Sweden: conscription to be phased out by 1 July 2010

Sweden decided to phase out conscription in peace time by 1 July 2010. As of January 1, 2011, the current education will be replaced entirely by a three-month voluntary military training. Thereafter, soldiers will be offered a longer education related to a particular position with the goal of creating permanent and contract-based military units. In the current system, 8 000 people out of an annual cohort of 120,000 Swedish citizens are called in to carry out military service.

However, conscription will only be suspended. It will be brought back to life in the case of national defence emergency and when military preparedness requires it. If that happens, conscription will be gender-neutral: that is, all men and women of suitable age and health will be drafted.

This is part of the professionalisation of the Swedish military. Presently, Sweden has about 500 soldiers in Afghanistan, a number that is set to be increased to 650 by 2011. In addition, the government wants to send a rescue helicopter as well as several more Hercules transport planes to Afghanistan. The plans, which also call for expanding Sweden’s intelligence operations in the country, are to be detailed in a bill scheduled for presentation later this autumn.

Sources: The Local: Military conscription phase out under fire, 16 August 2009; The Local: Sweden looks to boost Afghanistan force, 30 September 2009; War Resisters' International: Country report and updates: Sweden, 22 September 2009