The government is working on a reform agenda for Swedish aid and emphasizes the increased level of conflict in the region. They claim to want to protect human rights, strengthen democracy and reduce poverty through aid. Despite increased needs, the government chooses to repeal the long-standing one percent GDP target (“Enprocentmålet”), while at the same time noting that humanitarian aid accounts for an increasing share of aid. Today, more than 100 million people are fleeing from conflict and millions more are fleeing poverty.
The government has included the objective of countering refugee flows in the aid agenda. The question is what measures will be taken to resolve conflicts where they arise. How to ensure that both women and men participate as actors for peace and security? To combat poverty, aid must support the development of robust institutions that can govern development, strengthen the rule of law and fight corruption. This requires long-term commitment and persistence. The UN framework for sustainable development and human rights is a basis for this development cooperation, both bilateral and multilateral. We urge the government not to reinvent the wheel, but to transparently apply established frameworks that are internationally accepted by both donors and recipients. Peace and security are prerequisites, and women’s participation a necessity.
Operation 1325 urges the government to promote gender equality and women’s human rights as an instrument for effective goal achievement. Continued support for SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights) is important, but it does not free women from discrimination. Through gender mainstreaming in the reform agenda, misguided investments can be avoided, in order to prevent risking women being discriminated against anyway.
Making women’s rights visible should remain a cornerstone of Swedish aid. We believe that women’s contribution to poverty reduction and sustainable development is great – and includes everything from women’s legal rights to own and manage their means of production, female entrepreneurship, labour market policy and environmental management, to education, clean water and equal health care. We believe that this requires a greater pronounced aim in the aid policy regarding women’s agency over their own lives and futures. Democracy is strengthened when both women and men participate on equal terms. By using gender mainstreaming as a central tool, conditions are created for governance and evaluation of the results, in accordance with the 2030 Agenda and the Beijing Platform for Action.
As a leading player in the UN system and the EU, Sweden has committed itself to global development and justice based on solidarity. This position has been built up over a long time and has given Sweden international recognition. Sweden’s new aid agenda should continue to be based on the international agreements that Sweden has actively promoted in the past. Anything else would be a betrayal against the world’s poorest people, against women’s rights and against the committed Swedish citizens who are standing up for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
A cornerstone of international agreements is the Millennium Declaration and the goals formulated for sustainable development. First in the Millennium Development Goals and since 2015 in the 2030 Agenda. Aid is an important yet smaller part of the UN’s carefully negotiated recommendations on financing development. As early as 2002 (Monterrey), commitments to financing development were defined, with aid as one component and trade, technology exchange, debt cancellation and transparent financial systems as the basis for a growing economic base. The 2015 Finance Conference (Addis Ababa) underlines the responsibility of all countries to mobilise the necessary resources for the 2030 Agenda and, through cooperation, to strengthen the transparency of international governance systems, create synergies and effectively promote economic growth. Sweden should continue to be an active advocate for the realisation of international agreements.
In 2000, the UN’s Women Peace and Security (WPS) agenda made significant progress with the adoption of Security Council Resolution SCR1325. It was preceded by international negotiations and consultations, in the light of crimes historically committed against women during wars and conflicts. The agenda has two main principles: (1) no sustainable peace is possible without the full participation of women in conflict resolution, peace negotiations and implementation of peace agreements; (2) it is necessary to protect women from sexualised violence in conflict, where women’s bodies are used as weapons in conflict. The government focuses on preventing sexual violence in conflict, which is important, but not sufficient for sustainable peace. For long-term conflict resolution, both women and men need to participate in the peace process. Research shows that peace agreements where women are actively involved lead to sustainable peace. Promoting women’s agency is therefore an efficient use of scarce resources. Women’s experiences must be made visible in the peace process and women’s participation must be guaranteed in order to achieve sustainable peace.
Operation 1325 urges the government to engage in a constructive dialogue with all stakeholders, including the civil society, in the areas of gender equality, poverty reduction, peace and security and human rights. We also urge the government to base the reform on internationally accepted principles. In a time of increased insecurity, at home and abroad, women and women’s rights cannot be made invisible.
Text by Aase Smedler.