The Swedish Institute – a visitors program for distribution of the Swedish example

The Swedish Institute (SI) has several assignments to promote Sweden internationally. Culture, society, education, economy, democracy and global development comes to mind. The Swedish Institute’s work against human trading and prostitution is very important to us. We have posed some questions to the project leader of the mission, Ulrika Rosvall Levin.

1. Can you briefly describe The Swedish Institute’s assignments and how you implemented them?

The Swedish Institute has been ordered by the government to further develop and create visitor’s programs for key actors from other countries who wish to study the work done in Sweden in preventing and fighting prostitution and trade with human beings for sexual purposes. Furthermore, SI will implement information activities and presentations in other countries, to give perspective and background to the work done in Sweden.

The purpose of the project is to distribute the Swedish view and methods when dealing with prostitution and human trading for sexual purposes internationally. All work is done with clear gender mainstreaming. The visitors programs and the information activities abroad are mainly about conferences and seminars which SI organizes, in collaboration with international partners.

The plan of action (2008-2010) was for SI to spread ”the Swedish example” globally, but with the extension of this assignment (January 2011) there is now a geographic focus on Europe and its neighbors. The purpose is to keep the discussion about the problems active and strengthen the European cooperation on these matters.

A documentation SI developed; ”Targeting the sex buyer. The Swedish Example: Stopping prostitution and trafficking where it all begins.” is available in English, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. It contains the collected Swedish initiatives, perspectives and ideas dealing with the work against prostitution and human trade for sexual purposes.

2. What do you consider to be the biggest challenges in your work with exchanging experience and distributing knowledge?

One of the most important parts of our organization is to exchange experience with international actors. One of the goals is to increase awareness of how Sweden works with issues like human trading and prostitution, underlying perspectives, methods etc. and creating collaborations and relations with local actors within the justice system, NGOs and/or current departments/ministries. A good collaboration increases the likelihood of reaching relevant people who are interested in increasing the exchange of knowledge and discussions about this matter and thus, they can share their experiences with those of us who work on these matters in Sweden.

Finding good collaborators and creating good relations is often time-consuming, but also crucial for success when trying to improve the experience exchange and dialog between Swedish and international key actors in this area.

3. Are there any good examples of ”processes” initiated due to SI’s efforts? What results has the work given?

The Swedish Institute has noted that the activities create a forum for the exchange of experience and information among the partners. Good potential has been made to increase the dialog between key actors, enlighten and discuss measures and initiatives made in the countries participating, as well as establishing good contact with relevant actors in the future. We can provide several concrete examples of further contact and cooperation between Swedish and international key actors who have been a part of our activities – especially about issues regarding the work against human trading.

SI’s mission is primarily about working on attitudes or rather, changing of attitudes. That is something which always needs to be put in a long-term perspective. By creating good relations with our partners/international key actors and by having a mutual open debate about these issues I can see that SI’s mission together with other initiatives and efforts has increased the interest in “the Swedish example” in Europe (and elsewhere). This is evident with the increased interest in serious and meaningful discussions with our Swedish key actors about prostitution and sex purchases.

The project’s activities appeal to experts, higher civil servants and other people working within this field. Priority groups consist of the judicial system (police, prosecutors, judges), social agencies (both public and NGOs) and experts/decision-makers from concerned ministries. Other experts work in the research field (regarding human trade specifically, human rights and work with equality). Journalists and other opinion-makers are also important to distribute information.

All of SI’s activities are made in close collaboration with a number of Swedish actors and experts on the matter such as the police, public prosecutors, social agencies, NGOs, researchers and other relevant key actors. There is a particular focus on the Swedish work with equality, as the lack of equality stands as a large part of the problem. We use experts who can relate to the problems with prostitution and human trade in a gender perspective.

4. What is important when working to distribute knowledge of the sex trade law to those countries who have an expansive or normalized market for prostitution and/or even made it legal?

To clearly but diplomatically provide information on how Sweden works with these issues and to emphasize underlying perspectives to the legislation. To show that our work and activities are a matter of knowledge reciprocation where we learn from each other’s experiences – Sweden doesn’t have all the answers. Give plenty of time and space for dialog and discussions which often lead to an increased involvement and more questions about “the Swedish example”. We see this as a very positive result from our activities.

Ulrika Rosvall Levin,Program Manager, The Swedish Institute

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