How Sweden negotiated a seat on the UN Security Council

How Sweden negotiated a seat on the UN Security Council
Foreign Minister Margot Wallström celebrates after Sweden wins its seat. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
Sweden focused on gaining the support of small nations and countries in Africa in order to be elected onto the UN Security Council, according to classified documents studied by the Swedish press.

On the 28th of June the Scandinavian country won a two-year seat on the UN Security Council in the first round of voting, 134 votes giving Sweden an outright win and allowing it to fight off tough competition from the Netherlands and Italy.

An insight into how Sweden courted some of those votes has now been revealed. Tabloid Aftonbladet reports that Sweden sent representatives to Ethiopia, for example, in order to meet with prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Notes from the meeting there show that he promised to support Sweden’s candidacy for the Security Council, but specified that Ethiopia would seek Swedish support to gain the post of director general of UN agency Unesco when elections for that position are held in 2017.

The documents also contain notes from a meeting in Benin, west Africa, where Swedish government representatives promised to try and arrange a meeting between the country’s president and Business Sweden, an organization tasked with promoting Swedish exports.

When Swedish representatives visited African island state Comoros meanwhile, the small nation’s president made a direct request for help in training diplomats.

According to an expert on Swedish foreign policy, deals like arranging meetings with Business Sweden are unremarkable, but any assistance to Ethiopia could be more problematic.

“There I think it’s important that Sweden really thinks Ethiopia is the best candidate. If we thought someone else was better, and we just exchanged favours, that would merit discussion,” University of Gothenburg political science professor Anne-Marie Ekengren told Aftonbladet.

Gaining a fourth ever temporary spell on the UN Security Council is a big boost for Sweden’s international clout. The council is the UN’s most powerful decision-making body.