STEFAN LÖFVEN, Prime Minister of Sweden, said today’s challenges demonstrate the urgent need to strengthen international cooperation, with a modern United Nations at its core. Noting that more than half of the world’s population has not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, he pointed out that Sweden supports vaccine equality and is the largest per capita contributor to the COVAX Facility. Turning to the extreme weather events being seen all over the planet ‑ including forest fires, flooding and heat waves — he said they underscore the urgent need to act against climate change, transform societies and keep the 1.5°C goal alive. “Recovering from the pandemic will provide an opportunity to build back greener,” he said, adding that lower emissions, adaptation and the protection of biodiversity must be top priorities.
He said 2022 will mark 50 years since the world gathered in Stockholm for the first ever United Nations conference on the environment. Sweden will host “Stockholm+50”, which is expected to be a catalyst for necessary transformative actions and systemic change. Calling for a renewed commitment to strengthening international cooperation and upholding international law, he emphasized that human rights are universal and apply to all. Sweden remains deeply concerned that respect for democracy continues to decrease globally, and will continue to support democratic institutions and processes, as well as their defenders. The country’s “Drive for Democracy” initiative aims to push back against authoritarianism and promote democracy worldwide.
Describing his Government as a feminist one, he went on to express concern that the pandemic exacerbated critical gaps in gender equality, with women and girls disproportionally affected. “Sustainable development, peace and security are not possible when women and girls are left behind,” he stressed, spotlighting Sweden’s steadfast support for sexual and reproductive health and rights. The country supports free, fair and sustainable trade; fair labour rights; peacebuilding efforts; humanitarian assistance to countries in need; and the rights of women, girls and minorities in Afghanistan. Sweden also leads international efforts to mobilize additional funding for Yemen ‑ the world’s largest humanitarian emergency ‑ and advocates for a ceasefire and political resolution in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
Turning to developments in the European neighbourhood, he recalled that peaceful protests in Belarus a year ago were followed by ruthless repression. Sweden along with the European Union support the Belarusian people’s right to democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of law. It also remains a steadfast supporter of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, and continues to unequivocally denounce the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol. As Sweden chairs OSCE in 2021, its guiding principle is to “return to the basics” by defending the European security order, based on respect for international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Strengthening OSCE’s cooperation with the United Nations is a top priority, not least on the ground in conflict situations, he said.
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