Interview with Helen Clark at SEI policy dialogue

Photo credit: Aina Eriksson / SEI

Agenda 2030

In March, Sweden’s 2030-delegation delivered its report to the Riksdag, noting that while Sweden might be ahead of other countries, it has only delivered a small number of the UNs 17 global goals. Even on climate change, an area where Sweden has proclaimed itself a leader, the country has much to do, as demonstrated by the publication of the first report from the Swedish Climate Policy Council (Klimatpolitiska rådet), an advisory body to the Riksdag, which called loudly for further policy initiatives.

Policy dialogue on climate action and the SDGs

Last week, Mundus International attended a seminar at the Stockholm Environment Institute co-hosted by the New Zealand Embassy in Sweden. The seminar and policy dialogue featured Helen Clark, the former New Zealand Prime Minister, who led the United Nations Development Programme between 2009 and 2017. The Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation, Peter Eriksson, and HE Ambassador Andrew Jenks delivered the opening remarks.

A panel consisting of SEI Deputy Director Åsa Persson, Inger Buxton, Deputy Head of Department at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and Karin Isaksson, Senior Policy Specialist Environment and Climate, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), discussed raising the level of ambition on climate action and how these efforts can go hand-in-hand with implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “We are at a critical point in time, where we have a 10-year frame window to fundamentally change the development pathway globally. It is very positive that more actors are recognizing the need to look at urgent climate transitions and the SDGs together, so we don’t undermine either set of goals,” said SEI Deputy Director Åsa Persson.

The participants’ views on how to catalyse development can be heard from about the 46 minute mark of this video.

After the seminar, Mundus International sat down with Ms Clark, in order to better understand the UNs agenda. Bringing her dual leadership experiences to bear, she was firm in her belief that while it was the UNs role to develop the framework, countries needed to take responsibility to drive agendas. The UN also had a role in providing reporting at country level, making it possible for countries to scrutinise other’s progress. Asked about what Sweden needed to be doing, Ms Clark responded simply, “keep going”.

Taming the beast of “weaponised social media”

We took the chance to move briefly off topic, and collect her view of the response to the Christchurch massacre, committed against Muslim civilians in New Zealand mosque by an Australian gunman. The attack was live-streamed unhindered by Facebook, together with the gunman’s white-nationalist manifesto. In response, both countries are now considering laws that hold “big tech” to account in aiding the spread of hate speech. The New York Times has an excellent write-up of the initiatives down under. Underlining the need for such constraints, Ms Clark provided a very recent example of a Twitter troll who accused her and New Zealand of staging the massacre. Ms Clark complained to Twitter, asking the company to remove the Tweet. Twitter replied that the tweet did not breech their community standards. So, she raised the matter with a Sunday Times journalist. Only after the journalist contacted Twitter’s management did the company shutdown the troll’s account. (Editor’s Note: It would seem obvious to us that more needs to be done to reign-in big tech)

About the speakers

Helen Clarkwas the Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999 to 2008. Ms Clark was the first woman to lead the United Nations Development Programme between 2009 and 2017. Ms Clark continues to be highly engaged in issues across the sustainable development spectrum from gender equality and women’s leadership to climate action, health, open government, peace and justice.

Peter Eriksson (MP) is the Minister for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Sweden. He most recently served as Minister for Housing and Digital Development. Before that he has been a member of the European parliament, the chairman of the committee of the constitution of the Swedish parliament and spokesperson and party leader for the Swedish green party.

HE Ambassador Andrew Jenkswas appointed Ambassador to Sweden in October 2018. He was previously Ambassador to Spain. Andrew is a career diplomat. Since joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1993, he has had overseas assignments in Ottawa, Jakarta, Paris and Spain.

In Wellington, he has split his time between working on international environmental law, trade law, trade and economic policy, and trade negotiations. In 2002-2004, he took a leave of absence in order to live in Stockholm, where he worked as a trade policy consultant and for the Swedish Government on trade policy issues.

Dr Åsa Perssonis Deputy Director and Research Director at Stockholm Environment Institute. As Research Director, she leads the work of the SEI Global Research Committee, which develops and oversees SEI’s core-funded research. Dr Persson is also a member of the SEI Executive Team.

Her recent research has focused on global governance, including the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the global governance dimensions of climate change adaptation, and the planetary boundaries framework. Through her research, she has provided advice and commissioned reports to many organizations, like the UN, OECD, the European Commission and the Swedish government.

Inger Buxton is a career diplomat and the Deputy Head of the Global Agenda Department in the SwedishMinistry for Foreign Affairs, responsible for the coordination of the international implementation of the 2030 Agenda, climate finance, energy, water and oceans issues, the Feminist foreign policy as well as the multilateral development banks.

Buxton chairs the Sponsoring Partners meetings for the Global Water Partnership as well as the special research programme at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs and sits on the board of Mistra Geopolitics. Prior to that, Inger was the head of the Euro-Atlantic Division at the Department for Security and has worked on crisis management and conflict prevention in different capacities for the Swedish MFA, the EU Commission, Sida, SIPRI and Save the Children.

Karin Isaksson is a Senior Policy Specialist Environment and Climate at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), with aspecific focus on policy and method development in the sector of natural resource development and environment in relation to poverty issues, gender mainstreaming, participatory methodologies and engagement with civil society. She also provides policy support to Sida HQ and their field offices and lead strategic analysis related to climate and environmental issues such as green growth, SDGs, gender, health and sustainable livelihoods.

Isaksson has professional experience from Africa and South East Asia, working for organisations such as FAO, EU (DG Development), SENSA, Swedish Environmental Secretariat for Asia in Bangkok and most recently International Labour Organization; green jobs and just transition.

Stockholm Environment Instituteis an international non-profit research and policy organisation that tackles environment and development challenges. SEI connect science and decision-making to develop solutions for a sustainable future for all. Across our eight centres in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, we engage with policy processes, development action and business practice throughout the world.