Opening speech at a seminar on International Mediation Trends: processes and experiences

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ankara, 6 November 2013

"The human tragedy (in Syria) compels us to do our utmost to end the violence. To prepare the ground for a political settlement. And to limit the devastating consequences for the region", Foreign Minister Børge Brende said at the opening of a seminar "International Mediation Trends: processes and experiences" in Ankara.

Check against delivery

Introduction

  • My friend, Foreign Minister Davutoglu, Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,
  • It is a pleasure for me to be here in Ankara, and it is indeed natural to address the issues of international mediation here in Turkey.
  • Turkey is a leading actor on the international mediation scene. And Turkey is a close partner for Norway. We cannot have such a seminar without focusing on what is taking place in:

Syria

  • Just 800 kilometres south of where we are now – in Syria – we are witnessing one of the worst and most appalling conflicts and refugee crises since the Second World War.
  • Nowhere are the challenges in international conflict resolution demonstrated more clearly than in Syria: And so far with so few results. Even the most basic principles related to humanitarian access are not respected.
  • This human tragedy compels us to do our utmost to end the violence. To prepare the ground for a political settlement. And to limit the devastating consequences for the region.

The big picture

  • Before elaborating on four points that I consider to be important when helping to resolve a conflict situation, let me take one step back and look at the big picture for a moment.
  • The number of extreme poor globally has dropped by 650 million in the last decades.
  • But still some 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by repeated cycles of political and criminal violence.
  • And no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal.
  • There is no doubt: conflict is a significant hurdle to economic development and poverty reduction.
  • A conflict costs a developing country roughly 30 years of GDP growth.
  • And a country that experiences major violence has a poverty rate significantly higher than a country that has no violence.
  • It is therefore of utmost importance to stress the link between conflict resolution and development.
  • Mediation only requires small investments to yield results. It can therefore be a vital tool for reducing poverty and creating better lives for people.
  • Making these small investments work even more effectively should be a key objective.

Experiences

  • All peace processes are different. They do however have many elements in common.
  • As already mentioned, let me share with you four points that I consider to be important when helping to resolve a conflict situation.
  • They are based on our experience from a number of peace processes, from the Middle East to Sri Lanka, and most recently Colombia.
  • Sometimes as facilitators in a process. More often as supporters of efforts led by others, be it the UN, regional organisations or other actors.

1.

  • First, dialogue is crucial. Without dialogue, it is not possible to win confidence, or gain insight into the other party’s positions and thinking.
  • Our policy is based on values such as respect for international human rights, the rule of law and democracy.
  • We strongly believe in gender equality. In freedom of religion and faith. In freedom of expression.
  • This does not prevent us from talking to groups that have different opinions and different values. And it does not mean that we agree.
  • This is not a question of accepting terrorism or giving recognition to certain groups. It is a question of convincing them to enter into a political process.
  • There are conflicts where I believe military action is required. We are members of NATO. We took part in the military interventions in Libya and in Afghanistan.
  • But in most cases, a conflict cannot be solved by military means alone.
  • In such cases countries like Turkey and Norway have important roles to play in identifying the windows of opportunity for a political solution.

2.

  • Second, peace mediation requires a long-term perspective.
  • It is not a job for day traders. Impasses and set backs will always be a part of the process towards a peace agreement.
  • It takes time to get to know the parties on the ground. It takes time to understand the dynamics of the conflict.
  • And it takes time and patience to be able to find the right moment. The moment when the parties are ready to engage with each other.
  • There is broad political consensus in Norway on our peace engagement. This makes it possible for us to be a reliable partner over time.

3.

  • Third, inclusiveness is key. Women need to be a part of the process.
  • The reason is simple: Women constitute half the population in a country, often more in a country in conflict. And often they are the ones who suffer most.
  • The absence of women at the negotiating table tends to limit discussions on issues that affect women and girls.
  • Sexual violence, abuse by security forces, and maternal health care are just a few of these issues.
  • However, women do not only speak for women. They often bring to the table questions that are of importance to the entire population.
  • Ensuring the participation of women is also a question of justice. Women have the same right to influence their future as their fathers, brothers and sons.
  • Civil society groups, like religious leaders, business confederations also need to be included and listened to. They are needed to secure broad-based ownership and legitimacy of an agreement.
  • In return for greater inclusion, you are likely to see agreements that last longer and pave the way for greater stability and economic development.
  • Strengthening local structures can be a good way of supporting peace.

4.

  • The fourth point that I consider to be important when helping to resolve a conflict situation, it to draw on experience from other processes.
  • Research, documentation of results and systemisation of the experience gained from other processes is crucial.
  • Norway invests five million US dollars annually on peace research.

Norway and Turkey

  • Seminars like this one is contributing to the professionalization. It is also a demonstration of the broad cooperation between Norway and Turkey.
  • With different geopolitical and cultural backgrounds, Turkey and Norway can often play complementary roles.
  • As an influential regional power, you can put your weight behind a process, and sometimes be a peace broker, whereas Norway can only be a facilitator.
  • For Norway, it is necessary to work with regional powers when we engage in a peace process.
  • Turkey is a particularly interesting partner, because you engage in the region and beyond.
  • In Somalia, when Al Shabaab was pushed out of Mogadishu, Turkey built streets and Norway put up street lights. All with a clear political motivation: to show a peace dividend to the population, with the ownership of national and local authorities.
  • I think this is a good example of how we can work together effectively, also on the ground.
  • We share a willingness to look for innovative ways to support a process, a willingness to engage in dialogue with all the parties, and a willingness to seize opportunities to assist even if they involve considerable risk.
  • This seminar represents an excellent platform for debate and for developing new ideas.
  • We have before us today a group of seasoned and skilled practitioners and researchers on mediation and peace processes.
  • I am confident that the seminar will be a good opportunity to share analyses, build contacts and strengthen cooperation between our two countries in the field of peace and reconciliation.
  • It is not a one-off event. I hope it will foster new ideas, initiatives and concrete projects to enhance both research and practice in this important field.
  • Thank you for your attention. I wish you all a successful seminar!