Maja Magnusson, press officer and information officer at Svalorna Latinamerika, is concerned that reduced aid and scrapped feminist foreign policy could affect gender equality work in Latin America. Photo: Swallows Latin America.


New foreign policy makes the future uncertain for gender equality projects in Latin America

The new direction of Swedish foreign policy has caused concern among many organizations that work with global development issues.
- We are worried about severe cuts, says Maja Magnusson, press officer and information officer at Svalorna Latin America.

It is a worried Maja Magnusson who answers the other end of the phone late one afternoon in November. She works as a press officer and information officer at Swallows Latin America - a civil society organization with the aim of strengthen the rights of women and young people in South and Central America. The new government's announcement of scrapped feminist foreign policy and reduced aid, which The development magazine previously reported on, has made the future uncertain for the organization. This is because the work of both Svalorna Latin America and their local partner organizations is largely financed by government aid money.

- It is too early to say exactly what the new government's policy will mean for us, but we are worried about sharp cuts, says Maja Magnusson.

The swallows Latin America have not yet received information about government aid money for next year. In the government's new budget, the goal of giving one percent of Sweden's gross national income (GNI) in aid is replaced by a fixed sum of SEK 56 billion annually. This means a reduction of approx 7,3 billion kronor next year compared to if the aid had been one percent of GNI. Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (M) emphasized i the government declaration that it is primarily aid to multilateral organizations that should be reduced, but Maja Magnusson believes that even small reductions for smaller civil society organizations can have disastrous consequences.

- For us, a reduction of 10 to 30 percent would mean that large parts of the business risk disappearing, she says.

Last year Svalorna Latin America together with local partner organizations contributed, for example, to strengthening the work of 50 women for sexual and reproductive rights in Guatemala. In addition, over 13 people in Bolivia were reached digitally by, among others, one radio program about gender-based violence. With the new direction of foreign policy, much of that activity risks being shut down, says Maja Magnusson.

The swallows Latin America is not alone in worrying about the consequences of reduced aid. Earlier this year, 60 civil society organizations organized one joint call* to save the one percent target. The organizations warned that aid cuts would leave 760 hungry people without food and 000 million children out of school.

Concerns about scrapped feminist foreign policy

In addition to concerns about reduced aid, Svalorna Latin America and others are concerned other organizations also because the feminist foreign policy is being scrapped.

- The feminist foreign policy was a very symbolic policy, but at the same time an important recognition that you cannot achieve other foreign policy goals if you do not achieve gender equality, says Maja Magnusson.

She highlights Svalorna Latin America's work in Peru as an example. There, poverty is fought by supporting female farmers who are worst affected by both resource shortages and the effects of climate change on agriculture.

- Women are always the worst affected, so by supporting them and improving gender equality, you achieve many other development goals at the same time, she says and continues:

- The feminist foreign policy gave assurance that Svalorna Latin America would receive government funding for gender equality projects, but now we are not so sure anymore.

However, the new government has said that foreign policy will continue focus on gender equality, although it is no longer called feminist.

Will there be any real difference then?

- An equal foreign policy requires a feminist lens that understands how society works, says Maja Magnusson.

She thinks it is strange to remove the feminist foreign policy when gender equality in the world is going backwards.

- It's like saying you don't have the same ambition, concludes Maja Magnusson.

Save the aid

*The appeal Save the aid was coordinated by CONCORD Sweden and signed among others by the Association for Development Issues (FUF).

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