Drive for Democracy takes shape

Published

Strengthened engagement for democracy was announced in the 2019 Statement of Foreign Policy and in the Swedish Foreign Service’s strategic vision for the electoral period. Sweden will stand up for democratic principles and support democracy in all contexts. On 21 November 2019, the Drive for Democracy was presented to the Riksdag Committee on Foreign Affairs by Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde and Minister for International Development Cooperation Peter Eriksson.

Photo: Government Offices of Sweden.

In brief, the Drive for Democracy makes it clear that Sweden will stand up for democratic principles in all contexts, work to help strengthen democracy, and voice criticism against democratic deficits or risks of backsliding. Like the feminist foreign policy, the idea is for the democracy perspective to permeate the work of the Swedish Foreign Service and cover all foreign policy and Ministry for Foreign Affairs areas of activity: foreign and security policy; international development cooperation policy and international trade and promotion.

The term ‘democracy’

Sweden bases its work on a broad definition of term ‘democracy’, which means much more than free and fair elections. This definition and its components guide the work on the Drive for Democracy.

Citizen participation: a vibrant civil society, national and local elections.

Representative governance: free and fair elections, universal suffrage, independent political parties.

Rights: access to justice, enjoyment of human rights – not least freedom of expression, social and economic rights, and equality.

Separation of powers: well-functioning parliaments, independence of judicial systems, free and independent media.

Independent institutions: predictable execution of decisions, absence of corruption.

Framework of strategic objectives

A special framework of strategic objectives has been drafted to set out the direction of the Drive for Democracy.

Examples of concrete activities within the framework of the Drive for Democracy include the levelling up democracy assistance, the creation of a new network for enhanced dialogue with other countries and actors on democracy and the development of the feminist foreign policy through activities that contribute to improving women’s enjoyment of human rights, and increased influence of women in democracy.

The Drive for Democracy also has a particular focus on engaging young people. As a part of this, missions abroad have been asked to hold local discussions on democracy, called Democracy Talks, with young people throughout the world. The ambition is for the participants’ ideas and reflections to be funnelled into a larger Democracy Talks event to be held in Sweden in 2021 in connection with the centenary of Swedish democracy.

Priority areas

The following areas may been seen as starting points and inspiration for how the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and missions abroad are to continue working on the Drive for Democracy:

  • Promote and strengthen civil society, including human rights defenders. Trade union organisations also play a crucial role in strengthening people’s opportunities to influence their everyday lives and must be supported.
  • Strengthen free and independent media and democratic voices (such as cultural workers), including on the internet, to combat disinformation.
  • Support democratic processes and election authorities.
  • Promote the growth of effective and independent institutions, including the absence of corruption.
  • Promote equality.
  • Strengthen political systems with competing political parties (including parliaments).
  • Support the strengthening of respect for the rule of law.
  • Promote and protect the enjoyment of human rights by all.
  • Strengthen women’s political participation.
  • Promote young people’s democratic engagement.