On 19 April, the Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD, Vasu Gounden, was invited by the Swedish Embassy in Pretoria to present at a one-day planning seminar on broader cooperation between South Africa and Sweden, in Gauteng. Since the end of the 1990’s South Africa and Sweden have been developing a broader cooperation based on mutual interests and shared responsibilities in a number of areas and sectors.
This process was further strengthened by the formation of a Bi-national Commission (BNC) in 2000. Under the BNC, collaboration has been initiated in areas of: police-sector reform; municipal development; economic cooperation; and, peace and security in Africa, in addition to ongoing development cooperation.
The main purpose of the seminar was to reflect on the practical experiences and lessons learned to this point, and to share these with a number of key stakeholders from Sweden and South Africa. The aim was to gain new insights that would help to explore new (and existing) opportunities for broader cooperation. The seminar brought together representatives from different levels from both countries, ranging from the political level via the facilitating agencies (such as Sida, Embassies, National Treasury, etc) to the implementing partners. Among those attending were representatives from the South African Department of Foreign Affairs, the South African National Treasury, the South African Department of Trade and Industry, and the South African Police Services. Also included were Sweden representatives from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sida, the Swedish Embassies in Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zambia, and South Africa, the Swedish Trade Council, the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, Uppsala University, and the Swedish National Police Board.
The seminar was segmented to focus on areas looking at: (1) an introduction and background to the broader cooperation between South Africa and Sweden; (2) broader partnerships with their origin in traditional development cooperation; (3) recent and emerging partnerships; and, (4) future challenges. Mr Gounden and Professor Thomas Ohlson, from the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, made a joint presentation under the “Emerging Partnerships” session on the collaboration between ACCORD, Uppsala University and the Nordic African Institute (NAI), that ranges from research and joint publications to exchange visits and teaching/training courses.
Mr Gounden also held discussions with Ambassador Bo Göransson, the former Director General of Sida who is currently responsible for drafting an update of Sweden’s policy towards sub-Saharan Africa.
Sida is one of ACCORD’s larger donors, and contributes substantially to ACCORD’s activities on the continent of Africa. In 1996, as part of ACCORD’s International Youth Programme for Peace, Development and Reconciliation, a training was conducted in Durban, South Africa, that brought together youth from Burundi, Sweden and KwaZulu Natal to train them in life and business skills. Over the years, ACCORD has worked with the Swedish Defence College on training courses related to ACCORD’s Peace and Security Unit, and in 2004 ACCORD worked with the South African Representative Office and Sida, based in Palestine, to present workshops on South Africa’s negotiation process. In March 2006 ACCORD was invited by Sida to host the first two days of their biannual, strategic Africa conference (as the focus of the conference was on conflict resolution and post conflict reconstruction in Africa). In December 2006 Vasu Gounden was one of three African analysts/commentators invited by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be a resource person at a roundtable discussion on the new Swedish Policy for Global Development, to give a perspective from the South. Mr Gounden is also a resource person to the Folke Bernadotte Academy on their courses focusing on “Facilitation of Dialogue Processes and Mediation Efforts” that has included training for Staff of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs. In 2007 Mr Gounden was invited by the Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria to participate in an exploratory Security Sector Reform (SSR) meeting, which is a pre-meeting to a bilateral seminar to be hosted by the Swedish National Defence College (SNDC) in Stockholm in June 2007. ACCORD then hosted members of the delegation, headed by Mikael Wilhelmsson, the Administrative Director at the Department for Security and Strategic Studies at the SNDC, at ACCORD House where they met with ACCORD staff and learnt more about ACCORD’s current and future SSR activities.