How Sweden negotiated a seat on the UN Security Council

Sweden focused on gaining the support of small nations and countries in Africa in order to be elected onto the UN Security Council, according to classified documents studied by the Swedish press.

How Sweden negotiated a seat on the UN Security Council
Foreign Minister Margot Wallström celebrates after Sweden wins its seat. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

On the 28th of June the Scandinavian country won a two-year seat on the UN Security Council in the first round of voting, 134 votes giving Sweden an outright win and allowing it to fight off tough competition from the Netherlands and Italy.

An insight into how Sweden courted some of those votes has now been revealed. Tabloid Aftonbladet reports that Sweden sent representatives to Ethiopia, for example, in order to meet with prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Notes from the meeting there show that he promised to support Sweden’s candidacy for the Security Council, but specified that Ethiopia would seek Swedish support to gain the post of director general of UN agency Unesco when elections for that position are held in 2017.

The documents also contain notes from a meeting in Benin, west Africa, where Swedish government representatives promised to try and arrange a meeting between the country’s president and Business Sweden, an organization tasked with promoting Swedish exports.

When Swedish representatives visited African island state Comoros meanwhile, the small nation’s president made a direct request for help in training diplomats.

According to an expert on Swedish foreign policy, deals like arranging meetings with Business Sweden are unremarkable, but any assistance to Ethiopia could be more problematic.

“There I think it’s important that Sweden really thinks Ethiopia is the best candidate. If we thought someone else was better, and we just exchanged favours, that would merit discussion,” University of Gothenburg political science professor Anne-Marie Ekengren told Aftonbladet.

Gaining a fourth ever temporary spell on the UN Security Council is a big boost for Sweden’s international clout. The council is the UN’s most powerful decision-making body.


‘The war must end now’: UN Sec-Gen meets Swedish PM in Stockholm

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres met Sweden's Prime Minister in Stockholm on Wednesday, ahead of the conference marking the 50th anniversary of the city's historic environment summit .

'The war must end now': UN Sec-Gen meets Swedish PM in Stockholm

After a bilateral meeting with Magdalena Andersson on the security situation in Europe, Guterres warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to a global food crisis that would hurt some of the world’s most vulnerable people. 

“It is causing immense suffering, destruction and devastation of the country. But it also inflames a three-dimensional global crisis in food, energy and finance that is pummelling the most vulnerable people, countries and economies,” the Portuguese diplomat told a joint press conference with Andersson. 

He stressed the need for “quick and decisive action to ensure a steady flow of food and energy,” including “lifting export restrictions, allocating surpluses and reserves to vulnerable populations and addressing food price increases to calm market volatility.”

Between the two, Russia and Ukraine produce around 30 percent of the global wheat supply.

Guterres was in Stockholm to take part in the Stockholm 50+ conference, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. 

The conference, which was held on the suggestion of the Swedish government in 1972 was the first UN meeting to discuss human impacts on the global environment, and led to the establishment of the UN Environment Program (UNEP). 

At the joint press conference, Andersson said that discussions continued between Sweden and Turkey over the country’s continuing opposition to Sweden’s application to join the Nato security alliance. 

“We have held discussions with Turkey and I’m looking forward to continuing the constructive meetings with Turkey in the near future,” she said, while refusing to go into detail on Turkey’s demands. 

“We are going to take the demands which have been made of Sweden directly with them, and the same goes for any misunderstandings which have arisen,” she said. 

At the press conference, Guterres condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine as “a violation of its territorial integrity and a violation of the UN Charter”.

“The war must end now,” he said.