When the Zimbabwean government in the year of 2000 used brutal violence and electoral fraud to secure its power and seriously violated human rights in the implementation of a land reform, Sweden suspended its bilateral aid to the country. We had to seek different ways. Since then, aid is instead channelled through UN agencies, multilateral banks and domestic and foreign NGOs.
Since a coalition government was formed between the previously ruling party Zanu-PF and the two oppositional MDC parties in 2009, and the country started using the American dollar as currency, the economic situation has improved and the need for humanitarian aid has decreased significantly. Our support is now focused on long-term programmes to improve the social situation, especially for women and children.
We, and many other donors, contribute to UNICEF programmes to improve the education and health systems and to reach vulnerable children. Through UNFPA we also contribute to a programme for sexual and reproductive health to combat HIV and AIDS.
Civil society keeps a vigilant eye
The civil society plays an important role in defending the human rights in Zimbabwe. They keep an eye on the government, report on abuses and put a pressure on the regime in order to stop, or at least reduce, the election fraud that the regime has been using during previous elections.
For example, the organisation Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), played an important role in the 2008 elections and contributed to the process that led to the regime finally accepting the election results. We continue to support ZESN and several other human rights organisations that together play an important role in making the upcoming elections free and transparent, in order for Zimbabwe to develop towards democracy.
Increased aid when democracy is strengthened
The coalition government of Zimbabwe is in great need of more aid. During recent years, we have increased our support to government led reforms and projects that are needed in order to strengthen democracy and improve the social and economic situation. We have, as an example, through the UN system and the multilateral banks, supported the constitutional reform process, the population census, capacity development of the electoral committee and preparations for a reform of the financial control systems. We are also supporting current systems for better supply of electricity and water for poor groups in the society and the above mentioned social sector projects.
But as long as the men of the old regime remain at power we are not able to give development aid directly to the state. Instead, we are using other channels. Other donors have opted for the same solution.
However, if the upcoming elections lead to a democratically elected government, we will be ready to increase our support to necessary reforms and to cooperate directly with the state at both central and local level.