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Kristina Persson is no longer a government minister, Minister for Strategic Development and Nordic Cooperation


Key Note Speech by H.E. Kristina Persson, World Government Summit, Dubai


Kristina Persson, Sweden’s Minister for Strategic Development and Nordic Cooperation, February 8, 2016

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Your Royal Highnesses, Dear Excellencies, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honored and delighted to be invited to address the World Government Summit today. As Sweden's Minister for Strategic Development, governance is an issue that is very close to my heart.

If you look at the immense challenges in our world today, I would say that no other topic is more important than this: Governance for the future, to adjust our national governance structures in order to meet up with sustainability demands, in all three senses of the word - economic, social and ecological sustainability as reflected in the UN Agenda 2030. And even more challenging: To achieve a global governance that corresponds to the challenges and the economic interdependency that has accelerated during the last 20-30 years, due to a number of technological, political and economic changes. All of which put new and different demands on international structures, institutions and the need for common rules – an international rule of law. And trust between people and nations.

Getting governance right is key to ensuring that governments and the global community can tackle the common challenges we are facing. If we get governance right at all levels - at local, regional, national and global level - we can actually turn many of these challenges into strengths and opportunities for development and shared prosperity.

This is a top priority for the Swedish government.

Why is governance so important today? A number of systemic challenges have shown a need for effective and inclusive leadership from the center of governments. The financial crisis, the dramatic increase in migration, climate change, digitalization and the implementation of the new sustainable development goals are examples of challenges that require coordination and cooperation. They require a whole of government approach, leadership and effective structures for driving systemic change. These challenges require cooperation between the public sector, the business community and civil society. They also require new models, approaches and policy instruments. As a result they create new demands on governance.

In recent years, the OECD, as well as think tanks and political scientists have pointed to the need to adapt governance mechanisms and systems to ensure that governments can implement overarching reforms in an effective manner. This is indeed a very valuable work, and it should soon start to make a difference in the OECD-family.

Governments across the world have to manage four fundamental governance tasks: Firstly, they have to ensure the smooth functioning of regular systems and tasks, such as budget processes, taxation systems etc. In Swedish we call this 'ordning och reda' which might be translated into the government's responsibility to make sure that that things are 'in order' and running smoothly and efficiently.

The second task of the government is to handle short-term shocks. Examples of these are the financial crisis, national disasters, acts of terrorism or the dramatic inflow of refugees witnessed by Sweden and many other countries in recent years.

The third governance task is to prepare the country for the future, more specifically to ensure a country's long-term resilience, sustainable development and competitiveness. This, in turn, requires some degree of foresight and forward-looking analytical capability and an ability to act pre-emptively. The implementation of the sustainable development goals is one example of an issue that requires a long-term thinking and action.

Fourthly, governance must be transparent in order to facilitate accountability. Only then, will the three other tasks outlined above be conceived as credible and be trusted by people.

The challenge for governments, and for governance, is that these four tasks

the daily running of the country,the management of short-term shocks,the ability to prepare the country for the future, andtransparency and accountability

are sometimes in conflict with each other. In particular, the management of imminent crisis or 'fire-fighting' seems to be taking up an increasing amount of resources, leaving less room for strategic and forward-looking thinking and action, i.e. the important governance architecture of the future.

Sweden has a good track record when it comes to the daily running of our country. By most international comparisons, Sweden's finances are sound, we have well-functioning and transparent institutions and rule of law is strong. And we have a high level of quality and equality in the provision of social services. We have legal frameworks to prevent discrimination and corruption and to provide a good environment for doing business. We have a long tradition of transparency and accountability regarding government.

Still, we face a number of both long-term and short-term challenges which require us to work continuously on improving our governance systems. In 2014, the incoming Swedish government declared its vision for a sustainable and inclusive future. Sweden is committed to be a strong, fair and clear voice in the world for freedom, peace, human rights and solidarity. Our candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council 2017-2018 is an expression of that strong and longstanding commitment.

Sweden is committed to a future based on sustainable and renewable energy resources, while safeguarding our welfare society. I am impressed by the ambitious policies of the United Arab Emirates – itself being a major fossil fuel producer – when it comes to sustainability issues and renewable energy solutions.

Finally, we are working hard to ensure that Sweden is a country where no one is left behind and no one is held back. We believe that an inclusive society where people are treated equally and given the same opportunities including access to education and healthcare – regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual preference – we believe that such an inclusive and equal society is the basis for a successful and flourishing society. And for a strong economy.

Realizing these visions will require that our policies are evidence-based, that we combat silo thinking in ministries and government agencies, and that we encourage policy experimentation and learning. At the same time it will require that the work of government becomes more inclusive, transparent and accountable. Overall, we need to improve our ability to manage and drive change and to design timely policy responses.

Your Highnesses, Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen: We often talk about the need for individuals, the business sector and civil society to be proactive and innovative to be able to function in a changing world. All too rarely, however, we talk about what governments need to do to be innovative in order to serve their citizens in this changing world. That is why the World Government Summit fills such an important function and that is why I am very much looking forward to the discussions and exchange of experiences here today and beyond the Summit.

Thank you very much!