Together with partners we hosted a series of events at Sverige i Världen in Almedalen that covered topics from the future of the United Nations to antibiotic resistance. Panelists sought to answer questions like what challenges and reform needs are awaiting the new UN Secretary-General? Is Sweden a champion state for Agenda 2030? How do we support inclusive societies? What are the implications of migration being included in the 2030 Agenda, and what can be done to tackle the imminent threat of antibiotic resistance?
New Secretary General, New World Order – Future of the United Nations
This fall a new Secretary General to the United Nations will be appointed – what challenges and reform needs are awaiting the new world leader? This question was debated by a panel of knowledgeable representatives of the UN, the Swedish government and civil society; Anders Kompass, UNOHCHR, Annika Söder, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Camilla Brückner, UNDP, and Linda Nordin, the Swedish UN Association.
In a time when the UN faces both financial and legitimacy challenges, and increasingly struggles to fulfill its mandate, there is a need for a visionary leader that can inspire both UN staff and the member states, panelists stressed. Sweden has been a strong voice on UN reform for many years and will continue to be so. While a complete restructuring of the UN may not be realistic, the UN must become more focused on its task, and reforms related to administration, financing and recruitments are needed.
Some panelists emphasized the need for serious and honest discussions on the difficult issues and shortcomings of the UN, in order to ensure its continued legitimacy. At the same time, others raised, the trend of short term populism that feeds on anti-elite sentiments must be challenged. The UN is the sum of its member states and people must pressure their leaders to take the UN in the right direction. Civil society engagement is crucial in holding the UN and its member states accountable, which is why trends of authoritarianism and shrinking space for civil society are worrying. VIDEO
Agenda 2030 – Sweden as a champion state?
Sweden’s role as a champion state in the implementation of Agenda 2030 was discussed in a seminar of two parts. The first panel focused on Sweden’s role globally. State secretary Ulrika Modéer explained that the high level group of champion states, created by Sweden, is intended to inspire by example. Sweden has practiced working with the three dimensions of sustainability in an integrated way through its global policy coherence initiative (PGU).
Parul Sharma, Chair of the delegation for Sweden’s implementation of Agenda 2030, explained the mandate of the delegation, which is not to provide expertise on subject matters, but is instead to have a coordinating function, to spread awareness on the agenda, to map what is being done and where the gaps are, and to come up with a strategic plan for Sweden’s implementation nationally and globally.
Linda Nordin, Secretary General of the Swedish UN Association and representing Concord Sweden, stressed that civil society was very active in the development of the new agenda. In the implementation phase, Swedish civil society will have three important roles globally: as implementer in cooperation with partner organisations around the world, to spread information and awareness on the Global Goals, and as a dialogue partner and watch dog vis-à-vis governments.
The second part of the seminar focused on the implementation of the Global Goals in Sweden. The panelists represented a wide spectrum of stakeholders: Romiana Bikasha, Youth Representative to the High Level Political Forum 2016; Kenneth G Forslund, Spokesperson for Foreign Policy (S); Niklas Gustafsson, Chief Sustainability Officer, Volvo Group Headquarters; Johan Kuylenstierna, Executive Director SEI; and Ida Texell, member of the Delegation for Sweden’s implementation of Agenda 2030. Panelists highlighted what can and should be done by their respective sector. They agreed that Sweden is a champion state, but also stressed that there is a long way to go also for Sweden in reaching some of the goals, in particular related to environmental aspects of transport, agriculture, consumption and energy, social problems such as stress and mental health, and equal education. VIDEO
Inclusive societies – a universal challenge, from Nairobi to Tensta
Exclusion and marginalisation are challenges in most societies across the globe. The universal Agenda 2030 – with its intention to “leave no one behind” – challenges us all to strengthen our understanding and intensify our work for inclusive societies. In this seminar, Mohamed Yahya from UNDP, Tomas Amanuel from Interpeace and Lisa Sjöblom from Forum Syd discussed their work related to inclusion in different contexts, from international support to peace and development in fragile states to integration work in Sweden.
Exclusion can have devastating impacts on societies, especially where youth experience structural barriers to participation. While radicalisation leading to violent extremism poses a growing threat in many African countries, inequalities, marginalisation and integration challenges increasingly weakens social cohesion also in Sweden. Various reasons for exclusion were discussed – ranging from the age gap between leaders and the average aged person they are to represent, to the media reinforcing exclusion by portraying youth in certain areas negatively. Social, economic and political exclusion are connected and mutually reinforcing, and ultimately marginalisation is a result of mismanagement of diversity.
The issue of ownership was stressed by several speakers. There are no readymade solutions for inclusion, instead we have to listen to the voices of those who feel excluded and involve them in the solutions. A pluralistic, vibrant and strong civil society is important in giving a voice to the marginalised, both in holding decision makers accountable and in organising people to claim their rights. Trends of shrinking space for civil society around the world are an eminent threat in the quest for inclusive societies. VIDEO
The refugee crisis – a regional and global challenge
The number of forcibly displaced people has reached unprecedented levels and long term conflicts continue to create unbearable living conditions and force people to flee their homes. The EU and other regional actors are struggling to handle the massive migrant flows from, for example, Syria. To date, much focus has been on migrants arriving to Europe, but most of the migrants are in close proximity of the conflict zones, such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and their security and rights are often neglected.
In this seminar, Kristof Tamas from Delmi, Lars Johan Lönnback from IOM, Karolina Lindholm Billing from UNHCR, Pieter Jan van Eggermont from Doctors Without Borders, and Anna-Karin Johansson from Swedish Committee for Afghanistan discussed how the international community needs to find ways to handle the situation and share the responsibility for the world’s refugees. What are the implications of migration being included in the 2030 Agenda? Does the UN’s refugee convention work as an instrument to tackle the refugee situation today?
During the panel discussion, it was mentioned that 1/7 of the world’s populuation are migrants of various kinds, which points to migration being a mega trend, and is likely to be so for a long time. Many more countries will need to incorporate migration in their politics to be able to handle the situation. Finding global solutions to resolving conflicts is equally important, as long term conflicts and re-emerging hostilities prevent people from returning to their countries and thus causes the number of migrants to increase. Fragile states often relapse into violent conflicts and need extensive support to get out of the vicious circle. Further, it is crucial to provide support to the countries that host the majority of the world’s migrants – as of today, the top 10 countries are non-European.
The UN General Assembly will convene a high-level plenary meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants on 19 September 2016, prior to the general debate of the 71st session. During this meeting, countries are expected to agree to respect the existing agreements and conventions regarding the protection of refugees and migrants, as well as how to tackle future refugee crises in terms of more shared responsibilities for accommodating these groups of people. VIDEO
Antibiotic resistance – a lurking threat to the sustainable development goals
We take for granted that we can get antibiotics when needed. However, as more and more antibiotics are becoming ineffective, it will hit us all hard – soon we can be out of treatment for serious bacterial infections. Antibiotics resistance (ABR) is described as one of the biggest threats to health during this decade and it affects and is affected by several other development sectors. Many of the global goals cannot be obtained in a world of widespread ABR. What can be done to tackle this imminent threat?
Otto Cars from ReAct painted an alarming picture where everything we have managed to build up with access to effective antibiotics is now under threat due to the now increasing and spreading resistance to the same drug. Even though the political will has increased remarkably, many countries still lack a national action plan. He also pointed to a surprising lack of knowledge about the issue – 46% of the Europeans still believe antibiotics can cure virus infections. The reason why the awareness is so low is that we tend to think that new antibiotics will be developed – which is not the case. A global rethinking regarding antibiotic access and use is needed – if no action is taken, ABR will kill a shocking 50 million people within the next 35 years.
Anna Sjöblom from Doctors without Borders seconded this message with examples from the field where Doctors Without Borders work. Many times the intricate (im)balance between access and excess is problematic, especially from a prescription point of view where antibiotics are excessively prescribed and proper diagnostics methods are often lacking.
It is often stated that more antibiotics are given to healthy pigs than to sick people noted Jenny Lundström from ReAct & Uppsala University. This is a major concern for the animal production industry where animals are systematically medicated with antibiotics for growth promoting purposes. This is said to increase profit, whereas data indicate that good animal husbandry and disease prevention is even more profitable.
Ultimately, this is a question for the poltical leadership. In September 2016, there will be a United Nations high-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance at the General Assembly in New York. Although this is a complex issue, high ambitions are needed. As the knowledge is generally low, raising political awareness is a goal in itself, but concrete action steps are crucial to take the matter further explained State Secretary Annika Söder. More UN bodies must work together to find solutions to balance access and excess. Strong governance mechanisms are needed and countries need to make commitments and report back to ensure that action is taken to combat ABR. VIDEO