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Unclear objectives for Government aid to multilateral organisations

The Swedish Government annually decides on more than SEK 16 billion in so-called core support to multilateral organisations. The Swedish National Audit Office (Swedish NAO) audit shows that the aid lacks clear objectives, and that there are shortcomings in preparation and follow-up. Sida, which also supports multilateral organisations, has a more appropriate approach.

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Sweden spends large amounts annually on aid to multilateral organisations, such as the United Nations and the World Bank. The Government makes decisions on money that goes straight into the budgets of these organisations (‘core support’) while Sida decides on earmarked support for multilateral organisations (‘multi-bi support’).

The Swedish NAO has audited the Government’s and Sida’s work with this aid. The audit shows that there are no clearly defined objectives in strategies that govern the core support that the Government decides on.

Nor are there any systematic and documented follow-ups of multilateral organisations’ results, or of how core support contributes to Swedish development aid objectives.

“From the outset, it is a difficult task to follow how Swedish development aid contributes to the results of multilateral organisations. This applies in particular to core support. Therefore, it is important that the Government makes well-informed decisions and that the follow-up is appropriate. Clear objectives and good follow-up contribute to effectiveness,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

The audit also shows that the Government’s decisions, and the documentation from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, lack information on what has been decisive for which organisations will receive core support — and how much money they will receive.

For example, it is not clear how the strengths and weaknesses of a particular core support or a particular multilateral organisation have been considered in decisions. Nor are there any documented risk analyses.

"The absence of risk analysis means that the Government may have missed taking into account factors that affect the organisations’ ability to achieve results when deciding on core support" says Therese Brolin, project leader for the audit.

The Swedish National Audit Office directed similar criticisms at core support in an audit in 2014. As a result, some decision-making processes were changed. The new audit reveals similar shortcomings in decision guiding documents and follow-up that existed in 2014.

Regarding Sida’s work on multi-bi support, the Swedish NAO considers that it is essentially appropriate. However, it is unclear what Sida’s risk assessments are based on and how Sida draws lessons from previous interventions when designing new ones.

Recommendations in brief

The Government should

  • ensure that there are objectives in strategies that govern Sweden’s core support
  • ensure that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs carries out a documented risk analysis before the Government decides on core support
  • consider whether the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, together with Sida, should regularly conduct a comprehensive follow-up of the support to the respective organisation and the strategies governing the core support.

See the report for full recommendations.

Facts

The overall objective of Swedish development aid is to create preconditions for better living conditions for people living in poverty and oppression.

Approximately half of Swedish development aid — SEK 27 billion annually — is given to multilateral organisations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, regional development banks and global funds.

Part of the support is provided as ‘core support’, which goes directly to the central budget of a multilateral organisation. It is the Government that decides on core support. In 2019, Sweden’s core support amounted to just over SEK 16 billion.

Sida also manages and decides on support to multilateral organisations. Sida’s support is called multi-bi support and is earmarked for use, for example in a specific country or in a thematic area. In 2019, multi-bi support amounted to SEK 11 billion.

The Swedish NAO’s audit covers both core and multi-bi support The audit covers long-term development cooperation, but not humanitarian aid. The Swedish NAO has not audited the results of the Swedish development aid or its advocacy work towards multilateral organisations.

Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

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Updated: 23 November 2021

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