. There is also often a lack of registers of assets, something that has become clear when sanctions are imposed on Russian oligarchs. Establishing public records of assets would make it easier to track them.

3. Effective regulations for companies and financial institutions to respect human rights - close the loopholes

For a long time, companies and politicians have said that trade and entrepreneurship in countries such as Russia and China will contribute to loosening the system and to democratization. It's time to put an end to that myth.

Fair Finance Guide revealed the second of March 2022 that Swedish banks and pension funds have invested close to SEK 2014 billion in the Russian state and Russian state-controlled companies, despite the fact that the companies have been on the EU sanctions list since XNUMX. The same month Expressen revealed that Swedish technology may have been used by the Russian state nuclear weapons manufacturer. That documents and agreements from Russian procurements show how equipment from Swedish industrial groups such as Sandvik, SKF, Seco Tools and Atlas Copco has been sold and delivered to organizations in the Russian nuclear weapons program.

The Concord network in Sweden has established major loopholes in the bill that lies in the EU regarding future laws for companies to conduct due diligence in their operations. It calls on the Swedish government to ensure that new EU legislation becomes effective and closes the obvious loopholes that exist. The state needs to strengthen the governance of the financial market and pension funds and ensure that it does not finance human rights violations.

4. Faster conversion to renewable energy benefits both the climate and human rights and counteracts conflicts

Around 600 million people in the Middle East and North Africa, which is 50 percent of the population, may be exposed to "super-extreme" weather events by the year 2100 - in some places temperatures of up to 60 degrees are expected within a few decades, according to UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa.

By stopping oil and gas imports from undemocratic countries such as Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and quickly switching to renewable energy sources, two flies are struck in one fell swoop. It does not fund undemocratic regimes and it is favorable for the climate.

5. Stop exporting munitions to dictatorships

There is a direct connection between de-democratization, autocratization and increased conflict, says political science professor Staffan I Lindberg in an interview in Svenska Dagbladet.

With clear links between countries moving against dictatorships and an increased risk of conflicts, it should be reasonable for the Swedish Parliament and Government to realize the risks of continued exports of munitions to dictatorships and countries responsible for widespread and serious violations of human rights.

In that statistic which was handed over to the government in March over Swedish arms exports in 2021, the recipient list was topped by the dictatorship of the United Arab Emirates, which is one of the warring countries in the Yemeni war. Sweden continues to export bombs, grenades and torpedoes. In Yemen, seven years of war have created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

Statistics show that arms exports continue to go to countries in war and armed conflict, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, India, Pakistan, Kuwait and the Philippines - countries that in many cases are ruled by authoritarian undemocratic leaders.

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

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