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Sida's work in North Macedonia

North Macedonia is one of the least developed countries in Europe. Sida's reform cooperation supports North Macedonia's rapprochement with the EU and focuses on human rights, democracy and the climate, among other things. Democracy and human rights have moved in the right direction in recent years, but the country is marked by internal conflicts.

Progress has been made

Democracy strengthened

Democracy has been strengthened and respect for human rights has increased in recent years. A new anti-discrimination law was adopted in 2020. The press and media environment has become freer and civil society can operate relatively freely.

Modernising schools

The education system is being modernised, including improvement of teacher skills, anti-discrimination work in schools and the end of student punishment.

Major investment in agriculture

The government is investing heavily in developing the country’s agriculture so that more people can benefit from it. The country is in a relatively good position both to supply its population with food and to export fruit and vegetables.

Challenges remain


of the population lives in material and social poverty, compared to an EU average of 12%.1 Poverty is particularly prevalent among certain ethnic minorities (especially Roma), in rural areas, among young people, the elderly, disabled people and women.

Uneven health care access

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the country hard. Health, education and social services do not reach all people. In the health care sector, bribery and favours are widespread in order to get better and faster treatment, which particularly affects the poorest. The high level of corruption (ranked 87 out of 180 countries) reduces people’s social cohesion.2

Minority discrimination

Society is segregated and there are major tensions between different ethnic groups. Women and minority groups, such as Roma and LGBTQI people, face discrimination, even though this is illegal.

Reform cooperation in North Macedonia

North Macedonia is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with a GDP per capita of only around 21 percent of the EU average.3 Unemployment is high, especially among young people and in rural areas.

Despite progress in some areas, much remains to be done before the conditions for EU membership are met. For example, the rule of law needs to be developed, corruption must be reduced, the public sector must be improved and the many environmental challenges must be tackled.

Sida’s reform cooperation focuses primarily on gender equality, democratic development and the environment.

Democracy, human rights, rule of law and gender equality

Positive changes have occurred in terms of democracy and respect for human rights and gender equality, e.g., legislation protecting marginalised women and girls, including migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The population’s distrust of rulers and state institutions is high.4 Gender-based violence and stereotypes contribute to the low representation of women in leading political positions.

Sida works to strengthen democracy and respect for human rights, strengthen free and independent media and counter disinformation. Anti-corruption is another important area.

National address register

The country’s institutions currently lack capacity, which hinders EU membership. Sida is supporting cooperation between the Swedish Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registration Authority and its North Macedonian counterpart to establish a national address register. This is needed to conduct censuses and keep an accurate electoral roll for general elections. Address registers have been completed in more than 50 of the country’s 80 municipalities and were crucial for the 2021 census. Sida is also supporting inter-agency cooperation between Statistics Sweden (SCB) and its North Macedonian counterpart to increase the availability and use of statistics.

Supporting women affected by violence

Through the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, Sida supports several local women’s organisations working for women’s rights, including against gender-based violence and for women’s political empowerment and sexual and reproductive health and rights. The work includes protecting vulnerable women and providing access to justice for women who are victims of violence.

About the work in North Macedonia at Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation web page

Improved security services

Sida supports the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF), which promotes transparency and the protection of citizens’ rights through the reform of the intelligence and security services.

DCAF web page

Climate, environment, resilience and sustainability

North Macedonia has taken important steps to improve the environment in several areas. The country has reduced its dependence on fossil fuels and strengthened its management of waste and chemicals. However, the environmental situation remains serious. Air pollution in major cities is a major threat to public health, contributing to around 4,000 premature deaths each year.5

In the area of environment and climate, Sida contributes to building and increasing public awareness and creating opportunities to influence and participate in decisions.

Monitoring air quality

The delayed environmental work is due to weak environmental governance and non-compliance with the country’s environmental regulatory framework. Sida is supporting cooperation between the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the North Macedonian Ministry of the Environment in areas such as nature preservation, air quality monitoring and preparation for the environmental and climate-change reforms required by the EU for membership.

About the cooperation with North Macedonia at Swedish Environmental Protection Agency web page

Reducing emissions and raising awareness

Sida supports several projects to reduce air pollution and raise public awareness. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is pushing for legislative changes to reduce emissions from household heating. Various energy efficiency measures are also implemented for households. UNICEF is working to raise environmental awareness and knowledge among school children of all ages, with the aim of getting more people involved in environmental issues.

About the work in North Macedonia at UNDP web page

Inclusive economic development and EU rapprochement

The economy was severely affected by the pandemic but is slowly recovering. A large part of the population works in the informal sector, where wages are often low and working conditions are poor. Corruption affects both employment opportunities and business competitiveness. Unemployment remains high, with more than a third of young people out of work.5 Many people are leaving the country, mainly for low-paid jobs.

More jobs in rural areas

Climate change, poor infrastructure, complex regulatory frameworks and a lack of access to finance and credit prevent the agricultural sector from reaching its full potential. Through the organisation We Effect, Sida supports local organisations that develop rural areas. They promote entrepreneurship, competitiveness and productivity and work to help more people in rural areas find jobs, especially women and young people.

We Effect web page

Support EU rapprochement

Sida provides expert support to various institutions working on the preparation of the government’s reform agenda for the EU accession process, mainly in the fields of environment, education, justice and consumer protection. Sida has also trained public sector staff to increase their capacity.

Peaceful and inclusive societies

Beginning October 2021, “Peaceful and inclusive societies” will be included as a new thematic area for reform cooperation. Sida is currently forming partnerships with organisations in this area. Examples of this work will be presented at a later date.

Updated: August 9, 2022