Aid money went to vote-hunt for Swedish place on UN Security Council
The Swedish government has covertly been using aid money in the campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. An independent foundation granted millions from the aid budget that the foreign office then used to pay restaurant visits, hotels and expensive air tickets for 27 UN ambassadors who will vote on the Swedish seat.
With a climate seminar as a pretext and a foundation as an intermediary, the Foreign Ministry invited 27 UN ambassadors on a free trip to Sweden. The ambassadors, representing poor island nations and developing countries in the third world, have one thing in common: they each have their vote when the UN General Assembly appoints the next members of the UN Security Council in June.
For Sweden to be allowed a seat on the UN Security Council is one of the government’s major foreign policy goals, as Stefan Löfven made clear in his government declaration when he took office as prime minister in autumn 2014. The UN ambassadors’ visit was previously publicized in the newspapers Expressen and Aftonbladet, but now The Daily News has revealed new details after reviewing over 100 e-mails from the Ministry’s staff for the election campaign. The e-mails show how staff planned in detail the ambassadors’ visit and how bills for millions were then forwarded to the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, DHF.
The foundation was created in 1962 to honour the memory of the Swedish Secretary-General of the United Nations who died in a plane crash in 1961. The foundation’s influence is great and last week the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in Stockholm at the its invitation to receive a medal and hold a lecture.
The foundation is independent, but in fact it is strongly linked to the government. Margot Wallström’s Cabinet Secretary Annika Söder was, until the autumn of 2014, the director of the foundation. In a proposition in August 2014, she submitted an application to the Ministry for a grant of 14 million SKR (1,714,099 USD). The application was granted in the summer of 2015, by which time Annika Söder had changed jobs and was the State Department’s top official and the foreign minister’s closest associate.
The grant was paid out on the orders of the Cabinet Office on stationery indicating that the cost would burden the budget for international aid whose mandate is “to create conditions for better living conditions for people living in poverty and oppression.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and DHF also signed an agreement by which the foundation undertakes to conduct operations in accordance with the three-year directive Annika Söder sent in when she was director of the foundation. The money was received by Annika Söder’s successor - the current director of the foundation, Henrik Hammar Branch.
While the Foreign Ministry decided on million dollar support for the continued planning of the UN ambassadors’ climate seminar in Sweden, the Ministry of Environment, which normally deals with climate change issues, was not in the loop.
Pushing for the visit were the Security unit’s campaign team and the Swedish Representation to the UN in New York. An employee at the Swedish UN in New York wrote an email to the election campaign headquarters in Stockholm telling how she had personally visited 28 ambassadors in order to get them to visit Sweden. These are also the ambassadors who will vote in June. “They vote however they want and are particularly interesting,” says an informant with good insight into the Ministry’s activities.
The head of the Security Council candidature, Niclas Kvarnström says that the UN ambassadors’ visit was a collaboration between the foundation and the Foreign Ministry. “How they spend their money, they decide themselves,” says Niclas Kvarnström. “I’m tempted to go in and explain why I think so, but it is up to the Dag Hammarskjold Fund to explain.”
To pay the travel and subsistence costs for other countries’ diplomats is rare. An informant describes it as “highly exceptional.”
MFA’s way of running the campaign for a seat on the Security Council, according to Daily News sources, led to internal discontent at the Foreign Ministry. Several officials have felt that the behaviour is not compatible with the Swedish tradition and it is clear that the climate seminar in fact was about the Security Council.
Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel greeted the UN Ambassadors
at the castle.