23 April 2018

Opening remarks at the press conference by the Secretary-General with the Prime Minister of Sweden

António Guterres

Thank you very much Prime Minister.  

I want to express my deep gratitude to the Swedish Government for the wonderful hospitality the Security Council enjoyed and for the wonderful hospitality I myself enjoyed in Uppsala and here in Stockholm.  

Sweden has been consistently, in its action in the Security Council, a bridge builder. In a world where we see increased tension - I believe we can even talk of the resumption of the Cold War in many of its aspects - Sweden has consistently, fully abiding by the values of human rights, by the need to make sure that international law is respected, but at the same time, trying to reduce tensions, trying to bring together the different actors of the international scenario.  And I believe this initiative of bringing for the first time out of New York the Security Council for a retreat, is perfectly in line with this bridge-building strategy of the Swedish presence in the Security Council.  

And I am extremely grateful for this initiative, and I believe the initiative was successful, in the sense that we had two days of very constructive discussions, that things have cooled down and that I believe it will be possible now to move forward in relation to key objectives.  And in the case of Syria, to fully support a political solution - there is no military solution, and the political solution needs the success of the Geneva intra-Syrian talks that as you know are facilitated by the United Nations.  We need humanitarian access to the whole of the Syrian territory, to everybody in need, and we also need to find a way to attribute responsibilities for those that are violating international law with chemical weapons attacks that are absolutely unacceptable.  And I think that at least the dialogue, as we started, in order to see if we will be able in the near future to find a way to come out of the impasse that until now has blocked the efforts Sweden has constantly put in place, in order to have a serious mechanism of attribution and accountability.  

On the other hand, I would like to express my deep gratitude for what has been the Swedish role as a pillar of multilateralism in today’s world, as the Prime Minister mentioned, not only in support of the United Nations, but of a world based on the rule of law and with strong multilateral institutions.  The challenges we face, from conflict to climate change, or migration - all those challenges show that there is no way any country can solve the problems we face.  The only way is to strengthen international cooperation and to strengthen multilateral institutions, and Sweden has been a very strong pillar of this perspective and of the organizations like mine, that are trying to respond to those dramatic challenges of today’s world.  

In particular, I would like to express my appreciation for the very strong involvement of Sweden in prevention, conflict resolution, mediation and sustaining peace, not only in supporting the United Nations’ efforts but in your own bilateral activities.  And I would recall how active Sweden has been in relation to North Korea, in relation to Myanmar and other aspects, fully supporting the multilateral initiatives with its own direct diplomacy, which is of course of enormous value to us.  

On the other hand, in a world in which unfortunately humanitarian needs are growing, Sweden has been absolutely exemplary in humanitarian aid.  I was for 10 years High Commissioner for Refugees. Sweden was our best donor, with core contributions, non-earmarked, allowing us to address the needs of the people more in need, and at the same time with a very very strong and solid support. And in development cooperation - namely now that we have the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals - Sweden is a country that maintains, and I believe is increasing, its development cooperation aid to more than one per cent of its Gross National Income.

And Sweden has been in the forefront of climate action. I believe that unfortunately, climate change is still running faster than us. I believe we need increased ambition - that Paris must be implemented, but Paris is not enough.  Sweden has understood it and Sweden has today probably the best programme in the world in relation to climate action, with very important targets for emissions, for some fuels and other aspects in the near future.  And I hope that this example will be followed, especially by those that have the largest contribution to the emissions of greenhouse gases.  

On the other hand, I want to underline the very important support of Sweden to our own reform process in management aspects, in peace and security aspects, in development, UN development system projects, but especially in some areas in which Sweden has been a very important ally.  As you know, I have a strong commitment for parity. We have today already in our senior management group - the top leadership of the UN - 24 women and 20 men, which is a total reversal in relation to past trends.  And we have a roadmap for gender parity around the whole UN, of which Sweden has been a very strong supporter.  But also in relation to our absolute priorities in fighting sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse, and other aspects related to the need of gender equality and the empowerment of women, Sweden has been in the forefront of these efforts and I would say one of our most solid supports in a battle that is a difficult battle, but a battle that we are determined to win, with Swedish support.  

And I would say in all other aspects of cooperation, we have had a permanent dialogue, permanent mutual support; and I am extremely grateful, for once more, during this visit we had the chance to look seriously into our weekend, developing even further our coordination efforts.  

Once again, Prime Minister, thank you very much.