When the Zimbabwean government resorted to brutal violence and electoral rigging to secure power in 2000, Sweden terminated bilateral aid to the country. We had to find other ways. Support was channelled instead through UN bodies and domestic and foreign non-government organizations.
Over the years, the level of humanitarian help has increased to alleviate the emergency that has faced millions of Zimbabweans as unemployment has risen and food production fallen. We provide support for food, clean water and health care through organizations such as the Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Our support is aimed particularly at children. In Zimbabwe, 1.3 million children are orphaned, mainly because their parents have died of Aids. We and many other donors contribute to a programme that is run by UNICEF to reach vulnerable children. We also contribute to a programme to fight HIV and Aids through several hundred local organizations.
Violence and emergencies have led to many people fleeing their homes. The occupation of land led to the enforced removal of several hundred thousand farmers. Various non-government organizations receive our support to help them have a better life.
Non-government organizations keep a close watch
Non-government organizations have been extremely important in defending human rights in Zimbabwe. They have kept a watchful eye on the regime, reported acts of violence and exerted pressure to stop or reduce the electoral rigging the regime has carried out.
For example, the small Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) played an important role in the election in 2008 and contributed to the regime having to accept that the opposition had won the parliamentary election.
We have provided important support to ZESN and other organizations that contributed to forcing the negotiations that eventually led to the formation of a transitional government.
Greater democracy will result in more development aid
The new government is in enormous need of development aid. We are also prepared to increase our support. But as long as members of the old regime continue to weild much of the power, we cannot give development aid directly to workers of the state. Other aid providers are saying the same.
But to ease the people’s burden and still support positive change, we are planning to support compulsory schooling, though not through the ministry of education. We may also co-operate with democratically elected municipal executive boards.