Sweden remains confident in our commitment to contribute to peace

Published 16 June 2015 in:

State Secretary Annika Söder. Photo: Catarina Axelsson

Speech by State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Annika Söder at the launch of the 2015 SIPRI Yearbook.

Check against delivery

Mr. Chairman, Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that we today welcome SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ Press Room and thereby return to a long tradition of launching the SIPRI Yearbook at our premises. Today, modern information technology and new media resources provide new channels for multiple releases in both the real and the virtual world, and SIPRI this year pursues all of these.

It is a great pleasure also to note that SIPRI continues to rank highly among the world’s think-tanks almost 50 years after the Swedish Riksdag in 1966 took the inspired decision that established the Institute. Your important research adds to the knowledge we have about peace, conflict management and international security, including disarmament and non-proliferation. It provides us with data, analysis and recommendations in order for us to form evidence-based policies aimed at creating and sustaining peace and security all over the world. We look forward to celebrating with SIPRI the Institute’s fiftieth anniversary next year.

The SIPRI Yearbook has been a trademark of the Institute almost from the start.  It contains a wealth of information and analysis on developments in armaments, disarmament and international security.

At a time when conflicts in the world again are on the increase, we clearly need reliable information and sound analysis of developments in SIPRI’s core fields of research. I refer to what is mentioned in the statutes of the Institute, namely questions of conflict and co-operation of importance to international peace and security, with the aim to contribute to an understanding of the conditions for peaceful solutions of international conflicts and for stable peace.

Mr. Chairman,

Preventing and managing conflicts around the world are becoming more and more demanding. Changing geopolitical environments and the presence of non-state actors, including terrorist groups, underline that the challenges grow ever more complex. The international community is faced with the necessity of dealing not only with conflicts within countries:  borders are increasingly porous and conflicts spread across the traditional boundaries of states. But we also have the common responsibility to meet the rising demands of standing up to the increasingly horrific crimes, committed by states as well as non-state actors.

The recent rise of violent radicalism and terrorist organizations such as ISIL has become one of the most pressing challenges for the international community. These movements have one thing in common: Subordination and suppression of women and girls. Against this backdrop, sexual violence has become a tool of terrorism. Women and girls are sold as commodities among ISIL fighters and they are repeatedly exposed to horrendous acts of sexual violence, including rape.

Sweden takes an active part in the international community’s efforts to strengthen the common actions against these horrifying forms of violence and terror. For instance, the Swedish parliament decided earlier this month to put forward a military contribution to Iraq, after a request from the Iraqi government, to assist the security forces through capacity building efforts to retain control and bring peace and security back to the Iraqi people.

As sexual violence and subordination of women constitute core elements of extremist ideologies, the international community has to promote the rights of women and girls as a way to counter violence and terrorism. Empowering women and girls is an essential component in building peaceful communities that are less susceptible to the threat of radicalization. It is therefore paramount to further push for full implementation of the women, peace and security agenda through the realization of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions.

Mr. Chairman,

In order to effectively manage conflicts, we must look at the entire conflict cycle. Preventive measures, including early warning mechanisms, are vital in the efforts to prevent conflicts from erupting to begin with. Addressing root causes of conflict is key to build sustainable peace. Gender equality serves as valid risk indicator; countries with high levels of gender equality are less likely to face civil war or widespread human rights violations, and hence better equipped to prevent conflicts. Safeguarding human rights for all – women, men, boys and girls –  is evidently one of the most effective ways to prevent conflicts from erupting. In this context, the UN Secretary General’s initiative “Human Rights Up Front” and the elements included therein, can give us valuable tools in order to react in time where serious human rights violations occur.

As one of the most common and effective conflict management tools available, peace operations – including both peacekeeping and political missions – play a vital role. Sweden has a long and ongoing tradition of participating in UN-led and UN-mandated peacekeeping. More than 80 000 Swedish women and men have taken part in UN peacekeeping to date, and our commitment, after a number of years with less involvement, is again on the increase. Today, some 350 Swedish women and men are involved in a dozen different UN peace operations.

About 250 of them form part of the Swedish force contribution to the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, as an intelligence capability. We are glad to see that the peace negotiations in Mali are moving forward, and urge the parties that have not yet signed the peace agreement to do so as soon as possible.

In light of the ongoing peace talks in Alger, I would like to take this opportunity to stress the importance of women’s participation in the negotiation process. If women are excluded and gender perspectives are absent in the formation of a peace agreement, their presence in the stage of implementation will be equally insufficient. The women of Mali should not be seen as only being victims of serious atrocities and war crimes. The women of Mali are also actors in the creation of a future in peace and should be represented as such in the present and forthcoming political process.

Africa remains the focus of most UN peace operations, and hosts more personnel than all other regions combined. The nature of many of the conflicts on the continent has created the need for more robust mandates that for example includes provisions for protection of civilians.  It has also created the need for more innovative approaches to peacekeeping which includes both new methodologies, such as intelligence capabilities, and new technologies such as UAVs. Our contribution to MINUSMA should be seen in this light. But new needs and new approaches also require updated doctrine and an organisation adapted to these new needs.

Partnership and cooperation with regional organisations, such as the African Union and the EU, need to be further developed in peace operations. This could help bridging differences between UN troop contributing countries, overcoming political blockages, ensuring an efficient division of labour and political legitimacy, as well as ensuring a smooth transition to peacebuilding efforts.

Mr. Chairman,

Conflict management must also focus on creating possibilities in post-conflict societies. Accountability and actions against impunity for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as creating opportunities for peace, security and reconciliation, should be natural parts in handling post-conflict situations.

Accordingly, the link between security and development must be strengthened. 2015 marks the year of opportunity to take a number of important steps towards this end. This includes the context of peacebuilding and peacekeeping. Sweden currently holds the presidency of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Organizational Committee and is co-chair of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and State building, and will use these platforms to further strengthen the common discussion on how to tackle the challenges we face.

We must not forget the vast responsibility we as citizens of this world carry in creating a sustainable development for the generations to come. In a time when life-holding ecosystems are impoverished and climate change poses a real threat to our future, it is of greatest importance that new progress can be shown. We must all take a stand for a sustainable development. This is of utter importance also in a perspective of peace and security.

The UN Peace Operations Review as an important step towards a more effective UN in the role of preventing as well as managing conflicts. The panel has had an important although challenging assignment finding ways forward to do so. Many elements that we have identified in the process have been welcomed.

Sweden particularly welcomes the fact that the Review Panel has had extensive consultations with member states, civil society and think tanks. Given the challenges facing United Nations peace operations today, this review has been extremely timely. We have particularly welcomed its broad scope, and its inclusion, for the first time in a review of this kind, of Special Political Missions.

Issues on women, peace and security have been identified by the Panel as key challenges facing peace operations today. We hope to see the synergy effects of the Peace Operations Review, the Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture as well as the Global Study on Security Council resolution 1325. Gender issues should at all times be mainstreamed and not seen upon as a separate concern.

Mr. Chairman,

Our experiences in participating and engaging in peace operations have given us valuable insights on important aspects towards reaching progress. Let me just share with you, some points that we see as vital:

Peace operations mandates should be clear and achievable, and based on an assessment of what can be accomplished given the available resources. Furthermore, as the UN moves towards more robust mandates, any insecurities or ambiguities in the UN chain of command need to be removed. Partnership with troop contributing countries needs to be developed further in order to ensure sufficient resources and equipment as well as political backing.

Also, all mandates should be based on a gender-sensitive conflict analysis in order to also be tailored for the needs of women and girls. Although there has been an increase in the number of mandates of UN-missions that include references to women, peace and security, this is not enough. Gender issues should be part of strategic and operational planning, direction and reporting requirements and all UN-missions should have gender advisors to support the Special Representative to the Secretary General, as well as the senior military and police leadership.

The life-cycle of a mission calls for a flexible and adjustable organisation, with the right resources at the right time.

The increased use of new technologies in peace operations is a welcome development. It is a force enabler that increases the situational awareness which in turn supports decision-making and increases the operational effectiveness of operations in their mandate implementation. It also improves the safety and security of UN staff.

Mr. Chairman,

Before concluding, let me add a few words on disarmament, as it is also one of the core issues that SIPRI is working on and of high priority for the Swedish Government. We can only deplore that the recently concluded Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT, did not reach agreement on a final document. The NPT remains the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The important conclusions of the Review Conferences held in 2000 and 2010 will remain valid, and it will be even more important to ensure that they are implemented to the full. Sweden will continue to work together with others to make sure that nuclear disarmament, the humanitarian perspective and the risks that nuclear weapons carry with them will continue to be in focus and will be taken forward in other fora where we can reach concrete results.

To conclude, Mr. Chairman,

Sweden remains confident in our commitment to contribute to peace, security, conflict management and development. We will continue to do what we can and cooperate with others who share our will to make the world a safer place for everyone. Our candidacy for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council should be seen in this context.

I would, once again, like to thank SIPRI for organising this event. I look forward to listening to the panellists’ views on the important issues we are here to discuss today.

Thank you.