Remarks to the Press on the Secretary-General’s retreat with the Security Council at Backåkra, Sweden
National remarks delivered by Ambassador Carl Skau on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Press Briefing on the Secretary-General’s retreat with the Security Council at Backåkra, Sweden, 21 – 22 April 2018. April 18, 2018, New York.
At the initiative of Sweden and Peru, the SG will hold this year's annual retreat with the Security Council at Backåkra, the private estate, or rather old farm house, of former-Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, in southern Sweden.
Backåkra is a unique location. It's where Hammarskjöld used to spend his summers. He loved spend time in nature, to watch birds and to walk along the beach. He bought this particular house while Secretary-General, and had planned to retire there after his term.
The property has just undergone a major renovation and will serve Dag Hammarskjöld's legacy as a meeting place for discussion on topics close his heart.
I am certain that he would have been happy to think that the Security Council and the Secretary-General could come together there to further its work.
It's fair to say that the meeting takes place at a critical time for the United Nations, and at a difficult moment in the life of the Security Council.
The nature of conflict is shifting, and the drivers of conflict are changing. New challenges call for new thinking and new approaches.
So, it is important that Council members and the Secretary-General have time to step back and reflect on how to respond to these challenges, but also on how to prevent crises before they start.
We also see this is a follow up to the open debate we had with the Secretary-General during the Swedish Security Council Presidency in January last year. We need to further operationalize his call for a "surge in diplomacy for peace"
The Secretary-General has lived up to his promise to tell us what we need to know, not what we want to hear. Members of the Council must now play our part by better responding to his calls.
Nowhere is this needed more than in Syria. Following one of the most divisive weeks in the Council's recent history, it is natural that Syria should be part of this discussion.
Backåkra offers an opportunity to reflect on next steps and to find a way forward in the Council.
It is also important that current divisions on Syria do not negatively influence discussions on other urgent matters and hamper the Council's ability to manage the many other crises on its agenda.
Backåkra can provide a fitting and inspiring venue. To roll up our sleeves away from the bubble of New York and (and you dear friends) to come up with some real and meaningful ways forward.
And also be inspired by Hammarskjöld's legacy.
Hammarskjöld had an unwavering belief in multilateralism and in the UN. He was someone who believed strongly in the principles of the UN Charter, and in our joint responsibility under the charter and to the people in countries affected by conflict.Hammarskjöld was also known to be a measured man, and a man of deep reflection. There is this story that when he was Secretary-General he invited a dozen quests to a dinner at his apartment on the Upper West side, and when they arrived he suggested that they just remain silent for a couple of hours, enjoying the food and listen to Bach.
When Hammarskjöld arrived at the UN he was unknown to most. I have been told that members of the Council were expecting, or hoping, for a weak administrator. But they would soon know better, he turned out to be both secretary and general. He quickly won their respect, by being principled, but also through building close personal relationships.
So in conclusion, our hope is that by drawing on the legacy of Dag Hammarskjöld, as well as that of Peru's former Secretary-General, Pérez de Cuéllar, the discussions in Backåkra this week can help bring about a new spirit of cooperation within the Security Council and between the SG and the Council.
We hope that all of our colleagues around the table will grasp this opportunity.