Presentations, Foreign Office & Parliament – 26/5 & 27/5

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Thursday 26th of May

After our vocational days on Thursday, we met at the Hotel Hellsten to attend a meeting of the Stockholm International Rotary Club.  This is a different type of club to many that we have visited throughout the trip.  There is no meal accompanying the meeting, which is conducted entirely in English.  This wasn’t just for our benefit either – among other rules including “no bragging,” members are “fined” for speaking Swedish, with proceeds going to Polio Plus.

Many of the women in the club were also wearing hats, having come to the meeting directly from a hat party they had attended.  After giving our presentation, we presented the president with her very own Australian flag cap – see the photo of all the hats below!  Stockholm International RC also has a website: http://sirc-webspace.spaces.live.com.

After the meeting, we ate at an Italian restaurant around the corner.  The food was delicious!

Friday 27th May

The next day, we gave our presentation for the final time, at a meeting of the Stockholm Strand Rotary Club.  We had a great breakfast, and again received many compliments on the presentation.  It was so strange to do our final presentation and realise how close we are to the end of our time in Sweden.  It’s gone so quickly!

After the meeting, we visited the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, where we met with Sten Engdahl, Deputy Director of the Department for Multilateral Development Cooperation.  It was a very interesting meeting, and we all learnt a huge amount about the Ministry’s responsibilities, which include:

  • Foreign and security policy
  • International law and human rights policies
  • Development cooperation
  • Trade policies
  • Assisting Swedes abroad
  • Trade, investment and promotion of Sweden abroad

It was particularly interesting to hear about Sten’s department.  “Multilateral” development means that Sweden works with a number of countries and organisations, including the European Union, the United Nations and the World Bank, to achieve development goals.  Each country brings its own strengths to the table to allow change at the biggest possible level.  This also allows recipient countries to do the most with the funds they are given, as they have time to use them, rather than meeting individually with each country or organisation.

Sweden contributes 1% of its gross national income each year to development and foreign aid, which equates to around 30 billion kroner, or around $5 billion; well above the UN standard.

We also learnt about the ways that the Ministry works within the European Union, and with the Swedish Parliament, before heading to the Parliament itself.

At the Parliament, we had a happy reunion with Jessika Vilhelmsson, who organised our GSE program in Enköping and was also Maxine’s host mother.  Jessika is a Member of Parliament for the Moderate Party, and sits on the Tax Committee.  She gave us a tour of the Parliament, and we learnt a lot of interesting facts, including the following:

  •  The Swedish Parliament has 349 elected Members, who serve four-year terms
  • The Social Democrats have the largest number of Members
  • There are fifteen different committees, each of around 17 Members, the most important of which are the Finance Committee and the Tax Committee

Jessika also included a visit to her own office, and the rooftop of the building, neither of which the regular tour groups get to see.  Each Member has his/her own office, and there are also sleeping rooms available for those who live more than 45km away.  Some Members from remote parts of Sweden live in the Parliament during the week, while others from closer regions can’t always get home at night, as sessions can finish as late as 11pm.  There is also a restaurant, gym and swimming pool.

Thanks Jessika for a great afternoon, and for teaching us so much about your work!  It was great to see you again.

David then spent the evening with Urs Göbel while the four girls had dinner with members of the local Rotaract Club.  I arrived fairly late, after hearing film director David Fincher speak at Filmhuset, but it was a great evening and we enjoyed spending time with the members.  It was also get to know Malin Berge, who is one of the team members coming to South Australia in October as part of Sweden’s GSE team.  We’re all really looking forward to hosting her and the rest of the team in Australia.

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