Speech/statement | Date: 2014-03-03 | Ministry of Defence
Speech at NATO Building Integrity Conference on Institution Building, 4 March by Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide. Title: “Building integrity and safeguarding our common values”.
NATO Building Integrity Conference on Institution Building, 4 March
“Building integrity and safeguarding our common values”
Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide
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Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends
Thank you very much for the opportunity to address this conference. It is a pleasure and great honour for Norway to host such an event, on an issue both highly topical and certainly with distinct security implications.
I am especially pleased to welcome so many distinguished guests. A large number of countries are represented here today – NATO Allies as well as an impressive number of partner countries, some of them located quite a distance from Norway. In addition, a considerable number of Allied and Partner Ambassadors here in Oslo have joined us for this opening session. Welcome to you all!
Allow me also to thank the Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector for organizing this conference. In terms of staff and resources, I know this new centre does not compare to any military unit. But in fact, it is a combat unit in its own right.
Combatting corruption and fighting for integrity and high ethical standards – in short, fighting for good governance – is indeed an important battle. It is a battle in which we should all join in, a battle against something that unites us. My sincere hope is that this conference will represent a significant step forward in that battle.
Let me also say that it is a distinct privilege to have this centre here in Oslo. It fits in very well with the role Norway has assumed within the NATO Building Integrity Programme.
In a perfect world, of course, I would have liked to see the centre established during my own term as minister. Ministers, you know, appreciate opening ceremonies and flagging own initiatives, in order to demonstrate political will and tangible results. In this regard, I am of course no exception.
Instead I will give credit to my predecessors for contributing in launching this bi-partisan initiative. And as you are aware the perfect world is not on our agenda this morning. Rather, in the words of the realist himself, Thomas Hobbes, we live in a world in which “profit is the measure of right”.
The world we have to relate to is a world in which the total defence expenditures amount to 1.8 trillion US dollars – or almost 3 % of the world’s GDP.
It is a world in which, according to Transparency International, at least 20 billion US dollars is lost to corruption every year, in the defence sector alone.
It is a world in which surveys show that a vast majority (76%) of Europeans think that corruption is widespread in their own country. More than half of Europeans (56%) think the level of corruption in their country has increased over the past three years.
It is a world in which corruption constitutes a major threat to stability and peace.
And it is a world in which people take to the streets to demonstrate their anger and lack of trust in elected politicians, exactly because of corruption and bad governance.
Corruption erodes trust in public institutions and in democracy. Where widespread mistrust prevails, it seriously may challenge the stability of a nation.
And we know that corruption affects the effectiveness of our Armed Forces. Afghanistan has been a painful lesson. It has clearly illustrated the dilemmas of trying to contribute to security and social, political and economic development in a country where corruption is endemic.
In June last year, NATO’s Joint Analysis Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC) issued a report on corruption in Afghanistan. In this report it was very candidly stated that “Corruption is complex. There are no easy, obvious remedies: this is the main finding of this report”.
One obvious lesson is that both NATO and partner countries need to have a better understanding of the nature of corruption, its effects and how to avoid it when planning an operation. We also need to assess to what extent a massive influx of foreign money may stimulate corruption, rather than reducing it.
I could speak lengthy on the issue of Afghanistan. And, equally, I could spend considerable time on the efforts that NATO has made in support of its partners.
But I will rather use this opportunity to share my thoughts on why I consider the NATO Building Integrity Programme very timely for the Alliance itself. Why is that? Simply stated: we all have challenges in this field, we all can become better!
Building integrity, transparency and trust
As a starting point I think we may agree that all countries, not only those emerging from conflict or in a transition from a non-democratic system of government, should spend time addressing the issue of corruption.
I believe high integrity and fighting corruption is indispensable to any country that adheres to international recognized rules and principles.
Integrity in government as well as in society at large is indeed indispensable to any country committed to the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
And it is indispensable to any country seeking defence institutions that are effective, efficient and legitimate.
However, when we discuss defence and security policy, we quite often start by referring to national sovereignty and territorial integrity as the crucial benchmark.
And unquestionably, sovereignty and territorial integrity matter. Territory is where people live. Sovereignty is what people express through democratic elections. In this field, too, integrity is crucial. Yes, integrity and national security are closely linked.
But in my view there is another notion of integrity that we, perhaps, are less attentive to. That has to do with the moral and ethical standards we believe in and that we want to live up to.
I am thinking of those great values we often refer to and strongly advocate in our speeches, and that we, perhaps, struggle to comply with when they are the most needed.
To me, safeguarding these values is as important as protecting our territorial integrity.
Our level of integrity in terms of ability to live up to our own standards ultimately determines the robustness of a political system. That level of integrity to me reflects the political health of a people, of a nation.
Certainly, military capabilities will for the foreseeable future remain essential to guarantee territorial integrity.
But the long term stability of a country and, ultimately, also the effectiveness and legitimacy of national institutions and international organizations such as NATO, will be determined by the level of trust between people and their political institutions – their elected representatives in particular.
In so many respects, transparency is fundamental. This is because transparency is the most effective way to combat corruption, and to ensure integrity and to build trust.
Trust between people is an essential social capital. This is true in all walks of life – trust within families, trust between neighbours, trust at work and in economic life, and trust in politics.
Trust contributes to sound economic growth while corruption undermines trust and is detrimental to economic growth. A sound economy enables us to build and sustain the military capabilities that a country may require. And it is indeed trust that allows us to spend huge amounts of tax payers’ money on defence.
I think that this sets the appropriate context for the NATO Building Integrity Programme. It is a programme that invites us to foster greater awareness of some basic truths and values. There is a need to make defence institutions more conscious of the risk that corruption poses to the defence sector. Again, this is a challenge we all share.
Let me turn to how the Building Integrity Programme may help us safeguard vital core values. And I am not talking about values that are particular to NATO – I am talking about values that are widely shared, also beyond the European and Euro-Atlantic space.
Safeguarding our common values
Ladies and gentlemen,
The economic realities of our time are known to all. Europe is in financial difficulties, as are many other parts of the world. And in this difficult situation, according to recent reports, Europe is struggling to come to terms with the problem of corruption.
One in twelve Europeans has experienced or witnessed corruption in the last twelve months. Four out of ten European companies consider corruption to be an obstacle for doing business within the EU.
This is according to the first EU Anti-Corruption Report that was adopted by the EU Commission last month. Corruption is estimated to cost EU Member States no less than 120 billion Euros each year.
The economic downturn has been a challenge in many countries. It has shown that otherwise robust democracies may turn out to be fragile under stress. Some countries are harder hit than others. At the end of the day these difficulties affect us all, as has been demonstrated both in NATO and in the EU.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. To perform effectively, the Alliance must have 28 member states with reliable and well-functioning state institutions.
It requires hard work from everyone. No one can claim to be immune to the risk of corruption. We can all improve. Norway, for example, may be known as a country that enjoys good governance and a low level of corruption. But we are not perfect. We all have to realize that efforts are needed, that we cannot lean back and be self-satisfied.
We have also experienced incidents in the Norwegian defence sector, at some points raising public doubt about the integrity of Norway’s Armed Forces and defence institutions. There has been a growing awareness on these issues, which have resulted in a comprehensive action plan with a focus on attitudes, ethics and leadership.
Today, all employees and especially leaders go through compulsory learning programs. There was a need for better awareness, more appreciation of moral dilemmas, more emphasis on the core values that we want to hold high and live by. As part of this, for example, we put in place ethical guidelines for contact with business and industry, as well as ethical guidelines for suppliers that want to do business with the Norwegian defence.
A professional work force with integrity and high ethical standards is a prerequisite in our sector. That applies not only to the national level but to the international level as well. This is part and parcel of the political cohesion which is so vital for a society to function well, to the benefit of its people. The same applies for the Alliance to function well collectively: it needs people with integrity and high ethical standards.
As a founding member of NATO, Norway takes special interest in the Building Integrity Programme exactly because it brings to the forefront the political dimension of the Alliance.
Especially now, in a situation with financial austerity and major shifts in our strategic environment, the political dimension is crucial.
In fact, we may argue that the Building Integrity Programme highlights the very core of NATO – our fundamental values as they were put forward by the Washington Treaty in 1949: liberal democracy, the rule of law, and individual freedom.
These values represent the very trademark of NATO and define NATO as a community of values. This is the NATO that I grew up with and that I still cherish deeply.
I also grew up in a Euro-Atlantic political community that a large number of countries, societies and individuals wanted to join because it offered democracy, the rule of law, and a prosperous future.
I will claim that the Euro-Atlantic community was forged around these values, as much as by the strategic and military realities of the Cold War. Today – fortunately – the Cold War is history. What remains is the Euro-Atlantic space as a community of values.
But we cannot take these values for granted. Democracy, good governance, high integrity in society and in the public sector, they all represent a work in progress. It is not something achieved once and for all. They need to be maintained, renewed and safeguarded.
The NATO Building Integrity Programme may contribute to this purpose. It has an approach that goes far beyond anti-corruption in the economic sense of the word.
It reinforces the need for an impartial and professionally independent civil service.
It underpins the principle of good governance as reflected in a number of international treaties and conventions that the vast majority of countries have joined.
It addresses the issues of NATO’s credibility and legitimacy.
It supports our efforts in safeguarding our common values at the international level, beyond the narrow question of whether a country is a member of the Alliance or not
Towards the upcoming Summit in Cardiff we need to bear this in mind. That protection of our common values not only implies modernizing our military tools. Equally important is the strengthening of our political cohesion, in Europe as a whole, in the Euro-Atlantic area as a whole.
Through the Building Integrity Programme NATO, together with a large number of partners, highlight that beyond differences, and sometimes political disagreements, there is a common desire for good governance – for the people and by the people.
Allow me before my closing remarks to say a few words on the current situation in Ukraine. The Norwegian government is deeply concerned about the developments in Ukraine and especially the involvement of Russia. We are fully behind the statement that was given by NATO two days ago and we firmly support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Good governance is not limited to rules and regulations at the national level. Good governance does also involve nations acting in accordance with international law. International law embodies crucial values and principles.
Russia’s military activities in Crimea and the threats of further use of military force are a violation of international law.
Russia has a particular responsibility to de-escalate the tense situation. We call on Russian authorities to immediately accept Ukraine’s request for dialogue with a view to resolving the crisis without the use or threat of use of violence.
Ladies and gentlemen,
After almost 20 years characterized by out-of-area operations, we are facing a new transition in the Alliance that will bring it closer back to home. We don’t know what will characterize the next 20 years. However, we do know that in order to face new challenges, NATO has to remain a credible community of values.
This will also determine the level of public trust and support that national governments, as well as international institutions, will deserve. Ultimately, it may define how willing our populations will be to invest in the Alliance.
Let me end my speech by stressing one important thing: Good governance and high integrity in the public sector are not in themselves linked to NATO.
Whether a country is already a member of the Alliance, whether it would like to become a member, or whether it simply prefers to cooperate with the Alliance as a partner, is not the issue. The point is that good governance and high integrity in the public sector are values we share, challenges that we should address together.
And if we are successful, many other issues may turn out to be easier to handle. I see NATO’s Building Integrity Programme as an important contribution to that end.
I wish you all a very successful conference.
Thank you for your attention!