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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Opening address at the Stockholm Forum on Security and Development 2015 - "Promoting sustainable peace"

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Stockholm Forum on Security and Development 12 maj 2015
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I am delighted to see all of you here today. And I’m very happy with the turnout to the Stockholm Forum, and the great cooperation between the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and its co-host, SIPRI.

I am pleased to stand here with Minister Kaifala Marah of Sierra Leone. Together, we serve as co-chairs of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. This forum serves as a channel for direct communication between donors and fragile states on how to build peaceful and resilient societies. Let me also extend a warm welcome to our other prominent guests in the panel.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

You have all been personally invited for a reason: because you are needed.

Solving today’s challenges of conflict, violence and fragility requires a collective effort. We all have important complementary roles to play – individually and together.

Since last year, the number of conflicts and wars has increased. Forty armed conflicts – of which 11 are major wars – are ripping societies and peoples’ lives apart all over the world. This significant increase of violence and conflict has generated a record high wave of refugees and internally displaced people, comparable to that of the Second World War. Millions of women, men and children have been trapped in conflict zones around the world. We also see desperate people fleeing in the hope of a better future for themselves and their families – only to lose their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean in their search for safety.

A record number of 75 million people are now in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

The humanitarian system is crumbling under this burden. Costs are rising, people are dying, children are not going to school.

My own country, Sweden, is also affected, facing a steady influx of refugees escaping the conflict zones of Syria, Iraq and other places.

This situation is completely unsustainable.

We know that once a country slips into conflict, there is a risk of it being caught in a vicious circle of recurrent violence, poverty and fragility.

Today, 43 per cent of the world’s poorest people live in fragile states. By 2030, this proportion is expected to increase to about two thirds. Most fragile states are still struggling to reach the Millennium Development Goal of halving infant mortality. The situation is more or less the same in terms of access to clean water. In other words, we are witnessing extreme poverty taking root in fragile states.

No country is insulated from the risk of conflict, violence and instability. Middle income countries that are hit by conflict today could turn into low income countries tomorrow. Radicalisation is on the rise in Europe, including in Sweden.

The promotion of sustainable peace is a universal challenge.

If we want to achieve it, we must also factor in climate change. We are already experiencing climate change and its impacts will keep on increasing. We know that those who suffer first and worst are those who are already the most vulnerable. In recent years, there has been an increase in incidences of water-related violence around the world.

Climate change acts as a threat multiplier. The Syrian uprising in 2011 occurred shortly after a very severe multi-year drought, which caused crop damage and mass migration to cities. In the past, it was not unusual for Syria to experience a wet year followed by a dry year, but multi-year droughts consisting of three or more consecutive dry years have been much less common.

Has climate change directly contributed to the war in Syria? We cannot know this for certain. But we do know that drought has increased insecurity and has had a disastrous effect on an already vulnerable country.

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So, what can we do to change this around?

The world is in need of long-term sustainable solutions. There are no quick fixes.

To achieve sustainable peace, many decisions and actions need to be taken by different actors, all pulling in the same direction. Donor coordination is one key to boost development effectiveness and to build capacity. The International Dialogue for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding has a role to play in promoting enhanced coordination.

I see this forum as one step in a process of change.

One fundamental issue is how we deal with problems – that we approach them in a more comprehensive way. The mix of competence, geographic representation and function that you represent is not a coincidence. I also feel that there are some areas where we need to step things up.

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First, let me speak about conflict.

Today, a majority of armed conflicts are internal. Reaching constructive and non-violent interaction between a government, an opposition, civil society and local communities is key to preventing escalation into conflict.

It is my humble opinion that external actors can play a partial but important role in facilitating this.

To do so, we need to properly understand the causes of conflict and tensions.

Therefore, it is my intention that all Swedish bilateral and multilateral aid is made conflict-sensitive.

What this means in practice is that all Swedish support must be systematically underpinned by an analysis of conflict and fragility.

Engaging in conflict prevention in practice means that you try to detect tensions, for example through systematic increases in human rights abuses, before they develop into large-scale violence and conflict.

The next step is to address the causes of tensions. That is the crucial role that development can play.

We need to become better at picking the daily fights on inclusion and accountability. Because ultimately, this may save us from war.

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My second point has to do with the inclusion of women and girls.

Inclusion is absolutely key to peace and development.

Inclusion is necessary in order to make good political decisions. But security, justice, service delivery and other efforts to promote sustainable development also need to be inclusive.

Let me give you one illustrative example from a rule of law project in Palestine. The support is aimed at developing accountable and harmonised justice and security institutions that are gender-sensitive and serve the entire of the population.

The project consists of experts that are seconded to the rule of law institutions. They provide mentoring, coaching, and training to their Palestinian counterparts. But the support also targets the “demand side” by empowering women’s groups and civil society to call for access to improved services and provide feedback.

This shows how the social contract between citizens and the State can be strengthened with external support.

Another example is the important role that the diaspora plays in the development of Somalia. Together with the International Organization for Migration, the Swedish Government is supporting 65 Somali university graduates who have returned to Somalia to work in ministries and government agencies for a three-year period. They are placed in judicial, health and public finance institutions at the federal level as well as in Somaliland and Puntland.

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My third point has to do with sustainability.

The world is in urgent need of sustainable solutions that:

- go beyond political election cycles,
- go beyond mission and programme completion,
- go beyond quarterly reporting.

One such solution, of course, is that we urgently need to curb the current direction of climate change. Otherwise, life on Earth as we know it will be fundamentally changed.

To promote sustainable peace, we need to be ready for long-term engagement and for a bumpy ride, with risks and set-backs. We know that progress in institutional transformation could take between 17 to 40 years (!). It is important to get the military out of politics, to root out corruption and attain the rule of law.

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These are admittedly very difficult issues.

But if we want to eradicate extreme poverty and improve the lives of the most vulnerable people, these are issues we need to tackle.

I see efforts to promote peace, gender, and climate as interconnected and mutually reinforcing.

This special year, with three crucial agreements to make – on sustainable development goals, financing for development, and climate – we have an opportunity to show that we have the courage, the endurance, and the energy to put this world on a better track.

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My colleagues and I will listen carefully to your discussions over the coming days.

Thank you once again for being here.