An important part of Sida's support is to work for everyone's right to an identity. Sadia, Suma, Shadia, Saida and Intisar can now leave their village Qena in Egypt whenever they want to, since they now have identification documents that allow them to pass the roadblocks.
Our work in the Middle East and North Africa
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Sida's work is based on two strategies, a regional MENA strategy and a specific strategy for the crisis in Syria, which also includes its neighbouring countries. Both of the strategies focus on human rights, equality, and democracy tailored to regional development and the current situation.
The development in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa is affected by conflict or post-conflict issues, such as refugee situations, large migration flows and a lack of respect for human rights. Shortcomings in terms of equality exist, although it has improved in some areas, for example there are more women working within politics.
Several countries in the region have gone through free and fair elections. New constitutions and laws that better guarantee human rights have been adopted. In other countries in the region the development have taken a different turn by for example armed conflict or political systems characterized by authoritarian, patriarchal and totalitarian control practices. This usually includes a small and often shrinking political freedom, limited political participation, especially for women, and a decreasing space for civil society to operate. Protracted and escalating conflicts in several countries has also contributed to the dire humanitarian situation, widespread abuse of human rights, deteriorating security situation and increased risks and difficulties for Sida's partners to implement and follow up activities. The region is in terms of population, politically and economically very heterogeneous.
The strategy for the MENA region
The government has developed a strategy for how Sweden should work in the Middle East and North Africa. Sweden will continue its commitment to strengthen democracy, human rights work, equality, sustainability and climate protection, economic integration and trade. This regional MENA strategy will, compared with the previous strategy, have more focus on women, children and young people's rights, increased investment in renewable energy and increased focus on good working conditions.
A prioritized work in the region is the regional cooperation, both for peace building in the region but also for sustainable development. The strategy also confirms Sweden's role as a major international donor, a donor who are committed to human rights, democracy, gender equality and sustainable development in the MENA region.
In several places, including Egypt and Morocco, quotas for women in local and parliamentary elections has led to a significantly increase of women's representation. For example women's political representation in parliaments increased from 2.6 per cent to 17.9 per cent in 2015 according to UN Women. In Egypt, for example, there are today 15 per cent of women parliamentarians compared to previous 3 percent. This after 25 per cent of the seats was reserved for female candidates.
A national strategy, with Swedish support through the UN, was developed and launched for the work against female genital mutilation. With Swedish support, the UN Women and its partners formulated a national strategy to combat violence against women. Organizations continued efforts to reduce sexual harassment against women, based on the text which was adopted in 2014, which criminalized such acts for the first time in the history of Egypt.
The strategy for the Syria crisis
The strategy for Syria crisis focuses on livelihoods, community, equality, democracy and human rights. It has two main areas:
- livelihoods and social services and work against gender-based violence
- democracy and human rights.
The strategy focuses on Syria and the most affected neighboring countries - Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The main areas and prior focus is resilience, focusing on gender-based violence and the livelihoods of people affected by the crisis. Sweden is one of the first countries through bilateral support to adopt a multi-year, regional strategic development strategy for the Syria crisis.
The strategy focuses primarily on strengthening the resilience of Syria and its neighboring countries. The goal is to create conditions and opportunities for people, especially women, to support their families for example by facilitating small businesses.
Furthermore, Sida intends to contribute to the capacity of local players is strengthened and that more basic services to hand-held with the aim to make it possible for more children to go to school and increasing access to clean water and health care. It will also work to prevent sexual and gender-based violence, increase local capacity to provide services and rehabilitation for those affected by the conflict.
Second, focus the strategy to strengthen the capacity of Syrian civil society and other local actors. This is to contribute to peace-building and institution-building, and increase respect for human rights and equality which Sweden is actively working with in Syria. Women, young people and children are the priority target groups of the strategy.
Despite the context, in and around Syria, also Syrian media organizations, which Sweden supports through the IMS and Free Press Unlimited, continued its activities. They now reaches millions of Syrians with independent media, such as Radio Rozana reached over a million listeners in 2015 and the Syrian Network for Print Media distributed more than 150,000 magazines per month in the northern parts of Syria.
The idea of the new Syria Crisis Strategy is that it should ensure long-term and sustainable support to Syria and to act as a complement to the humanitarian aid that Sweden contributes with. It means not only financial support but also aims to bring development policy forward. A project to promote innovative ways to improve living conditions in Syria and its neighboring countries, but will also function as a support on the way to a future peace agreement.
In addition to the two strategies Sweden gives significant humanitarian assistance to the region.