Sweden Report



There is a long tradition in Sweden of what is now called multi-level governance. Sweden’s WGA-related coordination mainly takes place at the top levels of the agencies and the ministries. Unfortunately, very few studies about coordination on the ground exist, with the study on the
Swedish mission to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2014 (SOU 2017) being a notable exception.
The area of external conflicts and crises can be expected to be different from domestic policy areas, where coordination from the bottom-up is sometimes very pronounced (although it is rarely uniform across the country). Much domestic collaboration is driven by a desire to deal with overlapping missions and funding streams across ministries and levels of government (Niklasson 2007, 2011, 2015; Niklasson and Barr 2015). This is often rooted in a desire to provide efficient services.
In the international context, the agencies provide complementary competencies, while international missions are relatively new to most of them. The agencies probably see a need for collaboration in the field, but it may be difficult to arrange this at home due to bureaucratic inertia or even turf wars.
Coordination-related procedures mainly take place at the ministerial level within the Government Offices. The ‘coordination function’ for this area has evolved over time. It is mainly an informal group to complement other, more formal procedures as well as an instrument to make the ministries more willing to contribute to a common goal (i.e. to avoid exercising their right of veto).
At one point, the coordination function was the responsibility of a single civil servant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Criticism led to the setup of a group at the head-of-department level, together with a working group dealing with the issues in a more hands-on fashion. This was merged in 2018 with the group tasked with coordinating the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
There is some integration with and within parliament on these issues. For example, a joint committee for defence and foreign affairs formed in 2001 deals with issues pertaining to both committees. In addition, every committee can ask for input from another committee. There is also some informal coordination to decide where an issue belongs.
A ‘council’ of nine agencies was introduced in 2013, which includes the nine agencies in the 2007 strategy (listed above) in addition to the coast guard and the armed forces. The ambition was to encourage cooperation and to find synergies across these agencies’ operations. The council is an informal partnership, which is a format applied in several areas where the government wants to encourage inter-agency collaboration.
Since 2016, there has also been a joint funding mechanism for this area. The relevant agencies receive a joint instruction on how to use some of the funds allocated in the budget, while no mandate is delegated to the agencies to decide on who gets what. More specifically, it refers to a section of the aid budget to be used by the police, the agency for prosecutors, the agency for jails, the agency for courts, the agency for civilian emergencies, and the Folke Bernadotte Academy. While the funding itself is already divided by the government into specific amounts for each agency, the use of a joint instruction underlines the need to take other agencies’ operations into account. It is an atypical instrument in the Swedish context, where, as noted, the autonomy of each agency is a constitutional principle (Niklasson 2007, 2011).
This high degree of autonomy often becomes a barrier to coordination from the top, and the instruments designed to overcome this fragmentation are often weak. Instead, the government often encourages bottom-up coordination in the form of local or regional partnerships. In the area of external conflicts and crises, there is little mention of such instruments, whether they are encouraged by the government or introduced by the agencies themselves or their staff.
Back to Top