As a government agency of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sida is the Swedish authority with the primary responsibility for development cooperation. But what role does it play exactly on the global stage through its membership of the established institutions of the UN, EU, and World Bank? And how does it achieve its development priority outside of the established global development agencies?
In recent years the international community has increasingly prioritised development cooperation centred around two key events: First, the OECD Paris Declaration in 2005, in which the world’s governments and development organisations agreed on more efficient development cooperation for clearer results. Secondly, the UN initiative of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 enshrined “Partnership for the Goals” as a primary target itself. Accordingly in 2007, in line with the government’s Global Development Policy, Sweden launched a specific Strategy for Multilateral Development Cooperation and now channels more than half of the country’s total development funding through multilaterals.
Sida and the UN
Approximately 30 percent of the Swedish funding for development cooperation goes to UN agencies. The collaboration with the UN is crucial: Swedish aid can reach countries with which they do not have bilateral agreements. Additionally, the cooperation between donor countries and the UN can reduce the administrative burden of the local institutions in beneficiary countries.
Within the context of prioritisation of the SDGs in the UN’s development agenda, the Swedish government has created an Agenda 2030 delegation whose task it is to encourage Sweden’s implementation of the SDGs.
Sida and the EU
More than half of the development cooperation worldwide is covered directly through funding of the EU member states and through the European Commission. A large part is managed via the European Development Fund (EDF) – an important instrument of the European Commission that consists of the contributions of EU member states. The biggest portion of the EDF goes to ACP countries (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States). Through this agreement the EU ensures management of both trade and development in the ACP countries.
But where does Sweden sit in this picture? Sweden’s financial contribution of 2.8 billion Swedish SEK (approximately 280 million Euros) equates to 3 percent of the total budget for EU development cooperation where its population represents just under 2 percent of the EU total. Approximately 900 million Krona of the Swedish contributions goes to the EDF, the rest is part of the Swedish membership payments to the EU.
Coherence between areas of development such as trade, aid, security between EU member states is followed up both on EU level and on a Swedish national level in order to minimize contradictions between policies and to guarantee sustainable and efficient development cooperation. At EU level, the tool that ensures this unity is called The Policy Coherence for Development (PCD). Through the PCD the EU attempts to include development objectives in all the policies that affect developing countries. A dedicated PCD team within the European Commission coordinate internal work with other services and institutions. EU Member States are then also held responsible to ensure policy coherence for development is implemented in their national policies. The coordination mechanism concerning development cooperation in Sweden is called Sveriges politik för global utveckling (PGU, translation: Sweden’s politics towards global development), which should guarantee that political decisions in Sweden contribute to sustainable global development.
Sida and the World Bank
The World Bank Group is one of the world’s biggest institutions for development cooperation. It consists of five different organisations, of which two focus on developing countries: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). IBRD and IDA together are commonly referred to as “The World Bank”.
Swedish contribution to IBRD and IDA is managed via the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finance. In 2014 Sweden donated four billion Swedish SEK (400 million Euros) to The World Bank. SIDA also contributes to the World Bank’s Trust Funds. The World Bank administers these Trust Funds to manage funds contributed by development partners for specific national and regional projects – often for crisis situations where other funding mechanisms may not be available, such as The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. SIDA also assists in the communication between the World Bank and recipient countries. Moreover, Sweden is represented on the board of the World Bank Group.
Sida’s thematic partnerships
In addition to its activity and financing through its membership to the established development agencies, Sweden leverages its impact in its strategic development agendas through multilateral cooperation on specific thematic themes. Unsurprisingly, the two most notable examples of this type are cooperations alongside other national agencies in Northern Europe who find significant complementarity in aid priorities.
The Nordic Development Fund (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) channels one billion Euros into climate change initiatives in low-income countries, typically in cooperation with bilateral, multilateral and other development institutions.
Also within the context of the Paris Declaration, Nordic+, a separate organisation, aims to strengthen the role of civil society in ensuring government accountability, for instance on human rights, gender issues, and rule of law, and even provide services particularly in fragile states. Nordic+ encompasses cooperation between Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, as well as UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands, who have all historically and strategically entrusted a significant portion of their overseas development assistance budgets directly to NGOs.
So, what role does Sida play on the global stage of development cooperation? Looking at the complexity of the huge institutions Sida seem to be just a small wheel in the great machinery. Nevertheless, given the relatively small population of Sweden, Sida contributes generously to global development both in the big picture and besides the established global institutions. With contributions both in the financial and in the managing field, a delegation encouraging Sweden’s implementation of the SDGs and a well-established policy instrument to ensure a sustainable development, Sida is definitely visible on the global stage of development cooperation.
By Sam Bass and Elin Fredriksson