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Drive for democracy

Feb 26,2020 - Last updated at Feb 26,2020

Late Swedish Professor of International Health and founder of Gapminder Hans Rosling said “It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think.” The world is making progress in many fields and sectors. Child mortality is down, school enrollment is up and life expectancy has improved globally. However, there is currently a paradox in the field of democracy and human rights around the world.

On the one hand, for the first time in 40 years a larger number of states move in a direction of authoritarianism than states making progress. In several countries, democratic principles and values are being threatened. Freedom of expression is declining. Space for civil society is shrinking. Discrimination persists.

Gender inequality is a violation of rights as well as a societal mistake. When women and girls are not given the same rights, representation or resources as men and boys, society is squandering human capital. No one stands to gain from excluding half of the population from the labour market, participating and making decisions.

On the other hand, there is also a positive development in the opposite direction. 

While human rights and democracy are questioned and eroding in places all over the world, people are rising to express their dissatisfaction. Asking for change. Holding their leaders to account. Rejecting occupation. Claiming their human rights. Rights that apply equally to everyone, everywhere and all the time.

This quest for transformation has been seen during the past year in Tunis, Caracas, Beirut, Baghdad, Yerevan, Tehran, Hong Kong and Santiago de Chile. Maybe due to the world being so connected at this point in history, young people are very knowledgeable about their human rights, which makes it increasingly difficult for governments to suppress their voices.

Sweden was one of the countries in the world to first appoint an Ambassador for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law. It is an expression of the absolute centrality of human rights in Swedish foreign policy. The protection and promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law are a cornerstone of Sweden’s foreign policy identity. It is the foundation for our engagement and our interaction with the outside world.

We note that Sweden, albeit a small country, is met with respect internationally. An important explanation is our consistency. Our greatest foreign policy asset is the fact that we have a foreign policy based on principles and values, rather than on narrow national interests that may vary over time. Regardless of the political colour of the government at any given time, Sweden stands up for international law and the rules-based international order.

On this basis, the monarchies and governments of Jordan and Sweden work hand in hand in several fields. We work for a rights-based peace in Israel and Palestine and lead international support for UNRWA. We collaborate for nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and a Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction. In partnership, we support youth and women in mediation and security matters.

No country is perfect. Development is never complete. Sweden is working hard to solve a range of problems in-house. In the field of democracy and human rights, advances must be pursued every day, every new generation must be won for the idea of democracy. We welcome the opportunity to cooperate with partners in Jordan for democracy, more transparency and accountability, better protection of human rights and stronger political parties for the benefit of the Kingdom and its people.


Erik Ullenhag is the ambassador of Sweden in Jordan. Annika Ben David is the ambassador for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law. They contributed this article to The Jordan Times

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