“Who Was Raoul Wallenberg and Why is He a Human Rights Protector?”


The Raoul Wallenberg Institute is currently attending and one of the main organizers of the Swedish Forum for Human Rights in Jönköping. This blog post is written by Sandra Jakobsson, who works with communications at RWI.

Five boys, around 15 years old, are standing in front of me. Most of them are looking eagerly at a jug of candy instead of me. The person who asked the question is holding a piece of paper with several questions written down, one of them clearly being the reason why he chose to come to our booth.

“Well, who do you think he was?” I reply, while handing out some sweets to his friends.

“Someone who worked with human rights?” he guesses.

I explain that human rights, as we know them today, in fact didn’t exist at the time when Raoul Wallenberg were alive and worked.  But that his deeds are viewed as human rights work, a person who went against the bureaucratic system and followed his guts on what was right and what was wrong and by handing out Swedish passports to Jews and other vulnerable people in Hungary, he saved thousands of lives.

A true human rights protector.

The boys nod quickly, take some more candy and then walk away. Probably to find the answer to the next listed question.

We are at the annual Swedish Forum for Human Rights, which this year is taking place in Jönköping, a small town situated between our two Swedish offices in Lund and Stockholm. The theme for this year’s forum is “The Future for Human Rights”. As one of the main organizer for the forum, the Institute is organizing two seminars and participating in three others.

One of these seminars took place the first day, where experts from the civil society and government discussed – in a packed and sweaty room – how Sweden’s National Human Rights Institution should be designed in order to be most effective in fulfilling human rights. Our Director Morten Kjaerum was second up in the panel giving his view on the matter. He said it was important that the institution was independent and properly resourced.

Here are his thoughts on what should be done:

Sweden has, finally, taken the step to create an institution that works solely with human rights. How it will eventually work and be designed is as of this writing not yet known.

Here in Jönköping the rooms are packed with exhibitions and seminars, filled with high school students and people working with human rights. People coming from companies, municipalities, the government and more. On Saturday the forum will be open for the public and the crowd will be more varied.

In thematically focused forums, it is easy to fall into the bubble with likeminded people. But at the Swedish Forum for Human Rights there is an inclusiveness. During events like these, it is the future generations poking around, exploring and reminding you about the roots of human rights – the promotion and protection of them –  which is exactly what Raoul Wallenberg fought for.