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Sida's work in Cuba

In Cuba, Sida works to strengthen respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and gender equality. Sida contributes to strengthening possibilities for improved living conditions and a better environment. Cuba is a one-party state, and people's rights to and opportunities to influence the government are severely limited.

Progress has been made

Economy in transition

Cuba is innovating and transforming the economy through reforms, and now allows small business in more professional fields than previously. Increased small-business activity provides people with an income and contributes to the development of society.

US eases sanctions

The US government has eased some sanctions against the country, including travel restrictions. It is also possible to send money to Cuba from the US. But many sanctions remain in place.

Power closer to the people

Cuba is moving from being centrally controlled to granting municipalities a greater degree of autonomy. Municipalities are given greater responsibility and power over their development.

Challenges remain

One-party state limits the population

Cuba is a one-party state without free and democratic elections. Civil and political rights are severely restricted.

Economic crisis

Cuba is in the midst of its deepest economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The crisis is hitting people hard.

LGBTQI people are vulnerable

Cuban society is characterised by patriarchal structures and sexism. LGBTQI people are a vulnerable group, despite discrimination being banned since 2019.1

Development cooperation in Cuba

The Cuban Constitution stipulates that no other parties are allowed except the Communist Party of Cuba, which has been in power since the end of the revolution in 1959.

Life expectancy is among the highest in the region 2, and everyone can read and write.3 Cubans have low incomes and many rely on subsidies provided by the regime. In general, most people lack the means to improve their own lives.

July 2021 saw the most widespread protests in Cuba in over 20 years, largely convened via social media. Thousands of people demonstrated to show their dissatisfaction with the lack of food and medicine, the management of the Coronavirus pandemic and the lack of respect for human rights, among other things. The authorities responded with force to the demonstrators. The internet was shut down and many protesters were arrested.

Human rights, gender equality and democratic development

Cuba is a one-party state without free and democratic elections. Civil and political rights, such as freedom of expression, are severely restricted. Dissidents are detained and harassed by the police and security services. Activists are prevented from travelling and the state holds political prisoners.


Combating gender-based violence

Although Cuba is characterised by patriarchal structures in which men hold power, the country is more equal than other countries in the region. However, gender-based violence is widespread and LGBTQI people face discrimination. Sida supports several Cuban organisations working to reduce gender-based violence, including Diakonia.

Diakonia website


Citizens involved in planning

Cuba’s municipalities are assuming greater responsibility for their own development. To support the process, Sida is supporting cooperation between the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKR) and the Cuban Centre for Local and Community Development (CEDEL). Municipal officials have received training in areas that are important for improving municipal planning and management. This entails planning and implementing projects at the municipal level and involving citizens in the planning process. The project has established two training centres.

About the project (Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions International website) 

Environment, climate and sustainable use of natural resources

Like other small island states, Cuba is highly vulnerable to climate change. Floods and droughts have become more common.

The country has a rich biodiversity; plants, mammals, reptiles, fish and birds provide vital ecosystem services, livelihoods and tourism income. Biodiversity is threatened by, for example, land-use shifts, deforestation and overexploitation of natural resources.

Cuba has goals to reduce biodiversity loss, strengthen sustainable natural resource use and conserve ecosystems and species. The climate-change mitigation plan includes adapting agriculture.


Strengthening central and local capacity

Sida’s work on the environment, climate and the sustainable use of natural resources is new, and several new cooperations are underway. This work will contribute to strengthening the country’s possibility and capacity to increase climate change resilience, use natural resources more sustainably and conserve biodiversity.

We will provide an update with additional examples of projects in this area.

Environmental perspective across projects

Several of the projects we support in Cuba in other areas also focus on climate and the environment. A project where we work with municipalities to strengthen local autonomy also includes training in sustainable waste management. The project is run by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKR) in cooperation with the Cuban Centre for Local and Community Development (CEDEL) at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.

About the project at Openaid

More crops increase biodiversity

Large-scale monocultures, where only one crop is grown, predominate in Cuba. Half of the productive arable land is used to grow sugar cane. Diakonia supports farmer cooperatives in growing more diverse crops on their land. This increases climate-change resilience and contributes to biodiversity, while ensuring food security, providing a more varied diet and creating productive employment in rural areas.

About the project at Openaid

Businesses contribute to green transition

To transform society, it is important that more entrepreneurs and small businesses invest in areas that benefit the climate and the environment. Sida has launched a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to stimulate small business and innovation that contributes to a green transition. The first step is to identify the provinces in which to work and what support small business-owners need to develop.

About the work in Cuba on UNDP website

Better living conditions and livelihoods

Tourism has been virtually wiped out by the Coronavirus pandemic, and money sent home from abroad by family members has been drastically reduced. Cubans are experiencing the worst food shortage in 25 years. More than two-thirds of Cuba’s population depend on financial support from family members who have left the country.4 Up to 80 % of all food is imported.5 Many of the sanctions imposed by the United States when Donald Trump was President of the United States remain largely in place. Drought, rising food prices and shortages of goods and fuel are hitting the population hard.

Supporting small entrepreneurs and farmers

In recent years, a new sector of small entrepreneurs and private employees has emerged. Through its cooperation with Diakonia, Sida is helping local Cuban organisations to support small entrepreneurs and farmers. The support has enabled small farmers to train in organic farming and network with other small farmers. Urban families have started to grow their own crops in order to have a more varied diet.

Diakonia website

Modernised banking

To contribute to the development of an international banking system, the International Council of Swedish Industry (NIR) cooperates with Cuban banks and runs a training programme for bank employees. The six-week training covers areas such as macroeconomics, monetary policy, marketing management, strategic analysis and leadership, and HR. Bank employees also sharpen their skills in risk management, international trade, international banking, credit processes and credit-risk management.

About this programme on NIR website

Updated: December 19, 2022