Since 2001, it has not been possible to provide development aid via the Zimbabwean government. But the population is in significant need of help. We are working for democracy and human rights as well as providing vulnerable groups with access to social services through individual organisations and multilateral channels such as UNICEF, UNFPA, UNWOMEN, the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
The bilateral relations between Sweden and Zimbabwe are rooted in in the support Sweden gave to organisations fighting for majority rule and national independence. After independence in 1980, comprehensive development cooperation was established in order to support economic and social development in areas such as education and healthcare.
In 2000, Sweden cut its bilateral aid to the country after Zimbabwe's government turned to brutal violence and electoral rigging to maintain its power, as well as grossly violating human rights in connection with a land reform. Since then, approximately half of the Swedish aid has been channelled through multilateral organisations. The other half of the aid goes to organisations within civil society.
Today, Zimbabwe's economy is in serious crisis. Unemployment is rampant and the informal sector makes up close to 50 % of the economy. Poverty remains high and according to the UN's most recent estimate, 62.6 % of Zimbabwe's population live in poverty. HIV/Aids has also hit the country hard, with an estimated 16.7 % of the population being infected.
Swedish aid mainly focuses on long-term programmes aimed at improving the social situation for women and children and supporting the democratic development and work for human rights and equality. However the need for humanitarian support is once again steadily increasing due to the economic crises and widespread drought that has hit food production hard.
Increased access to basic social services
In order to strengthen Zimbabwe's social sector, Sweden and other donors to the UNICEF programmes contribute to improving education and healthcare systems and reaching vulnerable children. We also contribute to the UNFPA programme for sexual and reproductive health and to combat HIV and Aids. In addition to the UN system, we also support the local organisation SAFAIDS that works with sexual and reproductive health by promoting changes in attitudes amongst boys and men.
Through the support to UNICEF, access to free mother and childcare has increased and maternal mortality has decreased. Through UNICEF, Sweden and other donors have been able to increase access to doctors, midwives, equipment and medicines, improving Zimbabwe's healthcare. Sweden's aid has also supported girls and women who have been subjected to gender-related violence by providing them with legal help, protected housing and advice.
The healthcare and education systems in Zimbabwe are financed by aid to a large extent. Due to the country's weak economic development, it is difficult to see an improvement in national financing in the near future.
Democratic social governance, human rights, independent media and equality
Since the election in 2013 when president Mugabe was re-elected and built a majority government, the party has increased its hold on power and the opposition and civil society has been weakened. Sweden is working on various levels to support democratic development, human rights, freedom of speech and democracy in Zimbabwe. For example, we support the Zimbabwean parliament via the UNDP in order to ensure its independence from the Government. Civil society organisations are also very important for defending human rights in Zimbabwe. They keep a watchful eye on the regime, report on attacks and promote a culture of democracy. The Swedish-supported organisation ZESN has played an important role as an independent observer of elections and creator of public opinion for electoral reform in Zimbabwe. Sweden is also working to strengthen the media and combat corruption.
Gender equality is one of Sida's primary focus areas. In Zimbabwe we provide extensive support to UNWOMEN , which works with equality on several levels, from political lobbying to grass roots operations. Sweden's support to civil society organisations has also contributed to a number of local authorities now having gender plans and including the equality perspective into their budgets.
Support to government-led reform programmes via multilateral organisations
In order to support the national development plan and strengthen the country's institutions, in recent years Sweden has increased aid to government-led reforms and projects essential to strengthening democracy and improving the social and economic situation. Via UN organisations and multilateral banks for example, we have supported Zimbabwe's constitutional reform, population census, increased capacity for the electoral commission and the preparations for a future reform in the financial control system. Furthermore, we support on-going projects to improve electricity and water provisions for people in poverty. We have recently begun providing support via the World Bank to improve transparency and accountability within the financial system. However even today no Swedish aid goes via the state, even if the donor community is now preparing for a more normalised relationship with the Zimbabwean state.
In December of 2016, Sweden's current strategy for aid to Zimbabwe will run out and planning for a new strategy has begun.
In 2015, Sweden's support was mainly focused on
- Democratic social governance, human rights and equality
- Increasing access to basic social services for vulnerable groups