April 19, 2017 – the UN Economic and Social Council issues press release announcing Saudi Arabia’s election to the Commission on the Status of Women.

April 22, 2017 – UN Watch publishes statement on its website condemning election of Saudi Arabia to Commission on the Status of Women: No Joke: UN Elects Saudi Arabia to Women’s Rights Commission.

In Sweden, the media published the story between April 24 and 25, 2017, reporting that Swedish parliamentarians challenged their government on its vote:

  • Göteborgs-Posten, a major daily Swedish newspaper, quoted UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer: “Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief.”
  • Expressen, a widely distributed evening tabloid also quoted Hillel Neuer: “At least 5 EU states voted FOR the Saudis.”
  • Borås Tidning, another Swedish daily quoted Hillel Neuer: “It is entirely up to the Swedish government to tell its citizens how it voted.”
  • The online magazine OmVärlden also quoted Hillel Neuer in its story.
  • Swedish parliamentarians demanded answers. On April 25, 2017, Swedish MP Sofia Arkelsten, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, submitted a written question to the government and Jan Björklund, Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party, also called for an explanation: “I hope it is not true that Sweden has voted Saudi Arabia to the UN Women Commission.”
  • On April 25, 2017, the government responds:
  • Prime Minister Stefan Löfven: “check with the Foreign Ministry”
  • Foreign Minister Margot Wallström wrote on Facebook: “The decision on how Sweden would act in the vote for the Women’s Commission last week was not something that was decided at the political level,” and stated that the government would reveal how it voted to the Foreign Policy Committee whose meetings are confidential.
  • Minister of Gender Equality Åsa Regnér said: “The UN is an organization of member states where everyone has an equal right to participate in the work of the organization.”
  • May 5, 2017: Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström defends the election of Saudi Arabia, saying: Swedish FM Margot Wallstrom was asked about the election of Saudi Arabia to the UN women’s rights commission. Her response (May 6, 2017): “In the Commission of the Status of Women are almost one fourth of all the countries in this world: there is also Russia, Belarus, Iran, Pakistan. And if we would have as a criteria that they have an ambitious policy when it comes to women’s rights, very few countries would actually take place there. If there is one place where they ought to be, to learn something about women, it is in the Commission on the Status of Women. If it was about the policies that they have at home, maybe only Finland and Sweden would be left in the Commission of the Status of Women. I don’t think it would be a good idea.”

 

Svenska Dagbladet: UD: Sju länder lade ner sin röst om Saudiarabien

Quoted UN Watch: 

Kritiken har också varit hård från till exempel människorättsorganisationen UN Watch som kallat det ”absurt” att saudierna ska kämpa mot kvinnoförtryck.

The Swedish Government and opposition parties: 

S-MP government has so far refused to reveal how Sweden acted in the vote because it concerned a closed vote. Foreign Minister Margot Wallström points out that the stance is not “settled at the political level,” according to a post on Facebook.

In an interview with Svenska Dagbladet explained Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog of Sweden normally follow the regions’ own nominations at the polls.

– We tend to respect the geographical group’s decision.

Liberals Party leader Jan Björklund has said it would “mean the collapse of the feminist foreign policy” if it turned out that Sweden has provided support to Saudi Arabia.

– I hope it is not true. Now you have to put the cards on the table.

According to previous statements by Margot Wallström, the government can reveal how Sweden voted in favor, but only for privacy at the next meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The State Department report that it found as many candidate countries in the Asian region’s nomination – Iraq, South Korea, Japan, Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia – as there are places in the Commission, and the outcome was also a foregone conclusion, according to the written reply to SvD’s issues :

“Nominations occurs by regional groups to ensure that all regions are represented in the various committees. The preparation of candidates takes place in the context of each regional group. It normally results, as in this case, in as many candidates as there are seats. Therefore, adoption groups’ proposals.”

Svenska Dagbladet: Wallström about Saudi elections: “It is completely unimportant”
Quoting UN Watch:

Människorättsorganisationen UN Watch ser det som ”absurt” att saudierna ska kämpa mot kvinnoförtryck i FN med tanke på kvinnors ställning i landet.

The Swedish Government and opposition parties: 

On Tuesday it emerged that Sweden continued to refuse to disclose how they voted when Saudi Arabia was elected to the UN Women’s Commission. Foreign Minister Margot Wallström told Svenska Dagbladet that “it is completely unimportant, and a pseudo-question”.

Gudrun Schyman is the spokesperson of Swedish political party Feminist Initiative:

Gudrun Schyman, who on Wednesday was on pre tour in Vastervik and Kalmar, is not impressed by the government’s position:

That it would be a non issue sounds strange. Instead, it is important that these key issues are discussed, says Gudrun Schyman.

Aftonbladet: The government refuses to talk about Saudi poll

The Swedish Government and opposition parties:

Sweden are members of ECOSOC, but the government has so far refused to reveal how they voted. Now one has to harsh criticism from the opposition.
– The government must put the cards on the table and tell us how Sweden voted. I hope it is not true that you voted in Saudi Arabia, the country with perhaps the absolutely grossest oppression of women, say the liberals Party leader Jan Björklund.

The government has only commented on the vote through a written statement from the Gender Equality Åsa Regnér.
“We note that Saudi Arabia has been nominated and elected to represent the geographical area, in accordance with the procedures of Women Commission. The UN is an organization made up of member states, where everyone has an equal right to participate in the work of the organization, “she wrote in an email to Aftonbladet

Expressen: Kritik mot FN-beslutet om Saudi: “Absurt”
Quoting UN Watch:

Det är oklart om Sverige röstade för eller emot Saudiarabien.

– Att låta Saudiarabien skydda kvinnors rättigheter är som att göra en pyroman till chef för brandkåren. Det är absurt, säger Hillel Neuer till den egna sajten.

Jan Björklund, leader of the Swedish Liberal Party: 

Liberals Party leader Jan Björklund wants answers as soon as the foreign minister Margot Wallström.

– The government must give notice. I hope it is not true that Sweden has voted on Saudi Arabia to the UN Women Commission.

We do not know yet?

– No, and I hope it is not true. However, an overwhelming majority of the voting countries made it. It is in danger direction. So now you have to put the cards on the table.

– The red-green government took a hard struggle to Sweden would enter the UN Security Council and an important argument was that it would spread Swedish values, says Jan Björklund and further:

– This would mean the collapse of the feminist foreign policy. It was severely tarnished after the veil in Iran, but this incomprehensible in that case.

Nyheter Idag: Saudiarabien invalda i FN:s kvinnorättskommission – Hur Sverige röstade är hemligstämplat
Quoting UN Watch:

Varje saudisk kvinna måste ha en manlig väktare som fattar alla beslut åt henne och kontrollerar hennes liv från födseln till döden, säger Hillel Neuer, verkställande direktör för människorättsorganisationen UN Watch.

GP: Saudiarabien invalt i FN:s kvinnokommission
Quoting UN Watch:

Att Saudiarabien har valts in möts av starkt kritik från den fristående organisationen UN Watch.

Att utse Saudiarabien till att försvara kvinnors rättigheter är som att utse en mordbrännare till stadens brandmästare, säger Hillel Neuer, verkställande direktör på UN Watch, i ett uttalande på organisationens hemsida.

Neuer kallar fortsatt valet av Saudiarabien för absurt och trycker bland annat på att det till exempel är förbjudet för kvinnor att köra bil i landet.

Quote from the Foreign Ministry:

“We note that Saudi Arabia has been nominated and elected to represent the geographical area, in accordance with the procedures of Women Commission. The UN is an organization made up of member states, where everyone has an equal right to participate in the work of the organization. Elections to the women, the Commission made in the regional groups that each Member state belongs. Sweden supports CSW important work and welcomes dialogue on gender issues and women’s rights. This is also true for Saudi Arabia,  says Åsa Regnér in a written comment to the GP.

Arbetaren: UD tyst om Saudiarabien i kvinnokommissionen
Quoting UN Watch:

Beslutet blev inte oväntat starkt kritiserat från kvinno- och människorättsorganisationer världen över och Hillel Neur, chef för organisationen UN Watch, beskriver det som ”att göra en pyroman till chef för stadens brandkår”.

Det svenska utrikesdepartementet har medgett att Sverige, som nyligen varit ordförande i FN:s säkerhetsråd och där regeringen säger sig föra en feministisk utrikespolitik, var med vid omröstningen men vägrar fortfarande tala om hur man röstade. Anledningen, menar UD, är att omröstningen var sluten. Men enligt UN Watch kan Sverige vara ett av de 15 demokratiska länder som röstat för.

Inte heller utrikesminister Margot Wallström vill tala om hur Sverige röstade, något som gjort att spekulationerna tagit ännu mer fart. Det finns nämligen, enligt UN Watch, ingenting som hindrar ett land att berätta hur de röstat i en sluten omröstning.

– Våra demokratier gör cyniska uppgörelser med diktaturer, något vi har sett i dokument som publiceras av Wikileaks. Där kunde vi se hur Saudiarabien gjorde upp med Storbritannien och Frankrike när det handlade om att bli invalt i FN:s råd för mänskliga rättigheter, säger Hillel Neuer i ett uttalande.

The Swedish Government:

Sweden has for a long time been selling arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia, and as recently as last fall Prime Minister Stefan Löfven refused to call the country a dictatorship.

I’m not going to put labels on the country, his response was faced with a large number of journalists in Brussels just before the controversial trip to the capital Riyadh.

Margot Wallström has for the last days critical announced via their Facebook page that she will inform the other parliamentary parties on how the voice was at the next meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

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