Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sweden - Not so Perfect

"A helping hand"

According to Newsweek, Sweden is the world's third best country to live in. Many thinks of the Swedish society as an idyll, and that for many good reasons; you can express your thoughts and feelings however you want, you can criticize the government openly, demonstrate against what you think is wrong. You can be openly bi- or homosexual, practice any religion you want to, have the right to form and join work unions. Marriage is not a necessity to form a family, nor is it an issue to be a single parent. Anyone can study at the university - and get a student's loan. If you get sick, you get sickness benefits. When you become a parent, you get parental allowance and if you loose your job you either get unemployment benefits or social assistance - you don't have to worry about becoming homeless or go hungry.

It's agreed that it's hard to find many societies as free and democratic as the Swedish, but to what cost? Mayhap Sweden is a paradise, but how are the government and major companies using this concept? I have listed a few publicly disclosures that may change your view of the perfectness of Sweden:

  • Lundin Oil is blamed for contributing to the vicious civil war in southern Sudan when they decided to explore and extract oil from an area called Block 5A, which triggered a bloody fight for control over the area between 1997 and 2003. The company is accused for knowing of the war crimes they have caused; ranging from mass rapes to people being forced to displacement.
  • Saab signs a 4,5 billion kronor deal with Saudi Arabia this fall. This specific deal was concerning advanced early warning radar systems. Military products were also sent in March, April and May, most of which were classified as combat material, which can include "missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, etc." A subsidiary, Saab Bofors Dynamics, were earlier in the year reported to have sold anti-tank missiles to the same country. “We’re talking about one of the world’s worst dictatorships. We can’t send weapons to dictatorships that should be buying food instead,” Green Party defence policy spokesperson Peter Rådberg says.
  • WikiLeaks publishes a document revealing Swedish weapons to be used in the war in Iraq, not only by Americans against the Iraqis, but also the other way around. WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, was denied recidence permit in Sweden earlier this year.
  • Furniture company IKEA are revealed to use child labour in the Philippines and Vietnam in 1997.
  • Managers from Scania, a truck making company, are charged for violating United Nations sanctions for being part of bribing the former Iraqi regime of Sadam Hussein. The bribes paid reached millions of Swedish kronor.
  • Atlas Copco Group is a mining equipment and services supplier that have been accused of repeatedly violating human and environmental rights and standards. "NGOs have charged that AGC has forcibly evicted, persecuted and killed local villagers, destroyed villages and destroyed water and agricultural land by discharging cyanide and other heavy metals." says OECD Watch.
  • Clothing giant H&M use certified organic cotton that isn't actually organic, making the company guilty of fraud. They also got a lot of criticizm for discarding unused clothing instead of giving it away to charity.
You can continue to dig and search for corruption and violations and certainly find whatever you're looking for and I'm aware of that this small list is somewhat to pull information out of it's context. But my point with this is that even though something seems good, even perfect, there is always room for improvement. This applies to everything in life and I think it's a good rule to live by; don't ever take things for granted.

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