Development news

Sweden’s Development Policy since 1990: A policy paradigm shift waiting to happen?

November 17, 2022
Stockholm, Sweden, street Stockholm, Sweden. Photo: Sara Riaño / Unsplash.

Jan Pettersson, Managing Director of the Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA), has published a journal article in Forum for Development Studies, Volume 49, 2022, analyzing the history of the Swedish development aid policy since 1990.

Poverty reduction – the overarching goal of Swedish aid

Since the birth of the formal Swedish development policy in 1962, the overarching goal of Swedish aid has been poverty reduction. While the goal has been up for revision four times (under two social democratic and two conservative governments) it has only been rephrased rather than reformed.

In addition, Sweden’s ambition to devote one per cent of its gross national income to development aid each year has been largely upheld since it was first achieved in 1975, save a period of 13 years (1993–2005, under the social democratic rule) where it was abandoned with reference to budgetary pressures. Aid was, however, never less than 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI).

Goals and volumes not being altered over time, even under government changes, suggest Swedish development cooperation policy has been formed under consensus. This apparent continuity, however, masks some important differences between political parties’ policy preferences, and the stability may be better explained by large majorities being in favour of current policies than by consensus.

Jan Pettersson, argues that the preconditions for those differing ideational positions to be translated into policy change are today quite favorable, suggesting that a policy paradigm shift, a ‘radical policy change’, may be in the making.