Focus on agriculture and human rights brings results
The target for Sweden’s support was to contribute to economic development in accordance with the EU’s demands. Sweden began providing development assistance to FYR Macedonia in 1999 in conjunction with the crisis in Kosovo. The assistance mostly comprised of humanitarian contributions.
Since then, we have focused our support on democratic governance, economic development and, more recently, the environment. The current strategy was valid until 2012 and describes FYR Macedonia’s situation and needs in detail. The cooperation was phased out by December, 2012.
In an analysis in 2009, we discovered that our contributions have slowly brought some noticeable results.
Swedish farmers teach Macedonians how to organize themselves
The majority of our development assistance in FYR Macedonia aws aimed towards farming. We supported the Macedonian farmers’ organization Federation of Farmers in the Republic of Macedonia, FFRM, so that it could develop into a democratic interest group. The intention was that it should be able to continue its activities after the Swedish support has seized.
A programme that has been managed by the Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF) has led to the introduction of a Swedish-style co-operative, in which Macedonians and Albanians living in Macedonia are working together. It is therefore also a way of preventing conflicts. Read more about our work with Macedonian farmers.
We also participated with the World Bank in a large project in order to establish a modern property register. Without a well-functioning land and property register, it is difficult for investors and small businesses to use property as credit and that is hampering economic development.
Municipalities producing environmental plans with Swedish support
The decentralization process underway in FYR Macedonia in accordance with the Ohrid Agreement means greater local responsibility for sustainable ecological development. Here we have contributed to supporting pilot municipalities in producing local environmental plans. At a central level, we supported the Ministry for the Environment to develop a national strategy for sustainable development.
More women in parliament
We supported the development of an ombudsman institute in co-operation with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Swedish non-governmental organizations were also involved, which in turn support local partners within the civil society. In this area, the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation and the Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights have participated in producing a new electoral law with a gender quota system, which has led to more women entering parliament.
Financial independence is also a factor in women being able to play a role in society. The Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) initiative works on various levels to remove obstacles to women in their social and working lives. This could include the opportunity to receive microcredit, owning houses and land, and getting education and training to run their own businesses. We also supported efforts towards children and youngsters in FYR Macedonia with the purpose of increasing the tolerance between ethnic groups.
Helping people to help themselves and maintaining a high level of participation from villagers were important basic principles for our contributions towards improving local democracy.