Newsletter Editorial, April 2011

Sweden, Africa and solidarity

by  Linnéa Bergholm, Researcher at NAI

Sweden’s contribution to NATO’s intervention in Libya may seriously harm its relations with the African Union (AU). Providing Swedish fighter jets is a misconceived and disingenuous attempt to stand up for humanitarian ideals. Instead, Sweden’s Africa policy ought to be informed by genuine solidarity and commitment to long-term development in Africa. Sweden ought to take a lead in policies to strengthen partnerships between the EU, the UN and the AU. In this respect, the Swedish government should actively promote a more democratic UN, in which Africa is afforded a seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The decisions of NATO’s lead states about where to drop bombs will have consequences for Sweden’s standing and influence in the Middle East and Africa. Significantly, a number of Arabic and African states hold the view that the US, France and the UK have acted outside the legal parameters of UN Security Council resolution 1973. In addition to enforcing a no fly-zone to save Benghazi, these Western nations have also bombed other targets, most controversially including Gadaffi’s palace in Tripoli. South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria did support resolution 1973 in their capacity as non-permanent UN Security Council members. They have nonetheless been highly critical of how ‘generously’ the resolution has been interpreted.

Sweden should:

  • Take initiatives to foster multilateral agreement as the intervention proceeds.
  • Support the proposals of the Arab League and the AU regarding a ceasefire and political reforms at the earliest possible date.
  • Ask NATO for transparency regarding the intervention’s purposes, tactics and scale.

The view that the implementation of a no fly-zone over Libya is an expression of solidarity rests on a dangerously narrow definition of solidarity. Sweden’s solidarity with the peoples of Africa is better shown through effective and long-term development policy, trade rules and diplomatic relations. Sweden should rethink and renew its commitment on key issues, including its stance on EU-Africa trade policy, the UN focus on preventive diplomacy and reform of the UN Security Council. Sweden should reaffirm its position that developing countries require a more effective say in the UN Security Council, and perhaps also back Africa’s quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

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