Speech/statement | Date: 01/03/2016 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
'We are facing a more challenging foreign and security policy situation than we have done for a long time', said Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende, in his address to the Storting 1 March.
Translation from Norwegian
We are facing a more challenging foreign and security policy situation than we have done for a long time.
Fortunately, the picture is not entirely gloomy. We played a role in achieving some significant milestones in 2015, which included a new, ambitious climate agreement, a nuclear agreement with Iran, progress in the WTO and the adoption of new sustainable development goals.
There are also several positive underlying trends: global poverty is falling, more children have access to education and better health services, and economic growth is continuing in both Asia and Africa.
But at the same time we are experiencing greater vulnerability – and a feeling that the international order we have built in Europe and globally over the past few decades is more fragile than we thought.
In Europe's southern neighbourhood, several areas are affected by war and conflict. From North Africa and the Sahel via the Middle East to Afghanistan, there is a belt of fragile states that are struggling with radicalisation, violent extremism, weak governance and high levels of unemployment. Not least youth unemployment.
More than 100 000 people were killed in wars and conflict last year – the highest number for 25 years. Over 60 million people across the world have had to flee their homes – the highest number since the Second World War. Some 125 million people all over the world are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance as a result of war, hunger and poverty.
The terrorist organisation ISIL has brought untold suffering to the civilian population in Syria and Iraq, most recently through several brutal attacks in Iraq that have claimed the lives of over 100 people. ISIL also has a strong presence in Libya. Civilians in Europe have also been affected by ISIL's violence and brutality – from the concert hall in Paris to the synagogue in Copenhagen.
We are seeing a more assertive and unpredictable Russia, both to our east and in Syria.
European cooperation is being put to the test by migration, economic crises, the threat of terrorism and the fact that established international rules are coming under pressure.
Geographical distance no longer provides protection against problems elsewhere in the world.
The years 2014 and 2015 were demanding years for Norwegian foreign policy.
But we must brace ourselves for the fact that 2016 could be even more demanding.
The gravity of the current foreign policy situation is therefore the leitmotif of this year's foreign policy address. It is also the reason why the Ministry recently launched the Veivalg project on the future course of Norwegian foreign and security policy. The project will analyse, and promote debate on, the challenges we are facing. It will set out alternative courses of action for Norwegian foreign and security policy.
We need to clearly define what is in Norway's interests. We need to distinguish between vital interests, important interests, and other interests. We must accept that we cannot do everything. We must join forces with others to find common solutions. And we must be willing and able to pursue our vital interests, and ensure that we have effective diplomatic tools for doing so.
1. Europe is being challenged
The other European countries have always been Norway's close neighbours and most important trading partners. Apart from the US, they are our most important friends and allies. Together with the US, they are our most important political partners in our efforts to protect and strengthen not only regional, but also global values and rules.
Norway's fate is inextricably linked with that of the rest of Europe. The senseless terrorist attack on young people in Paris last year was yet another assault on our common values. It was also an attack on us. We have made our solidarity with France quite clear. In the same way, the French clearly expressed their solidarity with us after the tragedy that hit Norway on 22 July 2011.
Politically, economically, and in most areas of society, what happens in Europe has direct implications for Norway.
Norwegian foreign policy begins in Europe.
In a Europe that is being challenged, both from within and from without.
In the past, the EU has demonstrated its ability to emerge stronger from a crisis. It is vital that it succeeds this time, too.
A weak and divided EU will undermine Europe's security.
It is in our interest that the EU member states stand together as far as possible, and that Europe takes greater responsibility for its own security.
Together, the EU and Nato have a broad range of instruments at their disposal. There is no contradiction between the European and the Atlantic orientation in Norwegian foreign policy. Quite the contrary.
Today, many people are calling for a common vision for the further development of the EU. Some countries are seeking closer integration whereas others are giving priority to national solutions. The choices the member states take now will shape the development of the EU for many years to come.
The EU is at a crossroads: one of its key member states has set in motion a process that could lead to leaving the EU.
The recent agreement between the EU and the UK could have implications for how fundamental principles of European cooperation are interpreted and developed in the time ahead. It will also be of significance to us. A strong EU that still has the UK as a member is in Norway's interests.
The challenges we are facing can only be addressed through effective leadership, cooperation and solidarity. These are Europe's strengths, and it is in our interests to exploit them to the full.
I would now like to take a closer look at some of the key challenges Europe will face in the time ahead.
First, the waves of refugees and migrants making their way to Europe are putting European cooperation to the test.
Last year, over a million people came to Europe. The influx of people has remained at a high level in the past few months.
Last year may not have been the truly critical phase. If there is no decline in the influx of people via Turkey and Libya, this may still lie ahead.
The strain on the countries that until now have borne the greatest burden in dealing with the flow of refugees – Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey – has been enormous.
Turkey is at a crossroads. The country is facing major challenges; levels of conflict and violence are rising, as is pressure on human rights.
Close cooperation with Turkey is vital for Europe, in the short term because of the pressure of migration, in the longer term because we need a stable Turkey that can play a key role in a highly volatile region.
Turkey is Nato's southern flank. Europe must engage with and support Turkey in today's difficult situation. At the same time, we must state our political expectations clearly to Ankara.
Greece has undergone profound political and economic crises in recent years, and the wave of migrants from the Middle East is placing increasing pressure on the country. Europe must make clear demands, but must also help Greece to find a way out of the crisis.
We must widen our perspective to identify the roots of the migration crisis.
War and the collapse of state structures in the Middle East and North Africa, and inadequate crisis management at the international level are among the causes.
Demographic trends in the Middle East and Africa are also playing a part – as are poverty and conflict.
The populations of both the Middle East and Africa have increased fourfold since 1950. According to forecasts, both will double again in the years leading up to 2050. By then, Africa will be home to two billion people.
Already, some 12 million young African people are entering the labour market every year. If this rapidly growing younger generation sees no opportunities in their own countries, more of these young people will be tempted to embark on the dangerous journey to Europe.
Many people are fleeing from war and conflict. Others are seeking a better life.
That is why the Government is giving top priority in its development policy to economic growth, education and job creation. Throughout Africa and Asia, not just in the areas that are currently experiencing crises.
The migration crisis is dominating the public debate, and affecting politics, budgets, and the economy in nearly all European countries and at EU level.
Common rules for determining which member state is responsible for processing an asylum application are essential if there is to be freedom of movement in the Schengen area. These rules are set out in the Dublin III Regulation. Norway considers it important that there are clear rules in this area.
Norway also wants third-country nationals who enter the Schengen area without valid documentation to be registered and have their fingerprints taken in the first country of entry, and for this information to be recorded in European databases. This will provide a basis for applying the common rules for establishing responsibility, and will reduce the scale of secondary movements. This is in Norway's interests.
Recently, the Dublin Regulation has not been properly applied, mainly because many asylum seekers have not been registered in countries they have previously been in.
Norway supports legislative and policy amendments that will ensure that the Dublin system can be properly applied and that migrants are registered in the first country of entry into the Schengen area. The future European asylum system must aim to ensure a fairer distribution of asylum seekers than is currently the case, and that all countries take their share of the responsibility.
Norway and Greece recently agreed to use an additional NOK 31 million of the funds provided to Greece under the EEA and Norway Grants to strengthen the asylum system in Greece in the period up to 2017.
The Government intends to pursue a strict but fair policy for dealing with the migration crisis. A policy that is based on effective international cooperation and the values on which our society is founded. We must combat racist and xenophobic tendencies.
It is vital that we succeed in finding common European solutions. Countries of origin, transit and destination must cooperate to achieve robust and long-term solutions.
We must strengthen development and economic growth in countries of origin, as well as intensifying efforts to combat organised crime, human smuggling, and illegal and irregular migration.
The migration challenge is here to stay. Our foreign policy has an important role to play, and we are strengthening our diplomatic efforts relating to migration, both at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo and at a number of diplomatic and consular missions.
The threat from Europe's southern neighbourhood
Development, security and stability are being threatened along Europe's southern borders by protracted conflicts and the brutality of violent extremist groups. This is the second challenge I would like to highlight today.
Some conflicts have been going on for a long time. Norway has long been committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including in our role as chair of the international donor group, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for Assistance to the Palestinians (AHLC).
But it is the civil war in Syria that has really set the region on fire. The war has now been raging for five years.
Over three hundred thousand people have been killed. Millions have already been forced to flee, and if peace is not brought to the war-torn country, millions more desperate Syrians may follow suit.
Just a few years ago, Syria was a middle-income country. Now, whole cities have been reduced to piles of rubble.
What has been destroyed in just five years could take 50 years to rebuild.
The agreement on the cessation of hostilities, which began on Saturday, is a vital step forward, not least for the millions of civilians who have suffered as a result of the brutal conflict of the past few years. All parties, not least the Syrian regime and its Russian backers, share a great responsibility to comply with the cessation of hostilities agreement and help to ensure that it creates space for genuine peace negotiations.
It is also positive that agreement has been reached on allowing humanitarian access to all parts of Syria, including besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has informed the UN Security Council that he is aiming to bring the parties back to the negotiating table on 7 March. It will be a major step forward if the difficult work of finding a political solution can now really get underway. Norway will support this work in any way that it can.
ISIL, in particular, but also groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra/ al-Qaeda represent an ideology and a form of brutality that is inhuman.
Norway is making a significant contribution to the fight against ISIL. We have deployed military personnel in Iraq and we are an active member of the core coalition.
Military action has yielded results. In Iraq, 40 % of the territory ISIL controlled a year ago has now been retaken, including cities such as Tikrit and Ramadi. Efforts are under way to cut off ISIL's financial resources.
But military measures alone will not address the underlying causes of ISIL's existence – such as state failure and the marginalisation of the Sunni population in Iraq.
The fight against ISIL must be fought across a broad front.
We are giving priority to efforts to prevent and respond to the threats posed by foreign terrorist fighters.
We will continue our efforts to undermine ISIL's financial base, and to ensure that they are unable either to sell oil or receive new supplies.
At the same time we are taking on a great responsibility for the desperate humanitarian situation.
The international donor conference in London, which was originally proposed by Norway, gave a huge boost to the humanitarian effort for Syria. The international community has never before raised so much funding in a single day.
The Prime Minister announced that Norway would provide about NOK 10 billion in humanitarian aid to Syria and its neighbouring countries over the next four years.
Norway has never before given so much money to a humanitarian crisis of this kind.
The scale of the suffering and the lack of political will to find a solution mean that a massive humanitarian effort is needed.
The international donor conference for Syria must also be seen in conjunction with last year's Oslo Summit on Education for Development.
Through our focus on education, Norway has assumed a global leadership role in the work to ensure education for all.
Education is a priority area, both in our humanitarian efforts and in the rest of Norway's development policy. We are giving priority to education for girls and for the most vulnerable children.
We will soon reach our goal of doubling the amount of aid we provide for education.
Norway was behind the initiative to establish a commission on financing for global education. This commission will make recommendations on how additional financing for education can be secured – through national resource mobilisation, more and better aid, new partnerships and innovative financing mechanisms.
Education is not only essential for reducing poverty, promoting gender equality and achieving sustainable development. Attending school will also make the transition back to normal life faster for children in areas that are currently affected by conflict. Access to education will also help children and young people to regain their hopes for the future.
The third challenge is Russia.
Russia is continuing to turn away from democratic and liberal values.
We are seeing a more unpredictable Russia that is more willing to use surprise tactics and take foreign policy risks than before.
We have condemned Russia's violations of international law in Ukraine and will continue to stand together with our allies and like-minded partners in our response to Russia's actions in Ukraine.
We expect all parties to contribute to the implementation of the Minsk agreements. And we are supporting Ukraine's reform efforts politically and financially.
In Syria, we are concerned about Russia's increasingly blatant military support for Assad. Up until last weekend we were seeing a wide-scale bombing campaign against opposition groups, which has also caused large numbers of civilian casualties. But we have seen fewer attacks against ISIL, which the entire international community has agreed to fight against.
The situation is being further compounded by the tension between Russia and Nato member Turkey. It is essential to avoid actions or rhetoric that could cause tensions to escalate further.
Russia is our neighbour, and managing our bilateral relationship is a constant and important element of Norwegian foreign policy.
We want to have good neighbourly relations with Russia. The best way of achieving this is to stand firm on our policy towards Russia. Norway will be predictable, consistent and clear in our dealings with Russia. We will promote cooperation and contact in areas where this is of mutual interest and we will continue to defend our values, principles and interests.
We are seeking to maintain close practical cooperation and a constructive dialogue with Russia, where this is possible. This is particularly important in the north.
The flow of migrants and asylum seekers crossing our common border in the north last autumn posed a difficult challenge. We were able to find solutions through contact and cooperation based on previous agreements. It is in the interests of both Norway and Russia to maintain orderly and stable relations in the border areas.
Like our allies, we have suspended military cooperation with Russia, but coast guard cooperation, and cooperation in the areas of border control, fisheries management and search and rescue, are functioning well. The open lines of communication between the Norwegian Joint Headquarters and the Northern Fleet are important.
In September, Norway and Russia signed a protocol on practical procedures for notification of nuclear incidents in line with our bilateral agreement on early notification of nuclear accidents.
Effective, open channels of communication are crucial when we are addressing challenges that require common solutions. They are also important for enabling us to speak out clearly when we disagree.
There is no contradiction between safeguarding our bilateral interests in our relationship with Russia and standing firm – with our allies and partners – on our commitment to international law and on fundamental principles of international relations.
Economic crisis and restructuring
Now turning to the fourth challenge facing Europe: economic restructuring.
Economic growth in Europe is still weak and unevenly distributed. There is little economic room for manoeuvre, a lack of demand and insufficient investment.
Unemployment levels are still high in many countries.
At the same time, significant changes are taking place in the global economy.
We are following economic development in China – the world's second largest economy – closely, in the hope that the country will not have to face a hard landing, which would have repercussions far beyond Asia.
It looks as if economic growth in most of the world's 20 largest economies will be lower than anticipated in the time ahead. New figures show that the value of global trade in goods dropped by almost 15 % in 2015. High levels of public debt and currency volatility give cause for concern. The central banks have already exhausted many of the traditional means at their disposal.
We are also seeing major technological advances in the areas of energy, transport and communications. Greater automation and roboTisation, and the growth of 'big data' and the collaborative economy will open up significant opportunities for growth and lead to far-reaching changes in the labour market.
Combined, these changes mean that there is a great need for restructuring. They also mean that Europe will encounter increasingly fierce global competition, especially from Asia and the US.
The health of the other European economies has a major impact on Norwegian companies and jobs. More than three quarters of Norwegian exports go to the EU.
Globalisation has created new opportunities for us and, on the whole, has benefited Norway as a trading nation. It is vital that we grasp the new opportunities, restructure our economy and increase our global competitiveness, in cooperation with our European partners.
We will strengthen the relevance of our foreign policy for Norway's globalised business sector, and the effectiveness of the assistance we provide to Norwegian companies. My message to Norway's diplomatic and consular missions is that cooperation with the business sector is a top priority.
The Nordic region
Europe's challenges are also the Nordic region's challenges.
A polarised debate on migration, concern about developments in Russia and about the increasing threat of terrorism are also evident in the Nordic countries.
The pressure now being put on the European institutional architecture is also affecting cooperation in the Nordic region, perhaps the most closely integrated region in Europe and the very basis for much of our welfare.
We will use Nordic cooperation and our Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2017 to strengthen the adaptability of the Nordic countries. This will mean restructuring our economies, enhancing green competitiveness, and promoting social development, including cooperation on integration, which is fast becoming a new focus area.
As new opportunities emerge, we will also use Nordic forums to promote and develop joint positions on new EU initiatives.
In addition to discussions on security policy, I want to strengthen cooperation with my Nordic colleagues in new and challenging areas – such as migration, global security threats and the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.
Developments in the Arctic are being influenced by low oil prices, increasing geopolitical interest in the region, and climate change.
Nevertheless, the Arctic remains a peaceful and stable region. Cooperation in the Arctic is based on common interests, balanced resource management and smart institution building. Norway plays, and will continue to play, a leading role in this context.
But stability in the north cannot be taken for granted. Russia's military build-up and intensification of military exercises in the Arctic mean that we must remain vigilant. The military-strategic balance in the north is tipping in Russia's favour.
We must address this by maintaining a consistent and predictable approach. The current situation is also the reason why the Government is now seeking to draw Nato's attention to the north.
The Arctic Council is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The US has given high priority to its chairmanship. Cooperation between the member states continues to be constructive.
Russia is a key player in the Arctic. International cooperation that includes Russia will help to ensure the continued stable development of the region.
Norway and the other Arctic coastal states have special rights and responsibilities, as well as knowledge of the Arctic. We will continue to develop our cooperation with the other coastal states and with all the other Arctic Council members. We must show that we are taking our responsibility seriously.
The same applies to our major effort to enhance research in and about the Arctic. Norway must be at the forefront when it comes to climate change, the management of marine resources, new technology and business development. The Government's efforts in this area are important for safeguarding welfare and jobs in the north.
We will work systematically to make the most of the new opportunities for shipping that are opening up in the north.
The Arctic holds great potential for future generations, but this means that we must give proper consideration to environmental concerns.
2. Norway and Europe in a rapidly changing world
The world is undergoing rapid and profound change and this is affecting Norway and the rest of Europe. Globalisation is continuing, but signs of stagnation in world trade in recent years have caused many people to start asking if globalisation has now passed its peak.
Nevertheless, I would like to begin this overview of the global situation on a positive note.
In a globalised world, effective foreign policy entails building on the significant progress that has been made in the world over the last 25 years.
Global value creation has doubled. World trade has grown even more. The number of people living in extreme poverty has halved, while at the same time the global population has increased by two billion people.
International development aid is having an effect, but the most important factors behind these successes are effective state-building, political reforms, resource mobilisation and sound economic policies in the countries concerned.
Hopes are high that a lasting peace agreement will be reached for civil war-torn Colombia. Sri Lanka is also recovering after a brutal civil war, and has made more progress than expected in healing its wounds.
The democratic process in Myanmar is not yet complete. But anyone predicting today's situation five years ago would have been dismissed as a naive optimist.
Political progress at country level has been mirrored by significant progress in international cooperation over the last year. In many respects, 2015 was a good and important year for the UN.
The adoption of the sustainable development goals last year was a historic event. For the first time, the UN member states negotiated common goals, and for the first time, we have a universal agenda. This means, of course, that the goals apply to Norway, too.
In 2015, there was also a breakthrough in the demanding negotiations on financing for development, an agreement was reached at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, and a climate change agreement was achieved in Paris.
Norway played an active role in all these processes.
The important reforms we have made to Norwegian development policy will also help to promote the achievement of the sustainable development goals. As part of the work to make Norwegian aid more effective and results-oriented, we have reduced the number of countries that can receive Norwegian aid funds from 116 to 85, and we are aiming to reduce the number of development cooperation agreements by at least 30 %.
It is important to focus, and build on, the positive developments in the world. To strengthen our faith in the power of politics to make a difference. And to prevent stagnation and setbacks after 25 years of remarkable results.
At the same time, we must keep a close eye on global developments that are posing a challenge to Norway – and to the international community as a whole.
Global power is shifting towards the east and the south
Firstly, Asia's economic growth is causing the geopolitical pendulum to swing east. Brazil's economic crisis and China's growing pains show that the trend is not linear, but global power is continuing to shift towards the east and south.
We are heading towards a more fragmented and multipolar world.
The US will continue to be the world's superpower for a long time to come, and it is the most important guarantor of Norway's security. No other country can compete with the US for its leadership role.
Having said this, important countries are clearly distancing themselves from Europe and the US on issues of great importance for stability, democracy and human rights. This is giving rise to rivalry between major powers that could put pressure on international cooperation. Rivalry of this kind is making it more difficult to agree on solutions to ongoing conflicts, from Syria to the South China Sea.
At the same time, shifts in the world's economic and political centre of gravity are part of a natural and legitimate process.
It is easy to understand why emerging major powers are seeking greater global influence. And it is essential that the multilateral system reflects the world of 2016, not of 1945.
We are also working systematically to secure closer cooperation with regional organisations. In 2015, we entered into a formal partnership with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). We have also strengthened our strategic partnership with the African Union (AU). It is in Norway's interests to normalise bilateral relations with China.
It is also in Norway's interests that countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America see the multilateral system and the UN as relevant and useful for them.
In the project UN70: A New Agenda, which was initiated by Norway, we are working to develop ideas and proposals to present to the next Secretary-General of the UN. We are cooperating with a number of countries on this project, but particularly with countries in the South.
Our strategic efforts to gain a seat for Norway on the UN Security Council for the period 2021–22 are continuing. Norway's candidacy is highlighting our longstanding commitment to the UN as an arena for safeguarding and further developing international law.
Global trade regimes
The second challenge is the gradual crumbling of global trade regimes. Safeguarding and strengthening the WTO is Norway's main trade policy interest. The progress made during the WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December was therefore welcomed by Norway.
But today's increasingly multipolar world is making it very difficult to agree on comprehensive solutions in the WTO. The major powers are increasingly focusing their trade policy efforts on regional forums outside the WTO, forums where Norway is often not at the table.
A TTIP agreement could have far-reaching consequences for Norway. For example through its implications for the EEA Agreement. We risk seeing less favourable conditions of competition for Norwegian companies in our most important markets.
Norway must be shrewd and proactive in its response to these challenges. The situation is not black and white. The stimulus to economic growth provided by the major regional trade agreements is good news for Norway.
Regionalisation is a logical response to the complex global situation. But regional agreements could quickly undermine global solutions if we simply replace national barriers with regional ones.
In areas where the world is not ready for genuinely multilateral solutions, we must make sure that plurilateral agreements build bridges across regions – that it is not geography that determines who takes part in new initiatives, but the desire to promote cooperation, growth and development through open markets.
The third challenge is the threat posed by global pandemics.
We have made impressive progress in global health. For the past 15 years, Norway has been right at the forefront of efforts in this area. We have made significant investments and played an active role politically and by sharing our expertise. Broad political consensus and continuity here in Norway have strengthened our influence in this area at the global level.
Child mortality has been nearly halved, primarily due to the tremendous progress that has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
But it has now become clear to all of us that weak health systems in poor countries pose serious security challenges. Not just for the billions of people living in poor areas of the world, but also for us.
The Ebola outbreak was a serious wake-up call. It revealed significant shortcomings in global preparedness and in our capacity to manage crises.
Norway sent health workers to West Africa. We provided strategic support in the form of NOK 500 million in aid funding. The Prime Minister, together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ghanaian President John Mahama, proposed a review of global health preparedness.
The challenge we are facing now is the Zika virus. Norway was the first country to respond to the World Health Organization appeal for funds to strengthen its efforts to combat the virus.
Closer international cooperation is needed to address global health challenges. Norway is leading the way in many areas. Not least in the work to put in place, as swiftly as possible, a global framework for financing vaccine research and development with a view to preventing future pandemics.
Global climate change
Virtually all analyses of security policy written these days devote much attention to climate change. For low-lying countries, climate change is an existential threat. For the rest of us, it is a threat multiplier.
The Paris Agreement reached in December last year was a crucial step forward and has given new impetus to international cooperation on climate change.
Norway is at the forefront of many global initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We are continuing to give high priority to Norway's International Climate and Forest Initiative.
We are playing a leading role in global projects to reduce gas flaring and methane emissions from oil and gas production. We are also participating actively in the global effort to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
As an energy-producing nation and a country with abundant natural resources, Norway has much to contribute in the global fight against climate change. We must stay one step ahead of developments, we must understand the framework conditions and options available to Norway, we must be at the forefront of research on new technology, and we must promote favourable conditions for environmentally sound and climate-friendly development.
3. How Norway is responding to the challenges
The overall tone of this year's address is sombre.
But it is important to stress that we have a strong basis for meeting the challenges we are facing. There is broad consensus in the Storting on the main lines of our foreign policy.
Norway has a strong economy and a society based on trust and solidarity. This will help us to weather global turbulence, and is crucial at a time when economic decline is affecting key industries along our coast and compelling us to focus on new sectors. Having been in an exceptional position, Norway now has to adapt to a new reality.
One reason for optimism is our common commitment to a fundamental and robust set of values – freedom, democracy, human rights, gender equality and sustainable development.
These are the basic values on which our society – and therefore also Norwegian foreign policy – is based. The greater the turbulence in the world around us, the more important it is for us to stay true to who we are and to the values we believe in.
That is why it is also vital to ensure that the regional and global institutions that have been built up since the end of the Second World War reflect these values.
The UN Charter, the Law of the Sea, the human rights conventions, environment and climate conventions, and other instruments of international law are vital components of an international framework that is fundamentally important to Norway.
It is now 50 years since the two main international human rights conventions were adopted. Sadly, protecting and promoting human rights is at least as relevant today as it was then. We will speak out clearly in defence of fundamental rights such as the freedoms of expression, assembly and association, and freedom of the press.
The most important task of any government is to safeguard the country and its inhabitants, and, today in the current international climate, to build security and resilience in the face of an increasingly unpredictable environment.
The current situation has highlighted how important it is to make national defence a constant priority. It is too late to wait until we really need it.
Ensuring a strong national defence must therefore be a fundamental aspect of security policy.
We must give priority to what is most important: the defence of our country, and our Nato obligations.
At a time when the security environment has become more complex, it is vital that we stand by our friends and our Nato partners.
Membership of Nato is the cornerstone of Norway's security policy. At the same time, there is broad awareness in Nato of the role Norway plays in ensuring our collective security in the north.
The fundamental principle that binds the members states together – an attack on one member is an attack on all – has made Nato the most successful military alliance in history.
The upcoming Nato summit in July will have a greater focus on collective defence, Nato's core task, and on what Nato must do across the board to adapt to the new situation. It is symbolic that the Nato members will be meeting in Warsaw, the city where the Warsaw Pact was founded over 60 years ago.
Given the increasing pressure on Europe, Nato's cooperation with the EU will also be an important topic on the agenda in Warsaw.
In the time leading up to the summit, Norway will call for a comprehensive approach to security. The Alliance cannot choose between the south and the east, between ground and sea forces, or between deterrence and détente.
The security needs of all the allies must be taken seriously – and all members of the Alliance must play their part.
This, of course, also applies to developments in our part of Europe. Developments in the North Atlantic area have consequences for Norway, and for Nato has a whole. Nato's attention has recently been drawn to the north, and allied exercises and training exercises have been carried out.
In the run-up to the Warsaw Summit, Norway will advocate a significant strengthening of Nato's maritime capabilities, with a strong emphasis on the northern sea areas.
In our dealings with Russia, clear communication must be combined with measures by Nato to prevent dangerous incidents and an increase in tensions. Norway plays a key role in this respect.
The most welcome development on the disarmament front last year was the nuclear agreement with Iran.
A key condition for the conclusion of the agreement was the replacement of Iran's low-enriched uranium with natural uranium. When we received a request from the US to help with this, we saw it as a natural continuation of our disarmament work and our efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We provided technical expertise and financial support for the implementation of a vital part of the nuclear agreement.
Experts from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority verified and controlled the transport of natural uranium to Iran.
Norway's contribution was important because it was one of the factors that enabled the nuclear agreement to be implemented sooner than would otherwise have been the case.
We have cooperated closely with the UK on nuclear disarmament verification for several years. This work provides an important basis for future cuts in nuclear arsenals.
Norway also plays a leading role in the international cooperation on nuclear security that was initiated by President Obama. The Prime Minister will participate at President Obama's Nuclear Security Summit in Washington later this month.
The Government is working systematically towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. We take a practical, long-term approach and are working on several different fronts.
Greater focus on fragile states
The refugee crisis has increased the Government's focus on fragile states, in particular a long belt of countries stretching from Mali in the west via the Horn of Africa and the Middle East to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east.
Developments in these regions represent a threat to Norway's security and to the security of Europe as a whole.
We need to act now – and bold, innovative political initiatives are needed. We must take an integrated approach and make use of all the tools available to us – diplomacy, security measures, military contributions, and support for development activities, job creation, humanitarian efforts, promotion of human rights and institution building.
A new approach to development policy is required to address today's challenges. We must ensure that our efforts are targeted towards the most vulnerable countries and we must seek to prevent the collapse of fragile states. Not at the expense of the poorest, but because this is the most effective way of helping the most vulnerable groups among the poor. Six of 12 of the countries we have identified as focus countries are fragile states.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has therefore started to draw up a strategy for how we can best focus our efforts on fragile states.
The experience we have gained in countries ranging from Afghanistan to South Sudan has shown that there is no fixed template for successful statebuilding in fragile states. We must not fall into the trap of thinking that we, as outsiders, can create stabile and peaceful societies. All our efforts must have the full support of groups in the country concerned that have the capacity to govern.
We must enhance coordination between humanitarian relief and long-term development aid, and harness the financial muscle of the development banks. The UN has a particularly important role to play in this context, and Norway will continue to support efforts to strengthen the role of the UN in fragile states. Norwegian NGOs also have a key part to play here.
Recent reviews of the UN's peace and security efforts have highlighted the fact that we need to improve our ability to prevent conflicts, and that we must make sure that women are included in this work. Norway is leading the way when it comes to ensuring that due consideration is given to the experience and views of both men and women. This will make it possible to carry out genuine conflict analysis, and enable us to tap into the full range of possible solutions.
Efforts to promote stability and development in fragile states carry a higher level of risk than our work in developing countries that are more stable.
There is a higher risk of corruption, and of projects failing.
But this is a risk we have to take. Because doing nothing entails an even greater risk.
Norway's peace and reconciliation policy is a priority area that will gain new relevance – and an even stronger justification – with the development of the new strategy.
That said, considerable resources will still be used to fight poverty and prevent conflict in other areas of Africa and Asia. Our ambitious initiatives in the areas of education, health, economic development and job creation will be maintained and more effectively targeted.
This is vital if we are to reach the poorest, and achieve the new UN sustainable development goals. We must make sure that poor countries that are stable today and that are now making progress towards democracy and experiencing economic growth do not once again fall into a downward spiral of violence and conflict.
An effective foreign policy that has a real impact
Safeguarding Norway and defending the multilateral order depends, not least, on our skills in the craft of diplomacy.
Norway has a long tradition of contributing to important global processes, not only in the form of money but also in terms of providing expertise, whether in the field of international maritime law, peace and reconciliation, humanitarian assistance, or efforts to establish new international norms, as in the case of the climate negotiations.
The Norwegian Foreign Service and other Norwegian centres of expertise are often called upon because they are known for their ability to deliver.
In Colombia, Norway has been involved in humanitarian efforts and various attempts to bring peace to the country since the 1990s. The expertise and trust that has been built up by the actors involved are yielding returns: today, Norway is at the centre of efforts to bring an end to more than 50 years of violence.
I would like to round off this year's address by highlighting ten specific points relating to Norway's role in the world:
We are a trusted ally. The US is Norway's most important ally. Nato is the cornerstone of our security policy. Our allies know that they can rely on Norway.
We will maintain stable relations with Russia. We continue to be a consistent and predictable neighbour for Russia. We are sharpening our analytical tools and strengthening our expertise on Russia.
We give priority to the Arctic. Our aim is to make sure that the Arctic remains a region of cooperation where sound resource management is paramount.
We play an important role in Europe. Europe's challenges are our challenges. We contribute in a wide range of areas, including efforts to promote energy security and address the migration crisis, and we seek to ensure that the EEA and Norway Grants are used strategically.
We are preparing Norway to be able to prosper in a world in which the economic centre of gravity is shifting towards Asia. Our continued welfare depends on our seizing new opportunities and building relations with emerging economies in the South.
We are increasing our already extensive humanitarian assistance, and giving high priority to efforts in fragile states. The scale of humanitarian need that we are now seeing is unprecedented in recent times. But so is the level of support Norway is providing.
We are reforming our development policy and targeting our efforts more effectively. We are reducing the number of recipient countries and development assistance agreements, and introducing stricter requirements for the evaluation of projects and delivery of results.
We are continuing our major initiative to promote global education. Through its focus on education, Norway has assumed a global leadership role in the work in efforts to ensure education for all.
We are further developing our active peace and reconciliation policy. Efforts to prevent conflicts and wars and to find solutions to existing conflicts make for a cost-effective foreign policy activities.
We continue to lead the way in international efforts to combat climate change. Norway played an active role in securing the Paris Agreement – and it is now that the work to implement it begins.
The overarching goal of Norwegian foreign policy is to safeguard and promote Norway's interests – our values, our security and our welfare.
The gravity, instability and unpredictability of the current situation call for clear thinking and shrewd action.
This is vital if we are to promote Norwegian interests and invest in the values and global framework that will ensure that right prevails over might.