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The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Posts Tagged ‘UN’

War and Remembrance

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

28 June marked the centenary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand – the event that set in train the outbreak of the First World War.

Of course the causes of the war were much more complicated than one violent act. Last week we hosted an event at the Residence where British historian Andrew Oldfield gave us a fascinating insight into the political, economic and cultural conditions which led to war.

The consequences are still with us, as I noted in my talk; if post-war Europe was a “landscape with ruins”, as one historian noted, the Middle East today remains a landscape with fault lines, some of them dating from the aftermaths of the First and Second World Wars.

So remembering our history and understanding its lessons, I argued, is crucial to effective diplomacy. That’s why the British government has invested in a range of events to mark the centenary of the Great War.

WWI Podcasts

On 28 June the Foreign Secretary launched a series of WWI Podcasts based on original Foreign Office dispatches from the 28 June assassination to Britain entering the War on 4 August (the so called “July Crisis?”). In the interviews, the Foreign Secretary and former British Ambassadors to Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Russia and Serbia help set the context for what was unfolding in Europe and describe what it must have been like for their predecessors during that period. ?The podcasts are available at https://audioboo.fm/playlists/1256851-fco-first-world-war-podcasts.

WWI Tweets

In another digital project to mark the July Crisis, FCO Historians will tweet, in real time, extracts from Foreign Office telegrams, dispatches and letters leading up to the outbreak of WWI. Eleven twitter accounts have been set up reflecting the key British diplomatic figures from 1914. They will tweet from their respective accounts and be re-tweeted from a central FCO account: @WWIFO. You can sign-up and follow the tweets as they come in real-time 100 years to the day. A blog has also been posted on the History of Government website on Gov.UK to provide the context and background.

UN Security Council

Finally, commemoration of WWI will be a major theme of the UK’s Presidency of the Security Council in August. The UK will co-lead with Australia a Security Council visit to Belgium on 9-10 August. The Council will hold a session on conflict prevention with academics, visit a multinational war cemetery and attend the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gates. During our Presidency we shall also host an exhibition of WWI poetry in the UN Secretariat building which will feature poems from different countries.

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World Wildlife Day

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Late last year, the UN General Assembly decided to make March 3 World Wildlife Day.

On this day in 1973, the UN adopted the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, affirming the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions including ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic, to sustainable development and human well-being.

For the UK, a particular focus has been the sharp increase in demand for illegal wildlife products. This has accelerated in the last decade. Rhino poaching has increased 5000% between 2007 and 2012, and since 2004 the Central Africa region has lost two-thirds of its elephant population. The Western Black Rhino was declared extinct last year.

That’s why my government took the initiative to convene world leaders from over forty countries for an Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference held in London last month.

Chaired by UK Foreign Secretary Hague and attended by the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, the conference sought to secure commitment by key states to take actions to help eradicate the demand for wildlife products, strengthen law enforcement and support the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by wildlife crime.

Conference outcomes are summarised in the London Declaration.  As part of that leaders agreed to:

  • renounce the commercial international trade in elephant ivory until such time it is agreed that elephants are no longer threatened by poaching;
  • renounce the use of products from animals threatened with extinction; and
  • adopt legislation that made wildlife trafficking a “serious crime” in the context of the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.

These countries, supported by 11 international organisations, made bold commitments in London.

I encourage you to show your support and send the unequivocal signal that the international community will not tolerate wildlife crime. Find out more through the WorldWildlifeDay Facebook page.

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The development of development

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

The British government, like Sweden, is a strong supporter of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

Our Prime Minister is honoured to be co-chairing the UN High Level Panel on the future of international development, which will make recommendations later this year on what the new international agenda should be after 2015, when the MDGs are due to have been met.

There has been impressive progress against the MDGs:

• Halving poverty (one of the key targets) has already been reached

• Nearly half a billion people escaped poverty, as defined by living on less than $1.25-a-day, in just 5 years

• In the 20 years to 2010:

– 2 billion people gained access to improved drinking water
– There were 5 million fewer deaths of children under 5 every year
– Maternal deaths fell 33%

• Malaria deaths decreased by 26% between 2000 and 2010

• 400,000 fewer people are dying from AIDS despite more living with HIV

But challenges remain:

• 1.3 billion continue to have to live on less than $1.25 a day

• 2.4 billion live on less than $2 per day

• Around 270,000 women die in pregnancy/childbirth each year

• Almost 7 million children under 5 die each year

• There are 655,000 Malaria deaths each year– 90% of them taking the lives of young children in Africa

• 34 million people live with HIV

So continuing to tackle poverty, its causes such as conflict and its consequences such as disease, remains a fundamental international interest.

In the UK’s view, the key to this is helping create the stepping stones that people need to escape from poverty – tackling conflict, building effective institutions, encouraging effective and fair rule of law, transparency and accountability in public and private sectors and creating an environment where growth, through trade and investment, flourish.

We’re using our Presidency of the G8 as well as the Prime Minister’s role on the High Level Panel to work for these outcomes.

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EUROPE: Banks, Bonds, Bailots… and Bach

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

You’re probably thinking the last thing I want to read is another piece about the eurozone even if it does appear to include something about a great composer.

If you persist till the bottom of the blog you’ll discover that a famous Swedish diplomat was entertained to an impromptu concert by a famous English cellist in the residence yesterday.

But given the importance of what’s being discussed in the EU at the moment, for Britain and Sweden, I hope you’ll forgive a more substantial blog (and forgive the interval since the last one). Given that Britain’s position on EU issues is, shall we say, not always perfectly understood, I thought it worth setting down our views in seven quick points.

The first thing to say is that it is in the UK’s interest for the EU to be effective, credible and prosperous. Membership of the EU is in the UK’s national interest.  Being part of the EU is vital to how we in the UK create jobs, expand trade and advance our interests around the world.

Second, the euro zone is a critical part of the EU, in both senses of the word. The fate of the eurozone matters hugely to the UK. The UK Government is clear that it is strongly in Britain’s interests for our biggest export market, i.e. the EU and within that the euro zone, to succeed.  The risks for us of a disorderly outcome are huge.  Resolution of the eurozone crisis would do more than anything else to give our economy a boost.

Third, Europe needs to deal with the wider challenging of modernising our economies, as well as the immediate one of addressing the eurozone crisis. The UK is supportive in principle of radical steps for eurozone countries to address their problems, for example a banking union for the euro zone.  But we’re also clear that while this might be the answer for the eurozone it is not required for the single market.  So while we support a banking union for the Euro zone, the UK will not be part of it. We’ve taken our own steps to underpin and oversee our banks.

Fourth, whatever happens in the eurozone needs to respect the rights and responsibilities of all EU member states, large or small, inside our outside the euro, not least to protect the integrity and promote the development of the European Single Market, which is crucial to growth in the UK and Sweden.

Fifth, the inevitable pre-occupation with the Euro zone crisis must not obscure the underlying requirement to focus on restoration of sustainable economic recovery. Growth is vital to get the European economy going again. The Single Market is the best engine we have for doing that.  The Swedish and British Prime Ministers set out, with ten EU colleagues in February, an ambitious agenda for development of the Single Market, which was embraced at the last Summit in March. We should make progress on that and also make sure Europe remains open for trade – launching free trade negotiations with Japan and making progress on a possible deal with the US and on negotiations with Canada, India and Singapore.

Sixth, we are open to how existing EU instruments and funds can be used to support growth. And a reprioritised and modernised EU budget should be used more effectively to promote economic growth, but within the current levels of spending given the tough measures being taken around Europe to ensure fiscal sustainability.

Seventh, ultimately, however, as Sweden has already shown, there is no avoiding the primary responsibility of member states to take the difficult decisions needed to reform and rebalance their economies.

Now, as promised, the anecdote: Jan Eliasson came to lunch yesterday so we could discuss his new job as Deputy Secretary-General of the UN. He and I worked together when he was President of the General Assembly (the parliament of the UN) in 2005-6.

Staying with us for a few days while he plays at a music festival here is the great English cellist, Steven Isserlis. Steven was rehearsing as Jan arrived. It turned out the cello was Jan’s favourite instrument (“mine too”, said Steven). He (Steven, that is) played us a wonderful Bach Sarabande, a moment of tranquillity in an otherwise hectic day!

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