Meeting young diplomats

Published 9 July 2014 in:

Photo: Catarina Axelsson/MFA

I have just returned from a really inspiring meeting with young, primarily Polish, young diplomats attending training provided by the Polish Institute for Diplomacy. The theme this week is Responsibility to Protect and I was happy to see also a young Swedish diplomat taking part in the program.

The request to me from the Institute was quite straightforward – please present the Swedish policy in the area of Peace, security and development. To be able to do this properly I was greatly helped by my co-worker Vanda Czifra who very pedagogically presented the Libya-case from 2011, when the Responsibility to Protect-concept, adopted by the UN 2005, was put into practice. One of the elements of the Swedish involvement was our participation in the NATO-operation with 10 airplanes and 140 persons, but obviously a lot more was done with our support and engagemeng, not least through the EU and the UN-agencies.

The UN had a prominent place in my presentation since it has been a cornerstone in Sweden’s foreign policy for decades (and Sweden is now a candidate for the Security Council 2017-18).

For many reasons for sure but not least due to a deeply rooted tradition of international solidarity. Over 80 000 Swedish nationals have served in UN peace mission over the years. We are the 6th largest provider of assessed and voluntary contributions to the UN system. And this is closely linked to the traditionally very substantial Swedish aid programme. Our development assistance amounts to around 1% of GDP, that is around 5,5 billion US dollars a year.

I have personally deep roots in that programme since I have spent sixteen years of my professional life dealing with its management and implementation.

Mostly in non-conflict countries (like Tanzania) but one of my major responsibilities in the Swedish development agency Sida for seven years was the Swedish support to reconstruction and development in the Balkans. My first visit to Bosnia in February 1996 made a deep impression on me. First of all because I have never been so close to a war before – and hence never seen the devastating damage done on the ground before. The Dayton peace agreement was only some months old and the militay presence by the peacekeepers was massive. But it also made me understand much better the need to integrate different policy areas like security and development and the crucial importance to have a smooth transition form humanitarian assistance to development and statebuilding – and more specifically very early start to think about long term development and strengthening of local ownership among the population when providing short term humanitarian aid.

The most inspiring part of this morning’s programme was, not surprisingly, the Q and A-session. We could have talked for hours. About conditions in development aid. The Eastern Partnership. Swedish defence policy. The Polish-Swedish partnership – and many other themes. Excellent questions.

But now I am back in office trying to finalize what needs to be finalized before my vacation starts this weekend.

A colleague wrote on facebook that she had 57 items on her to-do list before leaving. I don’t envy her. My list is a bit shorter luckily. I was i.a. happy to have time to participate last week in the huge meeting for Evangelical churches in Central and Eastern Europe in Wrocław (with 4000 participants…). And hopefully I will be able to reduce the pile of need-to-read documents that are just too visible around me.

But Friday evening I will definitely leave office for some time ahead.

I will have a couple of days in Poland early August for the commemorations of the Warsaw Uprising (August 1st) and of the liquidation of  the so called “Zigeunerlager” in Auschwitz (August 2nd). I feel it is important, to say the least, to participate. We will even have a State Secretary coming from Sweden together with a significant delegation to the Auschwitz ceremony.

But apart from that vacation will be the main part of my agenda. Back in September.

Enjoy the summer! I certainly will.