As part of his official visit to Qatar, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, H.E. Per Olsson Fridh, made a visit to GU-Q, where he was a featured guest at an interview session attended by students, faculty, and staff. With moderation by Dr. Gerd Nonneman, Professor of International Relations and Gulf Studies, the discussion touched on a range of topics, from the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, to the agenda of the upcoming COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, to the lessons of the pandemic.
Stressing the urgent need for the world to confront deep parallel crises, including poverty, rising conflict, and a shrinking democratic space, the minister focused on climate change as the single most pressing issue of our time, and the greatest threat to human health and security. Climate change is already here, he said, and in some cases, irreversible. He warned that a tipping point was fast approaching, but that through collective action, the international community could still change the future course of climate change.
“For our students of international relations, this opportunity to engage with a senior government official involved in decision making that directly impacts global affairs was invaluable. It was a great way for them to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of foreign relations in an uncertain time,” said Dr. Nonneman, adding: “It was especially gratifying to be able to host someone of this caliber for an in-person senior speaker event after 20 months of Covid constraints.”
The minister detailed Sweden’s climate policy framework, the most important climate reform in Sweden’s history, and its ambitious goal of achieving zero net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045. He noted that major investments in renewable energy, among other strategies, would be needed to meet this goal, but that it was possible without sacrificing quality of life.
His comments also focused on Afghanistan, and the looming humanitarian crisis as a result of the U.S. withdrawal and the halting of development assistance from many countries and multilateral institutions under the new regime. While Sweden is a member of the EU block that halted joint aid, the minister said the country was working on rechanneling those funds directly to Afghan civil society groups and through the U.N., and hoped to set an example for other countries. He also praised Qatar for providing a much-needed channel of dialogue for indirect engagement with the Taliban government for countries that had severed diplomatic ties.
The subsequent question and answer session with students and faculty picked up on these themes, while also taking in the Green Party’s stance on nuclear power, Sweden’s upcoming elections, and the country’s participation in the upcoming Qatar FIFA World Cup. The COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference will be hosted by the U.K. in partnership with Italy, from October 31, to November 12, 2021 in Glasgow, UK. The conference, initially slated for November 2020, was rescheduled in response to the worldwide effects of the pandemic.
Source: Georgetown University