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New strategy for humanitarian aid

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In situations of armed conflict, natural disasters and other disaster situations, humanitarian aid is one of the most effective and tangible means of saving lives and alleviating the suffering of the women, men, girls and boys affected. In January 2017, the Government adopted a new strategy for Sweden’s humanitarian aid via the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) for the period 2017–2020.

  • Isabella Lövin visiting a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.

    Isabella Lövin visiting a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.

    Photo: Annika Flensburg/Government Offices

  • Isabella Lövin meeting women’s rights activists in Somalia.

    Isabella Lövin meeting women’s rights activists in Somalia.

    Photo: Annika Flensburg/Government Offices

  • Isabella Lövin visiting a school at the Protection of Civilians site in Juba, South Sudan.

    Isabella Lövin visiting a school at the Protection of Civilians site in Juba, South Sudan.

    Photo: Annika Flensburg/Government Offices

Over the last ten years, global humanitarian needs have increased considerably, above all as a result of conflicts that are difficult to resolve and have often led to protracted refugee situations. Recurring crises also occur in the wake of extreme weather events, such as drought and flooding, which risk further increasing the needs in the long term. The UN estimates that over 128 million people will be in need of humanitarian support in 2017, which is the highest figure ever. Particularly vulnerable are the more than 65 million refugees. The trend is for refugee situations to become more protracted. According to the UNHCR's definition, 6.7 million people are estimated to be living in protracted refugee situations (and 5.2 million Palestine refugees are included in the UNRWA's mandate). On average, a protracted refugee situation lasts for 26 years.

The overall objective of Swedish humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity for the benefit of people in need who have been, or are at risk of becoming, affected by armed conflicts, natural disasters or other disaster situations. Humanitarian aid is about helping people in acute distress on the basis of humanitarian needs and humanitarian principles. The humanitarian principles are humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality. Long-term development cooperation is about helping people lift themselves out of poverty and oppression through support for long-term measures. Sweden's humanitarian aid is based on global humanitarian needs and the humanitarian principles, as well as international humanitarian law, international refugee law, human rights, legal instruments with a bearing on disasters, and accepted international practice in this area. In addition, humanitarian aid is steered by the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD).

To reduce future humanitarian needs, it is important that we deal with the root causes of crises, highlight preventive measures and strengthen people's and societies' resilience (resilience, ability to recover and adapt) to crises and disasters. The number of development actors working on strengthening the resilience of individuals and societies and working in humanitarian contexts must increase so as to promote long-term solutions to recurrent and protracted crises. Sweden is working for greater collaboration between humanitarian aid and long-term development assistance.

Sweden's total humanitarian aid

Sweden has long been an important actor in humanitarian aid and was the seventh largest bilateral donor in the world in 2016, providing approximately 2.7 per cent of global humanitarian support. Sweden's total humanitarian aid rose from SEK 3.3 billion in 2005 to over SEK 5 billion in 2016. Sweden's humanitarian financing is allocated by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in the form of core support (unearmarked support to various humanitarian organisations' activities, based on the organisations' needs assessments) and by Sida in the form of country and region-based support. For 2017, the humanitarian appropriation totals SEK 5.8 billion, of which SEK 3.1 billion will be allocated via Sida and SEK 2.7 billion via the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

At the beginning of this year, Sida is allocating more than SEK 2.1 billion of its humanitarian appropriation. Almost SEK 1 billion of the appropriation will be kept by Sida as a reserve in the event of sudden or aggravated crises.

At the beginning of this year, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is allocating over SEK 2.6 billion to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN World Food Programme (WPF), the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

Sweden is the single largest donor of unearmarked core support to the humanitarian UN bodies. For example, in 2016, Sweden was the largest donor of unearmarked support to UNHCR, WFP, CERF and UNISDR. This support enables rapid and flexible measures for the women, men, girls and boys most in need of help. Unearmarked core support also contributes to predictability and coordination. The country and region-based support paid by Sida enables flexible use and increases capacity to meet humanitarian needs in a fast and cost-effective manner.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is responsible for the overall coordination of Sweden's humanitarian aid and for Swedish policy vis-à-vis humanitarian organisations, and gives unearmarked core support to these organisations. Sida finances international humanitarian contributions within the framework of UN appeals and contributes to the implementation of Sweden's humanitarian policy. The policy framework for Swedish development cooperation and humanitarian aid states the Government's direction for humanitarian aid.

New strategy for Sweden's humanitarian aid via Sida

In January 2017, a new strategy was adopted for Sweden's humanitarian aid via Sida for the period 2017–2020.

To save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity for people affected by crises, Sweden provides support to contributions made up of material aid and protective measures. To achieve the overall objective within the framework of the strategy, Sida is expected to contribute to:

• needs-based, fast and effective humanitarian response;
• increased protection for people affected by crises and increased respect for international humanitarian law and the humanitarian principles;
• increased influence for people affected by crises;
• greater capacity and efficiency in the humanitarian system; and
• the systematic mainstreaming of gender equality, conflict sensitivity and resilience in humanitarian aid.

Where does Sweden’s humanitarian aid go?

Sweden’s unearmarked core support helps the humanitarian UN bodies to quickly, flexibly and efficiently have teams in place during crises and provide assistance to people with the greatest needs. Core support helps to ensure that the humanitarian organisations can have teams in place from the start of a crisis and that the response can be adapted if the crisis escalates.

Through Sida, Sweden contributes to the country-specific humanitarian appeals. The majority of Sweden’s humanitarian aid via Sida in 2016 went to humanitarian needs in and around Syria, Yemen, Iraq, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan.

At the beginning of this year, Sida will allocate the largest levels of humanitarian support to help alleviate crises in Syria (SEK 315 million), Yemen (SEK 164.5 million), the Sahel region (SEK 160 million), South Sudan (SEK 150 million), Iraq (SEK 130 million), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (SEK 130 million) and Nigeria (SEK 130 million).


Annika Flensburg
Press Secretary to Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister
Phone (switchboard) +46 8 405 10 00