Ardalan Shekarabi is Minister for Social Security from October 1, 2019
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Speech at the UN-symposium: Supplying the United Nations in the Middle East
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Your Excellency, The UN Resident Representative and Humanitarian Co-ordinator to Jordan, Mr Edward Kallon,
Dear Representatives of UN organisations in Jordan and the region,
Dear participants in the Swedish company delegation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to begin by extending a warm welcome to all of you who have gathered here for today’s symposium. It brings me great pleasure to be here as the Head of a delegation of sixteen Swedish companies which represent the best of Swedish innovation. It is indeed quite a milestone. This is the first Swedish trade delegation to Jordan since 2009 and a testament to the growing interest of the Swedish private sector for the UNs activities in the region. We had a very interesting day yesterday together with the UNHCR, including a visit to Azraq Camp. It was, to my knowledge, the first time ever an official Swedish trade mission visited a refugee camp.
Sweden is a longstanding and committed partner to the United Nations. Sweden is one of the UN’s top contributors when it comes to voluntary contributions. We contribute personnel to peace operations and give un-earmarked core support to most of the UN organizations. Since the new government took office last year, we have paid special attention to climate financing and the future of humanitarian assistance. Our contributions also include engagement, resources and ideas.
Sweden’s UN policy seeks to contribute to peace, security, sustainable development and gender equality. It is part of a solidarity-based foreign policy and a means for responding to crises that affect us.
Sweden is also one of the largest humanitarian donors in the world, the Syria crisis being no exception. In a few weeks’ time, my government will announce a specific Syria Crisis Strategy and allocate development funds to vulnerable populations inside Syria and neighbouring countries, including Jordan. Resilience is a key component to this strategy; livelihoods and access to basic social services will feature prominently.
In its commitment to the UN, Sweden also sets clear requirements for a modern, effective, transparent and legitimate United Nations that is equipped to meet future challenges and take advantage of future opportunities. Needless to say, one of those dimensions is procurement.
Sweden is an export driven economy and as such, the government places high importance on promoting and assisting Swedish companies to expand into international markets. Our newly adopted Export Strategy emphasises the need to look more closely at, amongst other areas, supplying the UN. We have an ambition of increasing our level of procurement to the UN which currently stands at around 0.16 percent of total UN procurement. We can do better.
Against this backdrop we are gathered here today with the objective to better understand the process of supplying the UN organisations working here in Jordan. Yesterday we visited Azraq Camp hosting 24 000 Syrian refugees. We got a good overview of the situation in the camp and on the needs and challenges facing its inhabitants. We were also briefed by UNHCR on the overall situation of Syrian refugees in Jordan. We saw at first-hand how the UNHCR uses innovative technologies to increase efficiency, security and dignity for its end users.
What has struck me during my brief visit to Jordan is the rapidly growing needs and challenges that the international organisations are facing following the humanitarian crisis in this region. Here, I feel the private sector can make important contributions by bringing innovative solutions to the table.
Sweden is one of the most innovative nations in the world and the delegation here today reflects that fact. We have companies that are active in the fields of energy, water, sanitation and health. As you will also see, many of them are distinguished by their emphasis on sustainability. Some of these companies have worked with the UN or its implementing partners before and some are new to the field of UN procurement. The companies represented are both our large blue chip companies as well as small to medium sized enterprises. What unites them is their interest in better understanding current needs of the UN and whether their products can have an added value and create win-win partnerships.
From a Swedish donor perspective, we would like to emphasize the need to think of procurement in terms of sustainability. How procurement is geared and carried out will impact on how we succeed to fulfil the new Global Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability has for long been an key value and quality of Swedish goods, services and systems. Here, the UN has an important responsibility to further streamline these newly adopted milestones.
Swedish companies and the government also need to do our homework. That is why my Government has launched a national action plan for business and human rights, which has been drawn up in dialogue with businesses, trade union organisations, government agencies and civil society. Our belief is that business and respect for human rights go hand in hand and must be part of an active corporate social responsibility policy.
Once again, I would like to thank all of you for being here today. I hope that this will serve as a platform and a starting point for future co-operation. Sweden stands firm in its commitment and support to the UN and we hope that you are as delighted as we are to open this new chapter of dialogue with you.