The Concluding Meeting of the 29th OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum was held on 9–10 September in Prague. During the meeting, Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde – who in 2021 is also the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office – stated that Sweden intends to present a draft Ministerial Council decision on women’s economic empowerment that will be negotiated during the autumn. If the decision is adopted, it will represent a very successful outcome for Sweden’s Chairpersonship and provide a good backdrop for the concluding Ministerial Council to be held in Stockholm on 2–3 December. At the same time, taking decisions in the OSCE represents a challenge, as important decisions in the organisation are taken by consensus.
Strong engagement but different views on gender equality issues in the OSCE
The discussions at the meeting in Prague showed that several OSCE participating States are strongly engaged in the issue. Countries from different parts of the OSCE region highlighted different aspects of women’s economic empowerment – everything from the significance of gender-sensitive legislation and gender-responsive budgeting to the importance of reducing the gender digital divide. At the same time, the discussions revealed differing views on certain issues, such as the role of women in the family and how the term ‘gender equality’ should be defined.
Economic gender equality – a clear Swedish priority
Economic gender equality is a central area for Sweden’s feminist Government, its feminist foreign policy and during its OSCE Chairpersonship in 2021. This priority was clear in Ms Linde’s opening address in Prague, which she held in her capacity as OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. In her address, she emphasised the importance of countries’ mainstreaming a gender perspective into their COVID-19 recovery and promoting stronger economic gender equality, as many women have been hit very hard financially during the pandemic.
Sweden’s priorities for women’s economic empowerment are based in part on Sweden’s engagement in a global Action Coalition on economic gender equality which was initiated by the UN. For the next five years, Sweden will have a leading role in the Coalition, together with other countries and actors. Issues that Sweden is pursuing in the Coalition include economic reforms for gender equality, efforts against discriminatory legislation, gender equality in the labour market and feminist trade policy.
Environmental issues also addressed at the meeting
In connection with the meeting, Sweden was also able to highlight the work related to environmental issues carried out during the year. At the instructions of the Swedish Chairpersonship, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) produced a study on how the OSCE’s climate security efforts can be strengthened, which the Chairpersonship intends to continue to build on. During the autumn, Sweden will also present a draft Ministerial Council decision on environment and security and on climate and security.