Op-ed: The Western world should stand strong together
As part of The Perspective op-ed series on all Swedish parliamentary parties, this text is a contribution by the Christian Democrats’ Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Lars Adaktusson, and does not necessarily reflect the views of UPF Lund and The Perspective.
Sweden must pursue a value-based foreign policy that respects human dignity and human rights first and foremost. The Christian Democrats’ ethos is that human dignity is universal. All people deserve a worthy existence and our moral responsibility to help others also includes fellow human beings in our world.
A foreign policy aimed at free and fair trade still needs to be combined with generous and effective assistance to those suffering from poverty or oppression. 2.1 billion people still lack access to clean water. Religious persecution is increasing and more people than in decades are now refugees. Sweden needs to get more countries to increase their aid so that more people have the opportunity to get out of poverty rather than having to flee but aid also needs to be redistributed to a greater extent in order to help those who have already fled.
In addition, the Christian Democrats are prepared to participate in more international efforts that can counter war, conflict and Islamist terror. Peace, security and stability are essential to effective long-term reconstruction and development work in both Africa and the Middle East. We believe that a Marshall Plan for the Middle East would be needed for people in the region to feel hope for the future again – but then security must also be guaranteed.
Generous Swedish aid must not be without conditions. Tougher demands for democratisation and respect for human rights need to be central components of all future trade and assistance agreements. Regimes that ignore the requirements must be dealt tangible consequences. Sweden should already withdraw assistance to the Palestinian Authority via UNRWA. The same applies to aid to Iraq – unless the Baghdad government immediately stops the ethnic cleansing of Christians in the Nineveh Plains.
Thus, in both words and deeds, Sweden must be prepared to defend freedom, democracy and human rights, and it becomes no less important as the world order changes. The influence from great powers – like the communist dictatorship in China – will continue to increase. At the same time, tensions are rising between countries as more and more states with authoritarian leaders show regional or global power ambitions. Examples of this are Russia’s expansion and the resultant violent war in Ukraine and Chinese aggressions. Iran’s state-funded terror, threats to Israel and proxy wars are other examples.
Clearly, as the US and Europe retreat, others quickly fill the void. Russia, China, Iran and Turkey have all advanced positions over the last ten years. The Christian Democrats believe that in the coming decade, the western world needs to step back and take up this leadership role again.
The transatlantic link needs to be strengthened both politically, economically and militarily. Sweden needs to apply for full membership of NATO, and we must ensure that the EU can speak as one strong and common voice in foreign policy. This is not so that the EU can counterbalance the US or NATO – but in order for it and the US to jointly meet future challenges.
The Western world should stand strong together.
Sweden is at its safest when the West is strongest. Only when the West is at its strongest on its good values – freedom, democracy and human rights – do we have the greatest chance to succeed in the world.