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UN expert hails Sweden as role model for human rights-based international aid and solidarity

GENEVA / STOCKHOLM (1 May 2018) – A UN human rights expert has commended Sweden for its approach to human rights-based international solidarity, while saying there is still some room for improvement.

“Sweden is one of the few countries to contribute as immensely, actively and efficiently to human rights-based international solidarity through its advocacy role and financial support for international cooperation and humanitarian aid, with civil society organizations and others playing a significant role,” said Obiora C Okafor, the UN Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity.

In a statement at the end of a five-day visit to Sweden, Mr. Okafor praised the Government for its commitment to supporting the concept of international solidarity, especially by rethinking ways of addressing the many current and global challenges facing societies around the world. 

“I welcome Sweden’s commitment to working jointly and respectfully with other countries and peoples to find ways to address the serious challenges in the labour market around the world and enable all people to benefit from globalization,” the expert said.

"Sweden has an exceptional potential to help advance gender equality and empower women and girls around the world in its exemplary role as the first country to have a ‘feminist foreign policy’,” Mr. Okafor suggested.

During his visit, the Independent Expert collected first-hand information and examples of good practice which he believed were advancing the country’s human rights-based international approach. These included Sweden’s work on the global issues of climate change, migration and international refugee crises.

However, Mr. Okafor believed there was still room for Sweden to improve.  He urged the Government in Stockholm to review some of its border regulations and to step up its commitment to a more sustainable and environment friendly future. He also believed there should be more effective measures to monitor progress towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Mr. Okafor also emphasised that people who act in a humanitarian way to come to the aid of refugees and asylum-seekers in need, including unaccompanied children, should not be criminalized.

The expert pointed out that Sweden was one of the few countries to meet and even exceed the United Nations target for Official Development Assistance. Together with a robust social welfare system, this meant the country was in a relatively good position to promote human rights-based international solidarity, he added.

Mr. Okafor will present a report of his findings and recommendations to a forthcoming session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva

(*) Check the Independent Expert’s full end-of-mission statement in English 


Mr. Obiora C. Okafor was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the independent expert on human rights and international solidarity in June 2017. He assumed his functions on 1 August 2017. He is professor at the York Research Chair in International and Transnational Legal Studies (Senior Tier) and a tenured Full Professor of Law at the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, Toronto, Canada. He is also a former Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.

Read the Independent Expert’s reports to the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council here.

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Sweden

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Claire Mathellié: +41 22 917 91 51 (in Geneva, before and after the visit) / cmathellie@ohchr.org) or iesolidarity@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 /jlaurence@ohchr.org)

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights:www.standup4humanrights.org