SWEDO’s history goes as far back as to 1991 and the start of the Gulf War in the Middle East. At that time, there was a strong commitment in Sweden for people in the area following Iraq’s chemical weapons attack on Halabaja in 1988. There was already a collaboration in place between Swedes and Kurdish and Iraqi refugees. This collaboration laid the foundations for what now sets us apart from other aid organizations – the local connection with local personnel.
Since the start in 1991, when the organization was called Qandil, we have worked tirelessly to help refugees and persons living in vulnerable situations in the Middle East. Today, we have operations in three countries – Iraq, Syria and Jordan – with 500–800 employees, depending on the situation in the region. For years, we have been UNHCR’s main implementing partner in Iraqi Kurdistan.
By maintaining a holistic approach in our work, the goal is to create long-term, sustainable solutions to the challenges that arise in the wake of armed conflict, civil war, and poverty. This approach comprises a number of projects and activities aimed to rebuild infrastructure, distribute supplies, provide access to clean water and sanitation, and to protect, educate and create local opportunities to make a living in the region. The aim is always to reinforce local capacity and resilience in the Middle East and to reduce the need for international aid interventions.
Our registered office is in Sweden, along with our board, and we currently employ more than 550 individuals. Our local work in the Middle East is led by Country Management Offices in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. We are particularly proud to say that since the beginning, we have had a local presence in times of conflict as well as in peacetime to rebuild rural and urban areas alike.