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Sweden’s response in the global fight against the COVID-19 virus

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The COVID-19 outbreak presents an unprecedented global crisis. The worldwide spread of the virus highlights the importance of collaboration and solidarity in tackling global challenges. Sweden continues to stand up for international principles and commitments and to support multilateral organisations working to fight the pandemic and its impacts. With a well-considered response, the international community can together lay the foundations for a more sustainable, equitable and gender-equal world that will be better equipped to manage future crises.

Sweden’s main strategy is to contribute core support that gives international actors such as the UN, the International Red Cross Movement and multilateral development banks the flexibility required to take effective action as needs arise. Sweden allocates one per cent of its GDP, a total of approximately SEK 52 billion, to official development assistance. Through international development cooperation, Sweden contributes directly and indirectly to fighting the COVID-19 virus, especially among the most vulnerable individuals and groups. Sweden’s support is aimed at building resilient health systems in low- and middle-income countries, increasing access to vaccines and diagnostics, and mitigating the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. Equitable and gender-equal health care that is accessible to all is crucial to tackling global health challenges. No health system is stronger than its weakest link.

Sweden’s core support to multilateral partners amounts to around SEK 18 billion. Core support is not earmarked. This is important if organisations are to be able to respond rapidly and flexibly as needs arise, but also to ensure that other life-saving humanitarian operations can continue. The World Health Organization (WHO) is a key player in the global response to the pandemic and Sweden contributes both political and financial support. Sweden also provides core support to many other multilateral organisations including UNFPA, UNDP, UNAIDS, OCHA, CERF, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNRWA, UN WOMEN, WFP, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Sweden is also working to mobilise additional resources for development and humanitarian assistance for areas in need. To respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic, both regarding the health aspects and the broader socio-economic consequences, Sida is also adjusting its ongoing support. In addition, Sweden is providing extensive support to international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF to help reduce the socio-economic and other impacts of the pandemic.

The EU is a key actor in the global response. Sweden supports the ‘Team Europe’ approach, which involves extensive collaboration between EU institutions, Member States and financial institutions to support partner countries. Its aim is to strengthen joint coordination on the ground, including with the UN and the multilateral development banks, and communication around EU initiatives. The EU delegations and embassies play a central role in these efforts.

Ensuring free, fair and open trade both is an important component in the immediate response to the pandemic and the social and economic recovery plan. Sweden has worked actively to ensure the smooth functioning of the European single market and removal of newly imposed export restrictions. Sweden has launched the ‘Trade for Health’ initiative, aimed at removing tariffs and other trade barriers on medical products. To strengthen the green recovery, Sweden is also pushing in the WTO for the elimination of tariffs on environmental goods and services. With its feminist trade policy, Sweden is working to promote gender equality in trade.

The pandemic threatens to exacerbate ongoing conflicts and cause new ones. Sweden supports the appeal of UN Secretary-General António Guterres for a global ceasefire. We do so by supporting conflict prevention and peace support operations, and inclusive peace processes in which the meaningful participation of women is ensured and young people are given the opportunity to shape their own future. Sweden also supports the Secretary-General’s call to put human rights at the centre of all measures to fight COVID-19. To fight authoritarian tendencies in responses to the pandemic, Sweden is strengthening its efforts to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world through its Drive for Democracy. Sweden is also working to fight rumours and disinformation around the COVID-19 virus in cooperation with the EU and other actors.

Sweden’s response is based on international law, including human rights, and on democracy, equality, gender equality and the rule of law. In all contexts, Sweden promotes open, transparent, responsible and evidence- and results-based management of the pandemic. Support is directed at the weakest and most vulnerable countries and groups.

COVID-19-specific support

In addition to core support to different international funds, programmes and organisations, Sweden has so far allocated around SEK 264 million to the COVID-19 response. This includes SEK 120 million for the humanitarian response, with SEK 40 million going to UNICEF, SEK 30 million to UNHCR and SEK 30 million to the ICRC. Sweden has also provided an additional contribution of SEK 40 million to WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies. Sida has also allocated SEK 100 million in bilateral support to various national and international partners.

The Government also intends to contribute SEK 50 million to the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund (COVID-19 MPTF), and on 25 May the Government announced a support package providing a further SEK 380 million through the development assistance framework. The Government intends to take a decision on these contributions in mid-June.