The Swedish Institute Alexandria (SwedAlex) was established by an agreement between the governments of Sweden and Egypt in 1999. It was inaugurated on the 3rd of October 2000 by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of both Sweden and Egypt; the late Ms. Anna Lindh, and Mr. Amre Moussa. The magnificent building of the Institute was erected in 1923-1925 on the Corniche in the Eastern Port, at the expense of Carl Wilhelm von Gerber, newly appointed Consul General for Sweden. He lived in an era when Alexandria was a cosmopolitan metropolis. Indeed, the façade with its singular blend of neo-classicism, neo-renaissance, and 19th century baroque, bears witness to the multitude of cultural influences that characterized the city in the golden days of fin-de-siècle. Since 1925 it has served as the Swedish Consulate and later also as a Seamen’s institute before the establishment of the present Institute.
The Swedish Institute Alexandria (SwedAlex) is an autonomous part of Sweden’s Foreign Service. Its main goal is to promote dialogue between Europe and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) in order to make Europeans and people in the region better understand each other. Within the framework of the overall goals of Sweden’s international development co-operation SwedAlex has the following tasks:
– to contribute to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership and to serve as a platform for dialogue between the countries of Europe and the countries of the MENA region.
– to address issues of importance to the political, social, economic, and scientific development in the MENA region.
– to contribute to increased mutual understanding in the areas of culture and religion
– to further broaden contacts between Sweden and other countries in Europe and Egypt and other countries in the MENA region.
SwedAlex promotes sustainable political, economic and social development in the MENA region. It brings together people for dialogue in a wide range of topics through seminars, conferences and workshops, giving participants of different background an opportunity to meet.
Intellectuals, philosophers, religious leaders, researchers, politicians, students, journalists, activists and others meet at SwedAlex. Difference of opinion is considered an advantage but the dialogue is based on respect of the views of the others.
The focus of the Institute’s main activities is on human rights, democratic values and gender equality, representation of youth as a vehicle for social and economic development and media. In 2011 SwedAlex started actively to reach out to the general public in the region. One example is a series of TV debates dealing with these topics, including the position of women in the society. Another example is the Dardasha Masreya (Egyptian Chats)events when young people meet in different parts of Egypt in order to promote their role as active citizens.
Besides organizing roundtable discussions, workshops and seminars, the Institute became engaged in debates (Hewarat Masreya) in March 2013 with participation of the general public. This gave citizens on a grassroots level the opportunity to be in direct contact with their political representatives and to listen to leading politicians live on the pattern of the annual “Almedalen week” in Sweden.
During the ten-day initiative “Stop harassment” in May 2014, about 750 young women and men participated in biking events in Cairo and Alexandria. A workshop on the topic sexual harassment gathered representatives of the civil society, the Ministries of Justice, Interior and Endowments (Awqaf) besides religious scholars.
Within the framework of the Institute’s regional mandate, its activities are also taking place outside Egypt. In Tunisia two seminars have lately been organised on the role of labour unions in democracies as well as democratic experiences in a historic perspective within the region.