Interview with Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden
In 2019, the Government of Sweden contributed regular resources of USD 13.05 million to UN Women. In addition, the Government, through the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), contributed USD 43.09 million in other resources support—bringing its overall 2019 contribution to approximately USD 56.14 million and making Sweden UN Women’s second largest funding partner. In an interview, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation Peter Eriksson, explains why his Government believes UN Women’s work is such an important priority for its multilateral aid.
Why is UN Women a good fit for channelling your development assistance?
I am a minister in a feminist government. I am a SheDecides Champion. I work in a ministry guided by a feminist foreign policy. Rights, representation and resources are the bedrock of this policy. They are the bedrock of our pursuit of gender equality.
UN Women is a natural key partner for us. It is a forerunner for gender equality at all levels – global, regional and national – and within the UN system itself. We have been one of UN Women’s strongest supporters, politically and financially, since it was established 10 years ago. We fully support its triple mandate granting its normative, coordination and operational roles. We appreciate UN Women’s strong support of women’s rights organisations, which play a key role in advancing gender equality and in strengthening women’s and girls’ enjoyment of human rights. In this regard, access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for all is a priority. We also welcome UN Women’s work on advocacy and accountability, its thought leadership on gender equality, its empowerment of women and girls, and its work for women’s meaningful participation and leadership at all levels, in all spheres, of society. Close cooperation with other UN agencies is also key.
Why is gender equality important to your Government?
Gender equality is ultimately a question of human rights and democracy. Making every voice heard, making everyone count, and granting everyone the same rights – that is what making sure no one is left behind is all about.
All women and men must simply have the same opportunities and power to shape society and their own lives. This includes the power and right of every person to decide over his or her own body, sexuality and reproduction. Gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment enable and drive sustainable and peaceful development. It is also economically smart, and helps build more resilient and peaceful societies.
Achieving global sustainable development and the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda is impossible without gender equality.
How do women’s empowerment and gender equality feature in your multilateral aid policy?
Gender equality has been integrated in our development cooperation policy for decades. It is one of the focus areas of our current overall policy framework. It has a given place in several specific policies and strategies that guide our multilateral development cooperation. These include our feminist foreign policy, its annual action plan and our multilateral development policy.
Swedish multilateral cooperation has a dual objective: to achieve the greatest possible effect in the Government’s priority areas – including gender equality and the empowerment of women – and strengthen the multilateral system and the normative and operational work of multilateral organisations, to which gender equality is central.
Sweden has a strong history of support to UN Women, through both core and non-core funding, but being particularly strong on core. Why is core funding important for Sweden?
Sweden lives up to its UN Funding Compact commitments. UN Member States pledge to provide flexible and predictable funding to the UN in return for accelerated results on the ground, transparency and accountability. The ultimate objective is the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Core funding is the backbone of the UN system and its organisations. It enables strategic work and quality assurance, and allows for efficiency and flexibility in the delivery of resources – when and where they are needed most.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a case in point. It exacerbates inequalities for women and girls, and has a disproportionate impact on their access to essential health services, including sexual and reproductive health services. As the COVID-19 crisis emerged, core funding reportedly made it possible for UN Women and others to pivot their resources in the field and at their headquarters to help in the response. Besides programmatic action, they could, for example, also contribute through coordination, guidance and advocacy. We welcome the fact that UN Women has been a leader in driving gender mainstreaming in the COVID-19 response and recovery – from its work to promote protection for Rohingya women and girls from COVID-19 impacts to engaging OECD members in building gender considerations into stimulus packages. Regular resources have ensured that UN Women has been able to fulfil its triple mandate – even in times of crisis.