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Sweden Is up for its Universal Periodic Review

As Sweden is up for the Universal Periodic Review on 27 January, the Swedish Section of WILPF submitted a report to this process.

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WILPF International Secretariat
23 January 2020

Since 1996 Sweden has had gender equality as a priority in its development and aid policy. In addition, the Swedish government adopted a feminist foreign policy in 2014 and also announced that they are “the world’s first feminist government to ensure that a gender perspective is included in the policy formulation on a broad front, both in national and international work.”

Sweden has had gender equality as a main priority for a long time, and in this aspect has done a lot of good things to strengthen women’s rights in the country and globally. However, we, unfortunately, see that parallel to these efforts, other undertakings directly counters the work of supporting human rights, in particular women’s rights.

The clearest example of this is Sweden’s export of arms and military equipment. This continues to be of great concern in regards to its potential effects in terms of fuelling armed conflict and contributing to or facilitating human rights violations.

Cover of WILPF's "Sweden submission to the Universal Periodic Review"

From peace to arms export

Sweden was the fifteenth largest arms exporter in 2014-2018. The recipients include countries with serious and widespread human rights violations as well as weak accountability mechanisms to stop and prevent such violations. 

According to the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), 24% of Sweden’s military equipment exports went to non-democratic countries in 2018, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey and Thailand. The criterion of democracy is significant in the Swedish context since a country’s democratic status was included in the new arms exporting law that entered into force in April 2018.

In addition to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, in 2018 Sweden exported arms to Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, all involved in the armed conflict in Yemen. Sweden also sells arms to Pakistan and India, which have been in conflict over the Kashmir region since 1947. The Swedish Erieye surveillance radar systems may, for example, have been used by Pakistan in an  air strike with the Indian Air Force in Kashmir.

Sweden needs to fully implement its feminist foreign policy

A feminist foreign policy and feminist government cannot only address issues such as development and human rights when the focus is to change something elsewhere and when it is of no cost to your own country. A feminist foreign policy must also challenge the power structures and norms in domestic policy and how Sweden’s actions affects the world.

This means, for example, taking responsibility for Sweden’s exterritorial human rights obligations. Promotion of human rights and the feminist foreign policy cannot be ignored when it does not fit within a state’s national interests.

WILPF Sweden report to the Universal Periodic Review

As Sweden is up for the Universal Periodic Review on 27 January, the Swedish Section of WILPF submitted a report to this process. 

The submission highlights four main issues with the following recommendations to Sweden:

  1. Nuclear weapons
  • sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)
  1. Swedish arms trade
  • Fully and immediately stop all arms transfers to all countries involved in the Yemen conflict, including follow-up deliveries.
  • Include in its assessments on arms exports: the recipient countries’ national implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and subsequent related resolutions, including NGO reports assessing such implementation; reports and recommendations from international and regional human rights bodies, e.g. Special Rapporteur on violence against women; countries’ and NGOs’  reports to the CEDAW Committee and other treaty bodies; reports from relevant UN agencies.
  1. Implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and subsequent related resolutions
  • Strengthen its implementation of the Women, Peace and Security  agenda by including a focus on national context and policies, such as in Swedish arms exports.
  • Re-establish earmarked funds for civil society to implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
  1. Regulation of Swedish companies
  • Adopt legislation on mandatory human rights due diligence for Swedish companies that takes into account a gender-responsive perspective.

Read the full submission to see the entire analysis and all recommendations.

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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