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By: Elin Papenbrock

Editor: Anon

SP_Feb1: News

February 2024

Imagine a world where lending a hand is not regarded as just a gesture of goodwill but as a moral imperative; not an act of charity, but a duty—one deeply rooted in global ethics and historical contexts. Unfortunately, this image of universal respect towards international responsibility contrasts starkly with our reality, which often reveals a landscape marked by neglect and disparity. The political tides of one nation ripple across continents, from the ice deserts of the Arctic to the warm sands of Africa, yet their effects often remain unacknowledged. In particular, taking Namibia as the primary case study, the present work examines how Sweden's recent political shift to the right impacts its development aid policies, and how these changes affect movements such as the Children's Movement Namibia.

Shift in Swedish Development Aid: Consequences for Namibia and the Role of the Children's Movement

Sweden, until recently widely recognized for its peacekeeping efforts and progressive stance within the EU (investing 1% of their GNI in development aid; Ashmore, 2024), has experienced a notable governmental shift that is redefining its political objectives (Toremark, 2022). In the general elections in 2022, the right-leaning bloc won, gaining ground in historically leftist areas. One of the major consequences of this political shift has been a change of attitude concerning international aid, with the new government cutting down on investments and effectively compromising the goals set by its predecessors. This has had direct, tangible effects on the countries that have hitherto benefited from considerable monetary interventions. 

My decision to dedicate the present essay primarily to the analysis of Namibia was influenced by my first-hand experience of working with the Children’s Movement Namibia, an organisation whose purpose it is “to Recruit, Train, Educate, In all Essence [...] to Prepare a large group of young people to take leadership in the 21st Century” (The Children’s Movement Namibia, n.d.). To accomplish its objectives, the organisation executed various programs, ranging from skill-enhancing workshops (such as those focusing on technology or sewing) to educational sessions aimed at expanding knowledge on topics like sexual health and climate change. Additionally, a significant portion of these activities was designed with a dual purpose: not only to educate the youth but also to organise their time, as many do not have the opportunity to go to school. This approach was intended to steer young people away from potentially troublesome activities in the streets, thereby promoting their overall well-being and development. Due to limited financial means available to the organisation, the success of its projects heavily relies on sponsors, such as Unga Örnar, a Swedish NGO dedicated to equal education. When the funding was cut due to the recent election in Sweden, the financial constraints faced by the Children’s Movement led to the dismissal of all staff and the cessation of all funded projects. The situation profoundly impacted the youth, who lost a vital element of their daily routine—one that offered education, engagement, and diversion from negative influences. What is left is a vision pursued indefatigably by the head of the movement, Kenneth Abrahams, who tries passionately to find alternative ways to go through with the projects and keep making a difference. 

Understanding the Moral Obligation for Development Aid

The colonial history of many EU nations, from which Sweden is not exempt, is marked by a legacy of exploitation and injustice, particularly towards present-day developing countries. Frieda J. Asino, a former mentor at the Children’s Movement Namibia and a Namibian citizen, argues there is a direct causality between the dynamics of colonialism and the current state of affairs in Namibia. Land in the country was unjustly seized, and the nation suffered a brutal genocide committed by Germany (Gross, 2015). The Namibian people faced relentless ridicule, discrimination, and intimidation. To this day, the descendants of German colonisers, who constitute just 6% of the population, own 70% of the agricultural land (Namibia Fact Check, 2019). This disproportionate ownership is a stark indicator of how the lingering effects of colonialism continue to shape the country’s social landscape—a malignant influence that, I posit, necessitates international aid as a moral imperative. 

This perspective aligns with Robert Nozick’s principle of rectification, which suggests that if property was acquired unjustly—as in the case of colonial powers seizing land and resources—then compensation is necessary to address such wrongs (Nozick, 1974). This approach challenges the notion, oftentimes cited by the extreme right, that development disparities between states emerge due to inherent differences in “civilization” levels. Rather, it acknowledges the role of neocolonial structures, which continue to perpetuate inequality. The form of rectification to be granted, as noted by Frieda J. Asino, can be multifaceted. Monetary compensation, while beneficial, is susceptible to corruption and should be purposefully invested. Another effective strategy that could be employed is sharing knowledge and skills to empower individuals in developing nations to generate income and progress towards self-reliance. It is crucial to highlight that this argument of moral obligation extends beyond the narrow framework of bilateral reparations, such as the exclusive responsibilities of Germany towards Namibia. Instead, it advocates for the necessity of multilateral reparations, recognizing the collective responsibility of all developed countries that are benefiting from the contemporary neocolonial system. Certainly, the expediency of a long-term reliance on external aid can be reasonably questioned. However, while I posit that self-reliance is the ultimate goal, I must also assert that the time frame until this goal has to be reached is not up to developed countries to set. 


In conclusion, Sweden's former dedication to development aid represented a commendable step, but the recent rightward political shift marks a disheartening retreat from these moral commitments. Namibia not only reflects the immediate consequences of such policy shifts but also serves as a poignant reminder of the broader implications for other developing nations. Given this perspective, the rightward political trend within the EU becomes particularly concerning, as it may undermine the development and growth of nations still burdened by neocolonial legacies. These nations risk being further disadvantaged by reduced aid from countries that have historically contributed to their current predicaments. Europe's electoral decisions resonate far beyond its borders, shaping global outcomes; therefore, it is imperative that European policymakers and voters alike carefully consider the impacts of their political choices, ensuring that a commitment to global development and ethical responsibility remains at the forefront of their decision-making.


Ashmore, L. (2024, February 9). Donor profile: Sweden. Donor Tracker. 

The Children’s Movement Namibia. (n.d.). TCM NAMIBIA—“We Shall Change the World”. 

Gross, D. A. (2015, October 28). A Brutal Genocide in Colonial Africa Finally Gets its Deserved Recognition. Smithsonian Magazine. 

Namibia Fact Check. (2019, December 17). FALSE: White Namibians do not own 70% of the land - Namibia Fact Check. 

Nozick, R. (1974). Anarchy, state, and utopia. John Wiley & Sons. 

Toremark, L. (2022, November 28). How will Sweden’s right turn affect its foreign policy priorities? Chatham House – International Affairs Think Tank. 

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