Margot Wallström was born on 28 September 1954 in Sweden. She entered politics shortly after graduating from high school in 1973. She worked as an Ombudsman for the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League. Then, in 1979, she was elected as a Member of the Swedish Parliament where she served for six years.
Her ministerial career began in 1988 when she was appointed as Minister of Civil Affairs – Consumer Affairs, Women and Youth (1988-1991). She later served as Minister of Culture (1994-1996) and Social Affairs (1996-1998).
In 1998, she retired from Swedish politics to become Executive Vice-President of Worldview Global Media – an NGO based in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The following year she was appointed as Member of the European Commission, under President Romano Prodi, and given responsibility for EU environmental policy.
In 2004, when the Barroso Commission took office, she became Commission Vice- President with responsibility for Inter-institutional Relations and Communication.
Margot Wallström has received honorary doctorates from Chalmers University, Sweden (2001), Mälardalen University, Sweden (2004) and the University of Massachusetts, Lowell (2005).
Other distinctions include being voted "Commissioner of the Year" by the European Voice newspaper in 2002.
In 2004, together with Göran Färm, Member of the European Parliament, she published the book “The People’s Europe or Why is it so hard to love the EU?” (“Folkens Europa eller Varför är det så svårt att älska EU?”).
In 2010, she was appointed U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Question: What is the solution to this crisis?
Margot Wallström: There is no quick solution to all of this, but I want, of course, the Security Council to use all the tools available to them, including sanctions. Looking at whether we can put perpetrators to justice and to put them on their lists.
I want the government in the DRC and everywhere where this is a problem, it’s not only an African problem, to take this seriously, also to do everything they can to ensure that we put an end to impunity, to address the problem of impunity and also to assist the women; to empower women, to make sure that they have a voice and a seat at the table where decisions are made.
So there are a number of things that the U.N. has to ensure that in peacekeeping operations that we can protect the civilians and that means women. That we have to look at the best ways to protect civilians.
Question: What are possible solutions beyond peacekeepers?
Margot Wallström: Well, we are contacted by a lot of people that have great ideas about... to equip women with everything from sort of small weapons that could help them to defend themselves to the communication gadgets, you know, that they can warn other women, that they can call for help, etc. And I think everything is worth testing, you know. We have to do everything... but the thing is, it should not fall on the women to actually also have to sort of physically defend themselves. It is also a response. It’s not a women’s issue, this is a peace and security issue. And we have to make sure that we go after the perpetrators. So I would put much more focus on finding the perpetrators and punishing them, to close every exit, every possible career possibility for these guys so that they know there is no mercy for rapists.
Recorded on October 17, 2010
Interviewed by John Cookson