In our InBox - a letter from a special friend, of Nordstjernan, and America, as well as Swedish America, recollections from a long career in the USA and looking into the uncertain year of 2009.
Dear Friends in Swedish America,
My wife Kerstin and I have spent most of our overseas diplomatic life in the United States. We were in Washington D.C. 1970-74 as First Secretary couple and 2000-2005 in the Ambassador’s residence on Nebraska Avenue. We also spent six years in New York when I served at the United Nations.
If you add to this that I was an American Field Service high school exchange student in Indiana, you understand that the American roots are deep and firmly grounded. So much so, that our family already has an American branch. Our daughter Anna lives in Washington D.C. with her family and is Vice President of the think-tank Atlantic Council.
After our recent happy five years in Washington my wife Kerstin returned to Sweden as State Secretary for Education and I went to New York to serve as President of the UN General Assembly. After a short stint as Minister for Foreign Affairs in Sweden I was offered - after the Swedish election in the fall of 2006 - to be the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Darfur.
I spent 18 months trying to get the political process under way so that the long- suffering people of Darfur finally would live in peace. The mediation made some progress in 2007, but developments took a negative turn about a year ago - and peace turned elusive. There simply was not enough political will for serious negotiations. A mediator is like a man bringing the horses to the water-hole. You may succeed - but were you ever able to force the horses to drink?
The world is now in turmoil. Continued extreme poverty in Africa and conflicts raging in Congo and the Horn of Africa. Tensions are high in Afghanistan and the Indian sub-continent. And the Middle East situation is like an infected wound in world politics.
Over and beyond this, the financial chaos and economic recession are now affecting the whole world in ever starker terms. Let us hope that confidence can be restored and that the economic wheels finally can start turning again.
However, we would make a serious mistake if we did not use this recession to learn lessons and draw consequences from what now has struck us and the world.
We need to develop early warning signals which are respected and heeded. We need to put an end to thinking in short-term, “quarterly”, cycles both in economic and political life. We must also learn to work together across borders and professional lines. And we should have an ethical revival and be aware of the dangers of the deadly sins, not least greed.
Let us hope - and we have reason to do so - that the new Administration of the United States will work in this spirit. And let us also hope that Europe - through the European Union, of which Sweden is a member - will move in the same direction.
This could lay the foundation for a new transatlantic agenda, which also includes global responsibilities for the planet and its inhabitants. This would be my New Year’s wish. If realized, hope could turn into realities in today’s world.
With best wishes,
Jan Eliasson Ambassador, Africa Department, Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Jan Eliasson, former Swedish Ambassador to the US, President of the UN General Assembly, Minister for Foreign Affairs in Sweden; presently serving as the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Darfur. Photo: Henrik Olund.