Q&A: Sweden's Lövin on tackling climate change and inequality

Isabella Lövin, Sweden's minister for international development cooperation. Photo by: Fredrik Hjerling / CC BY-NC-ND

DAVOS, Switzerland — Sweden’s top aid priorities in the year ahead are climate change and climate financing; gender equality and sexual reproductive health rights; and conflict prevention and peacebuilding, Isabella Lövin, the country’s minister for international development cooperation told Devex in an interview.

Sweden’s development aid budget for 2018 is 49 billion Swedish krona ($6.19 billion), which is about 1 percent of the country’s gross national income. The country is also expected to reduce the amount of money that is set aside in its aid budget for asylum costs in Sweden.

Devex caught up with Lövin, who attended Davos this year, to discuss the country’s top aid priorities, how it approaches them, and what it looks for in partners. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

How do you approach your three priorities of climate change, gender equality, and conflict prevention?

It’s about giving the world a chance and if we don’t tackle climate change and if we don’t adjust the inequalities between men and women worldwide, we will never attain a sustainable world. We also need to work with conflict prevention and peacebuilding but that is trying to mend something that is already broken. So we need to build sustainable societies, and I think women have a central part in that.

I think that climate change provides a unique opportunity for the world to rethink how we build our communities, how we build the world. It gives us a chance to think about sustainable and renewable energy, how it can be community owned and community based, and how we can reduce the reliance on importing fossil fuels. It can be a much more equitable world without dependency of fossil fuels, and we will also get rid of a large source of conflict.

What do you see as the greatest challenge in working toward these goals this year?

Our greatest challenge now is to make the shift quickly enough because the challenges are so daunting when it comes to climate change. If we can’t make the shift to renewable energy and make the green transition fast enough, we will have huge problems, not only for the years to come, but for every generation to come. And I think it was so obvious in the United States last year, with all these extreme hurricanes and the wildfires. These are examples of what will be very common phenomena in a warmer world. And if the rich countries have difficulty coping with these, [then] for the developing countries it is a catastrophe, because whatever you build up can be destroyed in just one day. We can expect more conflicts and migration due to climate change. This is so important, and that’s why I think it’s so unfortunate that the U.S. withdrew from the [Paris] climate agreement.

How do you choose what partners you work with and what advice would you give to NGOs and others looking to work with you?

We’re working with partners all over the world, not least civil society organizations. Sweden is one of the biggest donors in the world, so we have huge cooperation with many partners. I will say we have three demands of all our partners; that human rights is at the center; environmental sustainability must also be at the center; and gender equality.

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About the author

  • Saldiner adva

    Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.