Speech/statement | Date: 01/01/2022 | Office of the Prime Minister
National radio and television, 1 January 2022.
Good evening everyone,
last night and today we have wished each other ‘Happy New Year’.
But perhaps it would have been more apt to wish each other a better new year.
2021 was the year we had high hopes that the pandemic would relinquish its grip on us.
That we could reclaim our normal daily lives.
But that is not how things have turned out.
Instead, we have celebrated yet another holiday season
with face masks and social distancing rules in place.
With many of our loved ones ill or in quarantine, or having been furloughed or lost their jobs.
I am deeply impressed by how all of you, the people of Norway, have coped with the pandemic despite all these challenges.
We have fought COVID-19 by standing together, and by following the recommendations and rules, including those that have been most intrusive on our lives.
We have fought COVID-19 with the best and strongest weapon we have: our sense of community and our collective spirit.
In many countries, people have taken to the streets in massive protests and turned against one another.
In many countries, people ignore rules because they do not trust the authorities or each other
That is not the case here.
It is not like that in Norway.
But we are all more than ready to see the back of the pandemic.
I saw on social media that someone had created a needlework design describing this dreadful virus with swear words that are not fit to repeat on TV.
We are so sick of this pandemic that we are embroidering profanities about it!
However, while we may be eager to be done with the virus, the virus is not yet done with us.
So I ask you all, please, to continue to follow the recommendations and rules, and to get vaccinated – whether with your first, second or third dose.
The vaccine protects you against serious illness.
It protects the people you love – and those whom others love.
It protects our society.
So, make it a New Year’s resolution to get vaccinated!
Life during the pandemic has taught us a great deal – it has held a mirror up to who we are. Shown us our strengths as a community but also our challenges as a society.
I think everyone has recognised the benefits of resilient public health and care services and the value of all the capable people working there.
But the pandemic has also revealed weaknesses in our health services.
We need to train more health care professionals.
We need to increase the number of people we can treat simultaneously in our hospital intensive care units.
People who are dealing with psychological problems must be given better help more quickly.
Things will improve.
These are major tasks, and we have already begun.
One of the strengths of Norwegian society is the high degree of social equality.
Over long periods of our history, we have distributed power and opportunity more equitably than perhaps any other country – handing power to ordinary people.
But there is no doubt in my mind: the pandemic has widened the gap in our society.
Inequality between us has increased.
For some, it has been possible to save money. Work from their cabins. Spend additional quality time with their families.
Others have lost their jobs and incomes, and find themselves confronting another difficult winter.
Many feel lonely and alone.
And on top of this, the high cost of electricity is adding to people’s already heavy burdens.
Many of us have the benefit of a good support system.
Families with time for each other. Vibrant local communities.
But unfairness and growing social and economic disparities erode cohesion in society.
When our lives begin to diverge too widely, it diminishes trust in each another, here in Norway as well.
It weakens our ability to stand together.
The fight against social inequality is therefore a fight about who we are.
And who we want to be.
Reversing this trend will require progress along many tracks: A more equitable taxation system, a stronger welfare state, a more secure and more inclusive labour market.
But it will also depend on our ability to empathise with others, relate to other people’s lives, to view things in perspective.
To understand how it feels to wonder whether you have enough money to pay your next electricity bill.
To anguish about a child who has no friends or is being bullied because he has dark skin or she is gay.
To listen – really listen – to people living in rural areas who are fighting centralisation because it already takes them three hours to get to the closest hospital and two to reach a police station.
And those of us who so fervently seek solutions to the climate crisis, we too must listen.
To the oil workers who are worried about losing their jobs.
To families that have no other way to get their children to training than in their worn-out diesel car.
In Norway, we are in a better position than most to pull together as a team – by truly listening to each other’s concerns and hopes.
If we succeed, it will give us even greater strength as a society.
The climate crisis cannot be solved by individuals or the market on its own.
The ability of a few people to buy better help for themselves will not improve care for the elderly overall.
And in a pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe.
Resolving major challenges to society demands something from each of us.
But most of all, it demands more from us as a society.
A large-scale collective effort – both in our own country and together with other countries.
When I think about the future and the major challenges ahead, I mostly think about our young people.
We have the best young people in the world!
But our young people, too, need a support system that is there for them.
We are stronger together. That means all of us.
From my conversations with young people, I can see that the support systems have broken down, and the pandemic has made things worse for many of them.
I see perfectly normal young people who are struggling.
Who need guidance from adults they can trust to help them get their lives on track, finish their schooling and, eventually, find a job.
At the same time, it must be said that young people in Norway have a lot of guts and drive.
Frøya Valland Dale is one of the people I remember very clearly from last summer – with her cheerful smile and infectious energy. She is a pupil in the technological and industrial production programme at Knarvik upper secondary school in Alver, outside Bergen.
She loves welding!
An untraditional choice, but as Frøya said: ‘I like it when a lot is happening, and I like learning with my hands.’
Providing more vocationally oriented schools with apprenticeships for everyone, so that pupils like Frøya can succeed, is one of the most meaningful aspects of my work as a politician.
It is an excellent way to invest in our young people, and in our common future.
Because it is people like Frøya – competent personnel in business and industry – who will be creating the sustainable jobs of tomorrow.
Our greatest, and perhaps most difficult, challenge in the coming years will be to achieve an equitable transformation process that reduces emissions and generates new jobs.
A country so strongly rooted in solidarity and fellowship like Norway can manage both. At the same time!
The ironworks at Mo i Rana were established after the end of WWII to help build Norway using iron and steel we produced ourselves.
In the 1980s, the ironworks were closed.
It was the end of an era.
Today, there are world-leading companies and workers in full swing at Mo Industrial Park.
And now a new industrial venture is being planned – five new battery manufacturing plants!
Bringing more than a thousand jobs and renewed hope for the future to the people of North Norway, and to Norway as a country.
Creating a resilient community means ensuring access to health services and a social safety net for all. That is fundamental.
But it is just as important to set ambitious goals we can achieve together – workers, companies, entrepreneurs and the authorities – to create new, green, Norwegian industrial success stories.
Which is precisely what they are doing in Mo.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to all of you who are on duty this New Year’s holiday.
Thank you for taking care of vital tasks while the rest of us are celebrating.
I know that many of you are getting close to breaking point now.
Particularly those of you who have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic.
Health care workers and teachers, staff at day-care institutions, cleaning personnel, employees at NAV and many many others.
We are now even more aware of how much we need you, and the essential role you play in keeping the wheels of society turning.
We are eternally grateful for your expertise, your pride in your work, your unceasing efforts and your courage.
My heartfelt thanks also go to all Norwegians abroad.
Our students spread across the world, our seamen, our aid workers and all the others who take Norwegian values out into the world, and bring new perspectives back home to us here.
You are helping to enrich all our lives.
I would also like to thank our much-loved Royal Family, for their loyal and tireless service at home and abroad.
And a special thanks to the Armed Forces, and all of you who are on duty and working to safeguard our country, here in Norway and in other parts of the world.
One of them is Helga Botten.
Ordinarily, Helga is a nurse at Rena Camp in the Østerdalen Garrison.
But this summer, she was one of a small number of military personnel who remained at the Norwegian field hospital in Kabul in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the city.
As a result of a terrorist attack close by, 65 critically injured people were rushed to the hospital – all at the same time.
Helga has vivid memories of the devastating injuries, and the fear in the eyes of the people being brought in.
But just as strong are her memories of how everyone helped each other.
Of the fellowship and camaraderie among those working at the hospital.
How meaningful it was to be of help, a feeling that I know resonates with many of you working in the health services.
There are crises that affect an entire society – such as war or a pandemic.
And there are life crises that affect us as individuals – such as losing someone we love.
These crises act as a mirror – they show us how vulnerable we truly are, and how much we depend on one another.
But they can also show us how strong we are.
How strong we are when we stand together in the face of adversity. The true meaning of strength in numbers.
And that fills me with optimism. It points the way towards all that we will achieve together – an equitable society, a climate-friendly society, and safe and secure lives for everyone.
I would like to wish each and every one of you a happy – and a much better – new year.