Address by PM Stefan Löfven at the 76th UN General Assembly

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Speech, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, The General Debate of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 24

Excellencies, 

This year marks 75 years since Sweden became a member of the United Nations. 

Today’s global challenges demonstrate the urgent need to strengthen international cooperation, with a modern UN at its core.

The devastating impact of the pandemic has tested the resilience of our societies and put pressure on the multilateral system.

More than half of the world’s population have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19. Making sure that vaccines are accessible equally to everyone must be our priority. 

COVAX remains our best instrument. Sweden is its largest per capita contributor, and I am proud to announce that we intend to increase our support for global access to vaccines. 

We look forward to cooperating with all Member States in identifying ways to improve health systems’ prevention, preparedness and response capacities. 

Excellencies, 

The extreme weather events we have witnessed, with forest fires, flooding and heat waves, underline the urgent need to act against climate change. 

We must listen to the science and transform our societies. We must keep the 1.5 degree goal alive. 

Lower emissions, adaptation and protection of biodiversity must be our priority. Recovering from the pandemic will provide an opportunity to build back greener. 

This year, we need to stand up to the test as we gather at COP26 in Glasgow, COP15 in Kunming, and prepare to conclude a legal instrument to protect biodiversity in the high seas. 

Next year marks 50 years since the world gathered in Stockholm for the first ever UN conference on the environment. In June, we will host Stockholm+50, which we expect will be a catalyst for necessary transformative actions for a systemic change as with regard to the environment and climate change agenda. Let’s take this opportunity to help redefine humankind’s relationship with nature. 

Excellencies,

A renewed commitment to strengthening international cooperation must be based on our joint responsibility to uphold international law. 

Human rights are universal and apply to all. 

We reiterate our strong support for the Secretary-General’s ‘Call to Action for Human Rights’ and advancing human rights across all of the work conducted by the UN. 

We remain deeply concerned that respect for democracy continues to decrease globally. Sweden will continue our strong support to democratic institutions and processes, and to defenders of democracy. 

Through Sweden’s cross-regional ‘Drive for Democracy’ initiative, we aim to push back against authoritarianism and promote democracy worldwide. 

Excellencies, 

The pandemic has exacerbated critical gaps in equality, particularly gender equality. Women and girls have been disproportionally affected. Sustainable development, peace and security are not possible when women and girls are left behind. 

This is why my Government is a feminist government. 

Sweden will always stand up for sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

Excellencies, 

International solidarity is part of the Swedish DNA. We remain firm in our global commitments, including to provide 1 per cent of GNI to overseas development assistance. 

Free, fair and sustainable trade is key in order to create new jobs and increase prosperity. The World Trade Organization has an essential role in upholding a rules-based international trading system. We must  ensure that we have the means to build back better and greener. As chair of the ILO Governing Body this year, we will promote labour rights. 

Excellencies, 

The pandemic has also increased the suffering of the most vulnerable. The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance to survive has reached a new record level. Global hunger, driven by armed conflicts and climate change, is soaring. 

We urge Member States to urgently step up funding to save lives and alleviate suffering. Sweden remains one of the largest humanitarian donors. 

We need to find new ways to support the Afghan people to sustain the achievements made in the last 20 years. The increasingly acute humanitarian crisis and the protection and promotion of human rights – in particular regarding people belonging to minorities, women and girls – must be addressed. In this, the UN plays a critical role. Sweden’s longstanding engagement and our support to the Afghan people remain steadfast. 

Excellencies, 

Sweden continues to be a champion for long-term peacebuilding and we are a substantial contributor of personnel to UN peace operations. 

In Yemen, relentless fighting has worsened the humanitarian catastrophe. Sweden remains deeply engaged. We urge the parties to agree on a ceasefire and take part in political talks under UN auspices. The implementation of the Stockholm and Riyadh agreements remains a key step. Sweden is committed to leading international efforts to mobilise additional funding for the world’s largest humanitarian operation. 

In Ethiopia, the Tigray conflict’s expansion is causing immense human suffering. We urgently call on all parties to ensure full and sustained humanitarian access, agree to a ceasefire and work for a political solution. 

Excellencies, 

One year ago, peaceful protests in Belarus were followed by ruthless repression. Sweden and the EU demand respect for human rights. We support the Belarusian people’s right to democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of law. 

Sweden remains a steadfast supporter of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. We continue to unequivocally denounce Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol. 

This year, Sweden is chairing the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Our guiding principle is to return to the basics by defending the European security order based on respect for international law and the UN charter. 

Strengthening the OSCE’s cooperation with the UN is a priority, not least on the ground in conflict situations. 

Excellencies, 

The nuclear threat is as present as ever. To reverse this negative trend, we welcome recent steps such as the extension of the New START Treaty, and the US and Russian joint statement reaffirming that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”. 

The Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament aims to ensure that concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament are taken, not least in view of the upcoming Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

Some progress has been made, but much more remains to be done. We call on all States, in particular nuclear weapon states, to do their part. 

We call on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to adhere to its international obligations and take steps towards denuclearisation. 

Excellencies, 

This will be my last address as Prime Minister of Sweden to the General Assembly. As I look back at my seven years in office, I can only conclude that global challenges are becoming ever more pressing. But together, we have also made important progress. 

Sweden remains an active champion of finding common solutions to the challenges we jointly face. Our roadmap is global implementation of the 2030 Agenda. 

Gender equality is the unfinished human rights struggle of this century. Gender equality has always been a key priority in decision-making and resource allocation in my government – and I have promoted gender equality globally. 

Climate change is the defining issue of our time. In 2017, the Swedish Parliament adopted the most ambitious climate reform in Sweden’s history, aiming at net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045. Together with India, I am proud to have launched the Leadership Group for Industry Transition. 

Inequality has further accelerated. Together with the ILO and the OECD, I launched the Global Deal partnership for decent work and inclusive growth in 2016. The objective is to improve the global labour market and enable people to benefit from globalisation. 

In October, I will host the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism – Remember ReAct. The rise of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and antisemitism must be rigorously countered. The Forum aims to take concrete steps in the work for Holocaust remembrance and the fight against antisemitism. 

Excellencies, 

Last year’s adoption of the UN75 Declaration, co-facilitated by Sweden and Qatar, was a re-commitment to strengthening international cooperation, with a modern, innovative and inclusive United Nations at its core. 

Together with the Prime Minister of Spain, I have launched a network of leaders to support the Secretary-General in taking the Common Agenda forward. Future generations should be at the centre of these efforts. We look forward to contributing to the preparations of a ‘Summit of the Future’ in 2023. 

Sweden joined the United Nations 75 years ago. Rest assured that we will continue working with all of you all towards a peaceful, green, more equal and healthier planet. 

We will remain as committed to international cooperation in the future as we have been over these last 75 years. 

Thank you.