Cuts to the info/com budget have major consequences

Foto: Holger.Ellgaard, Creative Commons

Fotograf: Holger.Ellgaard, Creative CommonsFotograf: Holger.Ellgaard, Creative Commons

The government’s cuts to Sida’s info/com budget from 155 to 20 million have major consequences for communication on global issues. It was crushingly clear in a meeting that Sida invited to about the grant and in which SMR’s office and representatives of member organisations participated.

Sida’s 17 strategic partner organisations and several of ForumCiv’s and SMC’s member organisations took part in the meeting. In group discussions, it emerged that several organisations had to lay off staff and that it is uncertain what will happen to the communication work after 2023. But intensive work is underway to restructure and also find other funding.

Torbjörn Pettersson, head of department for HR and communication at Sida and responsible for the info/com strategy, said that he had several coordination meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that his most important message was that the government’s handling means that Sida cannot cooperate with its partners as they want and not finish responsibly.

– To be able to do that, we would have needed 40–50 million kronor and not 20.

Uncertain future

He also said that Sida does not know more about the future of the info/com strategy than what appears in the regulatory letter to Sida, where it is stated that the government must test whether the strategy should be terminated or not. Sepideh Imani, head of communications at Sida, said that Sida will continue to work much like before with communication, but on a smaller scale, and they are prioritizing efforts where they can reach out widely, for example through social media, and to reach the school, especially through Den global school. They must also, according to the regulation letter, prioritise “strategic initiatives for journalistic activity, independent review and transparency”.

– Therefore, we have chosen to keep the support for those activities, but have had to reduce it. It is, for example, Sida’s press service, Open Aid, Sida’s own website, to finance the independent editorial office that makes OmVärlden, and journalist scholarships, said Sepideh Imani.

The info/com strategy is unique

There are several civil society organisations that work with reviews, for example Fair Action, which examines companies. But Sida does not have the opportunity to support that work this year, but maybe in the future, said Erik Schrammel, coordinator for info/com at Sida Partnership Forum. When asked if Sida has any other grant from which it is possible to apply for money for communication, he replied that they would have to look at each individual case. Perhaps something can be financed within the Civsam grant, but in that case it will be marginal.

– The Info/kom strategy has been unique because it has been able to finance projects in Sweden, which is one of the reasons why it is difficult to apply from other grants, said Erik Schrammel.