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Article Sweden: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency Stops Planned Aid Payments to UNRWA

On January 30, 2024, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), announced that it would stop its planned aid payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) following reports that its staff had participated in the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on October 7, 2023. The decision to stop aid to UNRWA was reportedly made on January 26, 2024, by the agency director, Jakob Granit. The announcement came after Nordic country neighbors Finland and Iceland announced suspension of their payments to UNRWA.

Sweden was one of the largest donors of aid to UNRWA in 2022, ranking fourth after the United States, Germany, and the European Union, with payments totaling US$60,969,987. The planned aid to UNRWA that is now being stopped equals 31 million Swedish krona (SEK) (about US$3 million). Sweden has pledged SEK 400 million (about US$38.3 million) to UNRWA for all of 2024, but no payments have been made. The Swedish government has not made any decision to reverse those pledges and is awaiting the United Nations investigation into UNRWA as well as a SIDA investigation into its aid payments to Gaza. The Swedish government tasked SIDA with producing an investigative report detailing the recipients of the aid and development assistance to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza by February 15, 2024.

Pauses to Development Assistance to Gaza

SIDA previously paused its development assistance (bistånd) in response to the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks. On October 10, 2024, the Swedish government announced that it was directing SIDA to stop all its development assistance (utvecklingsbistånd) to organizations in Gaza and instructed SIDA to review the recipients of all its developmental assistance payments to organizations operating in Gaza and the West Bank (known in Sweden as Palestine following a 2014 state recognition of the Palestine territories as a Palestine state).

Current Humanitarian Aid to Gaza

On November 2, 2023, the Swedish government announced an additional SEK 150 million (about US$14.4 million) in humanitarian aid to Gaza to be paid out to the following organizations: the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP), Child Fund (UNICEF), Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Red Cross organization working in Gaza. These payments will not be affected by the pause in payments to UNRWA.

Previous Humanitarian Aid and Development Assistance to Gaza and the West Bank

Sweden provides humanitarian aid to several organizations in Gaza and the West Bank. For 2023, the Swedish humanitarian aid to Gaza and the West Bank totaled 146 million SEK (about US$14.4 million) and was provided to the following organizations:

  • Action Against Hunger – SEK 2 million (about US$190,000).
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – SEK 20 million (about US$1.9 million).
  • International Committee of the Red Cross, Gaza Resilience Program – SEK 50 million (about US$4.8 million).
  • Islamic Relief – SEK 10 million (about US$960,00).
  • Norwegian Refugee Council – SEK 6 million (about US$580,000).
  • OCHA – SEK 5 million (about US$480,000).
  • OCHA’s humanitarian fund – SEK 22 million (about US$2.1 million).
  • Swedish Red Cross – SEK 4 million (about US$380,00).
  • UNICEF – SEK 7 million (about US$670,000).
  • UNRWA – SEK 20 million (about US$1.9 million).

In 2022, the humanitarian aid to Gaza and the West Bank was SEK 129 million (about US$12.4 million). In addition, Sweden provided SEK 298 million (about US$28.6 million) in development assistance in 2022. During 2023, SEK 315 million (about US$30.2 million) was provided in development assistance and humanitarian aid before these payments were stopped on October 13, 2023.

SIDA Review of Development Assistance Payments

On December 1, 2023, SIDA reported that none of its payments to Gaza and the West Bank had supported terrorist activities by Hamas. The Swedish government determined the report to be incomplete and, on December 7, 2023, announced that it was tasking SIDA with amending its report and providing an account for all activities financed by Swedish development assistance to Gaza and the West Bank. The review was also to include an analysis of all recipient organizations’ external communication, to be completed by February 15, 2024.

At the same time the Swedish government announced the resumption of limited development assistance payments to the following organizations:

  • Gaza Community Mental Health, no more than SEK 9 million (about US$860,000).
  • Palestinian Medical Relief Society, no more than SEK 8.2 million (about US$790,000).
  • We Effect, no more than SEK 10 million (about US$960,000).

UNRWA Aid Redistributed to Other Organizations

While the United Nations investigation of UNRWA is ongoing, SIDA will redistribute its UNRWA budgeted aid to other established aid organizations in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, reportedly to include the World Food Programme and the Red Cross, among others. Swedish Minister for Development Assistance and Humanitarian Aid Johan Forsell commented on SIDA’s decision by saying, “We must investigate this and ensure that assistance that is meant for people in Gaza are made to them and not to frivolous actors or even actors that have participated in the terrible terror attacks on October 7.” The Swedish government is awaiting the amended SIDA report due on February 15, 2024, before making new decisions on development assistance and humanitarian aid to organizations in Gaza.

Elin Hofverberg, Law Library of Congress
February 1, 2024

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Chicago citation style:

Hofverberg, Elin. Sweden: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency Stops Planned Aid Payments to UNRWA. 2024. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-01-31/sweden-swedish-international-development-cooperation-agency-stops-planned-aid-payments-to-unrwa/.

APA citation style:

Hofverberg, E. (2024) Sweden: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency Stops Planned Aid Payments to UNRWA. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-01-31/sweden-swedish-international-development-cooperation-agency-stops-planned-aid-payments-to-unrwa/.

MLA citation style:

Hofverberg, Elin. Sweden: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency Stops Planned Aid Payments to UNRWA. 2024. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-01-31/sweden-swedish-international-development-cooperation-agency-stops-planned-aid-payments-to-unrwa/>.