Margot Wallström

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Stresses Hope Despite Human Rights Challenges

Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wallström outlined on Friday the government’s plans to advance human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

“Standing up for your values and what you believe in can be controversial,” she said. “You have to take risks sometimes, just like the people around the world who fight to protect human rights.”

Speaking at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Lund, Sweden, Wallström said the government would deliver a strategy paper in 2016 on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law to the Swedish Parliament. “This will be our compass. It is grounded in our values and will make the tools we have available to us visible,” she said.

Wallström, a former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, encouraged the audience to be hopeful, despite what she called a rapidly changing world plagued by failing states, millions of refugees on the move, and terrorist attacks.

“During a time when the basic principles of human rights are challenged, free voices are imprisoned, and social movements are forbidden, we need to make special efforts,” said Wallström. “Certain values and rights must be defended.”

Two new government projects focusing on human rights

Wallström announced two new government projects. One will focus on spreading democracy.

“Freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly are crucial,” she said. “Regardless of whether people are fighting for religious freedom, to protect the environment, to expose corruption, for land issues, or the rights of LGBT people, Sweden will fight for their voice to be heard.”

The other project aims to increase focus on Europe and its surrounding areas.

“Europe and its surrounding areas must be a stronghold for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law,” she said. “Sweden will especially lift the importance of having an independent legal system in Europe.”

Wallström added that racism and extremism must be battled together inside the entire EU. “Sweden will continue to call for all of Europe to take responsibility for people fleeing war and oppression and people’s right to seek asylum,” she said.

Here is the entire speech in Swedish.

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