Speaking to a number of foreign dignitaries in Stockholm on 8 September, Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström expressed her gratitude for electing Sweden to take a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
It is a great pleasure to meet you all again. I hope you have had a wonderful, restful summer.
Before turning to the main subject of this gathering, the UN Security Council, I would like to make some remarks on the current state of affairs on foreign policy. Because indeed, the start of the semester has been intense.
The horror in Syria continues. Last fall it was the pictures of little Aylan Kurdi that stirred an outcry. This fall it is five year old Omran of battered Aleppo. We need a ceasefire to allow for humanitarian relief. And we need to put in motion a political process, because there simply isn’t a military solution to the Syrian crisis.
In neighbouring Palestine, the occupation will soon mark 50 years. And continued reports on the ever-worsening situation on the ground is deeply concerning. It jeopardizes the two-state solution. The French initiative must be supported.
Closer to home, in Europe, Brexit is looming. We must keep our cool to reach a fair and mutually beneficial outcome in an orderly fashion. But also, which is critical, not to inadvertently stir emotions. EU is far too important. Keeping its cohesion is the overriding priority.
Because populism and nationalism is on the rise in many parts of the world, including Europe. We have had plenty of wake-up calls last year. Forces stand ready to exploit fear and bigotry. It’s a dangerous development.
In the face of this, we need to show leadership. Don’t shy away from complexity – shoulder it, deal with it!
We must make a dedicated effort to defend the benefits of inclusive and open societies and markets, while making sure that decent jobs are created and welfare expanded. Indeed, an effective anti-dote to populism and discontent is meaningful policy to enhance equality. That is the essence of the Swedish or Nordic modell, which the Government will develop and enhance, rather than wind down [as some would have it].
This will inform the coming budget bill. It will be strong on jobs, housing, schooling, welfare and climate action. It will be yet another progressive budget bill for solidarity in practice, at home and abroad.
Speaking of solidarity, this fall we are celebrating 25 years of independence and diplomatic relations with the Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It’s a great cause for celebration.
But regrettably the security situation in our Baltic neighbourhood remains tense. There is, understandably, a lively debate on security policy in Sweden. I welcome this debate.
Nevertheless, I, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence have been crystal clear since the Government took office: Sweden will not seek Nato membership. We do not believe it would enhance our security.
Rather, a forward-looking peace and security policy for Sweden rests on many other, re-inforcing components. A strong defence, yes. But also a comprehensive notion of security where democracy, human rights, gender equality and rule of law are centre-piece.
And – as we remain adamant about the respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country, including the right to make ones own security policy choices – we are dedicated to dialogue. To the understanding that security is something we build in cooperation with others, not confrontation. Security must be achieved together.
Which brings me back to the subject of this gathering: the Security Council.
Because the purpose of this gathering is two-fold. Firstly, to thank you for the support to our Security Council bid and the confidence deposited in us. Secondly, to confirm that we will move forward with you, honouring this confidence.
Indeed, it was a fantastic moment and feeling, when we were elected to the Council on the 28th of June. A day of joy and pride for Sweden; to receive 134 votes in the first round.
We were elected together with Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Italy. Let me congratulate them too, once again. And our Dutch colleagues, who will join us in 2018.
As you know, the Swedish Security Council candidacy had been a priority for this government since taking office. The campaign involved all members of government and the whole Foreign Service. I am immensely privileged to lead this first-class service.
And, needless to say, we would not have made it without such a remarkably strong support from our many friends. So I would like to take this opportunity and extend my sincere gratitude for your support, your help, friendship and advice. Thank you!
The result is humbling and encouraging. It was a political victory, a vote of trust in Sweden’s foreign policy and diplomacy.
And I can assure you that Sweden will be the listening partner we promised to be during our campaign. We will assume our share of responsibility for the entire Council agenda and be ready to address emerging issues. We will be a well-prepared, professional member and partner.
We will bring the Swedish foreign policy perspectives with us to the UN Security Council. Our membership will be based on key principles of the Charter and international law. That includes giving special emphasis to prevention and the peaceful settlement of conflicts. In keeping with the Council’s own ambitions and commitments, we will work for applying a comprehensive approach to peace and security, including peacebuilding, as well as to operationalizing the women, peace and security agenda
There will be no surprises. The Swedish foreign policy rests firmly on international law, respect for human rights and gender equality. Our UN Security Council membership will as well.
Some ask us what Sweden will add to the agenda of the Council. What the Swedish membership program will be.
I say that adding is not necessarily how you make a difference for the ultimate beneficiaries of the Council’s work: people in harms way. Rather, it’s the approach and method you apply –to solving, relieving and preventing conflicts – that make the difference for them. So, in a sense the Swedish membership program is the Council’s agenda – which is tall already.
As we fine-tune priorities for our membership, dialogue will continue to be crucial: with other UN Security Council’s members and with the countries on the UN Security Council’s agenda. With countries contributing troops and police to various missions, and with regional organisations. We will also engage with civil society and various Swedish constituencies, including Parliament.