Against all odds

The news first reached me through a text-message from my youngest daughter: Terrible that Nelson Mandela has passed away.

It is.

She was born just before the dismantling of apartheid. We were there together, on Robben Island, seeing his prison and cell four years ago, guided by another former prisoner- one of the most moving experiences from our three years on that continent. South Africa might be geographically distant to Sweden but it is very close to our hearts.

Almost twenty years ago Deputy Prime Minister Bengt Westerberg was the Swedish representative at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as a President, and I got the opportunity to participate as well in my capacity as Mr Westerberg’s State Secretary. Two years earlier I was present during their meeting in my office in the Swedish Government Headquarters, Rosenbad.

These are memories of a lifetime.

The fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe was a dream that came true against all odds. The same can be said about the fall of apartheid.

It eventually became possible through the sacrifices made by so many individuals like Nelson Mandela devoting their lives to the liberation of their people. But obviously his legacy goes beyond that. He provided a kind of moral leadership that is so rare and so needed at the same time. He taught humanity something essential about the combination of rights, respect and reconciliation – paving the way for a society where tolerance and equality can prevail.

The world would need so many more leaders following his example.

Very few days are now remaining until Christmas which I will spend here in Warsaw together with my family for the third year in a row. My wife Karin and I really enjoy spending the holidays here – and luckily our daughters studying in Sweden feel the same. So they will join us quite soon.

But before Christmas vacation there is still a lot to be done. I will e.g. celebrate the Swedish Lucia tradition both in Gdańsk and in Warsaw this week. It actually started already yesterday with the Swedish school in Warsaw.

Tomorrow December 10th – which is both the Nobel day and the International Human Rights Day – will be devoted to different important topics including a conference on gender equality. And next Monday will take me to Katowice and the 32nd Anniversary of the killings during Martial law of striking workers from the Wujek coal mine.

In parallell we are of course constantly following the developments in Ukraine with greatest attention, deeply impressed not least by the strong popular support among Ukrainians for integration with Europe.











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