New Swedes can streamline development assistance

By involving new Swedish experts with a background in the recipient countries in the execution and follow-up of development assistance projects, Swedish development assistance can be made more efficient and corruption avoided. I and many others are available, writes political scientist Avni Dervishi

Of Sweden's population, more than one million come from other countries. In addition to these new Swedes / immigrants / foreign-born (the names are many), about 400 citizens are children of foreign-born parents. This means that Sweden, through its citizens, has strong connections to the rest of the world.

The majority of these citizens have fled to Sweden due to wars and conflicts in their former homelands, some of which today are functioning democracies. Several of the countries are currently recipients of Swedish development assistance.

Swedish development assistance ranges from crisis support, poverty reduction to initiatives for self-development and much more. There is no doubt that Swedish development assistance is beneficial in our world. Some regions and countries that have previously been recipients of Swedish development assistance have slowly begun to take steps towards self-development. There, Swedish companies have drawn attention to the possibilities and in that spirit the project Kosmopolit was started, with the aim of utilizing the skills and networks that the new Swedes have in their former home countries. Using new Swedes as bridge builders to export Swedish goods and services to different parts of the world is a brilliant idea that works. A clear example is Iraqi Kurdistan (KRG), where several countries have already opened consulates in the capital Erbil. It benefits the labor market in Sweden as much as the labor market and stability in the former home countries. It also facilitates direct contacts with corresponding partners without intermediaries who often contribute to corruption.

Small country with great potential and credibility
In the global arena, we have great potential, not least because of our credibility. Despite the fact that we are a small country, we have a great impact on civil society in most parts of the world around us. But, as is well known precisely in conflict and post-conflict areas where Swedish development assistance is available, there is at the same time a lot of corruption. In 2013, Sida received 140 reports of suspected corruption.

Corruption can be fought with knowledge
It is not uncommon for foreign aid to be "privatized" by local authorities, who become millionaires at the expense of their own people. Poverty and misery are a breeding ground for new and old conflicts. The media reports that refugee flows to Europe are increasing markedly. Many of them die at sea as most cases with boat refugees trying to get to Lampedusa in Italy. Development aid funds finance both election propaganda and election fraud in politicians' election campaigns. Some of the countries that receive Swedish aid do not have a directly well-developed democracy, even when it comes to holding regular, general elections. Many new Swedes who are experts in international cooperation closely follow the development in their former home countries. Their knowledge can be useful here as well. Because, do we really want our aid funds to be used for election propaganda purposes by, for example, Mugabe in Zimbabwe?

No. We do not want that to be understood.

What I mean is that streamlining aid by actively fighting corruption can benefit the people of the recipient countries. We all know that corruption makes it difficult to fight poverty, undermines democracy and holds back economic growth and investment.

The origin or ethnicity itself is of course no guarantee that new Swedes with roots in current recipient countries and regions are experts in fighting corruption. Of course not. However, some of us with experience of cooperation / work in the parts of society that receive aid have knowledge of the contexts and structures that corrupt decision-makers use to abuse Swedish aid.

Successful assistance requires the trust of citizens. It increases when we know that our tax money is reaching its purpose in other countries. SEK 32 billion of taxpayers' money went to international aid in 2013 and it is important to maintain and increase credibility among the Swedish population. It is helpful, not shameful, to learn from business experiences.

Therefore, I propose that Swedish experts in various fields with a background in the recipient countries be involved in the implementation and follow-up of aid to these countries. Especially to those countries where we know that corruption occurs despite extensive aid.

I and many more are available.

Avni Dervishi
Political scientist from the Western Balkans

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

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