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Seminar on the 75th anniversary of the UN

26 October 2020 klockan 08.40

On 22 October, the Speaker Andreas Norlén hosted a seminar commemorating the 75th anniversary of the UN. The seminar consisted of a dialogue between the Minister for Foreign Affairs, UN experts, members of the Riksdag and diplomats, and dealt with the challenges connected with the UN's mission.

Photograph of the first panel before the seminar on the 75th anniversary of the UN. Photo: Anders Löwdin

During the afternoon, the two panels discussed the challenges connected with the UN's mission of maintaining international peace and security in an increasingly polarised world, while responding to the decline of democracy and human rights. The Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Swedish delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) were the joint organisers of the seminar, and Annika Strandhäll (Social Democratic Party) and Camilla Waltersson Grönvall (Moderate Party) from the Riksdag's UN network participated. The Speaker introduced both panel discussions and First Deputy Speaker Åsa Lindestam (Social Democratic Party) closed the seminar.

Panel discussion

The first panel discussion dealt with the UN and the safeguarding of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The participants were: Ann Linde (Social Democratic Party), Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jan Eliasson, Chair of SIPRI and former UN Deputy Secretary-General, Dr Kevin Casas-Zamora, Secretary-General, IDEA, Hans Wallmark (Moderate Party, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Dag Larsson (Social Democratic Party), Deputy Chair of the Swedish IPU delegation, and Moderator Annika Ben David, Sweden's Ambassador-at-large for Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

The seminar’s second panel which, together with panellists via link discussed the UN, peace and security. Photo: Anders Löwdin

The discussions of the second panel focused on the UN as an institution, the UN's fundamental values and UN peacekeeping operations. The panel included Peter Wallensteen, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Dennis Gyllensporre, Lieutenant-General and Commander of the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, Gunilla Carlsson, former Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, Annelie Börjesson, Chair of the UN Association of Sweden, Kenneth G Forslund (Social Democratic Party), Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cecilia Widegren (Moderate Party), Chair of the Swedish IPU delegation, and Moderator Anna Karin Eneström, Sweden's Ambassador to the UN in New York.

Watch the seminar on demand

On account of the ongoing pandemic, the seminar was not open to guests, but could be followed live on the Riksdag website, where it can also be watched on demand. Some of the panellists also participated remotely.
Watch the seminar here

Introduction by the Speaker to the UN seminar's first panel

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Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Dear panellists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


I wish you a warm welcome to the Swedish Parliament, to our beautiful former Second Chamber and to an afternoon dedicated to the UN. On account of the ongoing pandemic, we are holding the seminar under slightly different forms and I especially want to welcome those of you who are following us remotely.
A special welcome also to our distinguished guest Dr Kevin Casas-Zamora, Secretary-General of International IDEA.


The general theme of the first panel of the day, with its eminent expertise, is the UN and democracy.


Winston Churchill is reported to have said that democracy is by no means a perfect system of government - but the best system we have in the world.
I suppose that's true. And I think the same may be said about the UN. It is by no means a perfect organisation. It isn't always perfectly equipped for the challenges it - and the world - faces. But it's the best organisation we have.


No other organisation, no other system offers the same legitimacy or opportunities for the nations of the world together to maintain security, promote freedom, alleviate suffering, create development and safeguard human rights.
This year, the organisation celebrates 75 years of global work for peace, cooperation and development.


The UN was born in another era, you could almost say in another world. But its important mission, its strong driving force and the fundamental will to create conditions for a better future - the very backbone of the United Nations - are something we still recognise today.


Nevertheless, the challenges are many, and it is these that we will be addressing today.


As IDEA shows in its report The Global State of Democracy 2019, democracy is under threat, or challenged, both in various countries around the world and globally. What is often repeated in ceremonial speeches about each generation needing to be won over to the ideals of democracy is very much still true and highly relevant today.


IDEA describes how the last four decades of advances and democratisation risk being replaced by a backlash. The organisation writes that democracy as an idea continues to mobilise, but that democracy in practice leaves many people disillusioned. Here we have, to put it mildly, a pressing task, and we need to deal with it together.


We are currently in the midst of a pandemic which is reaping lives, destroying economies and reversing advances. Conflicts and climate change are examples of other global challenges that require a joint approach.


At the same time, more and more people are questioning the international system and multilateral solutions, something that undermines opportunities for joint responsibility.


I perceive the belief in international responsibility as something central to Swedish foreign policy and our relationship with the UN, regardless of the political orientation of our government. Our country was recently a member of the Security Council. In the Swedish Parliament, there is a long-standing, strong and deep-rooted commitment to the UN.


In my capacity as Speaker, I would like to highlight the fact that members of the Riksdag have been members of the Swedish delegations to the UN General Assembly for decades. So the commitment has not only continued for many years, it has also involved many members - roughly one in six members during an electoral period. This creates a knowledge with the individual member, it contributes to the parties' foreign policy and adds value to the Riksdag's joint work with UN issues.


A strong and rule-based multilateral world order and an international community headed by the UN are necessary if we are to be able to do what we in Sweden consider important for a common future, and to meet our obligations under the UN Charter:
- contributing to development and taking humanitarian responsibility;
- maintaining international peace and security;
- developing friendly relations between nations;
- using international cooperation to solve international problems;
- promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.


I would like to quote our Swedish UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. His fine book Markings contains many thought-provoking ideas, for example, about mankind and our approach to ourselves, the world and things spiritual. Ultimately, what international cooperation, the UN and its mission all boil down to is us as human beings and how we relate to one another.


Among other things, Dag Hammarskjöld wrote:
Kindness is something very simple: to always be there for others, never be self-seeking.


We may call it kindness, humanism or compassion - whatever we choose to call it, it is necessary. Compassion and cooperation, not self-interest and isolation, are the keys to a future in peace and for democracy.


Ladies and gentlemen
present here in this room and digitally,
With these words I would like, once again, to wish you all welcome.

I will now hand the floor to Annika Ben David, who is not only Sweden's Ambassador-at-large for Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law, but also the Moderator of the seminar's first panel.
Welcome up to the rostrum.

Introduction by the Speaker to the UN seminar's second panel

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Dear panellists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


I wish you a warm welcome to the second part of the seminar, with a theme that focuses on the UN as an institution and how we can strengthen the values fundamental to the UN, as well as the UN peacekeeping missions.


This theme truly covers a number of complicated questions. I am glad to have such an eminent panel here today to help us bring clarity to these matters.


On account of the ongoing pandemic, we are, as mentioned, holding the seminar under somewhat special forms. I would especially like to welcome those of you who are following this afternoon remotely. And I would like to say to anyone who may have missed the first panel - do not despair. Both the first discussion and the one we are about the embark on, can be viewed afterwards on demand on the Riksdag website.


The UN came about after a raging world war. Maintaining peace and security has been one of the central tasks of the organisation ever since. I quote from the UN Charter: "We the peoples of United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind". These words outlined part of the reasons for the establishment of the UN 75 years ago.


Sweden is a fortunate country when it comes to war and conflict. Our country has enjoyed peace for over two hundred years. But this does not mean that we have passively stood by and watched world conflicts play out before us.
Sweden takes an active role on the international arena, and this is the case in EU cooperation, in the UN and in other forums for cooperation, in development cooperation and as a humanitarian actor.


In various international missions, many Swedes have honoured what has become a long-standing Swedish tradition, dedicating personal commitment, courage and their skills to the service of peace, the rule of law and democracy.
Working for peace and security and promoting democracy are important issues for the Riksdag. We are proud of all the military personnel, police officers, experts, rescue service personnel and others who travel to take part in international peace, crisis management and humanitarian operations.


Over the years, we have also seen how such operations have become increasingly complex, demanding and comprehensive, and we know that Swedish personnel - both military and civil - are known as being competent and are sought after.


Sweden is also a driving force in work for the UN Security Council's various resolutions on women, peace and security, such as Resolution 1325.
Like the UN, this resolution celebrates its anniversary this year, 20 years after it was adopted in the UN Security Council.


Sweden was, for example, among the first countries to adopt a national action plan to implement Resolution 1325. Women's role in conflicts and after conflicts, where the challenge is not just achieving peace, but also a sustainable and inclusive peace, is key, and Sweden can make a difference here.


There are numerous Swedes who have actively engaged in the work of the UN. I can just mention a few.
Jan Eliasson, who participated in the first panel of the day, is of course one of them. In this panel, we have Gunilla Carlsson, who has previously worked for UNAIDS. Dag Hammarskjöld and Folke Bernadotte both played extremely important roles - in different ways - at an early stage of the UN's history. In modern times, Anders Kompass' principled approach was decisive in revealing irregularities and contributing to a better UN for the future.
Another Swede, strongly committed to matters relating to peace, democracy and human rights, was Zaida Catalán, who worked for a period in our parliament. She was killed when she was investigating war crimes in Congo Kinshasa on behalf of the UN.


With a strong moral compass and personal courage, all these people, like our Swedish veterans, have directly contributed to fulfilling the UN's mission and to the development of the organisation.


In our increasingly multi-dimensional and complex world, where resources are often lacking, but certainly not challenges, a well-equipped international community is needed, as well as responsible international actors such as Sweden.


What the best way forward is in such difficult terrain is not easy to define, but I am sure that our panel will be able to give us important contributions to the overall lay of the land.

Ladies and gentlemen,
in this room and via link,


With these words I would like to conclude by welcoming you all once again.
I would also like to give the floor to the Moderator of this second panel. No one could be better suited for this task than Sweden's Ambassador to the UN Anna Karin Eneström.


Thank you!