As Sweden's government intensifies the campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council 2017-2018 the rights-based foreign policy the government claims it wants to carry out will be put to the test. The diplomatic entanglements with Saudi Arabia and the Arab League show clear differences between the nations of the world when it comes to their view of human rights, not least the rights of girls and women. Sweden must continue to make its voice heard.
I welcome the Swedish application for a seat on the Security Council for several reasons. Above all it shows that Sweden wants to take its responsibility in the UN. With a council seat Sweden will, over those two years, have the opportunity to make an impact on issues such as Syria, the Middle East and the development work in the most powerful congregation in the world. Lithuania's insistent work with the conflict in Ukraine shows that small countries can make a difference. Sweden's application also contributes to bring attention to UN issues on home turf and an increased knowledge of the UN among politicians, businesspeople and voluntary organizations.
Values must always be at the core. Sweden should not compete for a seat on the UN Security Council by accepting norms and actions in other countries that we would not accept at home. Sweden, just like its Nordic neighbours, bring other strengths to UN co-operation. Mediation and conflict resolution are some of those, as are contributions to humanitarian UN agencies, environmental work, equality and the pursuit of a more effective, open and transparent world organization. Sweden cannot buy votes through extravagant promises but win support by standing up for the poor and oppressed.
With just over a year left to the Security Council election, the government should communicate Swedish commitments and successes in the international community, make clearer its priorities in development co-operation as well as persevering in its campaign work. These are also features that were highlighted when the International Peace Institute evaluated Finland's candidacy to the Council a few years ago. Moreover, there is a need for further Swedish contribution to the UN's peacekeeping work alongside Mali.
Sweden should use good relations with other countries to convey constructive comments on for example lack of freedom and rights. The debate on Saudi Arabia has emphasized a distinction between countries that respect human rights, including women's rights, and countries that do no. The same division separates leaders who listen to millions of young people in Northern Africa and the Middle East and leaders who advocate uncritical co-operation with repressive regimes. It also runs between business representatives who have realized that ethical consumption is a global trend and those who cling to the old customs.
It must always be clear where Sweden is in the debate – in the work for a seat on the UN Security Council, in its relations with individual countries and in foreign policy on the whole. With confidence, clear values and an active campaign Sweden can, despite tough competition, reach the goal to win a seat on the council 2017-2018.
This is a translated version of an article written and published by Aleksander Gabelic, chairman of civic interest group the United Nations Association of Sweden.