Sweden’s priorities in the UN
Sweden has broad engagement in the UN and works actively to strengthen its capacity in various fields. Sweden’s UN policy gives special priority to the following issues.
Sweden's involvement in international peace support operations helps to maintain peace and security, which is a requirement 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 – MINUSMA). Sweden is also working to develop the UN's peace support policy and capacity, for instance by helping to improve troop generation 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.
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 is actively working to ensure that peacebuilding is 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 about the importance of peacebuilding. Their establishment reflects an emerging consensus on the need for a concerted approach to meet the challenges facing a post-conflict country. 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 2015, Sweden was also chair of the Peacebuilding Commission's Organisational Committee. Since 2012, Sweden has also chaired 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 conflict, or countries undergoing reconstruction. 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 a national action plan for implementation of Resolution 1325. The most recent plan was adopted in 2016. Sweden is also one of the largest donors to UN Women and UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015. The 2030 Agenda seeks to end poverty and hunger, realise the human rights of all, achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. The Global Goals are integrated and indivisible, and cover the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals are to be implemented nationally and internationally by 2030. Sweden will be a leader in this work. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development determines funds for implementation and is part of the 2030 Agenda. Sweden's cohesion policy – the policy for global development – is another central tool for implementing the Agenda.
Swedish initiatives, including the first UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972, contributed to putting environmental issues on the UN agenda, and Sweden has maintained a leading position in policy formation for sustainable development within the 'planetary boundaries'. 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. Sweden has taken a dedicated leadership role in implementation of the global goal on oceans, seas and marine resources (SDG 14). Sweden and Fiji co-hosted the UN's first Ocean Conference in New York in June 2017.
Climate is the defining issue of our time and Sweden is one of the countries most actively driving the EU's work on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Sweden is working to ensure that the EU, through joint and coherent action, can play an active role in implementation of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to a level as far below two degrees as possible. The Agreement creates the conditions for, and places demands on, countries and other stakeholders to take responsibility for climate change and take ever more ambitious measures to reduce emissions, and so contribute to greater resilience against climate change. This will require a higher level of climate ambition as well as enhanced initiatives in every country of the world and among key stakeholders, including Sweden and the EU. Climate financing is crucial to whether the world can achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, and Sweden is one of the biggest donors to the global climate funds. For example, Sweden is contributing SEK 4 billion to the central Green Climate Fund in 2015–2018, making Sweden the biggest donor per capita. Sweden is also co-chair of the Fund in 2018.
Disarmament and non-proliferation
Within the framework of broader UN cooperation, a number of important processes are under way in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation. Mainly, it is a matter of following up and ensuring that existing international conventions are upheld and implemented, but also, where necessary, negotiating new agreements. This applies to weapons of mass destruction, where the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and 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 main tasks is to coordinate international humanitarian operations. The objective of humanitarian efforts is to save lives and alleviate suffering in connection with armed conflicts, natural disasters or other emergency situations. The humanitarian system is facing a number of challenges, including substantially increased needs, complex and protracted crises, a disturbing trend towards reduced access to crisis areas for humanitarian actors and a lack of respect for international humanitarian law. 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 is also working for increased respect for humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law (IHL), and Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD). A large proportion of Swedish humanitarian support is channelled through UN humanitarian organisations.
Sweden works to safeguard respect for international law, including international humanitarian 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 UN General Assembly, the Security Council and in other parts of the UN system to ensure compliance with the principles of international law.
The aim of Swedish foreign policy is to contribute to making human rights universal and so apply to everyone. Sweden places great importance on the UN's human rights work, which is carried out, for example, via the UN Human Rights Council. The Council is to promote universal respect for human rights, address situations where they are violated and make recommendations to UN Member States.
Children and armed conflict
During its time as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Sweden has chosen children and armed conflict as one of its focus areas. Based on protection of children, respect for the Convention on the Rights of the Child and international law, and the six grave violations against children in armed conflict identified by the UN, Sweden's work on children and armed conflict is guided by four priorities (implementing the UN's Children and Armed Conflict Agenda; opportunities for children to have their voices heard; children's right to education; and children's right to health, including mental health). Sweden is Chair of the Security Council formal Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.
In the Security Council, Sweden has consistently highlighted the vulnerable situation of children in armed conflict. Sweden has also advanced the protection of children and children's rights. Part of the work on children and armed conflict includes child consultations around the world. This is one of Sweden's priorities that provides an opportunity for children's voices to be heard by decision-makers, civil society organisations and other adults.
Terrorism is one of the greatest threats to international peace and security of our time. Combating 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. Countering radicalisation to violent extremism and measures to increase state capacity are central parts of international efforts.
The UN's anti-terrorism work, based on the global strategy against terrorism, and the Security Council's resolutions are the core of international efforts. Sweden works to support and strength the UN's role, particularly with regard to preventive measures against violent extremism and the promotion of human rights, with particular emphasis on children's rights. Sweden also actively participates in EU actions to combat terrorism within and 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 target specific goods, organisations or individuals rather than, as previously, be 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. The legal uncertainty of sanctions used against individuals or companies has 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, cases cannot be heard in a court of law. 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 regarding the UN sanctions targeting the situation in different countries.