(Stockholm, 25 May 2021) Yesterday evening, more than 900 global participants convened in a virtual space for the third annual SIPRI Lecture. This year, the lecture was delivered by HE Dr Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State of the United States, followed by a distinguished panel. HE Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden, and HE Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, provided introductory remarks.
This year’s lecture was held on the theme, ‘Democracy in a Post-Covid World’, and was opened by Ambassador Jan Eliasson, Chair of the SIPRI Governing Board and former United Nations Deputy Secretary-General. Ambassador Eliasson paid tribute to HE Dr Albright for her lifelong career of public service as a ‘champion of democracy’ and an inspiring force for humanitarian action.
HE Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden, stressed that, in light of the democratic backsliding witnessed in the last decade, everybody must understand that ‘together we can make the case for democracy as the best form of governance for stability and development’.
HE Ann Linde, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, spoke of the importance of promoting gender equal societies in tandem with the drive for democracy. Linde also pointed to the opportunities of digital technology as an arena for democracy and the challenges associated with this development.
HE Dr Madeleine Albright began her lecture by stressing that although we are far from defeating the Covid-19 pandemic, we are already living in a world transformed by the virus and its aftershocks. While the pandemic has underscored the need for global cooperation, she pointed out that hyper-nationalist leaders have exploited the moment and embraced a go-it-alone attitude. She warned of the dangers of such nationalism and argued that Europe and the USA must work together to reinvigorate democracy and rebuild cooperation in international affairs. ‘Backing for democratic values must be the centrepiece of any strategy to create a more secure, stable, healthy and prosperous environment—the kind of setting in which all people can thrive’, concluded HE Dr Albright.
The lecture was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dan Smith, SIPRI Director.
HE Margot Wallström, former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, emphasized the need for a ‘modern democracy and a modern definition of democracy’, in which the investments we make today are intended to be long term for coming generations.
Dr Kevin Casas-Zamora, Secretary-General of International IDEA, drew attention to the adverse trends in freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the shrinking of the civic space in many countries. As International IDEA’s assessment of the state of democracy reveals, these negative trends predate the pandemic and have been exacerbated during it by governments invoking emergency powers.
Ambassador Jan Eliasson spoke of a need to ‘return to basics’, a return for the love of dialogue and diplomacy, harvesting the enormous power in women and girls and the potential of younger generations. ‘We must accept the world as it is but we must never forget the world as it should be’, he observed.
Dan Smith concluded the panel discussion by pointing out that, facing the challenges of today, ‘Cooperation is the new hard-headed realism’.
Summing up, HE Dr Albright pointed to the importance of having discussions such as the SIPRI Lecture in times of crisis. She pointed to the fragile but also the resilient nature of democracy and emphasized that, moving forward, we must focus on resilience now.
About the SIPRI Lecture
The SIPRI Lecture is an annual event focusing on major themes in peace and security. The event provides a platform for prominent global thought leaders sharing the values underpinning SIPRI, its research and other activities.
The inaugural SIPRI Lecture was held in May 2018 on the theme ‘Is the World on the Road to Peace or War?’ by HE Dr Hans Blix. The second SIPRI Lecture honoured HE Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and currently UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and covered key challenges to human rights, the sources of those challenges and the ways in which it is possible to address them.
For media requests, please contact Alexandra Manolache, SIPRI Communications Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, +46 76 628 61 33.
Photos and the video from the event will be made available on SIPRI’s website. Follow @SIPRIorg on Twitter. Live streams of previous editions of the lecture are available on SIPRI’s YouTube channel.