15 November 2016

Exchange in Paris to show how international decisions affect Sweden

Svenne Junker is going to spend a year working for OECD in Paris, doing research on how sustainable entrepreneurship is subject to international commitments and decisions taken beyond the country’s borders. Junker normally works in the Misum research programme, and is now taking the opportunity provided by the Mistra Fellows initiative to work in an international organisation.

How decisions are arrived at and implemented in various international organisations is highly important for Sweden. Nevertheless, there is often a feeling that what is decided in the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) and other national decision-making bodies has also been initiated in this country.

‘The fact is that Sweden is governed to a high degree by international commitments and decisions taken outside the country,’ says Svenne Junker, who is to spend a year studying what these mechanisms are like in practice.

The work will be done at, and in collaboration with, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris. For Junker, this research field is not new. He gained his PhD in 2014 with a thesis about how EU organisations take decisions. He has also worked as a policy expert in the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.

Since the Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets (Misum) started in 2015, Junker has belonged to the programme. He was recruited because his background as a researcher focused on decision-making at European level, and his distinct environmental involvement perhaps fitted hand in glove into the Center’s interdisciplinary profile.

Studying OECD guidelines

Since August, Svenne Junker and his wife and four children have had Paris as their home city. The two months that have passed since he arrived have been devoted, above all, to getting to know his colleagues and getting their research plans confirmed by the OECD.

However, his main task will be to study the OECD guidelines on sustainable entrepreneurship. Created back in 1976, they have since been revised several times. The current ones have been endorsed by 46 countries and are in the process of being implemented. The guidelines are voluntary, but the countries that have subscribed to them have pledged to work to induce companies operating within their own boundaries, too, to start following them.

‘The agreement contains a unique complaint mechanism making it possible to complain about a company that has ratified the guidelines but then not complied with them. To deal with the complaints, there has to be a special forum for the purpose in every country. Finding out how this works in practice will be part of my job. Since this is a unique model, the OECD is highly interested in my results.’

What do you hope to achieve from this year?

‘Above all, I want to boost knowledge and understanding of the OECD’s work. I also want to be able to serve, in Sweden, as a source of information about what the organisation is and does. We’ve got to get better at understanding systems of this type, since they influence our national decisions such a lot. What’s more, I hope my research will yield a number of articles.’

Would you recommend others to seek support from Mistra Fellows?

‘Absolutely, but there are some challenges on the way. The hardest thing is to find an organisation and a research area that are suitable. The organisations that invite researchers often want help with specific problems, while they’re less often interested in academic research. So it’s important to find a reasonable balance between what’s academically relevant and what’s interesting in practical terms for the organisation you’re going to work in. For me, it took a long time to find a workable form, but now I feel the year ahead is going to be both exciting and rewarding.’

Facts — Mistra Fellows

The purpose of Mistra Fellows is to establish collaboration and boost knowledge exchange among Mistra’s various research groups and international research organisations. The idea is to give up to four researchers annually the chance to work for an international organisation with a focus on policy issues.

The programme is primarily addressed at younger researchers working in existing Mistra programmes. It enables them to stay at think tanks or international organisations abroad, especially in Europe or North America, for up to one year.

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