Address by Ms Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden, at the 74th Session of the General Assembly of the UN

Published

28 September, 2019

Check against delivery.

Excellencies,

Next year, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. Born from the ashes of the Second World War to maintain peace and promote prosperity and human rights for future generations. Created to resolve differences. Created to prevent violent conflicts, devastation and human suffering.

It was created to learn lessons from the past, and to meet international threats through cooperation.

It was created to enable nations, no matter their size, to achieve these goals by acting together. 

The anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate many significant achievements – most recently, the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, the Paris Agreement and the Sustaining Peace agenda.

At the same time, the UN and other multilateral institutions – such as the World Trade Organisation and the International Criminal Court – are increasingly questioned.

This is a disturbing trend that threatens to weaken international cooperation, accountability and our nations’ growth, trade and development.

Excellencies,

The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time.

Millions of young people are now demonstrating and demanding urgent action. Their commitment and engagement have inspired school strikes and protests around the world. They have left few of us unmoved.

Their voice was, once again, loud and clear at last Saturday’s youth summit. We must not let them down. We cannot let them down.

To keep global warming under one point five degrees and prevent the most extreme impacts of climate change, we need to halve global emissions by 2030. Scientists – the IPCC included – warn of devastating consequences if we do not take immediate action.

Climate change is a driver of conflict. Action is about the survival of our peoples, of our nations. The world cannot afford the cost of inaction. The challenge facing us is enormous. But we can turn this challenge into an opportunity.

I would like to raise two main points.

First, we need long-term policy at all levels. The European Union has put in place a legally binding climate framework, sending a clear message to the international community about our commitment.

In Sweden, our Climate Act and net zero emissions target also send a clear signal. But we can do more. And we will do more. Our goal is to be the first fossil-free welfare nation in the world.

At the Climate Action Summit, we announced the launch of the Leadership Group for Industry Transition, together with India and the World Economic Forum.

This initiative will speed up industry transition to pathways that will ensure that we deliver on the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda. The role of trade and labour unions in this transition is essential.

Second, transforming financial flows is key. We are proud to see the commitment of our businesses and financial institutions to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Through our development cooperation, Sweden is investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate-sensitive agriculture.

We are the largest per-capita contributor worldwide to the Green Climate Fund, and we have now decided to double that contribution.

Excellencies,

Today, in many parts of the world, democracy is losing ground. Inequalities are growing. Social and economic gaps are feeding into nationalistic narratives. Anti-democratic forces are creating uncertainty and division. Corruption is a threat to democracy, to economic and social development, and to trade and investment.

Together, we must do more to counter these forces. Because democracy is the bedrock of open and free societies, of equality and prosperity. It invites all citizens to take part in building sustainable societies and societies free from oppression.

Sweden will increase its support for democratic and vibrant civil societies. Voices of democracy need our support.

Excellencies,

Human rights around the world are under attack. We must act against all attempts to weaken respect for human rights and to restrict their universality.

Sweden will continue to be a strong voice for LGBT rights. No one should suffer discrimination, violence or oppression because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Sweden will continue to champion the independence and integrity of the human rights system. Persecution of religious and other minorities occurs in many parts of the world; this is unacceptable. Sweden is strengthening efforts against antisemitism; next year we will host an international forum on Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism.

We will continue to protest when freedom of expression is restricted – whether online or offline – when journalists and media actors are silenced, and when human rights defenders are harassed or even killed.

Excellencies,

I am proud to be the Foreign Minister in Sweden’s feminist Government, and to pursue a feminist foreign policy. Gender equality is an issue that concerns us all – it is about human rights, democracy, development and peace and security for all.

We are encouraged by the considerable advances made in certain areas. But progress remains uneven. Every day, in many parts of the world, women’s and girls’ rights are still being violated.

We are also witnessing growing opposition to women's and girls' human rights. This must stop. Every woman and girl should have the right to make her own decisions about her body and her life. This is a basic human right. Sexual and reproductive health and rights, including the right to safe and legal abortion, are fundamental human rights.

Next year marks several anniversaries of gender equality commitments.

The tasks laid out remain unfinished and need our urgent attention.

Implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the Beijing Platform for Action is not only the right thing to do – it is key to achieving sustainable peace and development.

On International Women’s Day this year, Sweden and France launched a diplomatic initiative to combat trafficking and prostitution, focusing on reducing the demand for, and protecting the victims of, prostitution – in Europe and globally.

Empowering women and increasing their political and economic participation are key to global development.

Sweden fully supports the United Nation’s ongoing efforts to mainstream a gender perspective throughout the UN system and its reform agenda. The Secretary-General’s determination to ensure gender parity in the organisation is an important part of these efforts.

Excellencies,

In adopting the 2030 Agenda, we all committed to taking significant responsibilities.

I am pleased that the political declaration adopted earlier this week not only reinforces the 2030 Agenda, but also sets the course for faster action on the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UN plays a central role in this endeavour. With the reforms initiated by the Secretary-General, the UN will become more effective and enable action on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Sweden will continue to give one per cent of its Gross National Income in Official Development Assistance.

At present, more than 50 per cent of this assistance is channeled to, or through, the multilateral system. This demonstrates our strong commitment to international cooperation, and the importance we attach to the 2030 Agenda for our shared future.

I am encouraged by the high level of engagement from the business sector. Together, as partners, we will achieve the goals. The business benefits of science-based climate action are clear. We look forward to the launch of the Global Sustainable Development Investors in October.

Trade is an important instrument for sustainable economic development and poverty reduction, and for the 2030 Agenda as a whole. We need more trade, not less. A strong rules-based and transparent multilateral trading system is vital. Support to developing countries to increase their capacity for international trade is also crucial.

Free trade is a powerful engine for growth. We need to make growth sustainable and inclusive, and to promote decent work for all.

Sweden will continue to be an active partner in the Global Deal partnership, with its vision of a world of decent work and inclusive growth that guarantees workers’ rights. 

Excellencies,

Security must be built collectively. Current security threats leave no nation or no person untouched.

Sweden’s membership of the Security Council was based on conflict prevention, early action and respect for international law. Our membership has ended but our commitment continues.

This week, Sweden co-hosted a meeting with key partners in support of peace in Yemen, based on the Stockholm Agreement. The UN-led process is key.

We emphasise that international law must be respected. International law serves as a basis for conflict resolution and prevention – as in the case of Israel and Palestine. An end to the occupation and a two-state solution within secure and mutually recognised borders is the only way to resolve this conflict.

The illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol and the aggression in eastern Ukraine challenge core principles of international law. We will continue to work with international partners until Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty have been fully restored.

The Council needs to adopt a comprehensive approach to peace, and to include new risks – such as climate change – on the Council’s agenda. 

Excellencies,

We are one year away from the 50th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the cornerstone of the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime.

The Treaty has been successful in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. However, the deteriorating international security environment has once again increased the threat of the use of nuclear weapons.

The situation on the Korean peninsula remains a cause for concern. We must continue to pursue our common goal of a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation – and of peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula, through diplomatic means.

We need full implementation of the JCPOA. We must act urgently and pursue dialogue to restore trust, which is presently lacking in the international arena. The termination of the INF treaty, basically a result of Russian non-compliance, is a further setback.

In June, Sweden launched a nuclear disarmament initiative together with 15 countries in different regions. This initiative aims at building political support for a successful outcome of the NPT Review Conference in 2020.

Concrete measures that can reduce nuclear risks and increase transparency can serve as stepping stones and unlock disarmament diplomacy. Full and constructive engagement by the nuclear-weapon states will be a necessary ingredient as we move forward.

The IAEA is an essential part of the NPT. On 23 September, Sweden took over as chair of the Agency’s Board of Governors for 2019 and 2020. We are honoured to shoulder this great responsibility in these challenging times.

Excellencies,

Today, millions of people on our planet are struggling to survive, day by day. More than 140 million people need life-saving humanitarian assistance. Most of them are women and girls.

Sweden is proud to be one of the world's largest contributors of humanitarian assistance to save lives and alleviate human suffering.

We stand behind the Secretary-General’s vision that tensions and crisis can be prevented from escalating into major conflicts.

The role that the UN plays in resolving conflicts – through political and diplomatic efforts or peace operations – is crucial for securing inclusive and sustainable peace.

Post-conflict reconstruction will be successful only if all segments of society are included. This is especially important when it comes to women’s participation.

We are firmly committed to supporting the Secretary-General’s initiative to strengthen peacekeeping. We will continue our engagement in MINUSMA and other peace operations.

Excellencies,

The late poet Claes Andersson once wrote:

“Fear those who say they only want to be left alone – for they fear no means.”

History has shown us that isolationism, populism and nationalism are all paths to failure. 

Sweden’s foreign policy rests firmly on democracy, international law, respect for human rights, gender equality, a humanitarian perspective, and free, fair and sustainable trade.

The UN system is a global public good – and it is in our shared strategic interest to keep investing in it. The long-term gains are far greater than any short-term costs.

The prosperity of one nation is not part of a zero-sum game in which nations either win or lose. On the contrary, we can – and we must – choose a path that will ensure that we continue to rise together.

Thank you.