Today, the SMC and six other Swedish civil society organisations are releasing the report Coronapandemin is hitting the world’s poor hard. The report is a force for democracy. And it lifts the voices of those most affected.
Many major institutions such as the UN and the EU have flagged how the corona pandemic will affect those living in poverty. But voices from civil society, which Swedish aid organizations support, have not been highlighted in the same way. This report does,” says Sanna Svenssson, advisor in development policy at the SMC.
It is important that civil society gathers together
She thinks it has been very good that seven different aid organizations – We Effect, Kvinna till Kvinna, Islamic Relief, Individual Human Aid, Plan International Sweden, Save the Children and the Swedish Mission Council – have been able to work together. But also that the SMC has been able to link up with the faith-based actors who cooperate with their member organizations around the world.
“What is so important about this report is that we gather strength together. Now is not the time to work in silos, but it’s time to work together. We at the SMC have contributed with our knowledge and experience on how to prevent the space for civil society from shrinking further, how we can strengthen democracy and include freedom of religion and belief in this work.
The world’s most vulnerable are hardest hit
The Corona pandemic has turned an already fragile everyday life into the world’s most vulnerable. The report testifies to partner organizations and employees in the field about how people suddenly stand without work and income, cannot buy food for their families or can afford health care. But also about how men’s violence against women increases and children become without education.
One of the issues raised by the report is how the pandemic is impacting the progress of achieving the Global Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. For example, the UN has warned that as many as half a billion people could be put into poverty as a result of the pandemic and that the famine in the world could double.
Swedish aid can strengthen vulnerable communities
Another question asked in the report is how Sweden, through aid, can help build a fairer, more equal, sustainable and secure world for all after the crisis. For example, the report shows that many countries have not only restricted freedom of movement and assembly, but also restricted freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief.
“Here I see that the democracy initiative is now particularly important and that Sweden can play an important role in pushing for all countries that have declared a state of emergency and adopted emergency laws during the corona crisis to return to normal and ordinary legislation when the pandemic is over,” svensson says.
She notes that it is a work that must take place at both UN and EU level and should be a priority during Sweden’s presidency of the OSCE, 2021.
– Part of the democracy drive is also to provide flexible support to civil society, so that local movements and human rights defenders can contribute to strengthening democracy and human rights during and after the pandemic.
Good thing Swedish politicians are impressed by the report
The SMC’s member organizations PMU, Evangelical Free Church, Christian Peace Movement, Erikshjälpen and ACT Swedish Church have all contributed to the report in various ways. And when it is launched today, several politicians from the Foreign Affairs Committee will participate in a panel debate on the report’s recommendations. Those taking part are The Members of Parliament Magnus Ek (C), Janine Alm Ericson (MP), Magdalena Schröder (M) and Kenneth G Forslund (S).
“It is important that we have a broad conversation with the political representatives about the pandemic and that Swedish parties not only focus inwards but also look outwards. Several of these parties are currently reviewing their aid policy and this autumn they are to submit draft budgets. So it is important that they take the impression of what the aid can do to counteract the effects of the corona pandemic and “build back better”, says Sanna Svensson.
Photo: Sachithra Kamburapola. Teplockerskan Kokila in Sri Lanka works wearing a mouthguard during the corona pandemic.