Too many documents on too many subjects

Swedish government tries to clean up the “forest” of development cooperation policies

NAI associate Bertil Odén attended a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which aimed to explain the new aid policy platform.

At a meeting mainly for  Swedish civil society organizations, the Swedish undersecretary of state for development cooperation Hanna Hellqvist explained the ongoing work to replace the “forest” of Swedish aid policy documents with one aid policy platform and to reshape existing bilateral and regional cooperation strategies in order to make them more results-oriented.

The backdrop to the meeting was critical comments made in 2009 in the OECD/DAC peer review of Swedish development cooperation and a recent highly critical report by the Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) on weak government policy management of Swedish aid agencies, the result of too many policy documents at too many levels on too many subjects.  Another factor was a letter to the minister of development cooperation from a number of influential Swedish civil society organizations in which they strongly argued in favour of becoming part of the process leading to this new platform.

Hellqvist emphasized that the ministry was involved in a large “domestic cleaning exercise” and not a change of policy on global development or the objectives on Swedish development cooperation.
The aim is to improve, simplify and make Swedish results-based management of development cooperation more effective.

According to Ms Hellquist the platform will provide answers to the following questions:

  • What are the objectives of Swedish aid and how are they related?
  • What does reality look like for the poor people of the world?
  • What problems will Swedish aid resolve?
  • Who should be supported by Swedish aid?
  • In what forms and with which actors will development cooperation be carried out?
  • What bilateral relations are offered by Sweden?
  • What conditions will be attached to Swedish aid?
  • How will Swedish aid be directed?

The results-oriented strategies that will replace existing cooperation strategies will answer the question “What will Swedish bilateral aid achieve (or contribute to) in country X during period Y?” The individual strategies will provide good management tools and indicate the concrete results to be achieved.

The platform and results-based strategy instructions are still works in progress. The platform is expected to be ready by October this year.  One impression from the meeting is, however, that the new approaches may be a a further step towards development cooperation in which Swedish actors increasingly identify both development needs and solutions, thereby marginalizing the influence and ownership of the development partners. Experience tells us that this almost invariably erodes the sustainability of aid-supported activities.

BERTIL ODÉN

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