Historical archive

Foreign Policy Address to the Storting

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Oslo, 20 May 2008

The purpose of foreign policy is to safeguard Norwegian interests and promote values that are important to us. This has to be done in a time of increasing globalisation, where many of the parameters remain fixed, while others are undergoing profound change, Foreign Minister Støre said in his Foreign Policy address.

Translated from the Norwegian

Mr. President

The purpose of foreign policy is to safeguard Norwegian interests and promote values that are important to us. This has to be done in a time of increasing globalisation, where many of the parameters remain fixed, while others are undergoing profound change.

Foreign and security policy must strike a fine balance between continuity and renewal if we are to make Norway’s presence felt and take responsibility, and thus safeguard our interests. 

If we want others to play a relevant role for us, we have to  make sure we have relevance  for them.

Our policy of engagement is based on recognition of the fact that Norwegian security and interests must be safeguarded by maintaining a clear focus on our neighbouring areas, coupled with a realisation that having relevance in today’s world is also a matter of demonstrating engagement beyond our neighbouring areas.

The greatest challenges of our time cannot be geographically isolated. They know no borders. Addressing climate change, the fight against poverty, combating international terrorism and the spread of infectious diseases, challenges relating to migration, promoting peace, disarmament and conflict prevention: all these political efforts are being played out in a number of different arenas, many of them geographically far removed from our neighbouring areas.

Norway is a prosperous nation, both in political and economic terms. We have the capacity and resources to take our share of the responsibility for a safer world.

This should be our hallmark, particularly when the rest of the world regards Norway as a privileged nation that enjoys large revenues, considerable wealth, and peace and stability.

This is why, Mr President, Norway’s policy of engagement must serve Norwegian interests, also in the sense that we take our share of the responsibility and build a community of interests with key actors, because we also need partners to promote what is important for Norway.

Some of the key tasks we have been addressing this spring illustrate this approach:

In April, we brought together the international contact group for Somalia in Oslo. This is a group that Norway has co-chaired with the US, but that the UN is now assuming responsibility for.

At the beginning of May we chaired a ministerial-level meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for Assistance to the Palestinians (AHLC) in London. This was the first major gathering at political level on the situation in the Middle East since the Annapolis Conference last autumn.

During the first week of May we hosted the Sudan Donor Conference here in Oslo.

A week ago we hosted and facilitated informal, confidential peace talks here in Norway between representatives of the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, at the request of the parties.

Norway has helped to facilitate political-level peace talks in Sri Lanka under four governments. There have been ups and downs, and the parties must take responsibility for both. Now the situation seems to be deteriorating. Norway is prepared to continue to offer its assistance if this can lead towards peace.

Norway advocated closer coordination of the international efforts in Afghanistan, and this initiative gained widespread support. Norway is now a member of the core group responsible for preparations for the Afghan donor conference to be held in Paris on 12 June.

Norway is playing a leading role in key areas of the global efforts to combat climate change, for instance in the campaign to prevent deforestation and by promoting carbon capture and storage technology.

Norway, with the Prime Minister in the lead, has created an alliance to deliver on two of the key Millennium Development Goals: to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.

And this week, the final negotiations started in Dublin on an international convention on the prohibition of cluster munitions that have unacceptable humanitarian consequences, a process that began in Oslo in February last year. 

Mr President,

I could have given more examples of Norway’s engagement and presence in international contexts, but what is more pertinent today is the question: Why is this important for Norway?  

Firstly, it is important because poverty, climate change, environmental degradation, migration, conflict and instability threaten international peace and security, and thereby also Norway’s security. It is therefore in our interests to be engaged where we can, not least when we are requested to participate, and when we can actually make a difference in certain areas.

Secondly, it is important because our engagement gives us a voice that is heard beyond the areas and conflicts I mentioned. Engagement is a hallmark of Norwegian foreign policy. Our active engagement gives us access to key international decision-makers and arenas that are important for Norway in other contexts as well.

We will always have a need for this kind of access. And it can be difficult for Norway, as a country outside the EU, which is perhaps the most important regional decision- making arena in history, to gain access in a range of settings.

In today’s world a country’s relevance is not determined solely by its name and location. What the country does and the effort it is prepared to make are also decisive.

Thirdly, it is important because a policy of engagement is a value-based policy. A policy that is not based on values is arbitrary and unstable, and therefore neither sustainable nor effective. Norway’s policy of engagement is based on values such as solidarity, respect for human rights, peace, and an international legal order that protects the weak and restrains the strong.

Mr President,

In the Norwegian public debate, some people argue that we must give greater priority to Norwegian interests and less to a broader engagement.

In my view, this is a false dilemma. Because if we do not demonstrate the ability and will to be engaged, we fail to adequately safeguard Norwegian interests.

Moreover, a policy that defines Norwegian interests narrowly is not in the country’s best interests.

Modern realpolitik is a matter of grasping the breadth of the new global community of interests we are a part of.

Let me give you two examples that illustrate this and show how events taking place “far away” actually affect Norway closely.

Firstly, the events in the Middle East. In a number of different areas, political, social and economic developments in the Middle East affect Norway directly. Virtually every country in the world is affected by the conflicts in this area. They have an impact on the global economy and the general international political climate.

But there are also more connections. The future of the Middle East will have a direct impact on Norway’s strategic position. Continued high levels of tension between Israel and the Palestinians, unrest in the Gulf region, Iran’s growing influence, and any spread of the conflict in Iraq are all factors that could fuel global competition for scarce energy resources and further increase the need to utilise resources in the High North, which would affect Norway considerably.

Similarly, the religious and cultural tensions in many societies today, including Norwegian society, can be traced back to the religious and political situation in the Middle East.

The cartoon controversy in 2006 was one manifestation of these tensions. Young European Muslims’ feelings of exclusion, and their recruitment to radical political groups in the wake of 9/11, are others.

Norway has done well not to politicise the production and sale of our oil and gas resources.  But we must ensure that we have the best possible understanding of political and strategic developments in the forums where important political decisions about global energy policy are made.

This is important because key actors from the Norwegian business sector are now sharing their experience and becoming involved in these countries.

And because any action in the climate change area will have to include the major petroleum states in order to be effective. And because it is in Norway’s interests to be present where decisions on energy are being taken.

This is why we have intensified our foreign-policy contact with key oil-producing countries in the Gulf. And this is why we established a Norwegian embassy in Algeria, which together with Russia and Norway, currently supplies gas to Europe.

We  have a presence in Azerbaijan, and we are considering a new presence in Central Asia. In other words, these countries and regions are vital to our core interests.

Secondly, Afghanistan. The case of Afghanistan illustrates just how closely Norway is interlinked with other countries today, and how events far away affect us here at home. ISAF’s mandate in Afghanistan is based on a series of unanimous UN Security Council resolutions. ISAF is NATO’s most important operation, and NATO is the mainstay of our security policy.

Our participation in ISAF has an impact on Norway, both directly, due to the operation’s significance for stabilising Afghanistan and because we are helping  the Afghan people gain control over their own country, and indirectly, since the operation is also intended to prevent Afghanistan becoming a hotbed for international terrorism once again, and to support efforts to combat the country’s growing opium production.

Just a few years ago, few people would have seen any connection between developments in rural areas of Afghanistan, mountainous areas of Pakistan and Norwegian society. But today these are key factors that affect both transatlantic and Norwegian security challenges.

Mr President,

Let us now turn our attention in a different direction – towards the High North, one of the main areas for Norway’s engagement.

Norway has an open economy, a long coastline and extensive sea areas. It is dependent on a robust, UN-based international legal order, and with growing interest in the sea areas in the north, this dependence is increasing. Promoting and developing the international rule of law is therefore one of Norway’s core interests.

The 22 action points in the Government’s High North Strategy cover a broad range of issues related to sea and land areas and to our relations with other countries. The implementation of the strategy will be discussed in the Government’s budget proposal for 2009, and we aim to present an overview of these efforts in spring next year.

The Integrated Management Plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten Area sets out the environmental framework conditions for sustainable utilisation of the sea areas in the north.

The most significant change since the Government first presented an outline of its High North policy is the rapid melting of the polar ice cap we are now witnessing.

Recent studies suggest that the ice is melting faster than indicated in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We must seek to slow down this process, and combating climate change must therefore be our top priority. It has become even more important to raise awareness of the significance of the Arctic in the context of climate change, both regionally and globally.

Many people are now focusing on the new opportunities for economic activity in sectors such as oil and gas, fisheries and shipping. As the ice melts, this may make renewable and non-renewable natural resources accessible in new areas.

Here Norway needs to strike a balance between achieving its overall climate policy goals and safeguarding Norwegian interests in the north.

It will be possible to start using shorter shipping routes to Asia and America. In a few decades – perhaps even earlier – we may see increased pressure to expand economic activity in the Arctic.

All this gives Norway’s High North policy an additional dimension and a geographical perspective that stretches towards the North Pole. Once again, this underscores the importance of international law, and particularly of the law of the sea, which provides key rules of the game.

The much discussed planting of the Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole, or wherever it actually was, has given some people the impression that the Arctic is an area that is not governed by law. But we can state quite confidently that the law of the sea governs rights and responsibilities in the Arctic Ocean as well. This is not a free-for-all.

There was broad agreement on this point among the legal experts of the ministries of foreign affairs of Norway and the four other Arctic coastal states – Canada, Denmark/Greenland, the US and Russia – when they met in Oslo in October last year at the invitation of the Norwegian Government to discuss these issues.

Next week I will discuss these issues again with the same group of countries at a conference in Greenland, hosted by the Danish foreign minister. The foreign ministers will be able to reaffirm their agreement on the rules that apply to the Arctic Ocean and on the need to address the new challenges that have arisen with a view to ensuring sound management of this sea area.

The fundamental legal basis is in place. Now we need states to implement the agreements they have made. And we need more systematic political efforts to address the many impacts of climate change on this vulnerable sea area.

Mr President,

One way of describing developments in the north is to say that we have gone from a situation where we faced a single major military threat to one where we are facing a number of complex risk factors. Devising our High North policy requires an understanding of what is changing and what is not.

The challenges we have to deal with, including those relating to security, are becoming more and more closely linked with climate change and the environment, energy, fisheries and maritime transport.

The traditional military-strategic issues are still relevant, but they no longer dominate the picture. They no longer push everything else aside.

Relations between Norway and Russia still form one of the main axes of Norway’s High North policy. But the perspective has changed since the end of the Cold War, and it is still changing.

However, two factors remain unchanged. Firstly, Norway is neighbour to a large country with interests and ambitions in our neighbouring areas. And secondly, this situation reinforces the need for Norway to be part of a strong Euro-Atlantic security structure.

At the same time, Russia is coloured by the legacy of its own complex history. It has become a self-assertive country with large energy revenues, and is now positioning itself and seeking respect as a regional and international actor.

In some cases it is doing this by reverting to  modes of behaviour that are reminiscent of the past, such as resuming the pattern of military exercises in our neighbouring areas.

This is a general trend and cannot be interpreted as a threat against Norway. But Russia’s presence is discernible, and we are following developments closely. Russian military aircraft activity that interferes with civilian air traffic in our neighbouring areas, such as we experienced in the immediate vicinity of oil installations in the North Sea last December, should not be necessary, and is not typical of the relations between our countries, which are generally good. This is something we have made quite clear.

The Russian political system is undergoing major change. The change of president following elections earlier this month was in itself a historic event, although it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Dmitry Medvedev would succeed Vladimir Putin.

There are still critical flaws in the political system, for example as regards freedom of expression and pluralism. Furthermore, serious human rights violations are still being reported from Chechnya.

We must continue to live with a number of unanswered questions. Russia is more open and accessible than in former times. Once again, Europeans are fascinated by Russia as a nation of culture. Russia is part of the world economy, but it is still not part of the multilateral body of rules developed by the WTO and the OECD, although it is now negotiating with both organisations on membership. Corruption and arbitrary conduct are still  prevalent. However, we will take President Medvedev at his word when he says that his most important task will be to secure the rule of law.

By and large, Norway’s bilateral relations with Russia have developed favourably. Trade is increasing. More people than ever before are travelling between the two countries.

But in a number of contexts, Russia is not always equally predictable, and can thus be a challenging cooperation partner.

This underscores the importance of taking a long-term approach, showing firmness and having a strong alliance with Euro-Atlantic partners.

We have seen that Russia is focusing more on efforts to prevent illegal fishing. This is a step forward. Norway will continue to give high priority to maintaining a presence and carrying out frequent fisheries controls in northern sea areas that are under Norwegian jurisdiction.

We must be prepared to deal with the various challenges that we know may arise. It is important that our response is predictable in order to ensure stability and sustainable use of the resources in these areas both today and in the future.

Mr President,

The developments of the past 15–20 years have given Norway more room for manoeuvre in its foreign policy in the High North. This provided a basis for the Barents cooperation, closer cross-border contact between authorities, and broader people-to-people cooperation. Norway is gaining useful experience from all this, which we intend to build on and share with our European and Atlantic partners and with our friends in the EU.

Our vision for the Norwegian-Russian border is that it should be like any other European border, without unnecessary restrictions on the movement of persons, goods or services. Our goal is a visa-free regime for travellers between the two countries, as set out in the new visa facilitation agreement, although in practice this still lies some way ahead. The agreement will enter into force as soon as it has been approved by the Duma, which I hope will happen this summer.

We have looked into and proposed ways of simplifying procedures at the border. We want to offer better service and make it easier to cross the border, while at the same time ensuring that Norway fulfils its obligations under the Schengen Agreement as regards controlling the external border with Russia.

We are making it easier to recruit Russian labour, as outlined in the white paper on labour immigration. We need to develop legislation and practices for issuing visas, border procedures and recruiting labour, so that they promote rather than hamper economic interaction.

This is becoming more important with the development of the Shtokman field, the plans to resume mining activities in Sør-Varanger, and a  number of other activities in the region.

In three weeks’ time, when I meet my Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov at the border – one day in Kirkenes and one day in Murmansk – a key theme of our talks will be closer cross-border regional cooperation.

We have agreed with Governor Yevdokimov of Murmansk oblast to consider twinning the border municipalities of Sør-Varanger and Pechenga to promote cooperation.

We will investigate whether the Russian authorities can be persuaded to participate in developing a system under which people living in areas close to the Norwegian-Russian border would be issued with “border resident ID cards”. This could be instrumental in simplifying border procedures for holders.

There is also an ongoing dialogue between a working group headed by the Director of the Northern Region of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and the Vice-Governor of Murmansk oblast on transport plans for the border area. We will also take these plans into account when drawing up the National Transport Plan for 2010–2019.

We also need to take an integrated approach to the Barents Sea ecosystem. We will apply the experience we have gained on the Norwegian continental shelf and the principles set out in the Integrated Management Plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten Area to our cooperation with Russia and our dialogue with the Russian authorities.

We are currently engaged in projects aimed at ensuring high standards for health, safety and the environment for the whole Barents Sea. These include a project headed by Det Norske Veritas (DNV) and funded initially by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to develop health, safety and environment standards for activity on the continental shelf and maritime transport in Arctic waters.

Knowledge is at the core of our High North strategy.

Let me give you an example. A number of countries – and the EU – are seeking to develop integrated systems for civilian monitoring of the sea areas in the north. These will link together various databases  to provide an integrated monitoring and warning capability.

Norway has developed subsystems for monitoring maritime traffic, the fishing fleet, the marine environment and the weather. Linking these together to form an integrated monitoring and warning system should be a national task. This will offer advantages, but it will also generate costs. The SINTEF foundation for industrial and technical research has been tasked with carrying out a pilot project for such a system in the northern sea areas, in connection with the knowledge-building programme Barents 2020. We consider it particularly important to involve centres of expertise in the High North in this work.

If this project proves feasible, it will give us a unique tool for dealing with future developments in the northern sea areas. It could also become an arena for close cooperation with other countries, such as Russia, Iceland and Denmark.

We will also finance a research programme on foreign policy and the High North within the framework of Barents 2020. The programme was announced in February, and the institution that will carry out this programme will be selected before the summer.

Mr President,

The focus of our efforts in the High North is thus shifting further north. Norway is currently chair of the Arctic Council, and will be followed by Denmark and Sweden. The joint Nordic working programme will thus continue over six years.

The Council has placed great emphasis on research and developing knowledge, particularly in connection with climate change. Research initiated by the Council has greatly enhanced our understanding of climate change.

The Arctic Council is a natural forum for shaping the policies we need for the polar region. This requires that governments and organisations – and here the participation of indigenous people’s organisations is important – are prepared to set the necessary political agendas. Gaining broad acceptance for a more political approach will be a key priority for Norway in the period leading up to the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Tromsø in spring 2009. Here we intend to cooperate closely with the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region.

We are seeing increasing international focus on Svalbard. We welcome this activity and interest. We are also seeing greater interest on the part of other countries’ governments. In this connection, it is important to bear in mind that, according to the Treaty concerning Spitsbergen, it is the nationals and companies of the High Contracting Parties that may exercise the rights specified in the Treaty, not foreign states as such.

The main features of Norway’s Svalbard policy remain unchanged. This entails proper compliance with the Spitsbergen Treaty and control to verify this compliance. It entails consistent and firm enforcement of sovereignty and maintaining calm and stability in the area. It also means ensuring that Svalbard remains one of the world’s best preserved wilderness areas.

We attach importance to a consistent and firm enforcement of our sovereignty on the basis of Norwegian law. This ensures predictability and equal treatment for all actors.

We must, however, also meet new legislative and administrative needs. The Government is therefore preparing a new white paper on Svalbard, which will be submitted to the Storting by the end of this parliamentary period.

Mr President,

I would now like to focus on the Nordic dimension. We may be seeing a renaissance in Nordic political cooperation due to a number of coinciding trends.

Firstly, the Nordic countries are now integrated in broad European cooperation schemes. We do not consider the Nordic sphere to be the defining framework in areas such as defence, the economy and trade, as was the case in the 1940s and 1950s. NATO and/or the EU are the mainstays of the five Nordic countries’ foreign and security policies.

And the EEA Agreement links the countries together in a common market. This ensures a level playing field and the predictability the Nordic countries have always sought. Thus, the EEA Agreement is our most important Nordic cooperation agreement.

Secondly, some of the most innovative forms of regional cooperation have originated precisely in the Nordic region: the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Barents cooperation, the Baltic Sea cooperation and the Arctic Council.

And thirdly, a new security policy agenda is making it attractive and relevant for the Nordic countries to seek closer cooperation. Once again, this is not in spite of the broader frameworks of NATO and EU cooperation, but if anything because of the opportunities these frameworks provide.

We see that some of the new challenges in the north – such as those related to climate change and the environment, crime, migration and social inclusion, transport, resource management, and cross-border regional cooperation – cannot automatically be addressed in these broader frameworks, but should be dealt with by the countries that are living with these challenges and forced to respond to them.

The five Nordic countries constitute the core in these efforts. They add depth and relevance to our foreign policy consultations.

Norway, Sweden and Finland are focusing particularly on challenges in the northernmost parts of the Scandinavian Peninsula, including developments in northwestern Russia. Norway and Denmark are deepening their cooperation on Arctic matters. And Norway, Denmark and Iceland are developing cooperation concerning the North Atlantic.

It is interesting that defence cooperation has been an important driving force in this development. Finland and Sweden have engaged in such cooperation for some time. Now the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish defence authorities are exploring opportunities for closer cooperation and integration. Given their relatively small defence systems, this makes good economic sense. But it also opens up prospects for enhanced coordination, joint exercises and joint participation in operations.

Mr President,

The NATO summit in April focused attention on  the Alliance’s future development with regard to the security policy challenges it is facing.

The summit agreed on the need to develop NATO as an organisation and to ensure that it is able to meet new challenges in relation to information security, energy security and maritime surveillance. In all these areas, we are giving priority to the security challenges in NATO’s neighbouring areas, including the High North.

However, since the mid-1990s, a great deal of attention has been focused on the enlargement of the Alliance.  This has led to greater focus on other regions in Europe, and it has also been a constant source of friction with Russia.

It is important to bear in mind that every country is free to choose its alliances, as we did in 1949. Russia, too, has acknowledged this. The enlargements of NATO and the EU have given the new member states stability at a difficult stage of their development. This is positive.

At the summit in Bucharest, Albania and Croatia were given the green light, and Macedonia will be, too, once the unresolved dispute with Greece over the country’s name has been settled. It was also made clear that the door is open to Ukraine and Georgia.

At the same time it is important to continue developing the cooperation between NATO and Russia. This will require that both sides make an effort. Talks are currently under way on how to resolve the dispute on the CFE Treaty, but little visible progress has been made. The building of a US missile defence shield is still being discussed with a sceptical Russia, as was confirmed during the Russian-US talks in Oslo yesterday.

It is very important that the 26 members of the Alliance uphold NATO’s long tradition of compromise. This ability to find compromises, which has shaped the form of cooperation developed within the Alliance, was evident at the NATO summit. Norway’s membership of the Alliance is based on clear security policy considerations, as is the case for many of the new NATO members.

At the same time, we have cooperated pragmatically with our Russian neighbour for many decades – and in recent years we have cooperated constructively, both bilaterally and at regional level, under the  Barents cooperation. Norway considers it important to bring this experience into NATO and the NATO-Russia Council.

Mr President,

I would now like to shift perspective and outlook. I began my address today by talking about the policy of engagement.

There is currently an international debate on the parameters of modern policy of engagement.

The main point that is being made is that the ability to resolve conflicts and promote development depends on the ability to use a broad range of tools and active diplomacy.

The use of military force is included in this range of tools, but only as a supplement to a broader approach that emphasises political, economic, cultural and social factors. This is particularly true when the challenges we meet are as complex as they are.

There is also a debate on how we should respond to authoritarian regimes and extremist political movements. Should we isolate and boycott them, or should we meet and engage with them, with a view to influencing and changing their behaviour?

These are difficult considerations and dilemmas. The recent natural disasters in Asia have revealed striking differences in the ways China and Burma have dealt with the crises. Burma’s refusal to accept assistance so far has shown just how dire such situations can become.

The humanitarian disaster in Burma once more raises the question of how we can persuade the regime to open up the country. In the phase immediately following the disaster, Norway has concentrated on how we can best strengthen relief efforts on the ground. We have sought to get neighbouring countries in the region to use their channels into Burma. The aim is to encourage the military regime to allow foreign relief aid into the country and establish a dialogue.

In the past few days there have been signs that the regime has opened the door a crack. We must take advantage of this opportunity. This is why State Secretary Raymond Johansen is travelling to Burma today to take part in meetings on the situation in the country and the status of the emergency relief effort. The UN Secretary-General will also participate in these meetings. Hopefully State Secretary Johansen’s trip will give him an opportunity to get a first-hand impression of the situation in the flood-affected parts of the country and establish contacts with the regime.

Mr President, 

It will always be unacceptable to reward regimes or groups that violate established international norms.

At the same time, experience shows that if anything, isolation and sanctions tend to strengthen those in power and fuel more extreme attitudes and policies. This is the dilemma.

This discussion is also relevant in relation to the war on terror, which was launched on 11 September 2001 following the warlike attacks on the US, which led the US to invoke its legitimate right to defend itself.

Since then, the logic of war has been the dominant paradigm. This has influenced the international debate on how to resolve conflicts and prevent war. And it has reduced the scope for pursuing a policy of engagement and using political tools in the fight against terrorism.

Terrorism, Mr President, can neither be accepted nor tolerated. Those who commit acts of terrorism must be apprehended, arrested and brought to justice. Attacks on civilians challenge the fundamental responsibility of all states to protect their people. We must be entitled to defend ourselves, if necessary by military means.

However, there is also growing awareness that this is not enough. A broader approach is needed. The UN’s global strategy against terrorism focuses precisely on viewing long-term efforts and short-term use of force in relation to each other. That is to say, an approach where efforts to strengthen the rule of law are just as important as the prosecution of terrorists. Norway is taking part in the implementation of this strategy, in cooperation with the UN, individual countries and regional organisations.

Afghanistan illustrates that a military approach alone is not sufficient in the fight against terrorism.

The task of stabilising Afghanistan and ensuring reconstruction and development cannot be reduced to a military campaign against insurgent groups. We need to show firm resolve, also in military terms.

But Afghanistan’s future cannot be safeguarded by military means alone. And the country’s complex problems – both internally and in relation to its neighbours – cannot be solved in the context of the fight against international terrorism. They cannot be reduced to that. Progress can only be made through a combination of improved security, development and national reconciliation.

President Karzai has repeatedly advocated broad political reconciliation that includes various groups in the country. Similar viewpoints are now being put forward by some of the opposition, and it looks as though this will be a key issue in the Afghan elections next year. Reconciliation will, not least, be important for enabling the elections to be held. And reconciliation must be the work of the Afghan people themselves.

At the NATO summit, there was considerable emphasis on the need to use a broad range of tools in the international efforts in Afghanistan. It was agreed that the UN’s role should be strengthened and that the UN should be responsible for coordinating the international efforts. Kai Eide’s appointment as UN Special Representative for Afghanistan also bears witness to this.

In addition, the ISAF troop-contributing nations agreed on the Comprehensive Political-Military Strategic Plan for Afghanistan, which underlines the need for Afghan ownership, closer coordination and a regional approach. This is an approach that Norway actively supports. A political development strategy is currently being drawn up, which will follow up Afghan priorities identified at the Afghan donor conference in Paris in June.

Mr President,

Political dialogue can be at its most challenging when it involves actors such as political, social or religious groups. For states remain the main actors in foreign policy, and states are accustomed to relating to other states.

It is far more difficult to relate to groups. Several groups, such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, and Hamas and Hezbollah in the Middle East, are included on international terrorist lists and excluded from political networks. But does this undermine their position? Or cause them to lose influence and support? These are questions we must venture to ask.

The Middle East provides a number of examples. Norway supported the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, in his efforts to form a national unity government that included 90% of the groups in the democratically elected assembly. His view was that this approach would engage Hamas and oblige them to choose a political path. He believed that this would put pressure on the movement and create a division between moderate and extremist elements.

Thus Palestinians themselves must bear the brunt of the responsibility for the collapse of the unity government. But the international community must also accept its share. The boycott was upheld. The government remained isolated. Those who ventured to take the political path had little to show for it.

Today the situation is even more serious. The Palestinians are divided. Gaza is isolated in a humanitarian crisis. Israel is being hit by extremists’ rockets and is responding with military action. Violence breeds violence, and causes civilian suffering on both sides. Tensions are rising in Lebanon. Iran’s influence is growing.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are taking place – and they have our active support – but frustration on the ground is growing. It will be difficult to secure peace unless key actors are made accountable and are brought into the political process.

The strong US engagement in facilitating a peace settlement is an important contribution in this complex and difficult situation. The Americans came in late – but forcefully. Norway is also supporting the important work being done by the international Middle East Quartet Representative, Tony Blair, to lay the groundwork for greater movement of people and goods and more economic activity in the region.

Our aims continue to be: an end to the occupation, and a negotiated peace settlement on the final status issues that can ensure that Israel and a Palestinian state can live peacefully side by side within internationally recognised borders.

Nonetheless, I believe the following needs to be stated clearly today: The parties’ declared aim is a two-state solution, and it has the support of the world community. But it requires taking measurable steps towards this aim. If the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate, the vision of a two-state solution will be in real danger. 

Mr President,

The promotion of human rights is also in Norway’s interests. Engagement in efforts to strengthen human rights is one of our most effective means of preventing conflict and promoting development.

In the long-term, it is only countries that respect fundamental human rights that will be able to help create a stable international legal order that will benefit both Norway and other countries.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the progress made in this field must be viewed as one of the most important results achieved through international cooperation since it was adopted.

Human rights have won a key position on the agenda. Today, almost all states claim to be founded on respect for universal human rights.

An influential, independent and highly competent civil society has developed, which calls attention to human rights violations, greatly aided by the media and information technology. This enables the whole world to take part and become involved – in real time.

However, the reality on the ground is far more demanding. Amnesty International has documented serious human rights violations in the majority of the countries in the world. The disparity between obligations and realities is striking.

Earlier this year the US think tank Freedom House reported the first signs since 1994 that democratic values are on the wane and that authoritarian forms of government are winning ground.

Such trends are altering the normative climate, which poses challenges for us.

The fact is that countries and regions with serious human rights challenges are increasing their influence in the world. This applies to a number of the world’s leading energy-producing  states. They are important for Norway, both because we too are an energy-producing state, and because the involvement of these states is vital for a successful global climate policy.

This means that some of the states that we should and must have dealings with have views on human rights, democracy and political governance that are incompatible with our own.

We must maintain a strong value base in our dialogue with such states, and we must speak with a clear voice. And we must have a broad engagement that enhances our prospects of exerting influence. We must be impatient to achieve results, but at the same time keep a long-term perspective.

Norway is a candidate for the UN Human Rights Council. We know that Norway will probably be in the minority in the Council as regards our views on important issues. But we must never allow this to prevent us from taking part. Our strategy must be to seek to change the distribution of power. It must be to defend and promote principles that are universal. They are not “Western” values as some claim, but values shared by all mankind and universal rights.

It is therefore vital not to resort to oversimplified, schematic images of the world being divided into “us and the others”, or of a “clash of civilisations”. Such simplifications are poorly suited for understanding and doing something about the complex global reality of today. Divisions and conflicts arise just as much along political, socio-economic and religious dividing lines within regions, religions, cultures and nations, as they do between “Western” and “Oriental” societies. 

It is only in extreme, exceptional cases that we promote human rights, the fight against climate change, the fight against poverty, or peace and development by refraining from meeting other countries’ leaders. It is not that there is too much contact between groups with different interests, but rather too little.

Therefore, Mr President, our approach to countries like China is to seek dialogue and access. To use all the channels offered by our open and interdependent world community to exert an influence. We are applying this approach to speak out on our views on human rights violations and the situation regarding freedom of expression and religion – before, during and after the Olympic Games in August. And we are applying it now as we are allowed access to the severely affected earthquake areas in China with humanitarian assistance.  

There is growing focus on corporate social responsibility, both at the political level and in the business sector itself. We are seeing that companies that operate in accordance with sound ethical and environmentally sustainable principles are able to strengthen their market position and sharpen their competitive edge both at home and abroad. Corporate social responsibility, which has an important foreign policy dimension, will be dealt with in a white paper to be presented to the Storting during the course of the year.

Mr President,

Our world is suffering from a lack of political will and ability to find modern solutions to a great many serious challenges. Nor is there political will to implement known – but demanding – solutions.

This applies particularly to the will to enable international governing bodies – with the UN at the centre – to act effectively.

In this era of globalisation, we are now facing a new generation of challenges where the old solutions no longer work, and innovation and new resolve are needed.

There is one key international challenge where we can draw on important lessons we have learned from our own history. It has to do with developing political systems for equitable burden sharing. It has to do with mobilising a determination that is fostered by a sense of community. And it is to do with the conviction that those who have the most resources must bear the greatest burden. With the realisation that until the fight against poverty is won, very little else matters.

The world needs a new world trade agreement. The global economy needs the impetus of a breakthrough in the WTO negotiations. This would also give poor countries the regulated access to markets they need. It is uncertain whether there is sufficient political will to conclude the round, but Norway is prepared to do its part.

The world needs progress on disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Efforts are now under way to ban cluster munitions that have unacceptable humanitarian consequences. And we have been working strategically to push nuclear disarmament much higher up on the international agenda.

The world needs to see visible progress in the run-up to the climate conference in Copenhagen next year. Our ability to meet the challenges of climate change will depend on our ability to renew the multilateral framework, involve developing countries and devise mechanisms that distribute the burden fairly.

The world needs determined action in order to resolve the growing food crisis, where the price of rice and various grains has doubled. Humanitarian assistance is urgently needed to relieve suffering and want. Norway has allocated NOK 100 million for these efforts. At the same time, we must take a long-term perspective in our efforts to bring about structural solutions through international cooperation in organisations such as FAO, UNDP, the World Bank, the OECD and the WTO.

To conclude, Mr President,

In my address here today, I have said that modern realpolitik is a matter of grasping the breadth of the new global community of interests we are a part of. In order to safeguard Norwegian interests, our engagement must, therefore, be broad, strategic and value-based.