Interface Design and Process Management Between National Governments and International Organizations: The Case of Sweden
The European Institute of Japanese Studies
Stockholm School of Economics
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Sweden, as in Japan has the main responsibility for the contact with international organizations. Depending on the type of organization the Finance Ministry as well as the National Bank of Sweden (Riksbanken) can also hold main responsibility. So can many of the other Ministries when it comes to organisations dealing with specific questions within their domestic jurisdiction.
Since a few years back Sweden is in a process of writing strategy documents towards all multilateral organisations. In these documents they, making departure from Swedish policy positions, specify issues of priority and what they want to achieve within each multilateral organisation. There is one implementing agency, Sida, through which most of the aid money to international organisations are canalised. Sida as well as the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has a special bureau for international recruitment. These are the broad outlines of the Swedish governments interface with international organisation.
This paper will start out by looking at the organisational set up of Swedish interface with international organisations, both on a political level as well as on an implementing level. We will then continue with the budgetary system as well as the new strategy documents towards the most important international organisations. Then we will cover personnel as well as recruitments policy before we end with some points on evaluation.
In Sweden, like in some of the other Nordic countries, there is a political emphasis on foreign aid that is stronger than usual among other OECD countries. Increased aid is an issue that is often debated in election campaigns and receives a considerable amount of public attention. An example of the importance of aid, is that when the present Swedish government was formed in the autumn of 2002 and the Social Democratic Party did not have a majority of their own, one of the main issues where they had to make a compromise with the Left Party as well as the Green Party was foreign aid. They put a more rapid increase of foreign aid as a condition for supporting the present government. The schedule for reaching the goal of one per cent of GNP for aid was shortened with several years and should now be reached by 2004. About one third of Swedish foreign aid is canalised through multilateral organisations.
Another effect of the importance of foreign aid for Sweden is shown in the fact that we have a special Minister for Development Cooperation, Migration and Asylum Policy. The person appointed to this position has aid as his/her responsibility. He or she is of course part of the government, where they will as their main responsibility handle questions of foreign aid. All money channelled for international organisations are of course not classified as aid, but a substantial part of it is and will thus be dealt with by the Minister for Development Cooperation, Migration and Asylum Policy. Under the Minister there is also a special Secretary of State responsible for foreign aid.
This organisational set up will have certain consequences in the interface with international organisations. At certain important meetings of organisations where most governments are represented by their Finance Ministers or heads of the National Banks, there will be a few governments (mainly Nordic ones) represented by their Ministers for Development Cooperation. Sweden would be one of those.
The Minister for Development Cooperation, Migration and Asylum Policy does not have a Ministry of his/her own but are placed at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs which has two Ministers, one for Foreign Affairs and one for Development Cooperation, Migration and Asylum Policy. The contacts with international organisations are generally handled by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. They are in charge of the whole UN-system. Within the Ministry it is the Global Cooperation Department (GC) which handles matters relating to the UN's economic and social activities, UN agencies, development cooperation channelled through the UN, global and social issues such as population and gender equality, humanitarian issues, global refugee issues, humanitarian assistance, assistance in peace and reconstruction processes, international environmental cooperation and sustainable development, etc. For funds and programs within the UN-system other concerned Ministries or implementing agencies will be involved on specific issues within their domestic jurisdiction.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs also handles the contacts with most of the regional development banks. Within the Ministry it is the International Development Cooperation Department (IC), which handles matters relating to Swedish development cooperation policy. They handle economic issues in a development context in the World Bank Group and the IMF, regional development banks, the EU development cooperation programme, OECD/DAC, Nordic development cooperation, as well as assistance channelled through NGOs, Sida, etc. They do not have sole responsibility here.
The World Bank is handled in co-operation with the Finance Ministry. As for IMF, it is the Swedish Central Bank, Riksbanken, in co-operation with the Ministry of Finance that are in charge. There is one implementing agency through which all aid money is canalised to international organisations and that is Sida.
This rather complicated organisational set up has sometimes made it difficult for recipient countries on a bilateral level as well as multilateral organisations to understand Swedish policy. Sometimes there have also been different views between different Swedish actors and there have also been an overlapping in activities. This made the picture of how Sweden sees things somewhat unclear. That was why the government in 1999 appointed a special commission to develop a strategy towards multilateral organisations. The results of this commissions work have only recently become visible in the form of a number of strategy framework documents.
There is one document "A Strategy framework for Sweden's relations to the United Nations Development Funds and Programs" that deals with the Swedish over all strategy towards the UN. But besides this there are also three different strategy document that deals specifically with Swedish strategy and some of the major UN organisations such as UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA and a forth one for WHO. (A detailed explanation of how these documents have been developed and what they contain follows bellow.)
These strategy documents are distributed to all parties concerned in Sweden (that is to people on different levels at ministries and agencies, as well as NGOs and private entities that are involved). They are of course also distributed as well as debated and discussed during their formation with the international organisations concerned. One of the purposes with these documents is to make the Swedish policy position clear so that both insiders and outsider knows what it is. In this way Sweden should speak with one voice. Everyone should ideally be able to refer to the same document and newcomers could quickly get a grasp of the Swedish strategy and what is considered the most important questions.
This concept is a completely new way of organising Swedish interaction with multilateral organisations and implies a considerable amount of streamlining of Swedish policy at least in the UN and some related organisations.
In the World Bank (WB), IMF as well as the Regional Development Banks the situation is much more complicated. It is the Finance Minister that is the Governor for Sweden in the World Bank. The Finance Ministry has the main responsibility for IBRD but in the case of IDA, that is the part providing money for the poorest countries, it is the Ministry for Foreign Affairs that is in charge. All policy position concerning the WB are, however co-ordinated between the two. Another complicating factor is that in the WB Sweden does not have a chair of it's own but shares one with seven other countries (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Island, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). That means that policy have to be co-ordinated in the Nordic - Baltic group as well. These countries have a mutual office in the WB building in Washington. Each of them sends one person there, which means they are all together eight officials and one of them is functioning as the executive director. The position of executive director is rotated among the participating countries. The Finance Ministry and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs decides together who should be sent from Sweden. The length of stay for the representative is three years.
In the case of the IMF it is the Central Bank of Sweden (Riksbanken) that hold the main responsibility and the head of the Riksbanken would be the representative of Sweden. Most of the work in IMF is taken care of by Riksbanken but the Finance Ministry has the main responsibility concerning policy questions. In the IMF, Sweden does not have a chair of its own. The situation is parallel to the one in the WB and all policy has to be co-ordinated in the Nordic Baltic group. However, the length of stay for the representatives is no more than two years.
In the regional banks (such as the Asian, African and Latin American) it is the Ministry for Foreign Affairs that holds the main responsibility. It is the Department of Global Development that comes up with suggestion for policy but main decisions are taken at a political level. In the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Sweden is sharing a chair with the other Nordic countries as well as with Canada and Holland. This means that policy has to be co-ordinated within this group. Board membership is rotated among the countries.
The Budgetary System and disbursement of Money
It is the Swedish government is responsible for drawing up the annual budget. According to an old tradition from the 17th century the Swedish state bureaucracy, from an international point of view, has a unique position. Swedish ministers, unlike their counterparts in other countries, have limited powers to make independent decisions. All government decisions are taken collectively by the Government as a whole. The government writes annual appropriation directions which define an authorities goals in addition to placing allocated funds at its disposal. The implication of this system is a considerable amount of autonomy for various authorities. As an example, Sida, the aid implementing authority has a rather independent position. It is following directions and goals set up by the government, but how it performs its work is up to the agency itself to decide.
All of the foreign aid money given to international organisations by the Swedish government is channelled through Sida. As a general rule Sweden thinks that everyone should support the regular budget of the UN organisations and that there could be more countries making a larger contribution. But on the other hand Sweden itself also chooses to put aside money to specific projects within the UN organisations. These are projects that are in line with the priorities of the organisation itself but also are considered of specific relevance according to Swedish policy priorities.
Even if Sweden as an example would pay a stipulated amount of money to a certain UN organisation it may earmark a specific part of it for special purposes that will not be decided until later. Under specific conditions the government can also give Sida permission to use their money for other purposes than originally decided.
The New Swedish Strategy Framework Documents
In 1999 a special commission was appointed with the purpose of remodelling the Swedish interface with multilateral organisation so that there would be a clearer and more streamlined structure. The result of this commissions work is now being implemented. On an administrative level there are small changes, but a special department that only deals with multilateral organisations has been created at SIDA. This department received instructions to propose a general Swedish strategy document towards the UN system in general and then similar documents for the main UN funds and programs as well as other major international organisations.
In making the Swedish strategy, the officials studied and got inspiration from similar documents that has recently been produced in a few other European countries namely UK, Holland, Denmark and Finland.
The first strategy document concerned WHO and was ready about a year ago. It was presented under ceremonial forms and covers the period 2002-2005. Just recently the following strategies were presented; 1)A general strategy framework for Swedish relations with UN development funds and programs, 2)UNDP, 3) UNICEF and 4)UNFPA Swedish Strategy Framework 2002-2005. The strategies have been produced by a project group consisting of four people from SIDA and two from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Expert knowledge has been provided by people from other departments concerned. In the case of WHO, the Ministry of Health and Welfare together with the National Board of Health and Welfare has the responsibility for co-ordinating Swedish action as member and were deeply involved in forming the strategy framework.
In the pipeline are four more strategies, namely those for ILO, UNESCO, UNAID and UNDCP that are currently being produced. Here as well the strategies will be worked out with people from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Sida as well as those from other Ministries and agencies concerned.
These are the multilateral organisations where a streamlining of policy is considered most important. At the moment strategy frameworks are not planed for any other organisations. Following up and evaluation of existing framework will however be performed. The framework documents have been discussed with the various UN organisations. Each document is roughly 20 pages and covers a timeframe of four years. They describe and analyse the multilateral organisation concerned. The Swedish position on the work of the organisation is explained, what priorities Sweden make as well as how they will work together with the organisation. Basically all four strategies that are now ready follow the same structural pattern. (For an example see appendix 1 and 2)
Part 1 consists of a background. It gives a description of the organisation, its mandates and missions as well as new visions presented, transitions and policy shift taking place. It analyses financial and human resources of the organisation and ends up with a description of the Swedish relationship with the organisation.
Part 2 is the Swedish assessment of the organisation as it stands today. This is presented under five headings; Comparative advantages, Organisational Capacity, Policy and Program development, Co-ordination and Partnerships and Financial resources.
Part 3 contains the proposal that outlines Sweden's support to and relations with UN organisation for the four-year period. It is based on the Introductory Framework (that is the general strategy framework for the UN) as well as the analysis in Part 1 and Part 2. It starts off with explaining the motives for Swedish support. This is followed by an explanation of the Swedish position. The position refers to a selected number of issues on which Sweden has taken a firm stand. They provide guidance on issues to be promoted at various levels of interaction between Sweden and the organisation, both at headquarters and country levels. Then there is a section on objectives in general as well as on how the organisation will support these objectives as well as what the specific objectives of the Swedish support to the organisations is.
The instruments that will be used to achieve these objectives are outlined under the following heading; the executive board (how Sweden will act there and what questions they will promote), financial contributions (regular budget as well as co-financing at the global, regional and country level), consultations (headquarter and country level), joint initiatives (examples of in what fields Sweden has experiences to share, seminars and development of new methods) and Swedish presence (concerns both Swedish staff as well as possibilities for Swedish private industry to participate).
The strategy documents will have several purposes besides making Swedish policy positions clear. The formulation of them involves negotiations with the staff of the various multilateral organisations. In that sense Sweden gets the chance to sit down with officials from the organisations and explain their point of view of the organisations work and in what directions they would like it to go in the future. It gives opportunity to wage influence over what is produced at present as well as in the future. The strategy documents also gives a greater opportunity of evaluating the various Swedish policies within the UN. This will be elaborated on bellow. Let us first look at the Swedish presence.
Sweden is one of the major donors to several UN organisations. The number of Swedish employees is not in proportion to the amount of money that Sweden provides to the UN. Many of the UN organisations are at present being restructured implying cuts in positions as well as personnel. This leaves limited space for recruitment of new people. The position of the Swedish government, however, is to try to increase the number of Swedes in international organisations. Especially in those were Sweden are making substantial contributions and those that are dealing with questions of importance to Swedish policy.
This is also clearly spelt out in the new strategy frameworks. In the one for UNICEF as an example it is written that:"In view of Sweden's strong support to UNICEF and the availability of professional staff with a relevant background, it is reasonable and desirable that the number of Swedish staff be maintained or increased.
Having said this, Sweden recognises the responsibility of the Executive Director to manage the human resources of UNICEF, including staff recruitment. Sweden will facilitate such recruitment by finding and proposing highly qualified candidates among Swedish nationals for consideration by UNICEF."(1)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in co-operation with SIDA are also working actively trying to increase the number of Swedes in international organisations and banks. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there is a special secretariat that works with this, SIR (the Secretariat for International Recruitment). At Sida there is a similar organisation called RIU (Recruiting for International Missions). These two organisations work close together. There is a certain division of labour and SIR is generally assisting with higher positions where as RIU is stronger on the middle an lower level positions. At SIR there are three people working. They keep in contact with the international organisations and sometimes make visits to their head offices. They also receive recruitment delegations from the organisations that are visiting Sweden. Both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Sida have homepages where they put out announcements of various international jobs that have caught their attention. This is to make it easier for people to find jobs. There is quite a good interest among Swedes for working abroad but it is not always easy to get information on which positions that are available. SIR tries to help with this and if they find a job opening they know would suite a special person they will inform that person. SIR keeps in contact with the various Ministries as well as with the governments office to inform them on positions announced as well as to inform themselves on the capabilities of the people working there. They have a very wide contact net.
Work experience in multilateral organisations is generally well received. State bureaucrats that want to work in such places are usually given a leave of absence from their regular job. If they are away longer than five years however it might become difficult for them to return and they would rather turn into international professionals. No special economic incentives are given to get people to apply for jobs in multilateral organisation.
As for the banks the Ministry of Foreign affairs co-operate with the Ministry of Finance to find personnel. Within the banks there are a number of jobs that are set aside for Swedes. These positions are announced not only to the people already working in the Ministry of Finance. It will be announced also to others within the state bureaucracy as well as to people working in for example private banking. Deciding on the appointment Sweden looks at the individual persons and their qualification. In this sense who will get the job is much more unpredictable in Sweden than in many other countries. Swedes, who are selected for international assignments, in this sense have less of loyalty towards a certain Ministry and can work rather freely. Very often they do not return to the Ministry or bank they came from afterwards.
As for the UN there is also a certain quota for Swedes in for example the general secretariat, but otherwise it is open competition for the jobs. There can be a considerable amount of manoeuvring in certain cases and it is sometimes very important to have the support from home to get a specific position. Sweden is providing such support if they have a competent candidate but are not considered especially strong in this field. As one official put it: "There is a lack of colonial tradition." It happens on rare occasions that SIR gets a request from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to find a job for a special person.
The Junior Professional Officer Programme is a scholarship type of program that is used to assist young people in getting experience with working at UN organisations. It is considered an important instrument for giving young Swedish professionals an opportunity to gain international experience. A main purpose of the JPO programme is to maintain a resource base for future recruitment of middle and senior level staff. SIR is trying to stay in contact with those that have been dispatch through this program but are not taking care of the competence that is built up in any systematic way. The people who have been on these programs can general count on a certain support when they come home. The can get some help in finding a new position or a temporary job during a transition period. It is not always that these people return to Sweden however.
As a general rule, Sweden is considered rather weak in taking care of capacity built up during assignments abroad. It is not always considered a merit for the future career to have worked abroad. This is often pointed out by returning people.
Sweden does not only support increased presence of Swedish people in the UN but also tries to increase the presence of private industry. It is also stated in the new strategy frameworks in the case of UNICEF for example that:"Sweden shall assist UNICEF by soliciting competitive tenders among Swedish firms in terms of services and goods."
Swedish Evaluation of Multilateral Organisation
The work undertaken by multilateral organisations are today usually evaluated by the organisations themselves and their respective boards. Sweden has participated in these evaluations, to the extent that they are board members or participate in the respective organisations. The international organisations are evaluated according to the goals set up for them, but no independent systematic evaluation of if the organisations work in accordance with Swedish policy priorities have so far been performed.
Through the new strategy frameworks this will however become possible. These makes clear statements on Swedish policy positions in each organisations and which questions they want to promote. The strategy frameworks will be evaluated both with officials from each organisation concerned as well as at home in Sweden.
There will be a continuing policy evaluation process. Of course goals and priorities of international organisations as well as Swedish policy will be changing depending on both internal and external factors. The framework documents are for four years periods and after that they will most probably be rewritten, negotiated with officials concerned and updated again according to the priorities at that time.
(1) SIDA, UNICEF Swedish Strategy Framework for 2002-2005
[ Back ]
National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA) Home Page
Copyright (c) National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA)