Balancing Normative and Pragmatic Considerations in Foreign Aid : A Case Study of Swedish Aid and its Focus on Democracy and Human Rights
Abstract: This study investigates Swedish aid and its focus on democracy and human rights. It analyses the space given to these normative objectives in relation to pragmatic considerations like strategic interests and institutional incentives. It does so by reviewing official documents and interviewing aid actors at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), to outline what objectives and incentives are guiding in Swedish aid. It also analyses how these factors affect critical decisions on whether aid should be suspended or not, to see how much normative objectives matter in such contexts. By doing so, this study contributes to the literature on democracy aid and aid suspension, as well as to research on Sweden as a donor country. Previous research has shown that normative considerations are often subordinated to strategic interests in foreign aid because of the complexity of many conflicting interests. In addition, decisions guided by strategic interests often include institutional incentives as well. This study finds that the policy frameworks for Swedish aid are integrated in the work of MFA and Sida. Both normative and pragmatic considerations, mainly institutional incentives, are referred to both in the documents and by the aid actors. In contrast to much other literature however, normative principles seem to dominate in Swedish aid. There is great emphasis on the importance of poverty reduction and promotion of democracy and human rights, even though the whole picture with donor interests also has to be taken into account.
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