Utrikespolitiska Föreningen Göteborg logotyp
Utrikespolitiska Föreningen Göteborg logotyp

We are a politically independent association with the ambition to create interest and to spread knowledge about foreign policy issues. Learn more about us.

Board, Fun, The Organization - Friday, June 9th, 2017

Say hello to Rebecca Hartill, Secretary of the Society of International Affairs!

What made you want to be the secretary of UF?

Rebecca: Well, I´ve thought about becoming an active member of UF since I started university in 2015. I´ve always gone to the Society´s lectures and events and last semester I finally got around to applying. I suppose I applied for secretary because I wanted to have experience of working in a presidium of a non-for-profit organisation. The most valuable experience so far being to write protocols, since it gives me the opportunity to write formal documents in English.


Tell us a bit about your background in general and your interest in international affairs?

As a political science student I suppose I must say I´m from a working-class background. My mum´s from west Sweden, and dad´s from Derbyshire, England. Before going to university, I worked for a few years. I never really planned to do a degree, one day when I was fed up with work I sort of half-heartedly applied for a three-year course for a B.Sc. in political science. And here I am, super in love with the academic fields I´ve chosen, currently studying my last semester in economics before I write my thesis. I´m not sure why I´m so into international affairs… I´ve just always been interested in politics, since I was a kid. When I was little I also used to be very fascinated by other cultures and languages. I´d like sit and turn the pages of our atlas at home or pretend I spoke Russian or something like that. So, I suppose my interest in IA has just kind of always been there in the back of my head, even though I haven´t acted on it until recently.


Donald Trump recently announced that the United States will pull away from the Paris Agreement. What are your thoughts on this matter and what are your best tips for sustainable living?

Well, to be honest, I´m not sure I really know enough about the details around the Paris Agreement to say anything substantial. I think, of course, that the US president is making a huge mistake. But that’s neither a surprising answer nor very interesting. I think a US default might be a turning point for who dominates globally. I have a book at home by Martin Jacques titled “When China rules the world”. I haven´t read it yet but when I walked past my bookshelf the other day and spotted it I thought that Mr Trump has sparked just this, a Chinese led world order.


I also think that the narrative or discourse or whatever one wants to call it, in mainstream media and even in academia (as much as I´ve read at least), has a very narrow perspective on how to cope with climate change and how to create sustainable living. The focus is all too often on state cohesion and how states or other international and supranational organisations must subdue capitalist markets. However, I have never read a single article on how consumer power can, at least in theory, alter markets completely. Basic micro economic theory suggests that producers supply what consumers demand. Now, I´m not suggesting altered consumer demand is the answer to all problems related to climate change. I am however suggesting that sustainable living to a certain extent starts with the individual consumer.


Who is your favourite movie villain and why?

That’s a difficult question. I have several villains I´m slightly fascinated by. Hans Landa, Bellatrix Lestrange, the Joker and Hannibal Lecter are all villains I´d like to have dinner with if I could, given that my physical safety could be guaranteed, of course; I guess I simply find them intriguing. But if I had to pick, I´d pick Hans Landa. For one thing, I think Christoph Waltz does such a terrific job playing the character and also, he´s just so sneaky, you never know what he´ll be up to next.


What are you looking forward to this summer?

I suppose I´m looking forward to the thing all residents of Sweden look forward to; temperatures above + 10 degrees Celsius, more than 4 hours of sunlight and green surroundings. I´ve also had some books for a while waiting to be read, I´m looking forward to reading them.

Board, Committees, Fun, The Organization - Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Say hello to Arash Bolouri, the representative of our umbrella organization, the Swedish Association of International Affairs (SAIA).


Congrats on your new position as Vice President of the Swedish Association of International Affairs! Tell us a little bit about what your tasks as Vice President will be and what it was that made you want to represent SAIA at first?

Arash: I want to sincerely thank the electoral meeting of 2017 in Örebro for electing me as the next Vice President of SAIA. I am humbled by the confidence that I will be able to lead and represent our members in the presidium. As Vice President I will do my very outmost to support the President in the management of the presidium and the national board. There are a lot of tasks that I would like to mention here, but to be short I will present a few tasks. During my mandate period I will act as contact person for the projects managers and the member associations. I will also assist the project managers/member associations in the work, if necessary.


To answer the question of why I want to represent SAIA, I would like to emphasize that I am proud and honoured to be part of this association. Since foreign affairs have played a great role in my life and many others, I know how much the knowledge of foreign affairs is vital for the foundation of society as a whole and because of that, I am mostly dedicated to the purpose of this organization along with the participation of all the members and associates.


What is the most important international issue at the moment, in your opinion?

I would probably say lack of democracy. Without democracy, it will be difficult to deal with other issues that challenge both human beings and our planet. In regions that lack democratic rights and institutions, resources are spent on warfare and sultan palaces, while the population in that same region cannot afford medicine for their children. On the other hand, we can see undemocratic movements emerge in regions with the most developed democratic institutions and rights. I am aware of that I present a simplified picture of today’s reality. However, my point is that we should on an international level focus on subjects that threaten democracy.


If you could find out anything you wanted just by asking – Who would you ask and what would the question be?

The question would be: How can we create an everlasting peace on the planet? However, I do not know who I would ask.


Tell us about a secret talent of yours?

That was a difficult question! Hmm… I always strive to make others feel comfortable, that’s probably why I smile often. Maybe that’s my secret talent?

Board, Committees, Fun, The Organization - Sunday, May 21st, 2017

It is time to introduce Selma Aalachi, one of our two heads of the Event Committee!

Why did you want to be head of the event committee?

Selma: Ever since I began my studies at the university I’ve wanted to become more engaged in the Society of International Affairs, and finally, I decided to take matters into my own hands! As Head of Event I’m able to combine my interest in foreign affairs with my love for organizing events and my (almost unhealthy but I’m working on it) need to have control. I believe that organizations like the Society of International Affairs are more needed now than ever. The ambition of the organization is to be a place where people from various courses, nationalities and interests can meet to broaden their knowledge about various international and global issues as well as other countries’ culture, population, religion and political systems. By being Head of Event I have not only gotten the opportunity to grow in my field of interest or to share a few interesting views and opinions, exchange experiences with like-minded people but also meet people from all over the world.


What are your three favourite topics in international affairs?

Post Colonialism, Middle East and Women’s rights.


You recently came back from the UF trip to Skopje, Macedonia, a trip that you were part of arranging. What are your thoughts after the trip regarding the country, the politics etc?

We arranged the trip to Skopje, Macedonia — also known as FYROM, or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia — because I believe that we can learn a lot from this small Balkan state and its years of turmoil. For this time of political tensions, the focus for the trip – peace process and development – felt very assertive. When visiting different organizations and institutions in Skopje it felt as if they really wanted us to be there. They wanted us to know about the political situation in their country, what had led to it but also that among all the desperation there is hope. Even though the people in Macedonia have not had a functioning government, one part due to the fact that Macedonians and Albanians have not found peace and harmony with each other, there are people working with democratic governance and towards creating a more inclusive society. This was not only seen among the different NGO:s we visited, but also among the locals. As the daughter of a Bosnian mother, I was able to communicate with the people in Skopje in Bosnian. Despite everything, they don’t want segregation. They don’t want a civil war. Even though there are clashes between Macedonians and Albanians, there are also a lot of people who appreciate each others cultures and look more to what they have in common than to what distinguishes them. I am grateful for instilling in me more of an insight into how political tension is rooted deep within the identities of the people, as ethnicity, in addition to ideology, divides parties. Macedonians and Albanians have not found peace and harmony with each other but my hope is that they can peacefully establish a government and will find a way to live in harmony.


If this was your last day on earth, how would you spend it?

With only a small handful of hours to go, there really isn’t a lot one can do. My adventurous side would say that I’d finally go skydiving or bungee jumping – but instead of doing that I’d give all my money away to someone who really needs it. I’d spend my last day on earth with the people that mean something special to me. I’d write letters to them in order to let them know what makes them special and how important they are. I believe that there is only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.


What are your plans for the summer?

My plan is to fast during Ramadan, the holy month in Islam, which means that I probably won’t travel anywhere during June. Instead my focus will be on spiritual cleansing, life reflection and self-improvement. But for the rest of the summer my plan is to travel across Bosnia and explore more of this country. I’m actually thinking of traveling alone. One reason is because I am a little bit of an introvert person and I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. But it is also because I want to disprove the common belief that women shouldn’t travel alone. Often, as a woman, you are raised with the fear that if you go somewhere something bad will happen to you –so it’s better to stay at home. And yes it’s true that something might happen to you, but I believe that as a woman you are vulnerable to this wherever you are. I think women think if they go out and do something by themselves they’ll be changed in some way. I trust myself enough to make smart decisions. I don’t walk around alone at night. I research the dangerous parts of a city and the safe parts. I always make sure someone knows where I am. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person. As a woman I believe that, in comparison to men, we need to travel smart – not that we shouldn’t travel.

Board, Committees, Fun, The Organization - Monday, May 15th, 2017

It’s time to get to know Axel Christoffersson, one of our two heads of Utblick Magazine!

What do you like the most about being head of Utblick Magazine?

Axel: To me, written words has always been a source of fascination. Poetry, novels or for scientific purpose – whatever form, it has an important role to play in a modern society. Being head of Utblick is to me an opportunity to share knowledge and perspectives through a very persistent medium (e.g. written words), which is a fantastic thing. Utblick also has a nice, timely feature, in that the writers face relatively little constraint in how much to write. When much of our information should be packed in 140 characters, it feels great to offer more extensive analysis.


What international issue concerns or provokes you the most?

Climate change and poverty/inequality. Reducing greenhouse emission becomes more urgent as time goes by, and it is very frustrating that so little is done. We have both technical and economical tools to use, but policy on the global stage sure is a slow thing. Yet everything points toward that it is totally rational to fight climate change, the social cost of doing nothing literary floods the costs of acting.


One aspect of climate change is the fact that wealthy nations usually emit much more CO2 in the atmosphere than poor ones, which has been proven a tricky point in climate negotiations. Reducing poverty and global inequality is therefore linked to climate change, but it also has great importance on its own. Even though I believe there always will be some inequality in a free world, it seems that some people are worse off than they needed be given the huge material wealth that has been accumulated over the last 100 years. This is a provocative and really tricky question.


Where do you get your inspiration for the magazine? Do you do any other writing besides Utblick?

One only needs to take a look in a newspaper to realize that we don’t lack relevant subjects to cover. As a writer, I find most of my inspiration in other’s writing and own thought, and the pairing of these two aspects usually turn into an article. As an editor, I think it’s really important to have a clear picture of what we should print in the magazine, but still give the writers as free hands as possible. It can sometimes be a bit of a balancing act, writing on international policy issues yet being politically independent.


I sure do, two articles a semester isn’t enough for me. I always carry a notebook if any interesting thoughts pops up in my mind, which sometimes turn into some kind of poetry. Apart from that I have a rarely-visited blog reaching seven years back consisting of mixed thinking and everyday life.


As a child, what did you want to be when you grow up, and why?

Seven years old, I wanted to be a paleontologist, searching for dinosaur fossils. I’m good at digging into the past, so I guess that goes along well… 😉


Name your favourite 1) magazine 2) movie character 3) travel destination 4) international food 5) politician?

1) Utblick (of cause), 2) Manfred from “Ice Age”, 3) Home (after a hard day’s work, or five days abroad), 4) falafel, 5) Angela Merkel.


If you are as curious as I am, visit Axel’s blog here: http://agch.blogg.se/

Board, Committees, Fun, The Organization - Sunday, May 7th, 2017

Say hello to Daphnée Roch, one of our two heads of the Event Committee!

What is the best thing about being the head of the event committee?

Daphnée: I love being part of a student organization and the Event committee within UF is just perfect for me! I love organizing events, especially with a focus on international affairs. By being head of the committee, I am able to contribute with my different areas of interest when it comes to screenings for example. I can implement and modernize events as well, while being in a group of friends and even part of something bigger as UF Göteborg has sister-branches through the SAIA umbrella organization.


What in the UF are you looking forward to the most this spring?

This may feel like auto-advertising but honestly? The gala! I’ve been to several galas since high school and they are usually so much fun! You get good food and you get to meet new people. Of course, galas are about having fun and UF’s Spring gala will be no different! I look forward to the professional DJ we’re hiring, because dancefloors are always so much fun, even when you just watch other people dance. It brings a smile to my face at least. There will be different activities as well during the gala, with some collective singing maybe and for those worried about their singing abilities: do not worry, I have none and I am the one behind this! I’m also so excited about the venue because it is so nice! I have ordered white roses to represent peace (after all the theme is the Nobel Peace Prize 😉 ) and I think it will just look amazing.


Where does your interest in international affairs come from? Do you have a favorite topic?

I’ve always been international-oriented to be honest, there is not one specific thing or event that sparked my interest. I myself am international so if anything, it would stem from that. From there on, I have been interested in discovering cultures and acquiring knowledge beyond one state’s borders. That, combined with my love for history and you end up going to political science to get the two (history and international relations) so as to focus on international matters. I don’t think I have a favorite topic per say but I’m really interested in the field of peace and conflict and I hope to write my master’s thesis on a subject related to this field. Or maybe international relations. I don’t know yet, too many topics are interesting, this is such a struggle! Oh well, I still have a few months to decide, right?


Imagine your life in five years: Where in the world will you be and what will you be doing?

I don’t even know where I’ll be in a year so in five?! I’ve been torn between different countries and areas most of my life, and I have grown different allegiances to different places. In five years, I hope to be in Scandinavia and hopefully doing something productive and effective within the field of international relations (one way or another). My focus is more on embassies at the moment so maybe in an embassy? We’ll see what life has in store for me!


If a movie was made about your life – what would the title and main plot be?

I barely remember what I ate for lunch yesterday so finding the main plot of my life for a movie, that’s tough! The title could be ‘The Lost Daydreamer’, and from there, the main plot could be how about deep down, I’m more someone who likes to get lost in stories one way or another, but manages to be anchored in reality while needing to be extremely productive to feel good about myself. I think I can even extend on the question and tell you the soundtrack of such a movie: a mix of Florence + The Machine, Imagine Dragons, some early Maroon 5 and a bit of One Republic and Halsey.

Board, Committees, Fun, The Organization - Monday, May 1st, 2017

This week we would like to introduce our new head of PR, Hanna Buznytska, who joined me in the committee a few weeks ago! Welcome Hanna!


What made you want to be head of PR?

Hanna: I have been involved in PR on a voluntary basis in different organizations since 2012. The biggest project I was involved in was on a European level, where I worked in a very multicultural team. Unfortunately, I had a break from being active in PR for almost a year, so applying for a Head of PR Committee seemed like a good opportunity to continue, but also to get an experience of how student organizations function in Sweden.


What is your main interest in politics and international issues?

Currently, the Russian Federation attracts most of my attention, particularly its behavior in the region and on the global arena, as well as Russian political culture and the government’s behaviour regarding domestic issues. In addition, I am interested in the topic of development assistance for the countries of the former Soviet Union.


What are the top three best things about your experience in Sweden so far?

I am from Ukraine, which differs from Sweden pretty much in every sphere. The situation with gender equality, respectful and open-minded people, and higher education system are those spheres where I have experience the biggest contrast.


Firstly, in Ukraine the society is still quite patriarchic. Men and women are expected to follow traditional gender roles, and most people are not familiar with the concept of gender equality. Here I am fascinated by the blurred difference between men and women’s role in the society, particularly men’s involvement in their children’s upbringing and domestic chores, and women taking traditionally masculine jobs. Moreover, the level of personal safety for women is just incredible, comparing to Ukraine where it is not very safe to walk alone when it is dark outside.


Secondly, it is great how people respect each others’ private space, value each others’ time and input, and appreciate different opinions and thoughts. In Sweden, people can freely express themselves through their physical appearance or behavior regardless of their gender or age, and not be judged. In Ukraine, it is common to be verbally or even physically abused by the strangers if you look or behave different.


Finally, the system of higher education is organized in a totally different way compared to Ukraine. In Ukrainian universities, students have to take 6-8 not related courses simultaneously, which makes the education process very stressful and not very coherent. In addition, everything is grades-oriented, competitive, and focused on physical presence of students during the classes. By contrast, as for me, the Swedish system does not imply so much stress during studying, allows more in-depth learning, and oriented towards understanding the material and applying it, paying small attention to the grades. It really taught me how to manage my time and enjoy the learning process.


The UF is traveling a lot this spring. Tell us about a memorable trip you’ve done.

My most memorable trip was my very first trip abroad in the summer of 2012. It was a summer university in Germany and Austria with participants from around 20 countries. The organizers did a really good job trying to involve us in as many experiences as possible, including showing us Munich, Salzburg and Vienna, living in a cottage and hiking in the Alps, camping by a lake in Austria, visiting UN Headquarters, and taking a waltz lesson in one of the best dance schools in Vienna.


Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself.

For the past three years I have not lived in the same city for longer than 9 months.


I am so bad at math that performing a basic math operation takes me much more time than an average person.


I am totally in love with long and dark Swedish winters.


Board, Committees, Fun, The Organization - Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Next up in our Board series is Liza Rousselle, one of our two heads of the Model United Nations Committee!

What made you want to be head of the MUN Committee?

I only started MUN in September. I always wanted to try but somehow it never happened before. Immediately I fell in love with it and wanted to be involved seriously. When the previous chair said he was not running for this year, I considered doing it but I was still hesitant because I didn’t have that much experience. Rosalie was thinking the same and we talked about it and decided to run together. The fact that we both have the same mother tongue and that we live together really helps.


What international issue has got your attention at the moment?

I am really concerned about the situation in Chechenia, regarding the treatment of homosexual people. They are abducted in mass and kept in concentration camps where they are mistreated and even tortured and the government doesn’t care! It doesn’t even acknowledge their existence! As a member of the LGBTQ community I am really grateful for the way I’m treated in my own country and I want the same for my peers. So right now I am really worrying about it and trying to do my part from abroad; especially when a lot of the media in some countries won’t even report it.


You’re from France. Any thoughts on the upcoming French election?

The elections this year are really interesting in several regards. We have observed the emergence of both far right and far left populism. Although the far right has been present before, they never really had the potential to win as much as they do now. Furthermore, we have two candidates who have left the majority party to create their own (Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Luc Mélenchon). This might be the dawn of a political renewal, going from an almost bipartisan system to a truly multi-partisan democracy, with more nuances in the representatives’ position. Also, the use of social media is stronger than ever. We have caught up with what has been done since 2008 and maybe even gone further, with Facebook Live and Snapchat. I don’t know if that would have happened if the candidates weren’t so close in the polls.


If you could have a debate with anyone, who would it be and what would the topic be?

That might seem weird but I’d like to debate with the leaders of the Westboro Baptist Church, who are famous for their homophobia and anti-gay protests (“God hates fags”) as well as hating a lot of other groups (Catholics, Jews, Muslims, politicians, soldiers, etc..). The discussion would be about what convinces them that homosexuality is a sin and what drives them to persecute people when their religion preaches loving your neighbor, forgiving sinners and not judging others. I don’t think I could change their mind, but at least I’d try!


The UF is traveling a lot this spring. Tell us about a good travel memory of yours!

One of my best memories was in November. I went to Lapland, which has always been a dream of mine. One afternoon we went riding on snowmobiles across the snowy plains. It was a real winter wonderland. We came back on dog sleds, during the sunset. The quiet, the colors in the sky, the cold breeze, all of it was just magical. We didn’t get to see the Northern lights but it was well worth it!

Board, Committees, Fun, The Organization - Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Meet Elsa Wilhelmsson, one of our two heads of the Lecture Committee!

Why did you want to be head of the Lecture Committee?

Elsa: I have always loved foreign affairs and when I could combine this passion with something that would challenge me, I ended up in this position! So far so good!


Which international issues do you consider the most important?

Trump and Putin are always interesting to follow, but right now I think Erdogan is the guy to watch. To see in which direction the relationship between Turkey and Europe is going to progress.


Tell us about a significant event in your life (or in the world) that had an impact on you politically.

9/11. It was the first time in my life that I could see how everything in the world connects.


Where were you three years ago and where will you be in three years?

Three years ago I was here in Gothenburg, finding my way among all the different paths the university had to offer. Where I’ll be in three years, I don’t really know but hopefully I will have a master’s degree.


What are you looking forward to in The Society of International Affairs this spring?

The lectures of course! We were off to a great start when we had a visit from Margot Wallström, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. So, I’m looking forward to the remaining lectures this spring and hope that we have a killer schedule for the fall.

Board, Committees, Fun, The Organization - Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Today we’re introducing Rosalie Ledee, one of our two heads of the Model United Nations Committee!


What is the best thing about being one of the heads of the MUN Committee?

Rosalie: The first thing that comes to my mind is the possibility to meet new people from all over Europe. During every simulation, I discover other ways of thinking and presenting arguments. And as a head of the Committee, you must go deeper into the topics we discuss, it’s really interesting.


You are from France. Would you like to share your thoughts with us about the French election this year?

It’s a very intense election this year! A lot is at stake, and I’m scared that Marine Le Pen from the extreme right party has a chance to win. I think everything could happen and the result might be very surprising, I can’t wait to know. Living and studying in Sweden gave me another view of politics, and the affairs around some candidates appear outrageous.


What made you interested in politics?

I guess the first reason was that my mother is interested in politics, it made me curious about what it was. Actually, the fact that I’m curious about everything pushed me to politics, because it can concern all aspects of life and so many different countries that I always want to know more about it.


During your stay here in Sweden – what has been the most 1) fun 2) surprising and 3) strange thing so far?

The funniest and most amazing thing I did so far is a trip to Lapland for sure! It was beautiful, particularly dog sledging which was so fun. It will be one of my best memories here. Then, the most surprising thing might be a place of nature in the city. I’m living near a lake, and you can find huge parks within the city, I love it. And the strangest thing is the Swedish’s obsession for liquorice! So many liquorice flavoured candy, and the salted liquorice is a mystery to me!


If you could be invisible for one day, how would you spend that day?

That’s not a power I would want! But I guess I would enjoy to enter places for free, for instance go to Liseberg, to the cinema or to the spa of the Gothia Towers for free!

Board, Committees, Fun, The Organization - Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Next up in our board series is Matilda Ilander, who is one of the two heads of the Lecture Committee.

Matilda bloggen

What made you want to be Head of Lecture?

Matilda: Quite simple – Because I love this kind of stuff. To organize things, to listen to all of these interesting people who hold lectures, to know what’s going on and arranging it all. I may have a need for control.


Who is your dream booking to give a lecture at UF?

My dream booking was Hans Rosling. We talked about him just days before his passing. He had such a gift for teaching in an interesting and uplifting way. I’m not sure I have one at the moment, but it was amazing having the Minister for Foreign Affairs at UF a couple of weeks ago.


In your opinion, what is the most important political happening this year?

There is so much to choose from, it is quite many important elections and happenings all over the world during the year. But I would say that the British triggering of article 50, which could happen any day now, and the German federal election in September are the most interesting and important happenings, at least for Europe and the EU.


If you could have dinner with President Donald Trump, what would the two of you talk about?

I would probably like to talk to him about why he feels entitled to interfere in matters of people and their own bodies, not just in the USA but around the globe, or why it bothers him so much that he has a need to regulate women’s bodies. But I guess he wouldn’t be keen on saying something on the subject or discuss anything more with me. I probably wouldn’t want to either though.


What is your secret guilty pleasure?

I don’t see any pleasure as a guilty pleasure, you really shouldn’t be ashamed of the things you like to do to relax. But I suppose that my love for the TLC show Say Yes to the Dress, Kalles Kaviar, and Alcazar isn’t really cool.