This is how Sweden will make a difference in the Security Council

Opinion piece by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström in Dagens Nyheter 28 June 2016.

"Sweden has been elected. The seat on the UN Security Council is a great victory for Swedish foreign policy and Swedish diplomacy. We are convinced that as a small and open country dependent on the rest of the world, it is in our interest to contribute to and defend the international order that has at its core the United Nations and the Security Council,” writes Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström (Social Democratic Party)."

Sweden has been elected to the UN Security Council. Six months ago we were considered to be out of the running. Today we have a seat on the Council. This is a great victory for Swedish foreign policy and Swedish diplomacy. For a government that stands for solidarity and cooperation, a seat on the Security Council is an acknowledgement that a global policy for sustainable peace and development pays off. For the United Nations, this means that one of its largest donors is taking its engagement and ideas, along with its demands for reform and change, into the organisation's innermost room.

During our two-year term, we will take our share of responsibility for international peace and security that membership of the Security Council entails. On 1 January 2017, when we take our seat at the table that has become a symbol of world affairs, we will do so as President, at the same time as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations takes office.

Sweden's candidacy was based on issues and a belief in dialogue and diplomacy as tools. Deeper contacts with many countries around the world have given us a better understanding of how today's challenges are perceived and experienced, but also a basis for advancing our vision of democracy and human rights, gender equality and development. This is also how Sweden will work as a member: we will listen to those concerned, defend those who need to be defended and stand up for what we believe in.

We must develop a clear and ambitious agenda in consultation with the parties in the Riksdag and Swedish organisations, with other Council members and civil society as bearers of knowledge, with the countries on the Security Council's agenda and those who contribute personnel to its peace operations:

  1. Sweden intends to contribute to the main task of the Security Council: maintaining international peace and security. This means pursuing committed and informed policies on the many issues on the Council's agenda. It also means being prepared to deal with new crises and causes of conflict. The Council determines the mandate of some 25 peace operations in nearly every part of the world, adopts sanctions to prevent the supply of weapons to conflicts, and has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse by peacekeepers. After North Korean nuclear tests, terrorist attacks in Paris or atrocities in Syria, the world turns to the Security Council, in the same way it does when peace agreements are concluded and need to be monitored, as in Colombia. Progress is sometimes followed by deadlocks, but this must never be taken as justification for not trying. Decisions are binding for all 193 Member States. Over the next two years, it will be our role to help ensure that these will be as sound and effective as possible.
  2. Conflicts must be fewer and peace more sustainable. Last year's Sustainable Development Goals and new climate agreement instilled much needed resolve in international cooperation and pointed the way to a more prosperous world. A similar breakthrough is now needed in peace and security efforts. The UN must come together to more effectively prevent relapse into conflict, include women in peace processes, and see the nexus between security, development, climate and gender equality. This is a clear agenda for Sweden, which we have long pursued and which we will bring to the Security Council. The ability to act in a timely manner must be strengthened and cooperation with the UN Peacebuilding Commission, in which we are deeply engaged, must be improved. The world cannot afford anything less than to push for peace.
  3. More openness is needed – as both a goal and a means. Increased transparency, representation and effectiveness are among Swedish UN policy objectives. This was a key message in our candidacy and will be an important dimension during our term as a member. We would like to see a reformed Security Council that limits the right of veto and that listens to, and cooperates with, others without abdicating its responsibility. Sweden itself must also work in a transparent way to help build both support and confidence. More openness is needed – because it is important in itself, because it contributes to legitimacy of the Council and, not least, because we believe it will benefit the outcome.
  4. Our membership will be characterised by our values and principles. Swedish foreign policy rests on a solid foundation of international law, human rights, gender equality and a broad view of security and development. Our term on the Security Council will do the same.
  5. Swedish foreign policy is conducted in various arenas: primarily in the EU, but also in the UN. Our Middle East policy promotes a peace process that will lead to a two-state solution and an end to Daesh's ruthless savagery. Our Ukraine policy remains firm in its conviction regarding implementation of the Minsk agreements, respect for the European security order and criticism of violations of international law and the United Nations Charter. Our Mali policy has put troops in the UN MINUSMA mission and police in the EU mission for training security forces. In these and other conflicts and crises, the UN and the EU work side by side. Sweden will continue to contribute to both organisations and will strengthen the cooperation between them. A strong UN benefits from a strong EU – and vice versa. The artificial 'either/or' debate must end.

In six months' time we will take our seat on the Security Council. We will be doing so at a time when, all around the world, uncertainty and insecurity are taking a toll on people's lives, and the need to work together to build sustainable peace and resilient communities has never been clearer. We will do so because we are convinced that as a small and open country dependent on the rest of the world, it is in our interest to contribute to and defend the international order that has at its core the United Nations and the Security Council. And we will do so because we believe we can make a difference – through our policies, our values and our engagement.

Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs