Isabella Lövin is no longer a government minister, Minister for Environment and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister

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Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister

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Minister for International Development Cooperation

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This content was published in the period between

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Opinion piece from Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Debate article: How we will strengthen UN emergency and disaster response operations

Published

Swedish Daily Göteborgs Posten 3 September 2015
A number of reforms are now being launched to strengthen the UN. One of these is to provide support to a dozen or so UN bodies that work with everything from providing help to people in need and strengthening children’s and women’s rights to countering the effects of natural disasters, writes Minister for International Development Cooperation Isabella Lövin.

Every day, we are confronted with reports of the horrors of war that split communities and force people to flee, of extreme weather events that ruin opportunities for people to earn a living and growing extremism that fosters fear and insecurity. To meet these challenges, the international community must assume responsibility and take concerted action. The UN plays an important role in this and support to UN organisations is one of the Government’s primary tools for contributing to sustainable development. Today the Government will therefore take decisions on organisational support, known as core support, to a dozen or so UN bodies that work with everything from providing help to people in need and strengthening children’s and women’s rights to countering the effects of natural disasters.

Sweden is one of the single largest donors to the UN and development banks such as the World Bank. This gives us a strong voice and the opportunity to influence important decisions on poverty reduction and climate issues. Sweden plays a key role in promoting gender equality work in the UN system, which is of vital importance at a time when women’s rights are encountering resistance. 

A large proportion of Sweden’s contributions to UN bodies is given in the form of organisational support, which means that the funds are paid into the organisations’ budgets without being earmarked. This gives them greater flexibility and the possibility to plan their activities over the long term, while still being able to act quickly in the event of a crisis. Distressed and desperate people should not have to wait for each individual donor’s analysis, grant management and, in the worst case, policy decisions before the response can be set in motion. Sweden’s support enables immediate assistance for women, men, girls and boys who, in many cases, are fighting for their lives. As the largest donor of organisational support to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), we have helped it provide rapid and vital protection and help to people in places such as Ukraine, Iraq, the Philippines, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

The UN’s work makes a difference for many people living in vulnerable situations. Through our support to UN Women, women and girls receive psychosocial support and protection from sexual violence in refugee camps in Iraq, Syria and South Sudan. In 2014, 18 million people in crisis and disaster situations received access to clean water and 150 000 girls in Syria were offered access to school clubs via the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

To strengthen and improve our work with UN bodies, we are implementing reform efforts within the Ministry for Foreign Affairs that correspond to recommendations made by the Swedish National Audit Office. A number of reforms will be launched so that we can better promote more vigorous results in the UN and increase transparency and efficiency in case management. The Swedish people have a right to easily find out how aid is used and how appreciated their international solidarity is among people in both poor and rich countries.  I bring this heartfelt appreciation home with me after every trip abroad.

The challenges and threats we are confronted with in media reports may appear overwhelming. However, the picture is not entirely bleak. Progress is being made on several fronts; the situation is improving for more and more people.  World poverty has been halved, as has child mortality, and nine out of ten children are enrolled in primary education. The UN and the Millennium Development Goals to combat world poverty have played an important role in these successes.

In September, world leaders will adopt new global development goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals. The new goals deal with everything from eradicating poverty, strengthening gender equality and promoting peaceful societies to renewable energy. The fact that world leaders are able to agree on these goals instils hope and offers tremendous opportunities.

The UN also has a key role in revitalising these goals and following up and coordinating the work. This requires reforms and, as a true friend of the UN, we have a responsibility to convey constructive criticism. The Government will use Sweden’s influence to advance reform efforts for a UN that is better equipped to manage crises, safeguard human rights and promote sustainable development. We will also continue to develop our own work so that Swedish support is as relevant as possible and, in the most feasible manner, improve the living conditions for people living in poverty and oppression.

Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation