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The Nordic countries’ friendship with Tanzania remains strong in times of trial

Op-Ed by the Nordic Ambassadors to Tanzania: Ms. Mette Nørgaard Dissing-Spandet (Denmark),Mrs. Riitta Swan (Finland), Ms. Elisabeth Jacobsen (Norway), Mr. Anders Sjöberg (Sweden)

Nordic Week celebrates the diversifying relationship between the Nordic countries and Tanzania. Nordic Week 2020 will focus on multilateral cooperation, the environment, human rights, gender equality and private sector development.

One of the great legacies of Mwalimu Nyerere was bringing together a large, culturally rich and diverse nation, and creating the foundation for lasting peace. When Mwalimu visited the Nordic countries shortly after United Republic of Tanzania’s independence, his beliefs in community and solidarity, inclusion across differences, and service to the greater public good, resonated strongly in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. More than 55 years of cooperation and close friendship followed—a legacy the Nordic countries take immense pride in.

For the Nordic countries, the values of solidarity, equal rights and mutual respect lay at the heart of our engagement with Africa. Nordic support to the African liberation struggles was a logical consequence of this commitment. Today, these same values underpin our considerable international engagement centered around the achievements of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In engaging other countries, we believe in listening, respecting differences and in meeting as equals. As international institutions and values are under threat from growing global unilateralism, we must come together to protect and strengthen international law, human rights and democracy. 

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact across the globe. Many people have lost their loved ones, and the world economy is suffering greatly. It has been essential for the Nordic countries to maintain our commitment to development in Africa and elsewhere during these challenging times, while scaling up our support to health and education, and alleviating the impact on the poorest and most vulnerable through programs such as TASAF/PSSN.  Immediate support to keep economies afloat is important, as are longer-term efforts to reignite economic growth.

Can we support a recovery that is greener and more sustainable? Key among other global challenges that leaders face today are preserving our oceans and forests, and mitigating and adapting to the impact of climate change—impacts that  will be devastating for all of us unless we act now. Climate action is among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are an essential blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. We owe it to future generations to make sure that the planet is on a sustainable footing. The Nordic countries are committed to their share of the responsibility in implementing these goals, home and abroad.  If we are to achieve these goals, the whole world needs to pull together.

Pulling together does not just mean strengthening cooperation among countries. If we are to eradicate poverty we need the private sector to create jobs and help grow our economies. We need investors that respect environmental and social standards, and are willing to pay taxes. That is why partnership with the private sector is included in the Sustainable Development Goals. For Tanzania, as for other countries, the right business environment will attract the right type of investors. Companies that are willing to invest in the long-term development of a country and its people need predictability and transparency in solving disputes and in the application of taxes and regulations. Nordic companies have invested significantly in Tanzania, created many jobs and paid substantial taxes, and they stand ready to invest more.

We believe a commonality between Tanzania and the Nordic countries is the belief that social conflict and disagreements can be solved through dialogue and compromise, peacefully and on the basis of mutual respect. This has served our countries well in the past. Mwalimu Nyerere’s emphasis on equal rights, including the right to take part in government, and in freedom of speech, became enshrined in the Arusha Declaration. As Tanzania approaches general elections, these values become even more important.

Governments operate more effectively when they have the trust of their people, not the least during times of crisis. We believe transparency and openness are essential to achieve that trust. All governments stand to benefit from the perspectives that an informed and outspoken public and media can provide. 

Informed and open public debate is especially important in addressing the challenges facing our societies. The discrimination of women has been a regrettable legacy of all our countries, and the efforts to right this wrong must continue unabated. Empowering women and girls and achieving gender equality is crucial for accelerating sustainable development.  No single factor has contributed more to economic growth in the Nordic countries in the past 50 years than the inclusion of women in the labor market. Clearly, ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men to education and health, to inheritance and property, to family planning and child care, and to remain free from violence and abuse, is not only about rights and justice. It also one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty and grow our economies.  

This week we celebrate Nordic Week in Tanzania. We will focus on multilateral cooperation, human rights and gender equality, the environment, job creation through private sector investment and culture. We do this to celebrate our friendship with Tanzania and to renew our commitment to the Tanzanian people during these challenging times. The Nordic countries will stand shoulder to shoulder with Tanzania in good times and bad, as we have done in the past.