When it all began
The year was 1995 and Swedish development assistance needed to sharpen up. Civil society was missing a platform to jointly advocate for a better world and improve Sweden’s aid policy. It was in this context that two forces for human rights and democracy became one.
It all began when the Swedish Volunteer Cooperation (Svensk Volontärsamverkan, SVS) and Aid Information for Volunteer Organizations (Biståndsinformation för frivilligorganisationer, BIFO) merged to form Sweden’s largest platform for civil society – at that time called Forum Syd.
The result was a new stronger voice to broaden the discussion on how we can achieve a better world with development cooperation.
The organization has since been a broad platform for popular participation among a diverse range of Swedish organizations. All united with one common interest of achieving freedom and human rights for people all over the world.
Since the very beginning, supporting civil society has been the essence of our cause. Sustainable and lasting change for democracy can only happen when we work together and when the development process is owned by the people who will live and breathe the changes.
Over the years, ForumCiv has built expertise; both technically and thematically on how to support civil society to become actors of change.
Former prime minister Olof Palme visiting activities in Nicaragua by the Swedish Volunteer Cooperation (SVS) before it turned into Forum Syd.
Who were SVS and BIFO?
The Swedish Volunteer Cooperation (SVS) consisted of about 60 popular movements and non-profit organizations and was financed by Sida. SVS worked directly with the public sector in, among others, Nicaragua, and Zimbabwe by, for example, sending nurses and teachers as volunteers.
BIFO was an association of volunteers whose mission, on behalf of Sida, was to examine applications and administer grants for various projects around the world. BIFO also arranged seminars and had a clear overview of which organizations worked in the same regions. In the 1980s, these two organizations had the joint mission to inform the public about Swedish development organizations’ work. The collaboration also included lobbying and investigating activities on social conditions for aid workers, counselling, and training for member organizations.
In 1995 BIFO and SVS merged, and Forum Syd was born. Before the merger, the two organizations had a total of 103 members, of which 21 were shared.
Our office in Nicaragua
Since the 1980s, Forum Syd has had an active role supporting the civil society of Nicaragua and the strive to transition into democracy. For a long time, the country has suffered structural poverty and huge inequalities between men and women.
However, when Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas came into power once again in 2007 they were less keen on keeping organizations supporting women’s rights and the active participation of people.
First to be attacked was Forum Syd and Oxfam. After months of harassments of partner organizations and the decision of the Swedish government to stop their development aid to Nicaragua, we came to the verdict that we had to leave the country.
To this day, Daniel Ortega is still in power, and the civil society and women’s rights remain oppressed in Nicaragua. We still have no possibility to be present in the country, but our support remains through our partnerships with Swedish civil society organizations that are still active in Nicaragua.
Forum Syd changes its name to ForumCiv
At Forum Syd's annual meeting on May 17, 2020 the members agreed on the name change. Forum Syd then became ForumCiv.
The reason for changing the name was that the word "Syd" did not represent the organization and characterises an outdated view when the world was divided into north and south. In addition, ForumCiv is a global organization, and the Swedish word "Syd" did not work well in a global context.
"We will keep the platform word Forum and add Civ, an abbreviation of civil society, because it is the civil society we ultimately defend," said Secretary-General Anna Stenvinkel.