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Opinion piece from Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Sweden an asset to the UN Security Council


Opinion piece by Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström in Svenska Dagbladet on 2 December 2015.

We are living in a time when we are confronted close up by global challenges. Our southern neighbourhood is marked by difficulties with regard to the refugee crisis and the underlying conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, as well as the terrorism of ISIL/IS and other groups, and the impact of climate change. The situation in our eastern neighbourhood too, with Russia's aggression against Ukraine, is a clear example that our view on international law and security is necessary.

As a small, free and democratic country, Sweden is dependent on global cooperation to take on our common challenges. At the heart of these efforts is the UN and in particular the Security Council. For Sweden, cooperation in the EU is an indispensable platform, which can also make the UN stronger.

The Security Council is the only UN body whose decisions are legally binding for all member states. Sweden's candidacy for a seat in the Council is about our voice in multilateral cooperation, which is one of the cornerstones of our foreign policy; it is also about taking part in the discussion on conflicts that have an impact on our own society.

The Security Council's decisions make a difference. On 20 November, a unanimous Security Council passed a resolution on the fight against ISIL and terrorism. The Security Council has recently also adopted measures to increase women's participation in peace efforts and passed a resolution supporting the EU's action against human smuggling in the Mediterranean.

It does matter who has a place in the Security Council. One example of a non-permanent member that has gained influence is Lithuania, which during this year in the Security Council has ensured that Ukraine has remained on the agenda, despite the risk of it slipping off in the light of other crises. A country such as Sweden, with our credibility in development issues, our human rights work and our ability to speak with integrity and without a hidden agenda, can make a difference.

It is precisely in situations when the Council is threatened with paralysis that it is important that the Council has non-permanent members that take action to ensure that the Council takes its responsibility. The deadlocks between the permanent members are deeply regrettable – this is why Sweden is working for a reformed and effective Security Council with a more representative circle of members and less use of the veto.

All parties in the Riksdag support the candidacy. We are presenting our candidacy as a critical friend to the UN and with an awareness of the importance of common global solutions. Sweden is the sixth largest donor to the UN system and a keen advocate of reform and greater effectiveness, and of action by the Security Council in war and conflicts. We must not abdicate influence. This is not a time to shirk responsibility.

Our candidacy is going well. The competition is tough, but we are hopeful. Besides Sweden, two other EU countries are candidates: Italy and the Netherlands. Sweden was the first of these countries on the scene, announcing our candidacy back in 2004. It has been twenty years since we last sat in the Council. We agree that it is unfortunate that EU countries are competing against each other. Sweden has sought to avoid this within the EU.

We have gained increasing support through an intensifying campaign. We see that there is respect for Sweden as a global actor and for our tradition of solidarity and dialogue, and for the fact that we stand up for principles and values. For the same reason, there are many countries that want to see us gain a seat in the Security Council.

Our candidacy efforts do not involve us compromising on fundamental principles such as human rights – as some might maintain. On the contrary, this candidacy is about gaining a platform for our values. Our candidacy efforts require that we conduct a dialogue with all of the other 192 UN member states, which is crucial, irrespective of our candidacy, for an understanding of the global problems and to be able to contribute to solutions.

Our candidacy to the Security Council is about Sweden's possibilities to influence the troubled world in which we live. A seat in the Security Council would mean an additional platform for us to pursue our policies. Sweden can take a seat at the table and put forward opinions and values that influence the world in a positive direction. This is why Sweden should have a seat in the Security Council.