Ung kvinna i Somaliland.

Woman in Somalia.

Photo: Johan Bergqvist

our fields of work

Democracy, human rights and freedom of expression

Published: 18 June 2009 Updated: 15 December 2014

Poverty is not just about lack of food, water or a roof over your head. Being poor also implies suffering from lack of power and choice. Democracy, human rights and gender equality are therefore overall targets for all of Sweden’s development assistance efforts.

Fair treatment, freedom from discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual preference, age, disability or ethnic background and the ability to affect your own life as well as the society in which you live are basic human and democratic rights that are immensely important in combating poverty.

These rights are by far not fulfilled for millions of people. The overall target for Sweden’s development cooperation is to contribute to improved living conditions for people living under oppression and in poverty. Democracy and human rights including freedom of speech are therefore areas where Sweden is investing most. Strengthened democracy and gender equality, increased respect for human rights and freedom from oppression is also one of the six subsidiary objectives in the Swedish government’s aid policy framework.

All our democracy and human rights work has its origins in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the UN member states signed more than 60 years ago, and which has later been supplemented with several important conventions. The starting point is that human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent.

Providing support in these areas is met with some controversy, mainly due to the fact that it involves sharing power in the society, so that women and men living in poverty have a greater say. Sida is therefore working with these issues in many different ways and together with several stakeholders – governments in partner countries, international organisations such as the UN and the World Bank and with popular movements and other civil organisations in Sweden and the partner countries.

Defenders of human rights often live dangerously because they criticise government policies and actions. They are the victims of death threats, kidnappings and arbitrary detentions – and physical attacks including sexual violence, torture and murder. Their public and private lives are heavily controlled and monitored. Actively supporting the struggle against violence and oppression is an important part of Sida's work for democracy and respect of human rights.

Mainstreaming the rights’ perspective

The rights’ perspective and poor people’s view of their situation should pervade all development assistance efforts. This is about making people more aware of their rights and about creating better conditions for states to live up to their commitments towards their citizens.

Sweden’s support for democracy and human rights

  • Democracy, human rights and public administration constitute the largest areas of our development assistance.
  • In 2013, more than SEK 5,4 billion went to direct efforts for democracy, human rights and public administration, which make up 29 per cent of Sida’s total development cooperation.
  • Since 2009, Sida has a special grant for democracy and freedom of speech targeting non-democratic countries, and with special focus on organisations and groups working for democracy and freedom of speech.
  • The grant is governed by the Swedish Results Strategy for specific interventions on human rights and democratisation 2014-2017.

Page owner: The Communication Department

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