TOBIAS BILLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said this year’s Assembly opens as a permanent member of the Council, tasked with maintaining international peace and security, has proven its complete disregard for human life in Ukraine and globally. The Russian Federation is weaponizing food and aggravating the global food crisis, most recently by reimposing its blockade against grain deliveries across the Black Sea. The European Union’s Solidarity Lanes, efforts to build alternative export routes for food from Ukraine, have become a lifeline. Sweden has exercised its sovereign right to make its own security policy choices by applying for NATO membership — a historic decision that ends Sweden’s military non-alignment, which dates back to 1812. Along with Finland’s membership, its NATO membership will improve stability in the entire Euro-Atlantic area, he said.
Turning to the importance of ODA, he noted Sweden is only one of a handful of countries in the world to reach the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income in development assistance. Its assistance responds to the multiple challenges that the world is confronting today and contributes to positive development. “Sweden’s development assistance is relevant, long-term, efficient and transparent,” he said, adding it focuses on poverty alleviation and health interventions for the most vulnerable, providing democracy assistance to defenders of human rights and democracy on all continents. Meanwhile, emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, are transforming the world and offer unprecedented possibilities. They can accelerate international efforts on climate change, global health and the SDGs as they create challenges for international security and human rights. Together with Rwanda, Sweden is co-facilitating the Assembly process of developing a Global Digital Compact.
Noting that human rights, democracy and the rule of law are determinants of development, he said countries with high levels of democracy have 94 per cent lower infant mortality, provide 40 per cent more electricity and have 23 per cent greater access to safe water than autocracies. “Building societies that are democratic, respect human rights and uphold the rule of law will be crucial for how fast we achieve the 2030 Agenda,” he said, underlining that women’s and girls’ enjoyment of human rights — including sexual and reproductive rights — is a key condition for development and a prerequisite for democracy. “Human rights are, and must be, universal. They are not a privilege for the few. They belong to everyone, everywhere.” The upcoming Summit for the Future will provide an opportunity for the international community to confirm its commitment to the Charter.
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