Open letter to Aftonbladet's editor-in-chief

As editor-in-chief, how have you reasoned about columnist Elisabet Höglund's claims that poor countries have received "billions" in aid, that Africa has "boundless poverty and misery" and that it stands still in countries that are actually moving in the right direction? Sida's communications manager Joachim Beijmo asks that question in an open letter to Aftonbladet's editor-in-chief Jan Helin.


I am writing to you due to Elisabet Höglund's column "Here is the result of our cynical assistance”In yesterday's newspaper.

In recent times, aid has been highly topical in the media; if it can be shown that development assistance benefits the poor, if results are reported, how the management of development assistance is managed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other matters.

We at Sida, who handle a large part of the development assistance, think that review and lively debate are good and important, but it is important that the debate is based on how it actually is and nothing else.

Aftonbladet wants the "hottest columnists who arouse emotions". But do columnists have to neglect facts to achieve that? In Monday's Aftonbladet, columnist Elisabet Höglund uses facts that are incorrect and directly misleading.

I wonder how you as editor-in-chief reason when a columnist is allowed:

1. Claim that poor countries have received "billions" in aid.

2. To claim that Africa has "boundless poverty and misery".

3. Pick statistics to argue that development is stagnant in countries when things are going in the right direction in those countries.

An editor had quickly found out with 15 minutes of googling:

1. That the total international aid is approximately SEK 870 billion this year. That 1000 billion is a trillion and 1000 trillion is a billiard. To get up in a pool we had to keep going for 1149 years, or since the year 864 (after Christ). In Sweden, we have had state-funded development assistance since 1962.

2. That poverty has decreased throughout the world, including southern Africa. Today, about one in seven people in the world live in poverty - compared to every other year in 1990. More children survive the toddler years, more women survive pregnancy and childbirth and 9 out of 10 children start primary school. Even in southern Africa.

3. That for every indicator that Höglund highlights as "proof" that nothing has happened, there has been an improvement since 1990. Some examples: In Afghanistan, 209 children out of 1000 died in 1990 - compared to today 131. The average life expectancy in Tanzania in 1990 was 43 years - compared to today 57 years. In Mozambique, 20 years ago, 219 out of 1000 children died before the fifth anniversary, compared to 135 out of 1 today. All according to UN statistics in the annual Human Development Report.

Elisabet Höglund claims that we work cynically with development aid - but the question is whether it is not more cynical to neglect facts and not tell about how the "state of the world" actually is, for real.

Med vänliga hälsningar,

Joachim Beijmo, Head of Communications at Sida

PS. This letter will also be published on

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