Don’t Force New Helpline Without Listening To Those Affected

SoME Gavobevis 2023

5 June 2023

Don’t Force New Helpline Without Listening To Those Affected

The Debate Government is planning a “historic change” in Sweden’s aid policy without the proposal going to consultation or the reforms being anchored in the Riksdag. In order for the government’s motto of transparency, efficiency and long-term aid to become a reality, those affected by the reforms must be heard, write 38 representatives of civil society organizations.

“We are really breaking new ground, what we want to do is a historic change”. So said Foreign Trade and Development Minister Johan Forssell in an interview with TT in April. He referred to the reorganization of the aid policy that is currently underway at the Government Office. Despite the fact that it is a policy area that affects peace and sustainable development globally, as well as Sweden’s relations with a number of countries, the minister made it clear at an early stage that there is no time for any traditional referral procedure or for anchoring in the Riksdag.

We who sign this article want to contribute to reforms for a transparent, long-term and effective development cooperation of high quality. We appreciate that the Prime Minister and staff listened to many of us at a meeting in early May. However, we are critical of the haste in the process, and the announcement that no written documentation will be made public before a decision is made this autumn. We are convinced that a systematic procedure where interested parties can test a concrete proposal against facts, research and experience from local needs and conditions leads to better decisions. Even where opinions differ, it can only be better with an open discussion.

A “historic change” that affects the entire foreign and development policy is a question of Sweden’s security, role and reputation in an increasingly geopolitically unstable world. It will affect Sweden’s development policy for many years to come and should therefore be presented in a letter to the elected representatives of the Riksdag. Solid anchoring in Sweden’s Riksdag and open debate are prerequisites for long-term development policy and have been the practice under previous governments, regardless of political color.

International aid, both humanitarian and development cooperation, is a complex policy area and changes take a long time to implement. There is no “quick fix” to combat poverty and oppression and in the long run create security, equality and sustainable societies. It is a policy area that is therefore carefully reviewed, evaluated and researched.

Sweden’s aid receives good marks in international evaluations. So there are many lessons to fall back on. A clear one is that the most effective aid occurs in collaboration with local organizations and people in local communities, and supports their own initiatives and priorities. They are the experts on their reality, and they are the ones who can drive development forward. Aid gives the best results when it is based on a deep understanding of the local situation, long-term collaborations, and the pursuit of concrete and sustainable improvements in people’s lives. Therefore, the voices of local organizations and people in poverty and oppression need to be heard in the discussions about the reform agenda.

Written documentation

A process for changing the policy for international development cooperation that lives up to the watchwords of long-termism, efficiency and transparency requires that the government:

– Anchors the reform agenda in Sweden’s Riksdag and opens up for democratic discussion and review.

– As soon as possible, publish a written document on the reform agenda for consultation with organizations in civil society. This is before decisions are made, in accordance with the government’s and civil society’s joint commitments within development cooperation.

– Ensures enough time to listen to the people in poverty and oppression that the aid aims to empower. The perspectives and priorities of locally rooted organizations are fundamental for aid reforms to be legitimate and successful.

Louise Lindfors, generalsekreterare, Afrikagrupperna

Johanna Davén, generalsekreterare, IOGT-NTO Movement

Alexander Clemenson, generalsekreterare KFUM Sverige

Jan Strömdahl, ordförande, Svenska Västsaharakommittén

Mattias Brunander, tf generalsekreterare, Diakonia

Paul Carlsson, ordförande, Praktisk Solidaritet

Prudence Woodford-Berger, ordförande, PRO Global .

Dr. Judith McCallum, executive director, Life & Peace Institute

Malin Nilsson, generalsekreterare IKFF

Clara Berglund, generalsekreterare, Sveriges Kvinnoorganisationer

Alexandra Klang, executive director, Svalorna Indien Bangladesh

Daniel Grahn, generalsekreterare, Erikshjälpen

Peter Brune, generalsekreterare, WarChild

Alice Blondel, kanslichef Swedwatch

Brian Kelly, generalsekreterare, Emmaus Stockholm

Anette Uddqvist, kanslichef, Operation 1325

Therése Engström, generalsekreterare, International Rescue Committee (RESCUE) Sverige

Noura Berrouba, ordförande, LSU – Sveriges barn- och ungdomsorganisationer

Niclas Lindgren, direktor, PMU

Kerstin Bergeå, ordförande, Svenska Freds- och skiljedomsföreningen

Jonas Kårlin, tf. ordförande, Vänsterns Internationella Forum

Anna Nilsdotter, generalsekreterare, WaterAid

Tobias Linghag, verksamhetsledare, Framtidsjorden

Malin Fagerberg Wikström, ordförande, Östgruppen

Charlotta Norrby, generalsekreterare, Svenska missionsrådet

Anna Widoff, ordförande MeSheWe

Ulrika Strand, generalsekreterare, Fonden för mänskliga rättigheter

Martina Hibell, generalsekreterare, Barnfonden

Lotta Sjöström Becker, generalsekreterare, Kristna Fredsrörelsen

Hannah Laustiola, generalsekreterare Läkare i Världen

Ulrika Urey, kanslichef, Fair Action

Catarina Antikainen, ordförande FIAN Sverige

Annelie Börjesson, ordförande, Svenska FN-förbundet

Andreas Stefansson, generalsekreterare, Svenska Afghanistankommittén

Anna Sundström, generalsekreterare, Olof Palmes Internationella Center

Charlotta Szczepanowski, generalsekreterare, Vi-skogen

Klara Knapp, ordförande, Latinamerikagrupperna

Jenny Jansson Pearce, deputy director, Right Livelihood

Publicerad i Göteborgs-posten 2/6-2023

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