May 12-13, experts, organisations and decision-makers from around the world are gathering in Stockholm. On the agenda is one of the greatest challenges facing the international community: the number of wars and conflicts in the world is once again on the rise after years of a downward trend. To reverse this trend, it is essential that both donors and conflict-affected countries are prepared to deal with the root causes of conflicts. Sweden will therefore take on a leading role internationally, and systematically conduct conflict analysis of all the countries receiving Swedish aid.

Europe is not immune to this development. The scale of the killings in Ukraine now puts the country on the list of the world’s war zones. The conflicts around the world have resulted in record numbers of refugees that are approaching Second World War levels. The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has doubled since 2005 and the global humanitarian system has been brought to its knees.

According to the new OECD report, States of Fragility, presented at the Stockholm Forum today, poverty is taking root in fragile and conflict-affected states marked by violence, and weak legal systems and social institutions. Ninety per cent of conflict countries have a history of conflict. Forty per cent of these revert to conflict within ten years. The world is being torn apart, and while poverty is decreasing overall, it is being concentrated in these countries. Today, almost half of the world’s poorest people live in these countries and, according to the report, this figure could rise to two thirds by 2030. We are witnessing the consequences of this unfold in the Mediterranean, where desperate people in the hope of a better future for themselves and their families have met their death as they flee from violence and abuse.

This situation is completely untenable. And there are no simple solutions. Conflict-affected and fragile states are the most difficult environments in which to work. And it is here that the most exposed, the poorest and the most vulnerable people are found. To promote sustainable peace, we need to work in new ways: we need approaches that are more problem-oriented and more long-term.

Making aid effective and relevant

What happens in the world affects us all. Globalisation means that war and instability are creeping closer, as reflected in the SOM Institute surveys that reveal an increasing number of people in Sweden who are concerned about terrorism and military conflicts. We cannot shield ourselves from the world; this is as much a question of obvious self-interest as it is of solidarity. Sweden’s international engagement has a long and proud history. As one of the world’s largest aid donors and a humanitarian superpower, we have influence and a role to play. To make aid as effective and relevant as possible, a range of measures will be implemented.

Conflict analysis of all Sweden’s aid partner countries will be undertaken, including non-conflict countries, to identify causes of social tensions and conflicts before they erupt into violence. This will make us a world leading conflict prevention practitioner.

Increase participation. The active participation of women in peace processes has proven to be a major contributing factor in securing permanent peace. Research indicates that more gender-equal countries are strongly associated with peace both in their own countries and with neighbouring countries. This is why Sweden is making a firm commitment to direct consultations with women and key individuals in civil society in a number of conflict-affected countries: Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Palestine and Afghanistan. We want to hear how women in these countries themselves perceive their opportunities to participate in and influence politics, but also about the violence women are subjected to and what role they think Sweden can play to increase their power and influence.

Put peacebuilding and statebuilding on the international agenda. As Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, I am currently co-Chair of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS) along with Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kaifala Marah. Together, we represent a group of some forty donor countries, organisations and fragile, conflict-affected states that have agreed on five key issues for peacebuilding known as the New Deal for Peace, comprising inclusive politics, people’s security, functioning legal systems and social institutions, and economic development. Together we will do everything we can to ensure that other international and national actors also focus on these issues, which lay the foundations for stable and democratic societies.

We have an obligation not to fail the most vulnerable people in the most difficult situations. We must do what is within our power to prevent new conflicts and humanitarian disasters. We cannot promise quick results but hopefully we can prevent the future loss of human life and human dignity.