Sida cancels agreements with civil society

Photo: WikiCommons

Sida has verbally announced that they are terminating the ongoing five-year agreement with We Effect, but that we will have the opportunity to apply for new funds from the same source. This procedure involves a huge waste of Swedish tax funds and is a betrayal of the companies and individuals who have donated funds to We Effect's development work.

Sida has verbally announced that We Effect’s current agreement within the strategy for civil society, the CSO strategy, will be terminated at the end of the year. For We Effect, it involves funding of SEK 790 million for the period 2023–2027. This is a large part of our budget to fight hunger through support to sustainable and local food production and economic development. The decision affects our local partner organisations, who together reach nine million people in 20 countries.

According to the verbal information, Sida will cancel our agreement and instead we are asked to apply for the same money, but now based on the government’s new aid policy priorities with a focus on business development and trade. As far as We Effects is concerned, this probably doesn’t mean any major difference – we have been working with support for cooperative entrepreneurship and business development for 65 years.

Costly consequences

Sida’s procedure creates uncertainty and entails an enormous waste of Swedish tax funds and money that the Swedish people have donated to We Effect and other organisations development activities. With Sida terminating the agreement with We Effect, we will in turn need to cancel up to 150 agreements with as many organisations in 19 of our 20 countries of operation. This means that both we and our partner organisations will have to spend the coming months suspending ongoing operations, managing administration, and writing new applications instead of working for food security and economic development.

We Effect is not alone. All Sida’s 17 strategic partner organizations (SPOs) face the same reality. Sida’s procedure damages our relations with our local partners with whom we work and who expect us to deliver on the agreements we have signed. Sida’s decision also damages the relationship with our members in Sweden; all the customers, members and employees within the Swedish cooperative companies and organisations who have donated money to We Effect to implement development work. Together with the reduced funding in 2023, Swedish development cooperation risks a serious credibility crisis.

This process will destroy the results of Swedish development aid and entail an enormous waste of both human and financial resources. Now we are forced to tear up agreements with around 150 organisations. And those who pay the price are the people living in poverty we work to support. It is neither effective nor sustainable and risks damaging Sweden’s reputation, says Anna Tibblin, secretary general of We Effect.

The reforms do not stop at cancelled contracts. The government’s new aid strategy is no longer aimed specifically at civil society organisations rooted in the Swedish popular movements. Instead, they open up for funding applications from organisations from all over the world. Broadened funding is positive, but it also means that the added value of Swedish civil society aid risks being lost. That would be deeply regrettable. Swedish civil society organisations carry out development cooperation rooted in the will of the Swedish people and which has developed over many years as a people-to-people commitment in cooperation with civil society in other countries and where more than money is invested. Civil society’s democratic way of working, organisation and capacity development means a unique strategic added value in development.

The mission of We Effect’s board is to ensure a continued sustainable and robust organisation. Until now, we have seen it as something positive to have the Swedish state as one of our largest partners and donors. It has provided us with stable conditions to support business development and the fight against hunger with long planning horizons. If nothing changes, we will unfortunately have to reevaluate that position, says Lotta Folkesson, chair of the We Effect Board of Directors and chair of the farmers’ federation LRF in Västerbotten.

We Effect is now awaiting answers to a number of crucial questions from Sida. How they respond will define We Effect’s future operations and the relationship and exposure we dare to have towards Sida. We hope that the government listens to the organizations’ criticism and requests Sida to implement the new government policy in a controlled and orderly manner, with respect for the implementing partners, the people we support and the taxpayers who partially finance our work.