Tag: development cooperation

DN Debatt: Four solutions to increase research in Swedish development policy

Cooperation for sustainable development

There is almost consensus on the importance of science and research to solve global challenges, such as the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Despite this, there are major shortcomings in the collaboration between decision-makers and researchers, write the Vice-Chancellor of Uppsala University and the President of Karolinska Institutet together with the Chair, Co-Chair and Director of the Swedish Development Research Network (SweDev), in an op-ed published by Dagens Nyheter.

Today, the world is facing several crises and the work with sustainable development has never been more relevant. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw increases in both inequality and poverty in the world. The effects of global warming are visible globally, for example, through prolonged drought and heavy monsoon rains. Science and research are crucial to solving these challenges.

Research is needed to be able to understand complex processes, the expressions and solutions to poverty, but also to achieve results in Sweden’s development policy. Studies conducted by SweDev show that despite that both decision-makers and researchers say that integrating research-based knowledge is important, interaction between them is poor. Decision-makers say that they do not have time to read and use research and researchers say that they do not have knowledge on what is current in policy-making.

“Changes are needed to increase the use of research in Sweden’s development policy”

Four concrete proposals for measures on how to increase collaboration between researchers and decision-makers in development policymaking are presented in the op-ed written by Anders Hagfeldt, Vice-Chancellor of Uppsala University; Ole Petter Ottersen, President of Karolinska Institutet; Jesper Sundewall, Vice Chair of SweDev and Docent in global health systems at Lund University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal; Fredrik Söderbaum, Chair of SweDev and Professor in peace and development research at Gothenburg University and Janet Vähämäki, Director of SweDev at Stockholm Environment Institute.

Government and government agencies must:

  1. Give research-based knowledge greater weight in decision-making. It is a failure that decision-makers state that they do not have time to use research in their work. That development policy must be based on research and evidence should be given. The new government needs to emphasize the importance of research-based policymaking in both policy documents and appropriation letters to the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency Sida, and other relevant government agencies. The Government Office and government agencies should prioritize research-based decision-making in their work. The authorities need to develop processes for the integration of research-based knowledge in decision-making and give employees time and resources for this. Special programmes are needed to connect researchers and research to the implementation of aid projects and for researchers to be able to serve in international organizations.
  2. Stop the dismantling of the Swedish academic resource base. The Swedish Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, has recently announced the discontinuation of programs for competence development within the academy such as Minor Field Studies, the Linnaeus-Palme program and the global school. Programmes for knowledge development and partnerships with Swedish researchers (for example through SweDev) have also been denied funding. The decisions go against the needs for increased competence in sustainable development. Without broad Swedish expertise on development issues, the quality of development cooperation will be undermined. The government must therefore stop the dismantling of the Swedish resource base and instead make it clear that continued investment in Swedish research competence with relevance to the 2030 Agenda is needed.
  3. Institutionalize long-term collaboration platforms for development and sustainability issues. Knowledge-sharing, co-creation of knowledge and exploring new research areas are fundamental to increasing innovation in development issues and for the 2030 Agenda. Programmes such as the Swedish Institute for Global Health Transformation (SIGHT) and SweDev have both contributed to building broad systematic platforms where decision makers can collaborate with researchers, including actors in business and civil society. The government needs to ensure that these types of arenas are given the conditions to be institutionalized and developed.
  4. Researchers and the research community must place greater emphasis on how research findings can be used in decision-making. Researchers’ collaboration with society is one of the main tasks of academia but needs to be given higher priority. Researchers need to be given opportunities to increase their knowledge of decision-making conditions and how research findings can be used by decision-makers.

Sweden has a strong tradition of conducting research and building knowledge relevant to development and sustainability issues. Therefore, Sweden should also take responsibility for the research findings being used to solve challenges such as the global sustainability goals.

A great responsibility lies on the researchers. At the same time, politics must create opportunities for better collaboration between decision-makers and researchers. This requires strategic investments to integrate research into decision-making, and to maintain and renew the Swedish resource base.

DN Debatt Repliker: “Both academia and politics bear the responsibility for better collaboration”

In a letter to the editor, the authors of the op-ed in Dagens Nyheter, states that a combination and a deeper joint development of knowledge is needed for improved collaboration, where both parties have a responsibility. They write that “collaboration is something long-term and means strengthening relationships between people with knowledge from different directions.”

“Decision makers need to be clear about the issues they are grappling with. They also need to use the available research as a map to navigate to achieve their goals.”

Transcript written by Ylva Rylander, Communications Officer for SweDev at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). Edited by Janet Vähämäki, Director of SweDev and Team Lead for Development and Aid Policy at SEI.

Successful outcomes of the SweDev assembly

SweDev’s annual assembly, held in Uppsala, were attended by 60 people online and on-site. The Steering Committee was represented on-site by Fredrik Söderbaum or Uppsala University, Jesper Sundewall of Lund University, Linda Engström at SLU, Mats Björk of Uppsala University and Henning Melber of the Nordic Africa Institute.

Fredrik Söderbaum, Chair of SweDev’s Steering Committee and Jesper Sundewall led the SweDev Assembly held in Uppsala 24 August 2022.

SweDev members discussed their role in the network, how SweDev can initiate processes for problem-driven research and how to locate relevant policy makers. Members were also introduced to the networks working groups on education, PhD education and advocacy, and suggested SweDev to organize future workshops for research capacity building.

Interesting dialogues on the role of SweDev and how to increase development research collaboration encouraged the SweDev Secretariat – represented by Janet Vähämäki, Director of SweDev and SEI Team Lead, Alice Tunfjord, SEI Research Associate, Ylva Rylander, SEI Communications Officer and Roksana Rotter.

Research communications officer at the Nordic Africa Institute

Two men talking.

Do you agree that research-based knowledge needs to have a greater place in policy-making? Do you think the understanding of Africa’s opportunities and challenges needs to be strengthened among decision-makers in the Nordic region? Us too! Do you have solid experience in conveying ideas and crafting stories; in audio, audiovisual or text format? Are you eager to develop more of your talents in this area? Then we may have the job for you! The Nordic Africa Institute is looking for a research communications officer who thrives in a multicultural, academic environment, and who identifies with their knowledge-sharing mission in the service of democracy.

The role

The communications unit, six people strong, works with publications, meetings & events, web & digital channels, texts, films, photos, and a podcast. Among other things. As one of our colleagues is moving on, we are looking for his successor. Your main task will be to make research-based knowledge accessible and interesting to non-scholarly audiences. For the pieces you produce, you will draw much of your material from interviews with researchers and partners, events and meetings, in the Nordics and in Africa. Additionally, you will work with researchers on presentation skills and messages, and support journalists who wish to use the institute’s knowledge resources. Perhaps you have built your experience in journalism, in research communication, or elsewhere. You are interested in issues relating to Africa and the social sciences (read more about our impact areas here). You believe that research-based knowledge is an important part of policy-making and the fulfillment of the global goals.

How to apply

Send your CV and a personal letter through our online recruitment system, link below.
Closing Date for applications: 14 August 2022.

SweDev members appointed to the Sida Scientific Advisory Board   

World Economic Forum, annual meeting.

Appointed by the Government of Sweden in 2021, Sida’s Scientific Advisory Board provides recommendations to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) on strategic directions and research-related matters within the agency’s research cooperation areas.

Bridging science and policy is a guiding aim of SweDev. Therefore, SweDev is proud to see two of its members represented in Sida’s Advisory Board. In conversation with the SweDev secretariat, Assem Abu Hatab and Swati Parashar presented their research, contributing to Swedish development cooperation objectives and challenges.

Assem Abu Hatab is a Senior Researcher in Development Economics at the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), and an Associate Professor in Economics at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). He is an applied economist with broad empirical interests and focus on food systems. 

Assem Abu Hatab. Photo: North Africa Institute

Q: Can you briefly describe your own research area at NAI and at SLU?  

I joined NAI three months ago, carrying out research previously conducted at the Economics Department. The focus of my research is on food systems in low- and middle-income countries, how these can help countries to achieve the SDGs, and how sustainable management can enable countries to be more food secure. Being an applied economist, I use data and econometrics, to produce quantitative research. Besides working extensively on matters related to China and India at SLU, I will be now mainly focusing on African countries, especially the MENA region.

Q:  How will your expertise and research be valuable in your role at Sida’s Scientific Advisory Board?   

I will start with a few data. The management and economics of the agricultural sector represent ¼ of the African GDP and provide work for 60% of the active working population in Africa. Food systems are the fundamental driver of society but are impacted by phenomena such as urbanization, population growth, climate change, and resource constraints.  

These challenges will inevitably affect the ability of the food system to achieve economic growth. Given the importance of agriculture in the African economy, it depends on the ability of African actors to pursue more resilient food systems. All in all, this is the background I bring to Sida, and I do believe these can be relevant for development cooperation.

Q: What are the key challenges that you think you’ll face as a member of Sida’s Scientific Advisory Board? 

It is difficult to answer as I only started in March. We work in small groups of researchers in a very sharing environment. The board knows how to deal with any challenges that are always upcoming, externally, and internally. The mission and purpose of the institution are to absorb these and take them as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Two years ago, most of the focus was on Covid-19 and now new challenges: Sida should always be ready to adapt to ongoing changes. That it’s how they can create an impact. Climate change adaptation in Africa is one focus, while in the MENA region access to water is the priority. These agencies must tailor to the needs of specific regions. Therefore, Sida Advisory Board is and needs to be reactive and ready to respond to any challenge.

Q: Which recommendations do you want to include in Sida’s strategic directions? Do you believe there should be more room for including research-based knowledge in decision-making? 

A: I will bring my expertise in food systems, but it is too early to talk about recommendations. Economic growth and development in Africa will depend on agriculture: Africans are intrinsically linked to agriculture. I will never cease to emphasize this and not so much because it is the field of study, but because it is based on facts. There is room to include research and researchers. The value of researchers and practitioners in enhancing the use of data has always been emphasized with the purpose of creating usable knowledge. Research jointly produced is more likely to be used in practice. Use the supply and demand example to understand the ongoing scenario: the more effective the demand, the more research will be produced. These actions must work in synergy: practitioners are involved in a just implementation and researchers can tailor down to specific needs. 

Q: SweDev aims to strengthen collaboration between development researchers and practitioners. What is your view on the need for it?   

A: I have been a SweDev member for a year, and I love reading your informative newsletter. There was a need for SweDev, and I hope the community will enlarge. However, SweDev needs to come up with a unique agenda setting. The network needs to build trust and partnership with additional research institutions and universities. All in all, I appreciate your focus on persuasive communication pathways: the value of any research is affected by communication. This is a twofold process for SweDev: on the one hand, listening to researchers’ priorities, and on the other hand, listening to the research outcomes: this is how the network can grow and reach out to policymakers. 

Swati Parashar is a Professor in Peace and Development at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg. She predominantly works in the field of critical security and war studies, feminist, and postcolonial international relations. 


Written by Alessandro Giacardi, Communication, and Research Intern at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) for the Development and Aid Policy Team and SweDev. Edited by Alice Castensson, Associate at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) for SweDev, and Ylva Rylander, Communications Officer at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

Awarded projects granted by the Swedish Research Council 

Stockholm Public Library.

In the beginning of 2022, the Swedish Research Council announced awarded grants within development research applied for in 2021. Out of 248 applications, 59 of them were successful in receiving grants distributed across various thematic areas and among several research organizations and Swedish universities.  

To learn more about their successful research projects contributing to fulfil the 2030 Agenda, SweDev interviewed awarded researchers as part of SweDev’s article series.

Elin Bjarnegård, Associate Professor at the Department of Government at Uppsala University will together with Dolores Calvo and Åsa Eldén at Uppsala University, and Silje Lundgren at Linköping University, study sextortion – a form of sexual corruption – in Tanzania.

Q: Briefly describe your research project. Why do you think the Swedish Research Council picked your project to be funded? 

A: The project investigates a form of sexual corruption called sextortion, which occurs when a person with entrusted authority abuses it to extort sexual favours in exchange for a service or benefit which is within their power to grant or withhold. “Sex for grades” is just one example of sextortion, where a teacher demands a sexual favour from a pupil in exchange for grades or exam results. Even though cases of sextortion are common around the world, they are often not recognized or dealt with because sextortion does not neatly fit the definition of neither corruption nor gender-based violence. This is why it is so important to shed light on the particular phenomenon of sextortion.

“Sextortion occurs when a person with entrusted authority abuses it to extort sexual favours in exchange for a service or benefit which is within their power to grant or withhold.”

Elin Bjarnegård, Associate Professor at Uppsala University

In this process, we follow the implementation of policy against sextortion in an organization working with folk development colleges in Tanzania. The combination of conceptual innovation and concrete policy impact is a strong aspect of this project.

One of the project participants, Åsa Eldén, used to work with gender equality at Sida. She was the one who realized that sextortion was an important topic in development cooperation that nevertheless seemed to fall between the lines of responsibility: it was neither perceived as corruption, nor as gender-based violence despite the fact that both competence areas are important for understanding and addressing it. When we put together our project group, we made sure we had competence both about gender and corruption as well as about gender-based violence.

Q: What made you interested in this topic? 

We wrote a report about sextortion for the Expert Group for Aid Studies in 2020. Tanzania was one of two case studies in this report, and it turned out to be a fascinating case, for two reasons. First, sexual corruption is a known and often talked about phenomenon in Tanzania, and in contrast to many other countries, there are specific laws and policies about it. Second, Karibu Tanzania Organization, KTO, was inspired by our report and adapted our definition of sextortion to further their work against sexual harassment and sexual corruption in their folk development colleges throughout the country. It thus gave us a perfect opportunity to study the opportunities and challenges of implementing sextortion policy. 

Q: Why are the research contributions you hope to make important?

A: First of all, it is important to raise awareness about the phenomenon of sexual corruption in general, and sextortion in particular. This is the only way in which we can also work towards efficiently addressing it. Right now, it is seen as a grey zone between corruption and gender-based violence, and we aim to shed light on that grey zone so that it becomes understandable and possible to investigate.

Second, recognizing sex as a potential currency and a corrupt exchange is crucial. It changes the way in which we view corruption, and who is a likely victim of corruption. It also puts the responsibility on the abuse of entrusted authority for personal gain. An office-holder or person with entrusted authority should never abuse this authority for personal gain, and even less exploit people dependent on his services for sexual services.

Q: SweDev aims to increase the interaction between development researchers and practitioners. How can practitioners working with sustainable development use the outcomes of your research? 

A: Practitioners are already working with preliminary outcomes of our research on sextortion, such as our definition. It is clear that a definition is sorely needed in order to take action against sextortion.

As we proceed, we will also be able to give more concrete recommendations about where the hurdles and windows of opportunity may be in the implementation of policy against sextortion. We plan to create information material that also can be used for training on sextortion.

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.

EBA invitation for proposals

Student protests at the University of Liberia, Monrovia.

The Expert Group on Aid Studies (EBA) hereby invites proposals for an evaluation of the long-term development cooperation between Liberia and Sweden 2003–2021, within the areas of (i) conflict, peace and security; (ii) democracy and human rights; (iii) inclusive economic development.

The aim of this evaluation is twofold:
1. To gain an in-depth understanding of the relevance, coherence and long-term results of Swedish development cooperation with Liberia (2003–2021) within the areas of (i) conflict, peace, and security; (ii) democracy and human rights, and (iii) inclusive economic development.
2. To generate lessons to inform future Swedish development cooperation with Liberia as well as with other partner countries.

Who is this evaluation for? Target group(s)

The main target group of this evaluation is the staff responsible for Swedish development cooperation at the Swedish Embassy in Monrovia, at the Swedish MFA and at Sida’s Department for Africa as well as in Liberian state authorities and agencies. A particularly important target group is those responsible for the renewal, implementation, and monitoring of the Swedish strategy for Liberia.

Secondary target groups include people with an interest in Liberia or development cooperation in general, Swedish media and the general public in Sweden and Liberia.

Procurement, assessment and deadline

The procedure will be a restricted procedure in two stages.7 At both stages, tenderers are expected to disclose potential conflicts of interest pertaining to members in the evaluation team, as this may be a ground for exclusion of a proposal. All suppliers have the right to apply to submit tenders (expression of interest). EBA will invite five (5) suppliers to submit tenders.

The application shall contain:

  1. CV of the team leader/principal investigator
  2. A list of the team leader/principal investigator’s most relevant publications (at most 10 studies from the last 10 years are to be listed)
  3. Preliminary team (if more than one author. Described using at most 300 words.)
  4. Three full sample studies conducted by members of the proposed team. At least one shall have been authored by the team leader/principal investigator. Note that the studies should be sent in as files, not as links in a document.
  5. A short account for how, according to the authors, respective study has contributed to new, reliable, knowledge of relevance for this evaluation (at most 300 words, i.e. 100 words per study).

The maximum cost for this evaluation is SEK 2 200 000 excl. VAT. The budget shall be denominated in SEK. The budget shall enable three to four meetings with the study’s reference group (to be appointed by EBA), a workshop in Stockholm and participation at the launching event. The reference group will meet in Stockholm, but one or two meetings may be conducted by video link.

Please note that expressions of interest for submitting tenders shall be registered at the tender portal Kommers Annons eLite, no later than 9 May 2022.

About EBA

EBA is a government committee mandated to evaluate and analyse the direction, governance and implementation of Sweden’s official development assistance with a specific focus on results and effectiveness. The expert group has ten members with competencies from different development areas (development, climate, health, sustainability, evaluation issues, etc.). An office with eight employees executes the decisions.

EBA studies overarching issues, not individual projects. We publish studies of various kinds and arrange seminars and targeted meetings. The target groups for the dissemination of knowledge are the government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sida, as well as researchers, civil society organizations and other actors in development assistance.

DevRes 2022 – Transforming Development Research for Sustainability

Summer valley.

The upcoming DevRes conference will be held on August 22-24, 2022 and will be hosted by GlobeLife, a joint initiative of Uppsala University and Karolinska Institutet. The conference will offer both onsite participation as well as digital live-streaming and chat functions. The 1st day of the conference will be at Uppsala University, the 2nd day fully online and the 3rd day at Karolinska Institutet.

SweDev at DevRes2022

More details will follow.

  • ‘Bridging research and policymaking in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda’: 13:30-14:30 on 22 August in Uppsala. Onsite participation only.
  • ‘Planetary health: the role of coastal ecosystems’: 11:00-12:00 on 22 August in Uppsala. Hybrid: onsite and online participation.
  • SweDev annual assembly: 23 August, 16:15-17:30 CEST. Mingle at 17:30-18.30. Learn more about SweDev, influence the workplan and meet SweDev’s secretariat and Steering Committee. The SweDev assembly is open to all. Join us online or in Uppsala. Registration is required. We invite all participants to a mingle after the event.

Transforming Development Research for Sustainability

The theme for the upcoming conference is ‘Transforming development research for sustainability, as It is becoming increasingly clear that sustainability is the key to our planet and the future of humanity. We must make haste at achieving this before 2030, estimated as the climate’s ‘tipping point’, which could lead to unpredictable consequences.

A major part of the conference will focus on how we can achieve sustainability in health for both humans and our planet. This requires that we look at transforming large parts of our society and restructuring systems within our society such as food and energy production, urban planning, digitization, education, preventive health work as well as health and social care.

In order to achieve this globally for all people and not just individual countries, we need to explore both new forms of cooperation and the generation of new knowledge. Here, research is absolutely essential if we are to discover novel systems that will ensure the longevity of our society.

About DevRes

The Development Research Conference (DevRes) was founded in 2016 as a multi-disciplinary forum for researchers working in fields linked to development and sustainability.

The conference aims to promote networking and collaboration between researchers, public agencies, policymakers, organisations and practitioners, in order to find solutions for poverty and develop strategies for the future of sustainable development.

New EBA call for project proposals

Turbid waters spill out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Are you a development researcher based in Sweden with expertise in poverty issues, environment and climate or the steering of Swedish aid? Do you have an idea that is of relevance to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sida and other Swedish development cooperation actors?

The Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA) has decided to allocate funds for studies within any of its prioritised areas (poverty and its drivers; environment and climate; steering of Swedish aid). Funds are available for researchers active at institutions based in Sweden in order to conduct studies of direct relevance for the MFA, Sida and/or other Swedish development cooperation actors.

The application is made in two separate steps. In a first round a project idea is briefly presented. Final day for project ideas is Sunday 22 May, 2022.

A review committee invites, after selection, short-listed applicants to provide a full application by 22 June, 2022. Final date to provide full applications is 14 August, 2022.