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Speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the workshop for humanitarian sanctions experts


Stockholm, 8 March 2018. Check against delivery.

Dear experts, friends,

Welcome to Stockholm and this workshop for humanitarian and international humanitarian law experts of the United Nations sanctions committees' panels.

One year ago, almost to the day, Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp were found brutally murdered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The loss has been deeply felt. In Sweden, Zaida was important to many people. Before becoming an international civil servant, she had been a youth leader of one of the political parties now in government, the Greens. Indeed, she was always on a mission to change the world for the better; to make it more just, equal and dignified. She was energetic, with contagious enthusiasm and an unwavering commitment to her ideals and service.

The investigation into the murder of Zaida and Michael has not yet been completed. Sweden supports the work of the follow-on mechanism appointed by the Secretary-General to assist Congolese investigative authorities.

I am aware that further international investigation may be necessary. And if so, I will call for it and work to ensure it is carried out. No stone should be left unturned in this work.

This is important not only for the sake of achieving justice for Zaida and Michael. It also matters because they worked for the UN, as members of a group mandated by the Security Council.

Your safety must be ensured. As an organisation, the UN needs to draw conclusions from what went wrong. The recommendations contained in the report of the UN Board of Inquiry must be followed-up.

I believe that we need a criterion for listing persons and entities that have attacked UN personnel and experts. Sweden took the initiative to include such a specific criterion in the sanctions regimes for the DRC and Mali.

Dear experts, friends,

From my experience as foreign minister as well as a previous SRSG (Special Representative of the Secretary-General) on Sexual Violence in Conflict, I know that sanctions can be an effective tool for peace and security. But there is quite a lot we could do to enhance their effectiveness. Let me examine four aspects.

Firstly, sanctions must be part of a wider strategy.

Acting under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, the Security Council has a range of enforcement options that do not involve the use of armed force. Sanctions come in many forms, in pursuit of a variety of objectives. The Council has applied sanctions to support peaceful transitions, deter non-constitutional changes, constrain terrorism, protect human rights and promote non-proliferation.

However, sanctions do not operate, succeed or fail in a vacuum. Sweden firmly believes that sanctions are most effective when applied as part of a comprehensive strategy – a strategy that also encompasses tools such as political dialogue or mediation and, importantly, addresses the root causes of conflict.

Contrary to the assumption that sanctions are punitive, many regimes are designed to support governments and regions working towards peaceful transition. The Libya and Mali sanctions regimes are examples of this approach.

Secondly, we must ensure fair and clear procedures for both imposing and lifting sanctions. We need to ensure due process in the use of sanctions.

Sweden has long been engaged in this work, both at UN and EU level. During our current tenure on the Security Council, we seek further improvements to due process.

I would be the first to admit that we face challenges. But there are positive developments to build on, such as the Office of the Ombudsperson.

Thirdly, we need to avoid the possible adverse, indirect impacts of sanctions on the humanitarian situation in the countries concerned or in the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Reports on the reduced ability of humanitarian organisations to respond to humanitarian needs, such as in the case of the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, are of great concern. Sweden is therefore actively engaged in upholding the humanitarian exemptions.

We hosted a seminar in Brussels in October 2017 with the panel of experts of the 1718 Committee on DPRK. More than a hundred experts from EU Member States and institutions shared information, practices and experiences to improve implementation of the DPRK sanctions regime – which is much needed – without jeopardising humanitarian efforts.

Furthermore, Sweden has successfully worked for a listing criterion in the Mali sanctions regime regarding obstruction of humanitarian assistance.

Fourthly, we must update the scope and objective of sanctions as our understanding of conflicts becomes more sophisticated and comprehensive.

This is particularly evident in terms of the women, peace and security agenda. When applied to the sanctions instrument it has, for instance, led to the introduction of sexual and gender-based violence as a listing criterion.

Sweden called for such a separate listing criterion in the sanctions regime on Central African Republic. We also encouraged the Security Council to request that the SRSG (Special Representative of the Secretary-General) on Sexual Violence in Conflict continue to share information with the sanctions committee on CAR. The Council also requested the inclusion of gender expertise in the corresponding panel of experts.

Dear experts, friends,

Sweden is strongly committed to the work of UN sanctions committees. As an elected member of the Security Council, we chair the sanctions committees on Libya and Mali, and actively participate in all the others.
We are therefore honoured to host this workshop. I wish you two productive days of sharing experiences, lessons learned and key information in the company of renowned Swedish experts on topics such as the investigation of international crimes. We will try to ensure that initiatives such as this will be considered a standard within the UN and encourage other Member States to follow this example. In that vein, similar workshops could be of benefit to you and other experts, and also help with implementation of sanctions.

And lastly: did you think I would forget to mention what day it is? Of course not!

Today is the 8th of March, International Women's Day. We celebrate gains, find strength in each other and resolve to take on the many tasks ahead to achieve gender equality – and indeed make our world more dignified and just. That is what the Swedish feminist foreign policy is all about.

In other words, it provides a good setting for today's discussion.

Once again, welcome!