The government's aid policy platform: Unserious all the way

In its change in development aid policy, the government applies frivolous methods that do not befit Swedish democracy. The opposition contributes to legitimizing the government's methods by not pointing out the constitutionally razor-sharp differences between letters and bills, while officials do not dare to comment on the issue. It writes Petra Flaum, policy and development strategist

There have been many trips around the government's new development aid policy platform that was recently launched.

The Social Democrats' development policy spokesperson Kenneth G Forslund appealed before the launch that Minister for Development Aid Hillevi Engström (M) should stop the platform as, according to Forslund, it is both superficial, has serious gaps and that Swedish development cooperation is now returning to being donor-driven. Minister for Development Aid Engström called the opposition unserious. Forslund countered that it is at least the Minister for Development Aid who is unserious, e.g. because it is still unclear what status the development assistance policy platform has in relation to our Riksdag-adopted development and sustainability policy; the bill Joint Responsibility-Sweden's Policy for Global Development (PGU).

But wait, is it really unclear what status the development aid policy platform has in relation to PGU? I have never doubted the differences between them after reading the Rules of Procedure. But perhaps I have still missed something if not even the Foreign Affairs Committee member Forslund can determine the difference between the "PGU bill" and the "letter the development aid policy platform".

I therefore called the Riksdag to ask it the simple question of the seven; can a letter change a parliamentary resolution passed by a bill? After a series of conversations without concrete answers, I received a tip from a politician to call the Foreign Affairs Committee's secretary general. I presented my question and got the answer that he did not want to be bandaged or quoted. Surprised, I replied that I did not intend to do one or the other. He then claimed that my question was political and that he therefore did not want to answer. Instead, he directed me to contact a politician. The chief of staff then said that he heard my speakerphone buzz and that he had to end the conversation to take part in a debate.

I never received an answer from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. However, I got it from an assistant professor of political science at Lund University. The answer confirmed my opinion:

The significant difference is thus that a bill contains proposals to the Riksdag, while a letter "only" contains information ".

The functional difference between a letter and a bill is thus razor sharp. The Government shall use a letter to inform the Riksdag about how it views a certain established issue and / or to inform about how it has worked or plans to work with a certain established policy area. However, when the government is to present new policy proposals or change existing policies, the government must present these proposals in a bill. Thereafter, it is the task of our elected Riksdag to decide in a transparent democratic process whether the bill / proposal should be adopted or rejected.

Consequently, a letter is subordinate to a bill. So no government can through one letter as the development aid policy platform, change, for example, the motive for Swedish development cooperation "solidarity with people in other countries", as this motive was adopted by a unanimous Riksdag already in 2003 through the bill PGU. However, the government may in a letter will inform Riksdag, opposition and the Swedish people the it sees solidarity as a starting point for development cooperation or the it works to ensure that all poverty reduction measures are based on solidarity with people in other countries, in line with the bill PGU.

How can that be? solidarity not mentioned in the new aid policy platform? Instead, the government writes that Sweden has one morally responsibility to support people living in oppression, vulnerability and poverty. One does not have to be very philosophical to realize that morality is a fragile foundation on which to build a nation's international development cooperation. Since human - and politicians' - moral perception is both subjective, culture-based, context-bound and thus highly variable. This is in contrast to solidarity, which is based on the "other person's" context and needs. Nor does one need to be a prominent mathematician to figure out which of the motives, solidarity or morals, most politicizes and undermines the long-term nature of development cooperation.

There is obviously a lack of seriousness on several levels. We have:

- a Minister for Development Aid who presents a letter as if it were a bill

An opposition that cannot distinguish a parliamentary bill from government information in the form of a letter

- a secretary general of the Foreign Affairs Committee who refuses to answer what distinguishes a bill from a letter because he considers the issue to be too political

However, this is not the first time the government has chosen to use the format letter / government information to push through its policy "backwards". The government did so already in 2008 when, with thunder and crashes, it launched the letter "new PGU". In the reformulated government completely sonic starting point for the PGU will be implemented.

The bill PGU from the Riksdag from 2003 states:

"(A fair and sustainable development) achieved through a more coherent policy and increased collaboration with the spirit of countries and actors ”.

and in the letter / government information "new PGU" from 2008 it says:

"Just global development means respect for human rights and democracy and achieved through growth leading to poverty reduction ”.

The difference between these two approaches can hardly be underestimated. But since no one claimed the functional differences between the PGU bill and the letter "new PGU", the government could unreservedly consolidate the growth approach from "new PGU" as a starting point for Swedish development cooperation, by making it explicit in the 2008 budget a few months later.proposition. One could, of course, argue that this change is legitimate since the 2008 budget bill was actually adopted by the Riksdag. But it goes without saying that the focus is on budget allocation and not on semantics when a budget bill is considered. Personally, I do not think it is appropriate for our democracy for any government to fall into the trap of copying & pasting between letters and bills in order to anchor its policies in the back.

It only becomes serious when both the government and the opposition respect the democratic order, and formulate both their national and international development and sustainability policies in accordance with the interrelated and self-reinforcing motives, goals and perspectives - as a unanimous Riksdag adopted in 2003 through the PGU bill. That is, until the day a government in full transparency presents an equivalent development and sustainability bill - as adopted by the Riksdag - and thereby parliamentaryly repeals the PGU.

And no, I did not use a speakerphone.

Petra Flaum is a policy and organizational strategist, founder of Baseline Consulting, debater, lecturer and author of the book RESPONSIBILITY. 

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

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