Every first week of July, Sweden’s public sphere relocates to Visby on Gotland for the so-called Almedalsveckan. There, activists, journalists, interested citizens and politicians hobnob at sundry seminars, meetings and speeches, dealing with a wealth of themes. Best described as a ”Political Woodstock festival”, the week is an outstanding opportunity to launch discussions and present themes to an interested and well-informed public.

This year, the Institute of Latin American Studies, in accordance with its mission to promote discussion regarding current affairs in Latin America, organised two seminars during the week.

One was a co-arrangement with the Swedish-Chilean culture institute (Schik), and dealt with the experience of the diplomat Harald Edelstam, whose personal bravery and commitment saved hundreds of persons from detention and possible assassination during the coup d’état in Chile in 1973. On the basis of this example, the seminar asked what possibilities there are in today’s world of international diplomacy for similar personal initiatives and acts of heroism. Moderated by the journalist David Isakson, a panel that contained Fredrik Uggla from the Institute of Latin American Studies, also talked about whether acts of solidarity are more common in certain geographic regions than in others, as well as discussing parallels to similar heroism displayed persons such as Elsa Brändström and Raoul Wallenberg. In all, it was a relevant and interesting seminar, which unfortunately did not draw a larger audience (possibly because it coincided with a seminar on a similar theme featuring Anders Kompass).

Catrin Åkerblom from the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR) talks about cooperation between Swedish and Colombian universities at the second seminar. In the background (left-right) Jonas Borglin, Stefan Åström, Emma Nilenfors, Magnus Linton and Bo Forsberg
Catrin Åkerblom from the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR) talks about cooperation between Swedish and Colombian universities at the second seminar. In the background (left-right) Jonas Borglin, Stefan Åström, Emma Nilenfors, Magnus Linton and Bo Forsberg

In contrast, the second seminar organised by the Institute, this time together with the Colombian Network, was packed. Coming only a few days after news of the impending peace agreement in Colombia, the seminar asked what Sweden could contribute to ensuring a durable peace in Colombia, and what Sweden’s future role in the country should be. The panel was moderated by Magnus Linton, and included representatives from Swedish NGOs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as from representatives from Swedish authorities (EKN, FBA), businesses (NIR) and universities (UHR). Discussions dwelt on the possible obstacles to a durable peace, and how these could be overcome. But apart from such immediate concerns, the seminar also raised the question of if and how Sweden’s role in Colombia could change in the future as focus may move from consolidating the peace agreements to more general development issues.

Finally, the Institute would like to express its gratitude to the Colombia Network (Claudia Polo), the Swedish-Chilean Cultural Institute (Eva Zetterberg), the moderators (David Isaksson and Magnus Linton), the panellists (Elenore Kanter, Catrine Åkerblom, Emma Nilenfors, Bo Forsberg, Jonas Borglin, Claes Nordström and Stefan Åström, and – above all - the audiences!