State Secretary Per Olsson Fridh

Per Olsson Fridh is State Secretary with responsibility for the Swedish Government's international work on Agenda 2030.


Per Olsson Fridh: It will be difficult to achieve the goals in Agenda 2030

Sweden has a stated ambition to be a world leader in achieving the global goals in Agenda 2030, in Sweden and globally. So what is Sweden doing to, for example, eradicate poverty and fight climate change in the world? FUF and Concord received an interview with State Secretary Per Olsson Fridh.

Now there are only ten years left until they 17 global goals for sustainable development must be met. So how far has the world come in achieving its goals? Is it possible to eradicate poverty in ten years and how should goal conflicts between the various global goals be handled? And above all, what is Sweden doing to ensure that Agenda 2030 is implemented internationally?

Per Olsson Fridh is State Secretary with responsibility for the Swedish Government's international work on Agenda 2030. In the following interview, Per Olsson Fridh develops some of the reasoning presented during FUF's breakfast seminar on April 17 with questions from CONCORD's Sofia Svarfvar and Lennart Wohlgemuth from FUF.

During the breakfast talk, you said that you do not believe that all the global goals will be achieved by 2030. Can you develop that? Are there any specific goals that you think are more difficult to achieve?

There are several things that indicate that it will be difficult to achieve the agenda as a whole. The implementation of the agenda is threatened by cross-cutting challenges and negative trends worldwide. Climate change, growing inequality, conflict and the threat to democracy are examples of challenges that risk undermining our progress in achieving Agenda 2030 as a whole.

In the report Global Sustainable Development Report presented by a group of researchers in September 2019 pointed to a slowdown in the pace of implementation. This is not about an individual goal, but about the world risking not living up to the sustainability agenda as a whole.

We need to tackle the global challenges in a way that adds value to the fulfillment of several of the goals. The integrated agenda is an opportunity, but creates great complexity in implementation because global and local decisions and efforts must be linked.

Sweden's policy for global development (PGU) means that all policy areas (from trade to environmental and labor market policies) must work together to achieve sustainable global development. During the breakfast discussion, you did not touch on PGU and how a coherent policy is a prerequisite for the implementation of Agenda 2030. Was it conscious?

It was not an imaginary choice not to mention cohesion policy and PGU in this context. It is of course incredibly important also in the future. Since 2003, Sweden has had a goal of coherence in Sweden's policy for global development and that goal largely corresponds to the integrated goals that exist within Agenda 2030. By the summer, the Government intends to present a bill for how Sweden will work with the implementation of Agenda 2030 both nationally and internationally. Since the PGU goal and Agenda 2030 are closely linked, this needs to be reflected in the bill.

Coherence policy has a clear focus on rights-based development and local ownership, and our ambition is that this will continue to shape the direction of the policy also in the light of Agenda 2030. Cohesion policy must be permeated by the basic principle in Agenda 2030 that no one should be left out.

Sweden takes a clear stand for gender equality, human rights and the rights of LGBTQ people. How do you view the balance between local ownership over valuation issues and Sweden's own priorities in these areas?

The importance of local ownership is clearly reflected in the principles of development assistance as expressed in both our own and the global governing documents. It is a prerequisite for its implementation.

At the same time, fundamental values ​​about human rights, democracy, the rule of law, gender equality and the rights of LGBTQ people are expressed in the mandates of the multilateral organizations' funds and programs, as well as in Sweden's own policy for development cooperation. Normative work is thus a common global interest.

Depending on the context, however, it may be easier or more difficult to agree on the significance of these areas and the pace at which development should proceed within, for example, gender equality work. As donors and partners in development cooperation, we must always be able to stand for what we carry out together with actors in the recipient country.

How should Sweden implement dialogue with countries that do not prioritize issues such as gender equality and human rights when we ourselves have taken such a strong stand for them in our development cooperation?

Development cooperation also provides a basis for a diplomatic dialogue on issues beyond the projects being implemented. In cases where the recipient country's government or regime is not interested in cooperating on the rule of law, human rights or increased equality, Sweden may seek partners in that country other than the state institutions. Then we must also look at whether it is possible to cooperate with state actors in other areas such as health, education or environmental and climate issues. Here we have to make an assessment from case to case.

By using Agenda 2030 as a tool in our conversations with other countries, we can promote both issues of principle on human rights and contribute to strengthened local ownership. Sweden consistently pursues a rights and a gender equality perspective in all foreign and development policy.

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