Like many other European societies, Sweden faces challenges related to social exclusion and integration. In 2014, Interpeace launched a pilot project to explore whether Interpeace’s approach could help to address the emerging tensions in the suburbs of Stockholm in Tensta.
The district of Tensta is a suburb of Stockholm that is home to a large number of immigrants. It experienced social unrest and protests in 2012 and 2013. Young people took an active part, demanding that their voices be heard. These incidents brought to light a significant gap between people with an immigrant background and other Swedes. Many Swedes perceive Tensta as one of the most dangerous areas in the country, and it is often portrayed negatively in the media. Its residents, however, are proud to live in such a multicultural and diverse environment. This gap in perception has become an obstacle to social cohesion.
The pilot project, called Change for Tensta, engaged residents and members of local government and civil society in a process to better understand the sources of tension and to identify options to address them. A report and video capture the hopes and dreams of the residents.
Building on the Change for Tensta initiative and the insights it yielded, Interpeace launched a project seeking to assist Swedish society in promoting a more inclusive culture. Through consultations in different areas of Sweden and a public engagement strategy, the ‘We are Sverige’ initiative sheds light on what inclusion means to various local communities and explores how all Swedes can contribute to making their society more inclusive.
In 2017, Interpeace launched the project “Hear me out! – A platform for young voices”. A pilot workshop series focusing on 1) democratic participation and engagement; 2) effective communication; and 3) dialogue between youth, the police, local authorities and influencers was implemented in the fall of 2017. Following the first capacity building workshops and dialogue session between youth and decision-makers and authorities, 75% of youth reported being more comfortable in presenting their ideas and opinions and 44% of youth reported increased trust in engaging with the police as a result of the workshops. These results are highly encouraging in a context where youth often feel mistrust towards state authorities and excluded from constructive decision-making processes.
Additionally, in 2017, Interpeace’s Sweden programme deepened its relationship with Swedish government agencies working on overseas development assistance (ODA) and drew on its international experience working with youth to position Interpeace as an internationally-connected organization with specific expertise in the YPS agenda. Interpeace was also invited by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) to contribute to the development of their new strategy on human rights and the rule of law. Collecting inputs from other Interpeace programmes such as Palestine and the Great Lakes, the Sweden team were able to provide feedback on what Sweden had done well in these contexts and what could be improved.