In January 2023, Sweden established a new Institute for Human Rights.

In May 2023, a number of representatives for organisations working with and for Human Rights, delivered an open letter to the Prime Minister of Sweden, Mr Ulf Kristersson.

Ingvar Rönnbäck, founder of and chair of Another Development Foundation, was one of those who signed the open letter, together with more than 50 representatives for Human Rights organisations.

This is letter:

Stockholm on 2 May 2023

To Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson

Dear Ulf Kristersson,

The countries of the world have together, through the UN, created a comprehensive catalog of human rights. Sweden has joined most of the MR conventions and thus has an obligation to also comply with the regulations. The new Institute for Human Rights has an important task to ensure that Sweden seriously and concretely promotes, respects and protects human rights.

On April 20-21, the Swedish government organized an international conference on human rights in times of crisis. Several visitors praised our country for its work on human rights, including the establishment – by law 2021:642 – of the Institute for Human Rights. The establishment of such an authority has been recommended by several review committees and is based on the Paris Principles, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993.

The Institute for Human Rights, which began operations in January 2022, is a strategic investment for long-term work for human rights. This work follows from international commitments and should not be dependent on the composition of governments or priorities. We, the undersigned organizations, expect the Swedish government to comply with these commitments, allocate the necessary funds and work to ensure that the MR institute is given constitutional protection.

The Institute for Human Rights has a broad mandate to promote the enforcement of human rights. The institute is not an authority among others, but an independent institution that complements the state and civil society in the examination and realization of human rights. According to law, the institute must also fulfill the tasks that follow from Article 33 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, that is to promote, protect and monitor Sweden’s implementation of the same convention. Sweden has undertaken to establish such a mechanism in connection with the ratification.

During its presidency of the EU, Sweden has taken a position that each member state should:

  • establish an institution in accordance with the UN’s Paris Principles
  • adopt a regulatory framework that enables the institution to act independently of the country’s government
  • provide the institution with a suitable mission and sufficient means to carry out its tasks effectively.

It is an important position which of course also applies to the member country Sweden. As the chair country, Sweden has also deservedly identified democratic values and the principles of the rule of law as a priority area.

Within the framework of foreign policy and development cooperation, Sweden has for a long time taken great responsibility for strengthening the work with human rights in other countries. The government has stated the ambition that human rights should continue to be fundamental to foreign policy. It is of great importance for Sweden’s credibility that the government continues to have high ambitions for human rights work in Sweden as well.

At the conference on human rights in crisis, it was stated that today, in times of increased questioning of the principles of the rule of law, democratic regression and intolerance, it is more important than ever to guard the rights that guarantee the inviolability, freedom and dignity of the individual. More people are exposed to violations of fundamental freedoms and rights, above all in connection with crises. An important conclusion of the conference is that independent national institutions for human rights are a tool to counteract this development.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The government’s work to strengthen democracy must be based on the protection of fundamental freedoms and rights. In such work, a national human rights institution in line with international requirements and the UN’s Paris Principles plays a central role. The institute stands for a necessary holistic perspective and offers support to raise the level of knowledge of authorities and other relevant social actors about what human freedoms and rights mean in practice. The MR institution is a unique tool that can coordinately promote different areas of rights that are highlighted in the government declaration.

We are calling for a clear position and announcement from the Prime Minister that the Institute for Human Rights in its current form and with undiminished resources will be able to continue its important work.

Link to the letter in Swedish, with all signatures be representatives for Human Rights organisations: