The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Archive for February, 2012

A far away country we should be concerned about….

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

On 23 February leaders and Ministers from over 40 governments and international organisations will come together in London with the aim of delivering a new international approach to Somalia.  Prime Minister Fredrick Reinfeldt and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt will be representing Sweden. Why does Somalia matter to Sweden and the UK?

Mainly because of security. Terrorism originating in or around Somalia threatens many European countries, including Sweden and the UK.   The London Conference aims to create new international consensus and energy on how to disrupt terrorism, including the movement of terrorists to and from Somalia, the flow of their finances, and delivering effective information gathering, investigation, detention and criminal prosecution.

There will be many other dimensions to the conference, with discussions on political, security and the humanitarian fronts.   The aims of the conference are wide ranging, given the need to step up efforts to tackle the root causes and effects of the problems faced by Somalia across the board.

Engagement in Somalia is important for both the UK and Sweden.  Both countries have large Somali diasporas and given Sweden’s experience and expertise on development and stabilisation, it will have an important role to play in the conference and its follow-up.

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Queen of Diamonds

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

You know what they say about London buses: you wait ages for one then two come at once. So it is with blogs.

This week (6 February, in fact) marks an historic day for Britain. 60 years ago, a young Princess became Queen.

It was a Britain very different from today. Still a colonial power in much of the world. Still recovering from the horrors of the Second World War. There was one, black and white, TV channel.  Space travel was the stuff of comic books. Truman and Churchill presided in Washington and London. De Gaulle was in internal exile in France.

It’s extraordinary to think about how Britain and the world have changed since our Queen came to the Throne. This year she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. Sixty years on the throne. An amazing achievement.

I had the privilege of meeting her almost exactly a year ago. She was as intelligent, engaged, interesting and interested as everyone who has met her says she is.  She is an amazing example of duty, discretion and devotion.

I was asked by a Swedish politician recently why Britain loved its monarchy so much. I said my own personal view was that it was partly that everyone loves a family story, with new generations sustaining interest.

Also that people respect the lifetime of service The Queen has given to Britain and the Commonwealth.

It’s also I think something romantic. In a world of business plans and business problems, of jargon and job cuts, there’s something attractive in an institution that represents different traditions and values.

But it’s an institution that exists by being close to people, which, day in day out, supports British business, communities, ideas and events.

Today, like every day, The Queen and her family will be out in the community, visiting schools, hospitals, factories, farms. Hundreds of visits, every year for sixty years.

May there be many more to come! God Save the Queen!

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Women and old people first

Monday, February 6th, 2012

First, belated best wishes for the New Year. I’m sorry this blog resumes after a longer than expected interval.  I’ve been out of town a bit, as I’m serving on a UN advisory group on the future of peacekeeping. More of that later.

And I’ve been busy preparing for and hosting high level visits.  Our Minister for trade and investment, Lord Green, was here last week, promoting co-operation between the UK and Sweden, particularly in the field of smart grids.

He and I saw an Iphone app produced by a British company which showed in real time the electricity consumption in the CEO’s flat back in the UK.

The CEO could tell from the graph on the screen when his wife had boiled the kettle! All that is fun, but the real purpose is to enable consumers to make intelligent choices about when and how to use energy, saving bills and helping save the planet, too.

Talking of emergencies, when evacuating people in a crisis, the usual mantra is “women and young children first”.

This week my Prime Minister will be joining his Nordic and Baltic counterparts at a summit to put women and older people first.

Specifically, the Northern Future Forum in Stockholm on 8 and 9 February will consider how to unlock two under-exploited sources of economic growth:

–    encouraging more women into senior positions in businesss; and
–    encouraging older people to stay in the work force longer, increasing the output of the economy and reducing the pension burden.

The statistics are striking:  although women are over half the workforce in many countries, they are only a tenth of members of the boards of big companies and hold only a twentieth of the top executive jobs in such firms.

For the ageing workforce the change over the next three decades will be striking – in most European countries the number of over 65s as a proportion of total population will increase by around a third.

We all have a lot to learn from each other in these areas – how to get more women into business leadership (Lehman sisters, rather than Lehman brothers…) and how to make employment more feasible and attractive for older people.  You can follow the conference as it happens via the internet on

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