One is a country in the north of Europe with a history of peace and neutrality; the other is a country on the coast of West Africa still bearing the scars from a 10-year civil war. On the surface, Sweden and Sierra Leone may not have too much in common. Yet, so much that the world faces today is universal—from climate change to societal cohesion—that we are all actually more alike than different in our pursuit of progress.
“No matter how developed or confident you are in your system, there are always improvements you can make,” explains Vandi Chidi Minah, UN Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone. This acknowledgement, that we need universal implementation to achieve our common goals in Agenda 2030 and the Paris Climate Change agreement, was one of they key takeaways from a seminar series organised by the Foundation in Sweden with 25 UN Permanent Representatives from small island states and developing countries.
Together with the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Foundation put together an international seminar series that built on our global disorders programme. It explored issues of climate resilience and planetary boundaries, as well discussed how to build strategic partnerships and organise effective implementation of the new global agendas, involving all strands of society.
Kiruna is moving, Vanuatu risks sinking
Kiruna is the northernmost municipality in Sweden and the city is currently undergoing a fundamental infrastructure transformation, as large parts of Kiruna have to be relocated due to mining activities close to the city centre. As part of the seminar series, the Permanent Representatives visited Kiruna and learned about this unique project, including concrete experiences from climate-smart urban planning of New Kiruna. The project struck a particular chord with Permanent Representatives from small islands states who are facing the task of not only moving their cities, but trying to keep them above water.
A visit to the Esrange Space Center also highlighted Swedish technologies of crucial importance to the fight against climate change and its consequences, including environmental monitoring and mapping. The global effects of the regional climate changes in the Artic were also explored, drawing out the relevant experiences from adaptation and resilience in the Arctic.
Sami Parliament and the trials of inclusion
Perhaps of most impact were the conversations with Josefina Skerk, Deputy Chairperson of the Sami Parliament. Learning about the Sami people, the only indigenous people of Scandinavia and the northernmost indigenous people of Europe, Permanent Representatives were struck with universality of issues of inclusion and just societies. It was not until 2011 the Sami were recognised as a people in the Swedish constitution and the community continues to actively work on the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Sweden and internationally.
“It is rare that you think of Sweden as having an ethnic community so it was refreshing that they were allowed to speak frankly to us. It shows a level of confidence in your democracy,” said, H.E. Tekeda Alemu, UN Permanent Representative of Ethiopia.
Inclusion when building peace
Inclusion was also on the agenda in the context of peacebuilding with Sigrid Greuner, Programme Manager of Building Peace, highlighting the lessons from our recent Development Dialogue publication, Inclusive Peacebuilding: Recognised but not Realised. Professor Peter Wallensteen, Senior Research fellow at the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, also outlined the trends and possible countermeasures at the national, regional and international levels that could help reduce the risk of violent inter- and intrastate conflicts, focusing specifically on the Security Council.
With many of the participants from countries recovering from violence, the Foundation outlined that our research and practical experiences clearly indicate the need for a comprehensive approach to peace and security, one that ranges from conflict prevention and peacekeeping to inclusive peacebuilding and sustainable development.
The world faces many challenges ahead, climate change and peace and security just a few of them. However, these global challenges, as well as the solutions, know no boarders and have to be dealt with in multilateral forums, such as the UN.
“We at the Foundation are proud to have hosted UN Permanent Representatives from such a diverse background, sharing experiences and knowledge between us. We need to work together to counteract these global disorders and to enact global solutions,” said Henrik Hammargren, Executive Director with the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation.