For over fifty years, we have had parliamentary agreement in Sweden that we can afford to set aside one hundredth of the country's income (GNI) for aid to people living in poverty and oppression. One crown out of a hundred. This year, however, the government decided that the one percent target should be scrapped and that the aid policy should be restructured. It will affect millions of people who live in great vulnerability due to war, oppression, violence and extreme poverty. Not least children and young people.
The government has started with to cut the aid budget to a fixed sum of SEK 56 billion per year over the next three years. A level that does not take into account our economic growth or the increased needs of the world. This means that we provide less aid in relation to our economy than we have done in several decades. At the same time, the government has announced a historically large restructuring of aid. It should focus to a greater extent on Sweden's immediate area and Ukraine. The needs in Ukraine are significant. But letting children and young people living in poverty and conflict foot the bill is unethical.
"THE NEEDS IN UKRAINE ARE SIGNIFICANT, BUT ALLOWING CHILDREN AND YOUTH WHO LIVE IN POVERTY AND CONFLICT TO FOOT THE BILL IS UNETHICAL"
The government's cuts have also met with strong criticism from researchers, civil society, the opposition, and international actors. Many have pointed out that these will have serious consequences for the children who live in vulnerability as well as make it more difficult to achieve the global goals for sustainable development. The situation for children in the Middle East and Africa, where Sweden has long-term development cooperation, is particularly serious. These regions are heavily affected by conflict, violence, poverty and lack of democracy. Many children live here in difficult conditions without access to basic rights such as education, health care, clean water and sanitation. Many are also exposed to abuse, discrimination, forced labor and recruitment into armed groups.
Sweden's aid makes a difference for these children by supporting organizations that work to protect them from violence, give them the opportunity to go to school and promote their participation in society. The government's cuts now threaten this progress and risk putting many children in even greater vulnerability.
Sweden must therefore return to the one percent target as soon as possible and show solidarity with the world's most vulnerable. It is not only a moral obligation, but also a necessary strategy to contribute to a more peaceful, just and sustainable future. A future that also affects us in Sweden as increased poverty and oppression not only cause great human suffering, but also lead to conflicts, refugee flows and increased environmental destruction. The aid is a necessary investment in our common future.
Humanity today faces its greatest challenges ever. Sweden's development and security is completely dependent on other countries' development going in a positive direction. We must participate and take responsibility for our common future based on our ability, not a country that sacrifices children's future with short-term aid cuts.
Anna Sundström, Secretary General Olof Palmes International Center
Tomas Aronson Ylipää, Confederation secretary Young Eagles National Confederation
Christian Kaddik, International leader of the National Association of Young Eagles