Swedish Press exclusive interview with Annika Rembe, the Director General of the Swedish Institute
"I believe working together is in our genes."
What are the areas in which you feel Sweden currently contributes most globally?
Globalisation, urbanisation and digitalisation are all global trends that bring with them both challenges and possibilities and I believe there are big opportunities for a country like Sweden to contribute to creating solutions to the challenges. These areas, as well as the climate issue, are those in which I feel Sweden can really play a part, though of course no country or organisation can solve these problems alone but rather through collaboration and information sharing.
How do you think Sweden has achieved the success it has, despite being such a small country, population-wise?
Sweden has a long tradition in these areas, as well as in the life sciences, healthcare, public health and care of the elderly, building on our society’s traditions of human rights, democracy and gender equality. If we look back 150 years or so, Sweden was an extremely poor, rural society. We have achieved success through a combination of innovative and progressive entrepreneurship, a government with a strong commitment to education for all and the practical consideration of an effective infrastructure that was established early on to connect a vast country with a small population. We needed to collaborate in order to survive and I believe working together is in our genes.
What do you see as being the most exciting areas of development and innovation in Sweden right now?
Some of the most exciting areas of innovation at the moment are the new ways of using IT and the Internet. We are starting to see increased knowledge-sharing between sectors and creative ways of using technology, for example taking experiences and technologies we have from the huge gaming sector and applying them to solutions for problems such as an ageing population and climate change.
What aspects of Swedish life and culture are you personally most passionate about promoting internationally?
For me personally, gender equality is one of the most important issues worldwide and it’s an area in which we have valuable experiences and a willingness to be part of the solution. In a recent project called African Cinderella, the Ghana National Theater and the Swedish National Touring Theatre (Riksteatern), supported by SI, visited Nigeria and Ghana and put on a play about rights for women and children. Culture can be a great tool for opening up discussions in a way that doesn’t always work government to government.
Are there any current or upcoming projects involving Sweden and the US you would particularly like to mention?
Of course, the relationship between Sweden and the US has always been a very important one, in terms of both trade and cultural exchange. This year we have a number of exciting events in the US, including participation in House of Sweden’s theme of earth and space, Try Swedish at South by South West in March and celebrations around the 100 year anniversary of Ingrid Bergman’s birth in August. We work a great deal with Swedish language education in US universities and we attract numerous American students to Sweden each year. When young people get to experience another country and its culture first-hand, it’s a really wonderful way for them to interact and start to understand and communicate different ideas and values.