"The government lacks ambitions to be a leading and driving player in humanitarian aid."

The new development assistance policy platform risks undermining the basic principles of humanitarian aid and should be complemented by a new policy. That is the opinion of Ulrika Årehed Kågström and Eva von Oelreich, Red Cross

In March, Minister for Development Aid Hillevi Engström thanked a number of organizations for their responses to the development assistance policy platform. Among other things, the Swedish Red Cross was praised for its contribution on the importance of prioritizing humanitarian issues in development assistance. We thank the government for listening, but nevertheless think that the final proposal that is now being prepared by the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Riksdag lacks a number of points. It is clear that there is a need for a special policy for humanitarian aid.

Historically, Sweden has always had a strong position in international humanitarian aid. The Swedish Red Cross believes that Sweden should continue to prioritize humanitarian issues and be a leading and driving player in the field of humanitarian policy. Unfortunately, such an ambition is lacking in the development aid policy platform today.

With the new aid policy platform, the document that has been a guideline in the field of humanitarian policy since 2010 expires, Sweden's policy for humanitarian aid 2010-2016 "Save lives and alleviate distress". We are very concerned about the fact that the basic principles of humanitarian aid are being eroded. At the same time, the need for these principles has never been greater.

Right now, the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen since World War II is probably going on in Syria. More than 2,5 million people are on the run outside the country's borders and as many as the entire Swedish population, nine million Syrians, are in great need of emergency aid. Despite the needs, humanitarian organizations do not have access to all those in need. Millions of people are not only denied food but also medicines and seek care at the risk of their lives. The situation in the Central African Republic and South Sudan is also worrying with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing and widespread violations of international humanitarian law.

Other global challenges affecting millions of people each year are climate change, population growth, high and fluctuating food, fuel and water prices, and water scarcity and environmental degradation. All these factors together increase the number of vulnerable people worldwide. In the last ten years alone, the number of people affected by natural disasters has doubled. It is therefore gratifying that the government has taken on board, among other things, our views on the importance of preventive humanitarian aid in reducing risks and increasing people's resilience (or resilience).

The development assistance policy platform makes it clear that most lives are saved, fewer are hit hard and most money is saved in major humanitarian disasters and crises through risk-reducing and preventive measures that address the underlying causes of vulnerability. The platform clearly states that a collaboration between humanitarian aid and development cooperation has a development-promoting effect. But the crucial links between humanitarian aid and development cooperation should be clearer in the governance of Swedish aid. In particular, given that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) in a recent report noted that only half a percent of all international aid over the past twenty years has been used to prevent humanitarian crises and disasters.

The development assistance platform otherwise lacks a couple of points. The special position that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement occupies in the international humanitarian landscape is completely lacking; the specific mandate of the movement in international humanitarian law, the unique role of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as a neutral and independent actor in humanitarian aid and protection, and the monitoring of humanitarian law and local presence worldwide in the form of the global network of national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies . Nevertheless, we assume that Sweden sees the importance of a neutral and independent humanitarian actor.

In humanitarian aid, especially in armed conflicts and other situations of violence, the importance of both emergency aid and protection must be emphasized. The development aid policy platform now only talks about refugees and internally displaced persons when it comes to protection. But protection is also about authorities and other actors respecting their obligations to the civilian population and the rights of all individuals to maintain security, physical integrity and dignity for people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence. Protection also applies to local and international healthcare and health care personnel as well as volunteers in the field, something that is also not highlighted by the platform. In Syria alone, 34 volunteers from the Syrian Red Crescent have been killed in the past three years.

We want to encourage Minister for Development Aid Hillevi Engström to show that she takes humanitarian aid seriously by strengthening the humanitarian dimension of the development aid policy platform, clarifying the important interplay with development aid and by developing a new policy for humanitarian aid as a complement to development aid policy. the platform.

Ulrika Årehed Kågström, Secretary General of the Swedish Red Cross

Eva von Oelreich, chairman of the Swedish Red Cross

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

Do you also want to write a debate article for Uttvecklingsmagasinet? Contact us at

Share this: