Address at the Oslo Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean
Speech/statement | Date: 07/02/2023 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt (Mexico city, 7 February)
Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt held this speech when she opened the first regional Oslo Forum in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ladies and gentlemen,
queridos amigos y amigas,
Thank you for joining us at this welcoming reception for the Oslo Forum retreat on mediation – for Latin America and the Caribbean.
A special thanks to our Mexican friends, for organizing this together with us.
Subsecretary, I am so pleased to see that our outstanding cooperation from the Security Council is continuing also after our term has ended.
I also want to thank our trusted partner for the Oslo Forum, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.
Next week, we will celebrate the 55th anniversary of a groundbreaking agreement.
On 14 February 1967, the treaty of Tlatelolco established a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This happened right here in Mexico City. At the height of the Cold War, with little fanfare.
The experience of the Cuban Missile crisis was the key inspiration for the visionary man known as the treaty’s father.
I am speaking of course, of Mexico’s Alfonso García Robles.
I mention this not only because I want to pay tribute to one of Mexico’s outstanding diplomats.
But also because there are parallels to today.
We again live in turbulent times for international peace and security.
We are witnessing an increase in authoritarian regimes.
We see more unconstitutional changes of power. Violent conflicts are erupting, including in my region. Last year, we saw the threat of nuclear weapons reemerge in Europe.
- No country escapes these challenges.
- And we can only successfully respond to them together.
Russia continues to inflict unspeakable suffering in Ukraine, in gross violation of international law.
Norway will continue to support Ukraine with military, humanitarian and economic assistance. We will support their strategy for peace. For as long as it takes.
The war in Ukraine has not made it any less important for us to remain involved in other parts of the world.
If anything, it has strengthened our commitment to work with partners to prevent and solve conflicts.
In an increasingly polarized world, we have to ask ourselves:
How can we protect and maintain spaces for dialogue?
Peace and reconciliation is a cornerstone of Norway’s foreign policy.
It all started with our engagement in the Guatemalan peace process in 1990. Since then, we have been involved in a range of peace processes around the world.
Most recently, negotiations are under way to find a settlement to the armed conflict in Colombia with the ELN. And the next round of talks is taking place in Mexico City next week.
In parallel, talks between the Venezuelan government and the opposition restarted in November last year, also here in Mexico City.
There are several characteristics of Norway’s efforts in peace and reconciliation:
First, The parties themselves own the conflict and the process. As a facilitator we can bring parties together to create the right conditions for dialogue. But sustainable peace will always depend on the willingness of the parties themselves to find common ground.
Second: we talk with all actors. We can, and will, talk to everyone - including to those whose behaviour we condemn. Our condition is that our interlocutors are interested in a negotiated settlement.
The Taliban, Hamas and Hezbollah are just some examples of the actors we have engaged with.
My third point: Patience, the willingness to engage over time. Peace is not a quick fix. The road to peace is paved with patience and persistence. Parties to conflicts know that our willingness to contribute will not change, even when processes become difficult or suffer setbacks.
Forth; Inclusive peace processes. Of particular importance is women’s participation at all levels and in all phases of peace processes. This is crucial in ensuring that an agreement has broad support and is representative. Especially in gender-divided societies.
Last – but not least – we work closely with others: states, international organisations, and civil society.
In addition to Mexico, Cuba is one example of excellent cooperation in the peace processes with both the FARC and the ELN. It’s great to see our Cuban friends here tonight.
The Oslo Forum illustrates the cooperation among all actors involved in peace processes.
Every year since 2003, Norway and the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue have organized this intimate, discrete gathering just outside of our capital.
It aims at open and frank discussions on current conflicts, processes and mediation practice.
We are very pleased to now organize the first regional Oslo Forum retreat in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Important lessons and innovations can be drawn from conflict resolution in Latin America. We are proud to gather many of the leading voices for peace and reconciliation at a time when you are needed the most.
In 1982, for his efforts in international disarmament, Alfonso García Robles was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But most peace and reconciliation efforts are not recognized with medals.
Harry Truman, who was only nominated for the Nobel Prize, once said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”.
This is the working method for many of you in this room, in your tireless effort to advance the cause of peace.
Thank you. Muchas gracias.
Internasjonal rett under press
While Norway and Mexico were members of the Security Council, you face the invasion of Russia to Ukraine. In the case of Norway you got a new armed conflict basically at your doorstep, as you shares border with Russia. What is your assessment of the global reactions to ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and what is at stake?
I think we can all agree that we need to stand together against violations of the United Nations Charter, and of other international law.
If we fail to stand up against violations of the very Charter of the UN, we risk undermining core principles that the global order is built on.
Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine has led to massive suffering, large-scale humanitarian needs and destruction of civilian infrastructure.
Russia bears sole responsibility for the war and its consequences. And the responsibility for bringing it to an end. The invasion of Ukraine is a blatant breach of the UN Charter - and therefore something that concerns us all.
What such violations, fundamentally, would do, is to undermine the rules and norms for how countries, whether big or small, interact. If we accept a situation where “might makes right”, we will quickly face a range of problems in our international community.
This is not the time for peace negotiations in Ukraine. Norway provides strong military and economic support for Ukraine. Unlike in Colombia and Venezuela, we are not impartial.
Lessons from political processes elsewhere can apply nonetheless.
Not least the need to plan early for a lasting peace. Most wars eventually end at a negotiating table. One vital lesson from our engagements as a facilitator of a number of peace processes over the past 30 years is that it is never too early to prepare for potential talks. Even when the grounds for future negotiations are nowhere in sight.
Another lesson is that channels of communication should be established as early as possible. Continued fighting does not need to preclude contacts. Contacts built up over time have proven in many cases to make a difference in securing a good start.
We saw this in Colombia, where negotiations between the government and FARC EP eventually led to a peace deal.
It is positive that president Zelensky has made a peace plan. The progress made on the Black Sea Grain Initiative and releases of prisoners are examples of solid efforts by Ukraine as well as Turkey and the United Nations.
Samene: Norges erfaringer med forsoningsprosess i eget land
Norway is – as we have heard here – actively engaged in peace processes worldwide. However, also Norway has a dark history nationally, related to oppression of indigenous people. I understand there is now a national truth and reconciliation process ongoing also in Norway?
That is correct. Actually, yesterday, the 6 of February, was the Day of the Sami People in Norway. The Sámi people is an indigenous people with traditional territories within the national borders of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia.
Until the end of the 20th century, Norwegian authorities periodically enacted a so-called Norwegianisation policy against this indigenous group. This had grave consequences for their culture, language, identity and living conditions.
It took many years until the Norwegian state publicly apologized for the atrocities committed towards the indigenous people. Eventually, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established a few years back, and they will present their report to the Parliament in a few months.
The commission has actively drawn upon the South African experience. That was ground-breaking in the sense that it was transparent and public and was not primarily established to punish individuals. The Commission has also looked to the Colombian Truth Commission to learn about a detailed implementation and follow-up procedures.
This is certainly a dark spot in Norwegian history. Such a commission in no way diminishes the injustice perpetrated against the Sámi people. Nevertheless, it is an important step towards national reconciliation.
This is something we bring with us when working on these issues in other parts of the world.
Norges freds- og forsoningsengasjement: Hvorfor driver vi med dette?
In a time of global financial crisis and inflation, and in addition a new war in Europe, how can you defend domestically to spent scarce resources on peace and reconciliation in different parts of the world?
Norway has for long been actively involved in seeking peaceful resolution to conflicts around the world. Why does Norway engage in solving conflicts far away from home?
We do this both for humanitarian reasons and because it is in our national interest. We are driven by the wish to save lives, to relieve human suffering and ensure human dignity. Based on longstanding involvement in conflict resolution, we have the experience and know-how to contribute.
It is in Norway’s interest to prevent and resolve conflict.
In a globalized world, conflicts on other continents can affect us directly – with for example the effects of radicalisation, organised crime and refugee streams caused by conflict and instability.
Efforts for peace and reconciliation, even in places far away, contribute to stability and security at home.
Today’s world is more polarized and risk of conflict is increased. The need for negotiation and mediation is greater. Most conflicts cannot be resolved by military means alone.
There are some encouraging developments. That prove that negotiation and mediation remain effective. Examples are the courageous work done by Colombia and Venezuelan parties and the fragile progress made by parties in Ethiopia and Yemen.
The world has become more complex. But exploring spaces for dialogue today is fundamentally no different from how we did it yesterday. We still need to focus on direct contact. Keep channels open, listen and show genuine interest in understanding the other’s perspective, build confidence and, and use creative problem solving.
Venezuela + Colombia negotiation processes
Both Norway and Mexico are involved in the negotiations in Venezuela and in Colombia. Can you elaborate a little on your role here?
In Venezuela, Norway has been facilitating a negotiation process between the Government and the opposition, with a view to finding a peaceful settlement to the political and humanitarian crisis. Mexico is a close partner in this process.
After a period of suspension, the negotiations were reopened here in Mexico in November last year. The humanitarian agreement which was signed was a milestone.
We strongly believe that a solution must be found among the Venezuelans themselves. As a facilitator we can bring parties together to create the right conditions for dialogue. And Venezuela is a good example: the parties are certainly in the driving seat.
In Colombia, Norway is a guarantor country for the implementation of the agreement with FARC, as well as the process with ELN. The Colombian peace process is a good example of a longstanding partnership of building trust and gaining confidence.
More than 20 years of consistent Norwegian engagement illustrates our commitment. We will continue to stay engaged in the ongoing negotiations between the Colombian government and the ELN. We will do our utmost to assist the parties in reaching a mutually agreed solution to the conflict, together with other guarantor countries, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, and the Catholic Church.
We welcome Mexico as a guarantor country in the peace negotiations with ELN. We already cooperated closely in Caracas two weeks ago and we look forward to continuing next week here in Mexico.