Opening Address by Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke at the Dag Hammarskjöld and the United Nations Seminar on 16 May
Berlin, 16 May 2018. Check against delivery.
Excellencies, Ambassadors, dear Friends,
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to address the UN Security Council – in a speech about the need to prevent sexual violence in conflict. I am now on a tour in Europe – by train! Yesterday I visited the Militärhistorisches Museum in Dresden, and was guided through the exhibition Gewalt und Geschlecht, violence and gender, a brave exhibition about us, and what we as human beings do to each other.
Before the visit to the museum I had a meeting with the First Deputy Mayor of Dresden. We talked about the challenges we face in Dresden and Germany as well in as in cities like Stockholm, Ludvika and in other parts of Sweden. The fact that polarization, and lack in trust and distrust among the many, cast shadows over our democracies and are or at least should be on top of all leaders’ agendas.
We are here today to discuss and learn from each other’s experiences. This seminar offers an excellent opportunity to advance international peace and security.
In 1954, former Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, stated that "the United Nations was not created to bring us to heaven, but to save us from hell". Since Sweden became a member of the UN, active participation has been a natural part of Swedish foreign policy.
The organization has, with combined efforts by its Member States, helped to prevent catastrophic wars that preceded its founding. Extreme poverty has fallen to an historic low. Life expectancy continues to climb. Millions of people are reached every year with life-saving humanitarian assistance.
The United Nations is a central arena for Sweden’s efforts to combat global challenges. Sweden contributes substantial resources to the UN but our commitment does not stop there.
We also want to contribute to reforms. We want to help to make the UN more effective, transparent and fit-for-purpose. We want the UN to do more, to be better and more pertinent to the important fight for peace world-wide. A better, more relevant UN will earn its trust from the public and the organization can rise to the global and pressing challenges that we as a society face today.
That’s why we contribute to the UN and why strong support for the UN must continue.
I am happy and proud that the Swedish Embassy and the United Nations Association of Germany here in Berlin join forces on this interesting topic today.
Since Sweden chairs the Nordic Council of Ministers this year, and we are right now in a Nordic space, I would also like to say a few words on the need for strong Nordic cooperation, at home and internationally – not least at the UN. I know that the Nordic countries share many priorities at the UN, such as human rights, disarmament, climate change and gender equality. Together we can work for a stronger UN.
I know that the Nordic countries will continue to be voices of integrity and solidarity – in the spirit of Dag Hammarskjöld, who unfortunately lost his life while serving us, the United Nations.
I am also glad that the Dag Hammarskjöld Collection - his archives with letters and documents - is since 2017, included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
The Dag Hammarskjöld Collection was donated to Kungliga Biblioteket -The National Library of Sweden - in accordance with his will. The Collection documents the work and influence of Hammarskjöld and shows the Government official as well as the private person. lt covers a significant period of UN history and is of great importance for the understanding of the post second World War history and the Cold War. I am proud that the Collection now has the status as a Memory of the World and that it is available and free to read - for everybody.
Dag Hammarskjöld once said that: "Only they who keep their eyes fixed on the far horizon, will find the right road."
To that I would like to add that if we know where we are coming from, we know where we are and - we know where we are going!