Sweden’s priorities in the UN
Sweden has broad engagement in the UN and works actively to strengthen its capacity in various fields. The following issues are especially prioritised in Sweden’s policy in the UN.
Conflict prevention is a high-priority issue for both Sweden and the UN. Sweden actively participates in the change processes aimed at strengthening the overall capacity of the UN system to prevent armed conflicts, including through support to the UN Mediation Support Unit. Moreover, Sweden works to give more women the opportunity to participate in all aspects of mediation processes, peacebuilding and reconstruction after conflict situations.
Sweden’s involvement in international peace support operations contributes to maintaining peace and security, which are a prerequisite for fair and sustainable global development. Peace support operations often take the form of coordinated operations, with both military and civilian components. Since the 1960s, Sweden has participated in a number of military peace operations and over the years a total of 80 000 Swedes have served with the UN. Currently, Sweden is contributing to the UN peace operation in Mali (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali). Sweden is also working to develop the UN’s policy and capacity in peace support, for instance by helping to improve troop-generation methods for peace support operations.
In recent years, civilian crisis management has become an increasingly important element of international peace support operations. Sweden supports the UN’s crisis management operations by deploying qualified staff from Swedish government agencies to different countries where the UN is conducting peace support operations, such as Afghanistan (UNAMA), South Sudan (UNMISS), Liberia (UNMIL), and the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Sweden also supports the UN’s peace support efforts by conducting research and developing methods and doctrines in the field.
Sweden is working actively to ensure that peacebuilding will be an integrated part of all activities conducted by the UN. A Peacebuilding Commission, a Peacebuilding Fund and a Peacebuilding Support Office were established in 2005 for the purpose of improving efficiency and raising awareness on the importance of peacebuilding. The creation of these bodies reflects an emerging consensus on the need for a concerted approach in order to meet the challenges that follow when a country moves on after a conflict. The aim of the Peacebuilding Commission’s work is to bridge the gap between short-term peace operations and long-term reconstruction in post-conflict countries, and in this way contribute to sustainable peace.
Sweden is one of the largest donors to the Peacebuilding Fund and in February 2015, Sweden also took over chairmanship of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Organisational Committee. Since 2012, Sweden also chairs the Peacebuilding Commission’s Country-specific Configuration for Liberia, supporting the country in its reconstruction efforts.
One of Sweden’s most important foreign policy priorities is to promote gender equality and strengthen women’s rights, representation and access to resources. Women’s economic and political influence must be strengthened both in countries at peace and in countries in conflict or in which reconstruction is under way. In 2000, the UN adopted a special Security Council resolution – Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Resolution 1325 and six subsequent resolutions aim to highlight how women are affected by armed conflicts, strengthen protection for women in these contexts and increase women’s participation and influence in conflict prevention, crisis management and peacebuilding. Sweden is a driving force in issues concerning Resolution 1325, in bilateral relations, regional organisations and within the UN. Since 2006, Sweden has had an international action plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325. Sweden is also one of the largest donors to UN Women and to UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Sweden is one of the major contributors to UN development cooperation. Since 2012, global cooperation is under way to formulate a new agenda for global development in the UN. The new Sustainable Development Goals will replace the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in December 2015. The goals are to be adopted by the UN General Assembly and extend to 2030. The sustainable development goals are to be universal, meaning they oblige all the world’s countries to play their part to achieve sustainable development. The post-2015 agenda is a unique opportunity for change as it unites the fight against poverty with the aspiration of long-term sustainable development.
Swedish initiatives helped bring environmental issues to the UN agenda in the early 1970s and Sweden has maintained a leading position in policy development for sustainable development within the ‘planetary boundaries’. Today, Sweden is very active in the various lines of negotiation that collectively form part of the post-2015 agenda, namely the two policy areas poverty reduction and sustainable development. All natural resources must be used with a focus on environmental, economic and social sustainability. Sustainable use is needed to ensure ecosystem services and biological diversity and to meet the generational goal in the environmental objectives – to pass on to the next generation a society where the major environmental problems have been solved, without creating greater environmental and health problems beyond Sweden’s borders.
The climate is the defining issue of our time and Sweden is one of the biggest driving forces in the EU’s work with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Through joint and cohesive action, Sweden is to work to ensure that the EU is able to play as large a role as possible ahead of and during the climate conference in Paris in December 2015. Sweden’s ambition is that the meeting will result in a global, fair and legally binding climate agreement that over time helps keep global warming as far below two degrees as possible. The agreement should create conditions for, and places demands on, countries and other actors to take responsibility on climate change and to take increasingly more ambitious measures to reduce emissions, contributing to greater resilience against the effects of climate change. This will require a higher level of climate ambition as well as enhanced initiatives in every country of the world and among central actors, including Sweden and the EU. Climate financing will be a crucial issue for whether the world can agree on a new climate agreement in Paris. Sweden is one of the world’s biggest donors and will be contributing SEK 4 billion to the Green Climate Fund in the period 2015–2018, making Sweden the biggest donor per capita.
Disarmament and non-proliferation
Within the framework of broader UN cooperation, a number of important processes are under way in the disarmament and non-proliferation areas. Mainly, it is a matter of following up and ensuring that existing international conventions are maintained and implemented, but also, where necessary, negotiating new agreements. This applies to weapons of mass destruction, where the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) as well as the conventions on biological and chemical weapons are central, and conventional weapons, which are regulated in part through the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the Ottawa Convention (Mine Ban Treaty, MBT) and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
One of the UN’s leading tasks is the coordination of international humanitarian operations. The objective of humanitarian efforts is to save lives and alleviate suffering in connection with armed conflicts, natural disasters or other disaster situations. Sweden has contributed to enhancing UN capacity in the humanitarian area, in part as one of the initiators behind the creation of a special Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the UN Secretariat. Sweden also works to increase focus on the importance of humanitarian principles and to strengthen respect for international humanitarian law.
Sweden works to safeguard respect for international law which, by means of the UN Charter, is an integral part of the UN’s structure and work. Respect for the principles of the UN Charter on peaceful solutions to disputes and prohibitions on the use of violence is fundamental, as is respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty. Sweden is proactive in the General Assembly and in other parts of the system to ensure compliance with the principles of international law.
The aim of Swedish foreign policy is to contribute to making human rights universal: applying to all people. Sweden attaches great importance to the UN’s human rights efforts, pursued in part through the UN Human Rights Council. The Council is to promote universal respect for human rights, address situations where these rights are violated and make recommendations to UN Member States.
International terrorism is one of the greatest threats of our time to international peace and security. The fight against terrorism requires greater cooperation across national borders and across different policy areas. It must be undertaken with full respect for human rights and the rule of law. Counteracting radicalisation to violent extremism and measures to increase state capacity are central parts of international efforts. The UN’s work against terrorism based on the global strategy against terrorism and the Security Council’s resolutions is a key aspect of international efforts. Sweden is committed to supporting and strengthening the UN’s role and participates actively in EU actions to counteract terrorism within the EU and in states outside the EU.
Sanctions are an instrument for peaceful influence that should be used preventively and in close interplay with other available political means. Sweden has long been a driving force in the effective use of sanctions and the ability to deploy them rapidly when necessary. They should be directed at specific goods, organisations or individuals rather than, as occurred previously, designed as a comprehensive embargo against a country.
The use of the sanctions instrument has greatly increased in the 21st century within both the UN and the EU. All sanctions are now targeted but, where necessary, exceptions can be granted if needed on humanitarian grounds. Shortcomings in the rule of law in sanctions used against individuals or companies have increasingly come to the fore. Together with a group of likeminded countries, Sweden is involved in improving the situation in the UN where, unlike in the case of EU sanctions, there is no possibility of having your case heard in a court. Progress has been made in the sanctions regime against Al-Qaida, where an independent ombudsperson now reviews matters when someone requests to be removed from the list. However, much remains to be done within the UN sanctions targeting the situation in different countries.