Human rights and democracy, a Swedish perspective

”Human rights (defending) is the compass to steer democracy” seemed to be the mantra at the end of the day, in today’s interaction at Stockholm, in an event organised by Swedish Institute.

Of the many, interesting events organised by SI for scholarship holders, this was one I wanted to be part of. The event included a visit to the Sverige Riksdag (Swedish Parliament), an insight into the functioning of their parliament and an interaction with the political advisor to the Swedish minister for EU affairs and democracy.

The Riksdag

During my last trip to Stockholm, I had only briefly seen the parliament building and this time I was looking forward to be inside it. As it would emerge later on, the Riksdag is centred around the principle of transparency, and the public galleries are open to the general public during parliament sessions. Not just that, the transcripts of sessions (shorter versions in English too), results of committee meetings, results of voting are all by the Fundamental Law made public, and freely accessible to people.

After understanding some more history of the parliamentary system in Sweden, during the guided tour, it did give another insight into the country I seem to be slowly understanding.

Not because it is the parliament, even otherwise the Riksdag is a place to visit, even from a tourist perspective, but interest in history and politics will only enrich the experience of visiting the place.

View from the public gallery in the Sverige Riksdag

View from the public gallery in the Sverige Riksdag

The workshop

As I stated in the beginning, this event was primarily a workshop on human rights and democracy. Intention of the workshop was to represent the challenges different countries are facing in defending human rights, and making democracy more effective. With representatives from about 20 countries, the platform was projected to be a discussion forum, which due to insufficient time was not entirely utilised is my opinion.

The political advisor to the ”most trouble making woman” in Sweden due to her politics,, the Minister for EU affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson was the convenor of sorts who presented the work broadly done by Sweden at various strata to defend human rights,  and to ensure effective democracy within Sweden, and in the European Union.

While this blog platform might not be the best to express my observations, or commentary on Swedish politics or even to evaluate the opinions generated in today’s interaction, I will leave that discourse for a post in my personal blog, by just commenting that it is of course sophisticated and sometimes even the aspiring vanguards can fail, unintentionally or otherwise.

The round table discussion at the Rosenbad

The round table discussion at the Rosenbad

We were able to spend about two hours in this interaction, which did not seem adequate, but as our SI coordinator put it ”They have a country to run”, and our curiosity will be addressed through other means. In the end, the time spent there was well spent, giving deeper and broader insight of aspects on certain pressing issues within Sweden, in the European Union and rest of the world.

After the workshop, an adhoc visit to an interesting organisation International IDEA  (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) was arranged. By the look of it, and with the basic reading I could do already on them their intent, based on their own goals is to support democratic reform. The literature churned out of the organisation, looks like more of a practitioners guide book to building democracy and better electoral process.

At the end of the workshop, to repitively experience the emphasis Sweden places in wanting to defend human rights, and to safeguarding democracy, I was probing for the reason. For instance, I cannot imagine India, as yet, to look at these aspects as countries like Sweden look at it. And I tend to agree with the following excerpts as one of the many reasons, from Andrew Brown’s book Fishing in Utopia.

”There is a deeper connection, which might help to explain why some of the most pacifist and well-organised states in history emerged from the rubble of an exceptionally militaristic continent. The kinds of discipline and self-discipline that make a peaceful welfare state possible are themselves the characterestics that made for success in wars between nation states.”


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