Important opportunity for Norway

Article by Prime Minister Erna Solberg in Aftenposten 31 January 2017.

Norway has been invited to participate as a guest country in this year’s G20 summit. This gives us an opportunity to promote issues Norway considers crucial in a forum that brings together the world’s 20 most important economies. We intend to make full use of this opportunity. Major global challenges require a joint international response, and we will play our part.  

The world is facing a great many pressing challenges. The Paris Agreement on climate change and the UN Sustainable Development Goals show that the international community can reach agreement to work together to improve the lives of people across the world. But in the West, many people feel that they are having to pay the price for global development in terms of job losses, greater income disparities, and disruption to their lifestyles due to climate change. The UK is leaving the EU. A new US administration has adopted positions we do not always agree with. Elections are approaching in countries that are our close allies and partners, but where calls for less cooperation and more protectionism are gaining support.

Norway is concerned about these developments. We need to promote economic restructuring and help those who are losing out as a result of globalisation. But protectionism is not the answer. Over the last few decades, increased trade and international cooperation have lifted millions of people out of poverty. We now have access to cheap goods and technology on a scale we could not have dreamed of before. The G20 has played its part in driving this progress. It has helped find concrete solutions to some of the problems that were created by the financial crisis in 2008 and that we have been dealing with ever since. The Government is working actively to preserve open markets, promote broad international solutions and strengthen multilateral institutions.  

Norway’s role as a G20 guest country will involve many parts of the government administration, which will play a part in the process leading up to the G20 summit of heads of state and government in Hamburg on 7-8 July. Germany has invited Norway to participate because our two countries have very similar views on key global issues. Our shared set of values will be all the more important as we adjust to the new US administration.     

We agree with the priorities Germany has set for the G20. In addition to ensuring the stability of the global economy, these include global issues relating to energy, climate change, development, migration, corruption, trade and the labour market. The German presidency is also seeking to involve the private sector, NGOs and the scientific and research community in the G20 process. I see opportunities for constructive engagement by many Norwegian actors in many of these areas.   

There is inevitably a great deal of organisation and administration involved in extensive cooperation of this kind. But I am most interested in the substance of the cooperation. In what areas can the G20 achieve concrete results, and what part can Norway play? Norway may be a small country, but we can exert an influence. We want to be involved in finding solutions in areas that are important to us, and where we can demonstrate a long-term international engagement.  

We will focus on areas where we believe the G20 can take the lead – not by competing with other international organisations, but by preparing the ground for international agreements and commitments. The G20 countries account for two-thirds of the world’s population and more than four-fifths of gross world product. Together, the G20 countries can make things happen. We must use our role as a guest country to advance global development.   

I would like to draw attention to three areas in particular:

  • The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda. Germany has chosen to make the 2030 Agenda the backdrop for its presidency programme, and I am co-chair of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocates, the UN group responsible for driving forward the implementation of the SDGs. Our aim is for the G20 to lead the way by making concrete commitments that promote progress towards the SDGs.
  • Migration and cooperation with African countries. The world is now witnessing the largest refugee flows since the Second World War. Europe, and Germany in particular, has seen the consequences of this. We need to improve the situation in the countries and regions people are fleeing from. Germany will use its presidency to do more to tackle the problems people are facing in their home countries, with a focus on job creation and private investment. This will involve entering into agreements with interested African countries. In this way, the G20 can encourage countries and international organisations to make greater use of their resources to create growth and jobs.
  • Health and education. These are areas in which Norway has had a strong international engagement for many years. Education and health are inextricably linked to economic growth. The Ebola outbreak was a wake-up call. It revealed vulnerabilities not only in individual countries but also across and between continents. Germany and Norway are both engaged in international efforts to improve health systems and to combat infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance.  Like the German presidency, we want the G20 to develop global measures in this field. In Davos on 19 January, we launched the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a new international initiative to support the development of vaccines against epidemic infectious diseases. Norway will host the CEPI Secretariat and will provide NOK 1 billion in funding to the initiative.

When the world’s 20 most important economies reach agreement on something, it has a real impact on global development. We support the goals of the German G20 presidency. And Norway will fulfil its role in the G20 process with ambition and determination. We will do all we can to ensure that global development is consistent with our values.