Tag: development aid

SweDev researchers selected to the Swedish delegation

Group of young adults, representing the new generation and development.

The Government of Sweden have selected four associated SweDev researchers to join the Swedish delegation at the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development taking place 25th – 28th of April.

Jesper Sundewall at Lund University, George Marbuah, Research Fellow at SEI, Sana Rouis Skandrani, Researcher at Karlstad University and Janet Vähämäki, Director of SweDev and Team Lead at SEI, will all be joining the Swedish delegation and contribute with their research expertise to the Forum on Financing for Development. 

“I am really happy that researchers representing academia were invited to the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development. This shows that the SweDev network can play a role in coordinating representation to these types of High-Level Conferences on Global Development and thus bridge science and policy.”

Janet Vähämäki

The opportunity was offered to SweDev members after a request from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to coordinate participation from researchers at the Forum. Future opportunities are offered only to SweDev members – sign up below to become a member.

Read more about the 2022 ECOSOC Forum

Become a SweDev member

News text written by Ylva Rylander, Communications Officer at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) for SweDev.

The war risks increasing world hunger

Crops are essential for our survival.

The war in Ukraine is sending shockwaves around the world, reports the Swedish magazine Syre. One of all the effects is sky-high wheat prices and extremely high prices for fertilizers.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, as is Russia, which is now subject to extensive sanctions. As a result of the war, the price of wheat in Chicago broke records even though the increase has now stalled. But, the world has not seen such high prices since the food crisis in 2008. At the same time, future harvests in Ukraine are threatened, when labor has to pull out of the army.

Sharply increased prices and more hunger

“There are great risks with this development, poor countries with large cities will notice sharply increased prices and we will see more hunger.”

Madeleine Fogde, Program Director of SIANI and Senior Project Manager at SEI.

Madeleine Fogde believes that it will be extra noticeable for poor countries with decades of strong urbanization behind them like Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Egypt. Countries that import large quantities of wheat from Ukraine at the same time as decades of heavy urbanization have made parts of the population particularly vulnerable, as they can no longer contribute to their own food supply.

Factors affecting food security worldwide

According to the news agency Reuters, Egypt is now investigating whether the country can change trading partners due to unsafe transport from Ukraine. The EU is one of the alternatives. But the war, sanctions, export bans and more expensive production due to higher diesel prices are not the only things that risk affecting food security worldwide.

Higher prices for fertilizer and smaller harvests

The price of fertilizer is now also rising. Russia, together with Belarus, is a giant in the global market for phosphorus and potassium – two important raw materials to produce fertilizers.

According to Madeleine Fogde, higher prices for fertilizer can be managed by Swedish farmers and consumers – although this can also lead to smaller harvests, higher food prices and that individuals are hit hard.

For this year’s growing season, most Swedish farmers have already bought fertilizer. But the Norwegian company Yara, which is one of the world’s global players in the fertilizer market, writes in a press release that there are no short-term solutions, and that one of the consequences could be that only “the privileged part of the world has access to enough food.”

Food security uncertainty is increasing worldwide

“We will see more hunger. Although many African countries cannot afford mineral fertilizers, it can be important for countries such as South Africa that produce food for the entire region.”

Madeleine Fogde, SIANI Program Director and SEI Senior Project Manager.

A similar message was given by the German Agriculture Minister Cem Oezdemir ahead of a special G7 meeting on the food situation in the world recently.

“The supply of food in Germany and the European Union is secure, but major shortages can be expected in some countries outside the EU, especially where shortages already exist due to problems such as drought,” he said in a statement.

Even before the war, UN’s ambition to eradicate hunger by 2030 was met with setbacks. Last year, the annual report from the Global Network Against Food Crisis (GNAFC) showed that food security uncertainty is increasing worldwide and that the number of people in need of emergency assistance was the highest in five years.

“The pandemic has contributed to increasing the number of hungry people,” Madeleine Fogde said.

Major UN meeting on agriculture and food security

In the long run, she hopes that the development can be turned for the better. Following a major UN meeting last year focusing on agriculture and food security, many countries have paved the way for them to be able to secure the supply of nutritious food. Plans Madeleine Fogde now hopes will become a reality, driven by the increasingly uncertain world situation.

“But the change will take time and it will be difficult,” she said. In Sweden, she hopes that the high prices of fertilizers can speed up the transition to a more circular agriculture, something that would both make agriculture less vulnerable and reduce environmental problems such as eutrophication. “I think it will drive development and innovation,” Madeleine Fogde concluded.

News article published by Syre 9 March 2022. English translation and editing by Ylva Rylander, Communications Officer at Stockholm Environment Institute for SweDev.

How can the collaboration with researchers increase?

Mother and her child in the tropical forest of Sierra Leone.

Decision-makers in development policy view researchers as cumbersome and far from reality. And, when they use research results, it is usually to get a confirmation of the fact that already made decisions are correct. These are some of the conclusions drawn at a recent SweDev seminar on aid and development research, reports Global Bar Magazine.

The theme of the seminar attended by researchers, civil society, and decision-makers active in development aid included the following questions:  

  • How do we increase the use of research in Swedish development policy and practice?
  • What contributes to research being picked up in policy?
  • And what can be done to increase the relevance of research for practitioners?

“Our recent study shows that researchers would like increased collaboration with practitioners, but, until the establishment of SweDev, there has been no network in Sweden focusing on this topic.”

Anna Ioannou, former coordinator of the Swedish Development Network (SweDev).

How to increase the use of research in policymaking

The study that SweDev conducted on the contacts between research and various actors working with development, shows that decision-makers and practitioners see research as important and relevant, at the same time as they experience challenges finding relevant research. Research is often perceived as something remote with little connection to the practical reality, that often changes rapidly.

When organizations and authorities use research, it is often to back up and justify decisions that have already been made and to strengthen existing arguments. At the same time, only twelve percent in the study answered that their managers expect them to use research results to inform decision-making.

“It is evident that research that is more critical will not be used, while “mainstream research” often is used to confirm what is already being done.”

Janet Vähämäki, Programme Director of  SweDev.

Lack of time and communication is a challenge

According to the study, lack of time and budget are other factors that are limiting the use of research.

“72 percent say they do not have sufficient time to follow the most recent research. This means that if we would like to improve our collaboration, it must be encouraged, and time and resources need to be set aside,” Janet Vähämäki continued.

Another challenge is the lack of communication. While researchers primarily publish in scientific journals, practitioners and decision-makers rather use Google and seminars to gain new knowledge.

“It is true to a certain extent that research is used to confirm what is already known. My experience is that research results are used by local organizations to test different hypotheses and develop their own methodology,” said Gunnel Axelsson Nycander at Act Svenska kyrkan. “At present, organizations often use consultants because they are needed for rapid studies and evaluations, but not least the processes that are underway to decolonize development assistance should be interesting to collaborate with researchers on.”

At the same time, decision-makers often use international research rather than research produced in Sweden. One reason for this is to encourage research in the partner organizations’ own countries, but also that research networks, for example, in the United Kingdom might be more established and have a better reputation internationally than Swedish researchers. This, according to SweDev, entails a risk that Swedish research will get weakened in the long run.

Christina Hartler, Head of Sida’s unit for thematic support, pointed out that Swedish research is relatively small internationally, and that it is rather the case that we overestimated the importance of Swedish research than the other way around:

“Then I do not agree that lack of time would be a reason for the lack of contacts. Rather, it is a question of management, and that management does not prioritize collaboration with researchers,” said Christina Hartler at Sida.

Fast processes

Per Trulsson, Deputy Director at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Sweden, nevertheless said that time is an important issue for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that moves in contexts where things change very quickly, something that has been shown not least by the developments in Myanmar and Afghanistan.

“What our employees often need is a policy brief of 1-2 pages that is relevant to what they do. So, for the researchers to reach out, it is also required that they understand the processes that prevail at Sida and at the ministries.”

Per Trulsson, Deputy Director at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Magnus Walan, Senior Policy Officer at Diakonia, highlighted a different type of research than the one carried out by academic actors:

“We collaborate with local researchers and networks around the world, trying to connect them with Swedish decision-makers. We also support and encourage organizations such as Swedwatch and Fair Finance Guide who do extensive research, but experience challenges to obtaining funding, even though we know that the financial sector really needs to be examined.

Original article written by David Isaksson, Global Bar Magazine. English translation and editing by Ylva Rylander, Communications Officer at Stockholm Environment Institute for SweDev.

SweDev: How to improve the collaboration between aid workers and researchers

The SweDev study Increasing the use of research in Swedish development policy and practice provides four recommendations to increase the use of research and cooperation:

  1. Bridge the communications gap between researchers and practitioners
  2. Co-create research and development initiatives
  3. Connect development researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in Sweden
  4. Change incentives and structures for funding to improve work towards the 2030 Agenda