Sweden's settlements on aid meant 40 percent cut annual budgets for several civil society organizations and their partner operations. Utvecklingsmagasinet has interviewed five organizations that warn that their partner organizations are losing confidence in Sweden and finding it difficult to maintain their work against, among other things, child marriage and female genital mutilation.
- Sweden can afford it. We don't have to put our finger on solidarity. Refugees from Ukraine - of course we will accept them. But that money can be taken from elsewhere, says Christina Wassholm, communications manager at CONCORD Sweden, which organizes the campaign #SaveAid.
In connection with a press conference on the war in Ukraine in early March, the government announced that it wanted to make settlements on the aid budget to finance the reception of refugees from Ukraine. Just over a month later, the proposal was implemented.
During Almedalen Week, Utvecklingsmagasinet interviewed five civil society organizations that have been affected by the cuts in development assistance and that have partner activities abroad: CONCORD Sweden, the Africa groups, Union to Union, Diakonia and We Effect.
Four months into 2022, the organizations were forced to cut their annual budgets by 40 percent. The majority of organizations then needed to redirect their funding so that their core business would survive.
- To find out in April that 40 percent of one's annual budget disappears is brutal. What we found was that in principle all activities must cease, says Maria Nyberg, Secretary General of Union to Union.
Lena Ingelstam, Secretary General of Diakonia, agrees on the consequences of the budget cut.
- A lot of work was in principle paralyzed when everything became so insecure and it has of course made it more difficult, for example, work against child marriage and genital mutilation, new laws that threaten the freedom of civil society and so on.
Increased concern in operating countries
In June reintroduced the government part of the money, as the need for funding for the refugee reception was less than estimated. But the long-term development work has taken a hit and it has created a loss of confidence in Sweden, according to civil society organizations. And despite the restoration, a great deal of damage has already been done, according to Lena Ingelstam.
- Also if money has been returned to Sida's strategy for civil society, the jerky has led to major delays in the business and many missed results. Diakonia's partners have become uncertain about Sweden's support for poverty reduction, justice and sustainable development, she says.
Anna Tibblin, Secretary General of We Effect, adds that their partners share the same uncertainty with Sweden.
- We see increased anxiety and stress among both staff and partners in our operating countries. The cuts come at a time when the whole world is suffering from rising food prices and higher living costs. Partners are worried that Sweden will opt out of the world in favor of Europe.
Maria Nyberg talks about the risks that Union to Union's partners take with confidence in Sweden.
- Working in a union in Colombia, where we have operations, is life-threatening. The projects and people we support often have death threats against them. They take a super big risk, and they do it with the security that they have Sweden behind them. The uncertainty of aid also makes them more afraid. And it is very dangerous to be afraid when trying to fight for a democratic space.
Christina Wassholm from CONCORD emphasizes that Sweden's actions can have global consequences.
- It matters what Sweden does. Vi have a good reputation and have held a high flag regarding solidarity. Other countries are looking at us. When Sweden deviates from that course, it also becomes easier for other countries to do the same. And that is a very dangerous development.
Organizations in Namibia write to the Swedish government
During Almedalen Week, the Africa Groups organized a seminar to discuss "the elephant in the room", according to Louise Lindfors, Secretary General of the Africa Groups - which referred to the settlements on development assistance.
The African groups' partner organizations in Namibia, The Legal Assistance Center (LAC) and The Labor Research and Labor Institute (LaRRi), have contacted the government with a plea to regain Swedish aid for their operations. Namibia has been declared an upper middle income country by the World Bank, and subsequently several countries have withdrawn their support to the country. Sweden is the only donor to certain organizations in the country. The organizations LAC and LaRRi believe that the divisions in Namibian society are not depicted in the World Bank's definition and that it therefore causes harm to people in the country.
- What we have achieved and our support for vulnerable workers over the years has been thanks to the support of our partners. That support has enabled LaRRi to lead the conversation about equality and welfare of workers without fear of punishment as a work support organization, writes Dr. Michael Uusiku Akuupa, head of LaRRI, in his letter to the government.
- Without being dramatic, LAC would not be here if it were not for the African groups and the support of the Swedish government. We need that funding to realize the hopes we have for Namibia. Our hearts go out to the Ukrainian people and the suffering they are going through. It can never be justified. But we sincerely ask you to also consider the majority of Namibia's population who also suffer but have no support at all, writes TThey Hancox, chef for LAC, in his letter to the government.
Utvecklingsmagasinet sought the Social Democrats during Almedalen Week for comments regarding the settlements on development assistance, without results. IN of the party debate article on Utvecklingsmagasinet they write that the settlements have been made in accordance with the DAC's (OECD Committee on Aid) regulations and that they want settlements for expenditure outside what is traditionally counted as aid to be used restrictively.
The election on 11 September may change the XNUMX% target for development assistance
The parliamentary parties disagree on whether Sweden should continue to set aside one percent of GNI for development assistance or not. The Sweden Democrats, for example, want to reduce development assistance to 0,7 percent of GNI, according to their party program, while The Left Party wants to introduce a one percent floor for development aid and the Green Party wants to raise that to 1,25 percent of GNI, according to their debate articles in The development magazine.
During Almedal Week, CONCORD organized a mingling for their member organisations. After that, a group of 50 people went to Visby's crowded streets to collect signatures for the #RäddaBiståndet campaign. The collection of names must then be submitted to the government as documentation - and time is short, explains Christina Wassholm from CONCORD.
- The XNUMX% principle should not be open to debate. It is our moral duty to provide at least one percent of our wealth. And it should be real aid, she says.