Posted by: africanpressorganization | 23 October 2013

Minister Hillevi Engström’s speech on ‘Freedom from violence’ at the ‘UN and Mali’ seminar


Minister Hillevi Engström’s speech on ‘Freedom from violence’ at the ‘UN and Mali’ seminar


STOCKHOLM, Sweden, October 23, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Check against delivery

Violence and armed conflict are among the most serious obstacles to development.

Freedom from violence is a prerequisite for individuals and societies to be able to reach their full potential.

People cannot make free choices – about their political involvement, education or profession – when they are subjected to violence or the threat of violence.

It is difficult to estimate the exact cost of violence. You cannot put a price on human suffering or loss of human life.

What we do know is that the average civil war lasts for seven years. Recovery after a war takes on average seventeen years.

We also know that those who live in countries affected by conflict have the lowest levels of health and education. These countries account for: half of all infant mortality in the world; one third of all children who do not complete primary and secondary education; and one third of those who do not have access to clean water.

One of the biggest casualties of war is also the trust between people that is the basis of all forms of cooperation – in politics and the economy, but also in society in general.

These conflict-affected and post-conflict countries, with 1.5 billion inhabitants, are at the bottom of rankings when it comes to fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals. This point speaks for itself.

It is against this background that Sweden is pursuing the issue of freedom from violence within the framework of the United Nations’ new development agenda post-2015.

We must prevent and reduce violence.

Once a society finds itself at war, it is very difficult to escape the spiral of violence. The risk of falling back into conflict is as high as 40 per cent within a ten-year period.

The general level of violence is higher in post-conflict societies. Conflict violence has a tendency, in ‘peace time’, to turn into criminal violence and domestic violence.

I would like to highlight in particular violence against women and children. Both the UN High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Secretary-General’s report make note of this.

It is completely unacceptable that one third of the world’s women have been subjected to violence.

Research shows that women’s status in society – socially, economically and politically – can have a preventive effect on both violence and armed conflict.

This is why investments in gender equality – especially in fragile states – should be seen as a crucial ingredient in the prevention of conflict and violence.

I am proud that 72 per cent of disbursements from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency last year were considered to have gender equality as an important objective.

Efforts to prevent violence and conflict are key.

We are here today to discuss what the UN can do to promote freedom from violence.

And by this I mean the entire UN family and how it can act in the field.

– The UN must be able to deliver results under challenging conditions.

– The UN must act in a relevant and conflict-sensitive manner. The UN should work actively on the causes of violence and conflict. It should not be up to individuals, such as UN country directors, to decide that programmes and measures are to be based on conflict analysis. This must be done in a more systematic way.

– The UN must have harmonious internal processes. “Delivering as one” has to work. This applies within the UN’s country teams and between the teams and the UN’s peace-keeping operations.

– There are good country examples, such as Rwanda. There the UN has clearly defined its role, pooled its resources and specified the areas in which cooperation with others is required. This has resulted in a greater impact on the ground.

– The UN must be given clear and realistic mandates. For peace-keeping operations, the mandates must be linked to the resources. We currently have very weak links between the Security Council that writes the mandates, the General Assembly that pays, and the member states that provide a large share of the personnel.

– The UN must work across country borders when necessary. Conflict and violence do not take into account country-specific UN mandates; they spill over into neighbouring countries. There are a few cases where the UN has taken a regional approach and where various country offices have come together to work on cross-border projects. This is something we would like to see more of.

– The UN must cooperate with others. This is crucial. Sustainable peace and freedom from violence require changes in a whole host of areas. But the UN should not – and cannot – do everything.

– Sweden’s humanitarian aid is often implemented in close cooperation with the UN. It is important that humanitarian principles are not used as bargaining chips. The special status of humanitarian measures must also be maintained within the framework of integrated UN missions.

Many of these issues have become a matter of urgency in a country such as Mali today.

The UN faces many difficult challenges there.

At the beginning of July the UN established the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which partly took on the African Union’s task of taking back military control of the northern parts of the country.

It is really important that MINUSMA gets to work quickly. One of the most central tasks is to stabilise security in densely populated areas.

Security for the population – freedom from violence – is crucial if the people of Mali are to be able to improve their living standards. Around three quarters of the people are living on less than 2 dollars per day. What affects most people are drought and the recurring food crises that are aggravated by rapid climate change, corruption and shortcomings in education and health care. The situation for women is particularly difficult.

There are major tensions between various ethnic groups. We are dealing with a weak Malian state that still has practical difficulties in controlling the entirety of its territory.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Mali has an important role to play by offering support for political dialogue. This is necessary in order for Mali to return to a constitutional and democratic order.

All parties to the conflict bear a responsibility for achieving lasting peace in Mali. No UN mission can be successful without national ownership and commitment.

But the political dialogue must not just be about rewarding the militants by giving them a place at the negotiating table. The key to lasting peace is a dialogue that is representative and inclusive. Civil organisations and local actors must be involved. The dialogue must include women – who make up half of the population, after all.

MINUSMA must also contribute to the reconciliation process being genuine and inclusive.

Armed extremists and also government representatives have been guilty of widespread abuses. MINUSMA has a very important role in combating impunity for people on all sides who are guilty of having committed abuses.

Sweden does, of course, want to support MINUSMA in its missions. Sweden has contributed five staff officers. We have stated that we are willing to provide transport capacity. But the UN turned down the offer as the airfields do not have the quality required for our Hercules planes to land. Sweden has preparedness to send police officers once the conditions are right for receiving the UN police.

Sweden has had an Embassy in Bamako since 2010. Our relations with Mali are primarily based on our bilateral development cooperation, which was established on a wider scale in 2001.

Aid for 2013 is expected to amount to approximately SEK 250 million, a rise of 50 per cent compared with 2012. This support is going to the natural resources sector, the election process, democracy and human rights and, via expert support, to the field of statistics through Statistics Sweden.

Sweden is also one of the largest humanitarian donors to the Sahel region. Humanitarian regional support amounted to SEK 500 million in 2012, of which SEK 90 million went to Mali. There is a preparedness to provide humanitarian assistance at roughly the same level in 2013. This year, we have also contributed ten experts from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency to the UN to carry out humanitarian demining missions.

During parts of this year, Sweden is providing a platoon of 15 for the European Union Training Mission in Mali.

Conflict-affected and post-conflict countries have long been an important priority for Sweden. More than half of all our aid goes to such countries. We have been continuously engaged in a process of change to become better at working in these environments.

We want the UN to become better too.

We want to see the UN really making a difference to individuals.

What counts is how the UN in concrete terms promotes freedom from violence on the ground in countries such as Mali.

This is what is important.

Thank you.    



Sweden – Ministry of Foreign Affairs


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