Aid money went to vote-hunt for Swedish place on UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

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.

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