‘I felt admiration for this beautiful country with high democratic values’

On 11th December, the Swedish Institute organized a workshop for 30 members of the Network for Future Global Leaders. Jamila Zeynalzade, a Visby Scholarship holder from Azerbaijan, shares her thoughts on the day.

'I felt admiration for this beautiful country with high democratic values'

The event was held at the World Trade Center in Stockholm with the sponsorship provided from Swedish Institute for their Network for Future Global Leaders. Participants were given a thorough explanation on the labour market relations, both in Sweden and worldwide, and had the opportunity to build international networking relations with the relevant authorities. Expert invitees from The Union of Civil Servants (ST) and Union to Union were of particularly high importance for their precious first-hand sharing of practical knowledge. Besides, getting in contact with other scholarship holders from different countries was also very beneficial for prospective partnership initiatives and keeping strong ties with the future leaders.

The programme was opened by Magnus Runsten and Karin Brunzell from The Union of Civil Servants (ST). They presented work of the Union, challenges and opportunities with “the Swedish Parts Model” and its implication on the world of work. Being a member of the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees, their Union is the only one that solely focuses on workers within the state agencies and the largest totalling approximately 95,000 members in itself. The Swedish Parts Model was an answer to many burning questions of participants on how Nordic job markets maintain the high quality work and steady development. Unlike the countries that participants were mainly coming from, Sweden is in the top ranks for its best work-life balance and working conditions. The role of unions and employers' organizations in watchdogging and protecting the rights of workers is undeniable.

The best part of the Swedish Parts Model is its involvement of these unions and employers' organizations that jointly work to agree on the best employment environment without the government interfering in every decision. It is an important pillar of the Swedish democracy per my personal understanding. Although the work of Union seems very smooth and is promising, the challenges were also pointed out by Karin Brunzell. She elaborated how the new decisions on minimum wages at EU level hinders the Swedish model of trade unions and discussed the European Commission’s neglect of the EU standards on social dialogue by disregarding the information and consultation rights on restructuring in central governments.

The Union’s campaign “The European Pillar of Broken Promises, Time for a Social Europe” is very powerful and an inspiring step in standing for the rights of 9.8 million workers. As a participant, I drew several lessons for my future campaigning plans. The session was continued after the networking lunch with experts from SI and labour unions and other NFGL members. The second part of the session was dedicated to development history of the ST and union’s international activities. Participants learnt how the trade unions boosted the economically-poor Sweden of the 19th century and their contributions to democratic development of modern Swedish society. The country that is one of the biggest recipients of migrants today, in fact, was suffering from high emigration rates in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, Swedish trade unions are not only committed in Sweden, but also facilitate the work life of many people in other countries as well.

The second session of the day was an interesting presentation by Union to Union’s representative. The advocacy advisor – Ruben Wågman spoke about the international development cooperation and how their Union is promoting labour rights and democratic development across the world. Furthermore, the connection of the Union’s activities to Sustainable Development Goals, in particular to Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8) was thoroughly elaborated during the presentation. While remarking the commendable progress within their work with Agenda 2030, Mr. Wågman also touched upon the challenges in achieving the goals worldwide.

Being funded from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Union to Union’s work gave participants a remarkable insight into the Swedish support model of the comprehensive global development. This session was particularly useful and educative for me as a former development agency worker and current student of an International Relations programme. I got different perspectives to my understanding of international aid reasons and had a chance to discuss the political implications of development cooperation policies of donor countries. Coming to the conclusion that Swedish aid policy is closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and strongly encourages the culture of democratic development, I once again felt admiration for this beautiful country with high democratic values.

The coffee-break of the session was traditional fika where participants got more closely acquainted with Swedish traditions and socializing. After the break, the session continued with interactive discussions on international trade union solidarity work and globalization from various contexts. Intermutual question & answer exercises on Agenda 2030 challenges provided every participant with a platform to deliver his/her own vision and solutions. Besides, discussing the optimal policy areas in development cooperation was also closely connected with Agenda 2030 and allowed participants to exchange views on effective policy recommendations for trade unions.

The one-day workshop was very well organized with a friendly and informative space provided for the NFGL members. I was very pleased with all the knowledge and networks gained during the day and feel emboldened to look forward for implementation of my development ideas upon my return to home country of Azerbaijan.



Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.