Mental Health Inequality in SwedenWilliam Russell, an international health insurance company, ranks Sweden as the best country in the world in terms of mental health care. Green spaces, work-life balance and generous government spending on mental health are just some of the contributing factors. Yet, a study by Kinza Degerlund Maldi and others, published in 2019, reveals a socioeconomic divide in the distribution of mental illness. Both educational and income disparities had an impact on mental health, but low income posed a higher risk for susceptibility to mental illness, especially among women. Another study by S Fritzell and others underlines job status, economic strain and enduring harassment as risk factors. Socioeconomic status has the most significant impact on mental health inequality in Sweden, more so than “demographic factors and psychosocial factors.”

Unemployment and Mental Health

The Centre for Global  Mental Health highlights that there are links between mental health and poverty. Unemployment contributes significantly to economic vulnerability. In particular, psychological distress is common among those without stable employment, more so than for those with secure jobs, and this is consistent regardless of gender and age bracket. Women are most impacted by economic disparities, suggesting that focusing on the gender wage gap and equal employment opportunities could help Sweden progress toward easing inequality.

The Impact of Education

The Public Health Agency of Sweden says that a “positive learning environment in school” is possibly the most important way to ensure good mental health among young people. Studies demonstrate this, with positive relationship building and maintenance in school and holistic care within these institutions shown to be integral to students’ well-being.

While education can positively benefit mental health, poverty still plays a role in educational outcomes and future prospects. Swedish children living in poverty generally have lower academic achievements in comparison to their wealthier peers and are more likely to drop out of school. This leads to reduced opportunities for employment and further education, meaning that the cycle of poverty and mental health inequities can continue in a generational capacity.

It is integral for the government to provide additional support to young people who are living in poverty and ensure children are in positive school environments to prevent further mental health inequality in Sweden. This is especially crucial considering that the suicide rate in Sweden for those aged 15–29 has shown no significant decline in 23 years, averaging between 8–14 suicides per 100,000 young people.

Migrant Vulnerabilities

Some regions are more prone to wealth inequities and mental health inequality and it is not coincidental that these regions are often densely populated by migrants. One example is Malmö, a city in Southern Sweden where around a third of children live in poverty.

Here, increased rates of poverty among migrant families have led to vulnerabilities in various aspects of life, including well-being. Migrants are more likely to suffer from both mental and physical illness due to increased difficulties securing financial independence, employment and satisfactory work, educational stability and positive social conditions. Analysis of the specifics of this inequality reveals that lack of access to social activities and support makes the largest contribution to the mental health discrepancies between natives and migrants. However, unemployment and money troubles also significantly impact the well-being of migrants living in Sweden.

Targeted Support

The 2019 Poverty Report Sweden highlights the fact that asylum seekers only have the right to emergency health services, which does not include mental health care. The institutional prioritization of mental health equality in Sweden, specifically targeting vulnerable regional areas, migrants, adolescents and low-income families, must materialize in the form of holistic structural support changes. Rather than attributing poverty and inequality to lifestyle choices, the government can look to understand the cycles of inequality that those in disadvantaged communities face.

Additionally, on an individual basis, the value of specifically targeted support is demonstrated by research on community health worker-led programs offered to migrants. Sweden’s ‘Hälsostöd’ (Health Support) program used data gathered from questionnaires to measure psychological distress. Results showed that migrants participating in health promotion programs experienced positive mental health impacts.

On the Right Path

The Swedish government took positive action in 2020 by commissioning the Swedish National Agency for Medical and Social Evaluation to assess efforts to address mental health well-being and reduce suicide among young people. This report was scheduled for completion in October 2022.

Sweden’s leaders are prioritizing young people and established five focal areas to center mental health strategies around, one of these priorities being a “focus on vulnerable groups.”

Over time, the Swedish mental health system has considerably improved and this is visible in numerous areas, including the decrease in suicide rates from 1997 to 2020. This reduction is visible among the majority of age groups, except those aged 15–29. For example, suicide rates among people 85 and older have reduced from 29 per 100,000 in 2000 to 18 in 2020.

Sweden’s government and public health agencies show commitment to improving mental health. Further focus on the mental health of those from disadvantaged backgrounds will reduce mental health inequality in Sweden.

– Lydia Tyler
Photo: Unsplash

Renewable Energy in Sweden
Sweden is one of the world-leading countries in the transition to renewable energy. Sweden plans to operate in all sectors with 100% renewable energy power generation by 2040 and reduce greenhouse emissions to zero by 2045. In 2018, 68% of Sweden’s electricity derived from the renewable energy source hydro energy. Today, Sweden has been able to introduce innovation from energy companies that make the renewable energy market a booming capital venture with an aim to full-coverage renewable energy operations.

What is Renewable Energy?

Often known as clean energy, renewable energy is a sustainable, climate-driven and innovative alternative to fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal. Renewable energy consists of natural wind, sun, water and nuclear elements that can produce electricity through transmissions. Heating, lights and factory machines often use the cost-effective option of fossil fuels. However, the limited quantity and damaging dispositions of fossil fuels have caused environmental concerns for Swedish and international energy companies. These concerns have resulted in a rising demand for resources and data about renewable energies.

Renewable Energy Sources in Sweden

Renewable energies are the fastest-growing source of electricity in Sweden with more than 50% of the current electricity production adding up to 89,306 gigawatt-hours. Although nuclear energy has had contributing factors in Sweden with 42% of the country’s 2018 electricity production, nuclear usage has sparked many concerns since 1980.

Hydro energy is the leading renewable energy source in Sweden. It powers most electricity productions with 61,605 GWh in 2018, while wind energy is the second efficient renewable energy source with more than 20 TWh in 2019. Forests, the largest biofuel in Sweden, regulate the country’s bioenergy. These forests cover 63% of Swedish land. Furthermore, solar energy could surge from 400 GWh in 2018 to 1.7 TWh in 2022.

The International Renewable Energy Agency stated that “The country’s power system is almost entirely decarbonized already, based on extensive hydropower resources and nuclear power, as well as district heating fuelled by biomass.” Sweden has successfully integrated energy powers with its current climate objectives, including the taxation of carbon dioxide emissions on factories and other sectors.

Citizens Approve of Renewable Power

Sweden has been increasingly operating on hydro-driven electricity since the first lightbulb in 1882. As citizens comfortably adapt to the country’s rich supply of moving water and biomass, transportation and electricity bills are also becoming a great benefit. The Borgen Project spoke with Stockholm-based Health Administration student Ajoub Junior about whether complete renewable energy by 2040 is possible for Sweden. Junior stated, “I do believe it because I’ve seen great improvements all over around Sweden this few years.” As electricity companies transition to 100% renewable energy sources, many customers are noticing cheaper bills and changes in climate policies. Junior said, “In 10 to 20 years from now, I hope this country is free from fossil fuels.”

The Contribution of Competitive Markets

Vattenfall AB, Fortum Oyj, Swedish Biofuels AB, General Electric Company and RES Group are Sweden’s top five leading renewable energy companies to date, making the market “moderately consolidated.”

With a competitive market in a ready-to-go country, a 100% sustainable energy operation by 2040 is certainly an attainable goal. Although experts believe challenges in policy and system operations will likely compromise the prediction, achieving a 100% renewable power system is a possible goal with a promising future for Sweden’s climate.

Ayesha Swaray
Photo: Flickr

Commitment to Development IndexThe Center for Global Development (CGD) releases the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) annually. The CGD analyzes the policies of the 40 most powerful countries in the world on their dedication to contributing to the development of low-income nations. It rates the countries based on performance in three overall categories and seven subcategories: development finance, exchange (including investment, migration and trade) and global public goods (including environment, security and technology). After scoring these sections individually for each country, the CGD then assigns each country an overall grade. The organization ranks the countries on the CDI based on these overall scores. In 2020, the top three countries were Sweden, France and Norway.

Sweden

Sweden ranks first on the Commitment to Development Index, with an overall score of 100%. Sweden received more than a 90% rating on development finance, migration, environment and security. The country scores well on all categories except technology, where it ranks 20th.

  • Development Finance. Sweden received a score of 93% because it spends 0.83% of its gross national income (GNI) on development finance. This is more than twice the average. Sweden also has proper transparency when it comes to spending. The country even has its own development finance institution called Swedfund. The institution’s goal is to alleviate poverty by investing in and helping to develop sustainable businesses in struggling and formidable markets.
  • Migration. Sweden received a score of 100% in this category because it has the most inclusive migrant policies compared to all the other countries on the CDI. Sweden has tightened its legislation since 2015 when it received 160,000 asylum seekers. The aim is to ensure that it can sufficiently take care of the people already in the country without being overburdened. Nevertheless, the country still welcomes more migrants than any other country on the CDI.
  • Security. Sweden received a 93% in security because it “contributes an above-average level of troops and finance to global peacekeeping missions.” Sweden also helps contribute to global health initiatives. Sweden has worked with the U.N. peacekeeping missions since 1948 and has sent more than 80,000 Swedish people to help.

France

France came second on the Commitment to Development Index with an overall score of 81%. France received more than a 90% score on investment, environment and security. France also scored well on trade.

  • Investment. France received a 91% in this category because it performs well with regard to business and human rights criteria. France created “The National Plan for the Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.” The plan “is a universal road map for implementing the standards aimed at holding businesses accountable with regard to human rights.”
  • Environment. France received a 97% in the environment category because it signed every necessary environmental treaty and produces few fossil fuels.
  • Security. France has a 93% in this category because of its peacekeeping commitments. It provides 0.066% of its GNI to peacekeeping, which is twice the average. For 2020-2021, France budgeted $6.58 billion for peacekeeping efforts.

Norway

Norway ranks third on the Commitment to Development Index, with an overall score of 78%, mostly because of its high rating on development finance. It ranks well on investment and security too.

  • Development Finance. Norway received a 96% in this category because it provides 0.89% of its GNI to development finance. It is also first in transparency for development financing reporting. The country is well known for its commitment to “development co-operation” because it “has a primary focus on promoting equality for all, especially for the most vulnerable, marginalized and less privileged ones in least developed countries (LDCs) and sub-Saharan Africa.”
  • Investment. Norway has an 81% in investment. This is because Norway implements the OECD’s Anti-bribery Convention and has a strong history of upholding human and business rights. Norway works closely with the Human Rights Watch, an organization working to expose abuse and improve human rights throughout the world.
  • Security. Norway received an 88% on security partly because it ranks well in health security. The country utilizes significant monitoring and surveillance methods for antimicrobial resistance. This work is important because it can help lower global health hazards.

Reducing Global Poverty

For 2020, the Commitment to Development Index ranked Sweden, France and Norway as the top three countries. These countries are significantly contributing to global development, and in turn, are contributing to global poverty reduction.

Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Most Generous Donor CountriesAccording to the Principled Aid Index, a study by OECD’s DAC (Development Assistance Committee), the most generous donor nations tend to be the most humble and modest about the help they provide to the world’s poor. Among DAC’s 30 member countries, the four most generous are Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. All nations exceeded the United Nation’s recommended level of donating 0.7% of gross national income (GNI)to foreign aid. How are these four most generous and principled aid donors using their international funds to help the world’s poor?

Luxembourg

Luxembourg tops the list of most generous donor nations with 1.05% of its GNI going to foreign aid. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a partner to nine developing countries across Africa, the United States and Asia, and is a member of the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

Luxembourg’s foreign aid strategy, developed through the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency, focuses on improving local development through providing education and employment, digitalizing health care and funding renewable energy. Its main areas of work are Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Mali, Niger, Senegal, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Norway

The second country on the list of most generous donor nations is Norway. Norway spends on average NOK 39 billion ($4.3 billion) on foreign aid per year. Apart from exceeding the United Nations’ 0.7% target, Norway has only failed to donate more than 1% of its GNI to international humanitarian aid once since 2013. In 2020, Norway donated 1.02%.

The Norwegian government has five focus areas for appointing its foreign aid funds – education, health, private-sector development, environmental challenges and humanitarian assistance. It also focuses heavily on development, whether through human rights, gender equality, the environment or the fight against corruption. Its most prioritized areas of work, and the recipients of its biggest donations, are mostly countries in the SWANA (South West Asian/ North African) region.

Norway is currently focusing on development cooperation in Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda. It is also focusing on conflict prevention in Afghanistan, Malawi, Niger, Palestine, Somalia and South Sudan.

Norway has announced that, in the year 2021, it will place a significant focus on international humanitarian assistance and global health, and thus, will donate nearly NOK 10 billion to both of the causes. Expectations determine that its overall 2021 foreign aid budget will reach NOK 38.1 billion ($4.7 billion). At the beginning of 2021, Norway joined COVAX. COVAX is an international collaboration within developed countries aiming to bring COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries. Norway has committed itself to the redistribution of its surplus vaccine doses to impoverished countries in the program.

Sweden

Although Sweden is the sixth country on the DAC list, it is actually the third-most generous donor based on the proportion of its foreign aid donations to the size of its economy. Sweden has exceeded the United Nation’s 0.7% target every year since 1975. In addition, it has kept the long-term commitment of donating at least 1% since 2008. In 2020, the Swedish government ensured its COVID-19 response will not affect its development funding during the pandemic.

The main national body acting on foreign aid donations is the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). SIDA’s Aid Policy Framework is based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and focuses on eight main areas: human rights and democracy, gender equality, environment and environmental challenges, peace and security, inclusive economic development, migration, health equity and education.

SIDA has 35 partner countries, most in sub-Saharan Africa. Sweden’s largest donations go to Tanzania, Afghanistan and Mozambique. However, SIDA also works in Palestine, South Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Sweden is very open about its strong commitment to international development cooperation. One of the central points of its foreign development policy is gender equality and women’s empowerment. In 2014, Sweden became the first country to implement a feminist foreign policy, which ensures fundamental rights, peace, security and opportunities for sustainable development for women and girls in developing countries, such as cash grants supporting female-led households in Tanzania, which Sweden has been providing since 2016.

Furthermore, a large part of Sweden’s funding between 2014 and 2017 went toward its efforts to domestically host refugees. Later in 2019, it also created an emergency fund for Ethiopian refugees fleeing to Sudan. As part of Sweden’s 2021 budget plan, the country has a commitment to spending $6 billion on foreign humanitarian aid.

Denmark

According to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark has donated 0.71% of its GNI to foreign aid – $2.55 billion in 2020. The main sectors on the Danish foreign aid agenda are ensuring a secure transition for migrants by providing them with education and employment opportunities. Denmark also works to promote democracy and equal human rights while implementing inclusive and sustainable development.

Most of the aid goes to “priority countries” like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, Palestine, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. Denmark also donates significant funds to Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, Colombia, China, Mexico, Turkey and Ukraine. All of Denmark’s humanitarianism is a part of its new strategy for development and humanitarian action called “The World 2030.”

Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg’s generosity to other countries has had a multitude of benefits. From helping improve education to aiding countries’ health care systems or advancing women’s rights, these most generous donor nations are making a positive impact across the world.

– Natalia Barszcz
Photo: Flickr

Sweden’s Success: The Country with No LockdownWhen COVID-19 struck the world, Sweden did not close its borders. Instead, the nation opted to follow the standard health and safety guidelines. Although stores, schools and businesses remained open and people hardly wore masks, many Swedes still chose to stay at home. As of January 25, 2021, Sweden notes more than 556,000 cases and roughly 12,000 deaths. There are many reasons for Sweden’s success — lower population density, adherence to social distancing guidelines and early testing. Even with these positive factors, the death toll still darkens an otherwise phosphorescent experiment.

Poverty and COVID-19

Unsurprisingly, poverty correlates with higher COVID-19 mortality. One Swedish study claimed that low-income, low-education, unmarried and immigrant males have a higher risk of death from COVID-19. Men in the first and second tertiles of disposable income are five times as likely to die. They also experience 80% higher mortality than those in the top tertile. This holds true for immigrants from low and middle-income countries, who have a 2.5 times higher mortality among men and a 1.5 times higher mortality among women, compared to people born in Sweden. Immigrants are more than twice as likely to die than natives.

Income inequality and child poverty have increased, according to poverty expert Tove Samzelius from the Swedish branch of Save the Children. Around 10%, or 186,000 children, live in poverty in Sweden. Samzelius notes that poverty only worsens people’s living conditions. This is especially true for undocumented migrants who share hostels, resulting in cramped conditions and rapidly spreadable sickness. It is commonly stated that COVID-19 does not discriminate, but in light of this research, this is untrue. The virus does discriminate. Those most vulnerable have a lower chance of survival.

COVID-19 Aid

In terms of aid, Sweden has provided fiscal measures to its citizens. For example, Sweden has allotted SEK 264 million toward recovery from the impacts of COVID-19. In addition, SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, has provided SEK 1.25 billion for COVID-19 relief. SIDA also helped farmers to continue making a living since most regions rely on trade. Through the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) program Rural Poor Stimulus, SIDA has allocated SEK 30 million for this year and SEK 20 million for next year.

Other countries both admire and criticize Sweden’s approach to COVID-19. Sweden may have passed Denmark, Norway and Finland on the death toll, however, Sweden’s success is still visible in its COVID-19 mortality rate in comparison to countries like the United Kingdom, Spain and Belgium. Even with a lockdown, the elderly in care homes still suffer, experts observe. A lockdown does not in absolute terms decrease mortality from the virus, which is plain to see when comparing the U.K.’s experience with that of other European countries.

Shelby Gruber
Photo: Flickr

Sweden’s Foreign AidMany countries allocate a portion of their gross national income (GNI) to foreign aid. However, few countries rival Sweden’s foreign aid. Sweden has a reputation as a generous country in the international community; it gives generous donations to struggling countries for a variety of reasons. The three nations that Sweden provides the most aid to are Tanzania, Afghanistan and Mozambique. Additionally, Sweden distributes its aid to many areas within these three countries. This article highlights Sweden’s efforts to help these impoverished countries.

Tanzania

Tanzania and Sweden have been partners for more than half a century. The relationship between the two nations started back in 1963. Since then, Sweden has achieved multiple substantial successes in Tanzania. For example, Sweden has helped deliver electricity to about 20% of the newly powered areas since 2006. Sweden also provided financial assistance to 1 million small businesses. In this case, women and youth accounted for more than 50% of those beneficiaries. Additionally, in 2013, Sweden provided Tanzania with $123 million in official development assistance (ODA). It also provided $103 million in 2015.

According to the website Sweden Abroad, Sweden’s foreign aid in Tanzania intends to help the country achieve sustainable growth and to give impoverished people opportunities to care for themselves, either by providing them with employment or by helping them to start small businesses. Looking to the future, Sweden will decrease its aid as poverty decreases in Tanzania.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan has also received a tremendous amount of support from Sweden’s foreign aid. One of the core focuses of Swedish aid in Afghanistan is in promoting gender equality for women. Unfortunately, literacy among women in Afghanistan is around 18%. Sweden works tirelessly to improve that statistic, which has led to an increased number of women attending school. In 2001, 1 million women attended school in Afghanistan. By 2016, there were 8.2 million children in school, with girls making up 40% of these students. Sweden has increased the number of girls in school, in part, through the implementation of schools run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan. Currently, these schools teach about 70,000 Afghan children. Of that number, 62% are girls.

Sweden has also made strides in protecting women from violence. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, U.N. Women and Women for Afghan Women (WAW) have teamed up to ensure the protection of Afghan women. These agencies have established refuges within 20 provinces of Afghanistan. These refuges offer services including legal assistance and guidance following gender-based violence incidents.

Mozambique

Similar to Tanzania, Mozambique has received Sweden’s foreign aid for many years; Swedish aid to Tanzania began in the 1970s. Sweden has aided Mozambique in many ways, including by preventing child marriages, promoting gender equality and renovating hydroelectric plants. The Pungwe Programme is one specific example of Sweden’s aid in Mozambique. This program takes care of the Pungwe River. More than 1 million people use the Pungwe River, including Mozambicans in addition to some Zimbabweans.

Hopefully, other countries will follow Sweden’s example and increase their investments in the global community. Sweden’s work in Tanzania, Afghanistan and Mozambique is commendable; however, it will take more aid to bring developing countries into the modern era.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

women's rights in SwedenWith the 20th largest GDP per capita in the world, the affluent Scandinavian nation of Sweden is often seen as the quintessential nation for equality and liberalism. With its strong history of leading reforms promoting social welfare in Sweden, the country ranks first in Sustainable Development Goal progress out of the entirety of U.N. Member States. Of these reforms, many work to increase women’s rights in Sweden with a focus on ending the gender disparities visible in many other Western nations.

Reforms in Sweden Ending Gender Disparities

Sweden has been championing gender equality for centuries. In one of the earliest known cases in Europe, the Swedish government granted women in Sweden suffrage in local elections in 1718. In 1842, girls could attend schools typically restricted to males only. Then, in 1919, women gained full voting rights in a movement led by suffragist Elin Wägner. Reforms would continue throughout the 20th century with the legalization of birth control and abortions in 1938, the passing of legislation for mandatory three months of paid maternity leave in 1955 and the abolition of joint taxation in 1971.

Most recently, the Swedish government outlawed gender discrimination in the workplace in 1980. Sweden further expanded on these laws through the passing of the Swedish Discrimination Act in 2009 and its expansion in 2017 that added protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities and religious minorities.

Female Representation in Government

Because of the centuries of reform, the advancement of women’s rights in Sweden is visible even at the highest levels of government. As of 2019, women make up 46% of the Swedish parliament and 50% of the cabinet, including the position of minister of gender equality that Åsa Lindhagen holds.

In comparison, women account for 23.7% of today’s United States House of Representatives out of a total of 537 seats. Women also make up only 20.8% of President Donald Trump’s 24-member cabinet.

Sweden’s almost even distribution between male and female government officials represents the sheer advancement of women’s rights in Sweden. In fact, Sweden now considers feminism part of the official government policy rather than just a social movement with gender equality being “central to the government’s priority,” according to a government statement.

Continuing Gender Wage Gap

However, despite these reforms, the gender wage gap, like in many other developed nations, still persists. In a 2018 study by the European Union on the gender pay gap in EU countries, data indicated that women earn 12.2% less income than men in Sweden for jobs of the same nature.

While this pay gap is significantly lower than the United States’ 18% or the European Union average of 14.8%, it is also significantly higher than the 5% wage gap in Italy and Luxembourg.

Many experts describe the presence of a wage gap in gender-equal countries as a paradox. It is unknown why this phenomenon occurs when the Swedish government takes many measures to assure women’s rights in Sweden, but experts assume that culture around gender norms and roles plays a part.

Sweden’s historic reforms and the committed government have led the nation to become one of the most gender-equal countries in the world. Mandating paid maternity leave, legalizing birth control and abortions and increasing women’s representation in parliament all contribute to this success. However, Sweden still struggles to close the wage gap between males and females even amid the ever-evolving policy promoting women’s rights in Sweden but is, nonetheless, still making strides in gender equality.

Aidan Sun
Photo: Flickr 

Sweden’s Feminist Foreign PolicySweden, one of the Nordic countries known for its economic stability, high education rates and social mobility, has also been serving as a prime example of humanitarian-focused foreign policy. The Scandinavian nation has not participated in a single war since 1814 and is currently running one of the world’s most revolutionary foreign policies. Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is the first of its kind, with aims to promote gender equality worldwide and put women at the forefront of humanitarian efforts.

Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy

With regard to foreign policy, minority groups and underrepresented populations are often unintentionally overlooked. Sweden’s foreign policy, on the other hand, takes a modern approach, with Sweden becoming the first country in the world to launch a feminist foreign policy in 2014. Sweden has a feminist government and years of efforts to promote gender equality and take heed of the female voices rarely heard in the distant wars and conflicts inspire the feminist approach.

Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is based on the justification that lasting peace, security and development cannot be achieved if half the world’s population is excluded. The policy is a response to the discrimination and systematic subordination that endless women and girls face daily, all over the world. By taking this approach, the Swedish government hopes to change the way the world perceives the structure of international relations in today’s globalized world.

Sweden’s International Aid

Sweden is one of the only nations that has surpassed the goal of giving 0.7% of its GNI to foreign aid and has been providing around 1% consistently since 2008. Prior to COVID-19, the developmental aid from Sweden had been mainly directed to Afghanistan, Somalia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.

What is Sida?

Sweden’s foreign policy aims to help nations worldwide accomplish the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The type of aid Sweden provides and how a nation will utilize this aid depends on the needs of each nation and the nation’s SDG standing. Sida is a Swedish government agency that works globally to fight for the improvement of SDGs in every nation and creates long-term projects that aim to do so. Sweden selects strategies and policies for each country that it gives aid to in accordance with each country’s needs, ensuring to personalize foreign aid to achieve the maximum impact.

A Leader in Foreign Policy

For more than a decade, Sweden has been acting as a leader in humanitarian international relations and is now one of three nations running a feminist foreign policy. The country ensures in every step that its actions on foreign grounds and the aid provided have positive long-term influences, rather than acting as a momentary band-aid. This type of foreign policy is an inspiring example of what is necessary to achieve the SDGs by 2030 while fighting global poverty, hunger and inequality worldwide.

– Anna Synakh
Photo: Flickr

Sweden’s Long-standing CommitmentOn September 22, 2020, Peter Eriksson, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, took to Twitter to announce that Sweden will continue to commit 1% of the country’s GNI to official developmental assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, urging the international community to follow in the country’s footsteps. This act is indicative of Sweden’s long-standing commitment to eliminate poverty, which is a promise the country is dedicated to keeping.

A Leader in Foreign Aid

According to the OECD, Sweden dedicates around 1% of its national income to developmental aid, making it the highest developmental assistance donor. The country’s commitment to policy development issues is the strongest in three categories: peace and conflict prevention, gender equality and women’s rights as well as environmental sustainability. Since 2006, the country has committed to regularly donate a portion of its GNI as official developmental assistance (ODA) and has since kept its word, donating at least 1% or more every year.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

Sida is a government agency of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Sida is responsible for Sweden’s official development assistance to developing countries.

Sida is a prominent international actor with an overall mission to make sure people living under poverty and oppression are able to enhance their living conditions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sida allocated $149 million to mitigate the pandemic’s effects on vulnerable communities and populations abroad. Sida has collaborated with many different multilateral organizations to uphold Sweden’s promise of helping the international community during the pandemic..

Sida has bilateral development cooperation with 35 different partner countries from four different continents and consistently supports multilateral organizations in their pursuit of increasing human rights and democracy globally.

A Leader for Women’s Empowerment

The country has shown relentless support for gender equality and women’s rights, highlighting Sweden’s long-standing commitment to ending gender discrepancies around the world. Sweden is a pioneer for many new policies regarding women’s rights. For instance, in 2014, Sweden created the world’s very first feminist foreign policy. Sweden has garnered the support of many foreign bodies and their allies by raising awareness through forums. The most notable being the 2018 Stockholm Forum of Gender Equality. The gathering brought 700 members from 100 different countries to discuss the implementation of new policies to protect women in vulnerable communities from oppressive regimes, further elevating their rights and enabling an inclusive society.

A Leader for Environmental Sustainability

Furthermore, Sweden’s clean carbon footprint is impressive, with a large quantity of the country’s waste recycled. The country has committed to net-zero emissions by the year of 2045 and it has dedicated many resources to encourage countries across the globe to implement sustainable environmental practices. The country has shown continued leadership. In 2017, Sweden had co-chaired the U.N. Ocean Conference with Fiji. In 2018, Sweden also hosted GEF-7 Replenishment, a meeting between contributing and potential participants from all around the world with efforts to eliminate non-renewable energy sources in the near future.

Sweden: A Developmental Assistance Model

Sweden’s long-standing commitment to developmental assistance highlights the country’s leadership skills as an exemplary model for other developed nations. Sweden’s relentless efforts in supporting foreign aid, even during a pandemic, is a model that needs to be mimicked by other developed nations that have the same capacity to help, now more than ever.

– Mina Kim
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid Policies In 2019, the Overseas Development Institute came out with the principled aid index to assess the degree to which donor countries are contributing to a prosperous world. According to the report, the principled foreign aid policies not only benefit the country that receives the aid, but it also serves the interests of the donor country. Below is a list of how this report’s top five countries are using their foreign aid:

5 Countries Foreign Aid Policies

  1. Luxembourg is a small country in Western Europe that has pledged 0.96% of its gross national income (GNI) to go towards development and aid. It is one of the few countries that meet a goal set by the U.N. to dedicate 0.7% of a country’s GNI to foreign aid. Luxembourg starts by targeting some of its partner countries, which include Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Mali and Senegal. With remaining funds, Luxembourg helps provide humanitarian assistance in Kosovo, the Palestinian territories and Vietnam. The country also focuses on private enterprises through microfinance and inclusive finance to help promote productivity. In 2020, Luxembourg joined the International Aid Transparency Initiative which motivates the government to share data about foreign aid spending with the public. Accountability is an important factor in creating sustainable aid.
  1. The United Kingdom is another country that has met the U.N. goal of 0.7% of GNI for foreign aid. The U.K. set the goal back in 1974 but recently achieved it in 2013. Additionally, the government inscribed the goal into law in 2015 so that the country now has a legal duty to achieve it. Around 64% of the U.K.’s foreign aid goes to countries for bilateral aid. The main recipients of bilateral aid include Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria and Afghanistan. The remaining 36% of the U.K.’s foreign aid goes to multilateral institutions like the E.U. and the U.N. Additionally, the U.K. has also provided humanitarian aid for Liberia and Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak. Also, the country offered assistance to Nepal and Indonesia — following natural disasters and Somalia during the hunger crisis.
  1. Sweden has continuously met the U.N. goal since 1976. The country even made its own goal to dedicate 1% of its GNI to foreign aid in 2008. In 2019, Sweden allotted 0.98% of its GNI for foreign aid. Along with Norway, Sweden is considered to be a “humanitarian superpower.” The Swedish development cooperation, also known as Sida, is Sweden’s leading agency for providing foreign assistance. Sweden has 33 partner countries that it helps by creating income opportunities and strengthening democracy. Sweden is dedicated to helping achieve the U.N., 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The country’s primary goals include human rights, democracy and the rule of law, gender equality, the environment and climate change, health equity and education and research.
  1. Norway has met the U.N. goal for providing foreign aid since 1976. In 2019, Norway apportioned 1.02% of its GNI for foreign aid and development. Norway’s foreign aid policies use an approach that follows the 2005 Paris principles. These principles value ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing for results and accountability. Norway provides foreign aid funding for civil society organizations and budget support. The country also uses a large part of its budget to help people inside its borders. For example, Norway has used part of its budget to provide for its refugee population, which included more than 50,000 refugees in 2019.
  1. Ireland currently does not meet the U.N. goal, but the country is hoping to double its impact by 2025. In 2017, 0.36% of Ireland’s GNI went toward its foreign aid budget. Ireland’s foreign aid focuses on developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The country hopes to combat the issues of displacement and conflict, which Ireland’s main concern — climate change, tends to exacerbate. Additionally, developing countries are more likely to feel the effects of climate change disproportionately as compared with developed countries.

Striding Forward

These five countries’ foreign aid policies are impressive examples of how developed nations can make valuable contributions to global well-being. Hopefully, more undeveloped countries continue to benefit from foreign aid policies of more developed nations. Likewise, it is important these developed countries continue their efforts to achieve the U.N. goals, for theirs and the world’s greater benefit.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Pixabay