Historical archive

Perspectives on International Peace and Security

Historical archive

Published under: Bondevik's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Foreign Minister Jan Petersen's speech at the First Annual Canada-Norway Peace Prize Symposium, Vancouver, Canada, 4 February. (09.02)

Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Petersen

Perspectives on International Peace and Security

First Annual Canada - Norway Peace Prize Symposium
“Prospects for Human Security in the 21st Century”
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 4 February 2005

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Dr Axworthy, ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour and a pleasure for me to speak here today. I would like to thank the Canadian Consortium on Human Security, the Centre for International Relations and the University of British Columbia for making the symposium possible.

Foreign policy is also about establishing contacts across borders – at all levels – and not least between academic institutions and think-tanks.

Co-operation, joint projects and the exchange of views and ideas between universities in North America and Norway are vital for strengthening the bonds between our nations, and between policy-makers, opinion-leaders and researchers.

The relations between Norway and Canada are close. And they have been so for a long time.

We feel at home in Canada. It goes without saying that we feel at home among your mountains, lakes and forests, but we also feel at home with your attitude to many important issues in international politics.

One reason why our relations are so special is that tens of thousands of Norwegians have immigrated to Canada and found a new home here. Today there are 350 000 Canadians of Norwegian descent – 100 000 of them living right here in British Columbia.

During the Second World War, Norway trained its airforce in ‘Little Norway’ outside Toronto. In the aftermath of the war the two countries formed a foreign policy partnership that continues to flourish today. The director of the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Geir Lundestad, once said that: ‘Whenever Norway feels alone in the world, we hold a Canadian-Norwegian meeting of foreign ministers.’ Our two countries share values, and we also share views and priorities:

  • Norway and Canada share a commitment to pursuing democracy, freedom and human rights everywhere.
  • We are both founding members of the United Nations, NATO and the OSCE. We seek partners and form teams in the international community – and prefer to work within the framework of international and regional organisations.
  • We are both Northerners, and one of the organisations where we co-operate is the Arctic Council, which has just recently drawn our attention to the signs of global warming. The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report is alarming. The Arctic is a region where the impact of global warming shows very clearly.
  • Norway and Canada are also partners in the Utstein Group, where international development ministers from like-minded countries meet to discuss best practices for development assistance. An important part of this agenda is donor harmonisation and aid effectiveness – which are crucial if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
  • Norway and Canada have co-operated closely on trying to solve the problems caused by landmines, on limiting the spread of small arms, and on establishing international structures for criminal justice.
  • And, as members of the Human Security Network, we also share the belief that human security is an important additional element on the foreign policy agenda and thus a welcome focus for this seminar.

The introduction of the human security approach was a sound piece of foreign policy craftsmanship. It was due not least to Canada’s comprehensive and skilful efforts, and to the leadership of Lloyd Axworthy and my predecessor Knut Vollebæk in establishing the Lysøen co-operation on human security.

The human security approach involves a shift in orientation. Rather than focusing on the security of territory, states or governments, it takes the security of human beings as its point of departure – the belief that individuals should be able to live in freedom from fear.

The Human Security Network has played an important role in the development of the concept of human security. Even more importantly, it has helped to promote a number of concrete issues that come under the human security umbrella.

The clearest evidence of this is the relative prominence of human security issues on the Security Council's agenda. While they were previously approached with a certain caution by the Security Council, human security issues like the protection of civilians and child soldiers now have a firm place on the agenda and are recognised as being relevant to international peace and security. And indeed human security, or rather the lack of it, is very much at the core of today's conflicts.

Since Norway and Canada took the initiative, the Human Security Network has expanded and now includes a large group of countries. The Network has become an inter-regional forum. Precisely this feature has become an important asset. Because we come from different regions, we are able to bring different perspectives to the table, and I believe it allows the Network to play a significant role.

However, we all share a common vision. The Network allows for free and frank discussions that are not impeded by positions dictated by regional blocs. In this way, it makes an important contribution to strengthening multilateralism.

As founding members of the Network, Norway and Canada have a particular responsibility for putting it to good use. We are grateful to Canada for taking on the chairmanship, and for its able and effective leadership during this period. You have succeeded in streamlining the agenda and in identifying a limited number of issues where Network activities give added value.

Your chairmanship has been a good example of how we would like the Network to function. It must continue to be a flexible, informal and politically relevant forum. It should focus on a limited number of issues and serve as a base for cross-regional political support to ongoing political processes. Rather than trying to deal with all aspects of human security, we should seek to make a real impact on a few issues.

The Human Security Network should remain an arena for informal discussions between ministers. This means that we must ensure that it is more relevant for the ministers. There have been signs that the Network may be evolving into a semi-international organisation, with a focus on technical issues and on drafting texts. I am pleased that the Canadian chairmanship is making efforts to reverse this trend.

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Since the early 1990s, Norway has been involved in various ways – and to different degrees – in peace and reconciliation processes around the world. This is an important Norwegian foreign policy priority.

The contribution of international partners, like the important work done by the Canadian government in development co-operation, plays a vital role in reaching a political solution.

In Sri Lanka, Norway has been facilitating the peace process between the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers for the past five years.

The parties have made substantial progress since 2002, when the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE entered into a cease-fire agreement. Three years of cease-fire is by far the longest period of cessation of hostilities since the war began in 1983. It has saved thousands of lives.

Maintaining the cease-fire is one of the keys to success. An independent monitoring mission has been set up to monitor it, headed by Norway and including observers from the five Nordic countries.

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission also functions as a kind of facilitator on the ground by assisting the parties in their efforts to solve problems before they escalate. Implementing the cease-fire agreement, however, remains the responsibility of the parties themselves. The role of the monitoring mission is to assist, not to enforce.

Today, direct negotiations between the parties have been suspended. The political and security situation is uncertain and the parties still need to develop confidence in one another as negotiating partners. This has led to a delay in resuming talks.

I am prepared to continue to work closely with the parties to facilitate a return to the negotiating table. In this process it is particularly important to keep the channels of communication open.

Peace facilitation is always a laborious process that requires patience. Real, home-grown peace takes time to establish.

We are prepared for this – and we remain committed to assisting as a patient partner in Sri Lanka for as long as the parties wish us to do so. It is they who are responsible for moving the process forward.

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In Asia, apart from Sri Lanka, we are working in the Philippines and have supported the peace efforts in Aceh, Indonesia. In Africa we are engaged in Ethiopia/Eritrea and in Sudan. In Latin America we were involved in the process in Guatemala, and we are still engaged in Colombia and Haiti. And, perhaps most notably, we played a role in the Middle East peace process through the ‘Oslo Channel’. We still play a role in the region, now as chair of the AHLC, the donor group for Palestinians which brings together major donors, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the Quartet, Israel and the Palestinians.

I would also like to say a few words about Haiti. After years of providing humanitarian assistance to the victims of hurricanes and floods in the country, Norway’s involvement expanded in 1998. In co-operation with among others Canada, we began promoting political dialogue in Haiti and between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

In recent years there has been a shift of emphasis to Haiti alone. Norway has launched an initiative to promote dialogue and consensus-building between political and civilian actors.

The current situation in Haiti is fragile. The country needs long-term, well-co-ordinated international commitment.

Obvious priorities right now are the restoration of security, preparations for elections, and making sure that investment and aid are translated into projects and jobs. But Haiti also needs to develop a political climate and culture of dialogue, tolerance and respect. Canada deserves credit for its firm and extensive commitment to Haiti in all of these fields. Norway is already co-operating with Canada on the ground, and I look forward to expanding our co-operation.

Over the last three years Norway, in co-operation with local partners, has also been supporting and encouraging national reconciliation in Haiti. We are helping to create space and venues for political interchange, dialogue and consensus-building in an open and inclusive process.

Political training for national opinion leaders and other political and social actors, based on democratic values and practices, is essential for strengthening democracy in Haiti. Norway is therefore co-operating with local institutions to provide training opportunities for aspiring young members of political parties and for journalists.

Norway intends to continue its commitment to Haiti, with a particular focus on reconciliation among political and civilian groups.

A peace agreement between the Sudan government and the SPLM guerrilla in South Sudan was signed in Nairobi on 9 January. The event created world headlines, as it deserved to do. The peace agreement was the result of almost three years of intensive negotiations.

Sadly, it does not apply to Darfur and Eastern Sudan. Our greatest challenge now is to bring peace to the whole of Sudan. We are currently actively involved, together with the main parties, in efforts to achieve this.

The success of the peace process in Sudan owed much to the way the talks were organised.

The mediation team consisted of three groups: a permanent secretariat made up of professional mediators and experts; a team of mediators from IGAD, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, comprising representatives from Sudan’s neighbouring countries; and international observers.

The format promoted a good atmosphere and mutual trust between the two parties, and led to direct talks between the leaders.

The establishment of this partnership between the political leaders on both sides was a key development, which will prove vital in the implementation of the agreement. The partnership will be crucial in bringing peace to all parts of Sudan.

Norwegian participation in the peace process for Sudan was a result of many years of engagement. Norwegian NGOs have been working in Sudan since the 1960s, and so have a number of academic institutions. Since then our relations have expanded. In 1993 they reached the political level, with our first attempt to mediate between the government and the SPLM.

Norway is currently co-chairing the Sudan committee of the IGAD Partners Forum together with Italy, and has formed an informal troika together with the US and the UK to co-ordinate the process politically. In April we will hold the first donor conference on Sudan to help rebuild the war-torn country.

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These three examples, Sri Lanka, Haiti and Sudan, show that Norway’s participation in peace processes takes many forms.

It ranges

  • from official facilitation of negotiations, as in Sri Lanka and the Philippines
  • to sponsoring a back channel for secret negotiations, as in the Middle East
  • to being part of an international coalition, as in Ethiopia/Eritrea, Somalia, Colombia, Guatemala, and Sudan,
  • to the provision of humanitarian assistance.

People often ask me why Norway plays a role in peace and reconciliation processes. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • First there is an ideological answer: if we can make a difference we have a moral obligation to do so.
  • Then, being a peace facilitator is a continuation of our long-standing support for the UN mandate for peace and security, and of our humanitarian action and development co-operation. In fact we more often support other leading actors than serve as leading actor ourselves.
  • In certain cases, often through personal connections or even by chance, Norway does take a leading role. This always happens at the request of the parties to the conflict. There is no way a small country can play a role unless both parties ask us to play that role.
  • Furthermore, there are some domestic policy factors that make our contribution possible. There is broad political consensus in Norway on our policy of promoting peace and reconciliation. This in turn ensures consistency; we are able to keep up our commitment regardless of changing governments or political currents. For example, our engagement in Sri Lanka was initiated by a foreign minister from the Christian Democratic Party, then continued by a Social Democrat and now by myself – a Conservative.
  • Therefore we are able to make a long-term contribution: Norway is a patient facilitator. This allows us to remain engaged, even at difficult stages in a peace process. It takes time for the parties to build sustainable solutions, particularly in situations where parties who have been at war must make a conscious decision to co-operate on reaching a mutually beneficial solution.
  • The broad domestic political backing for our policy in this field also means that there are resources available for peace and reconciliation processes. We are able to use these financial and human resources in a flexible way, and this enables us to become engaged quickly.
  • Another reason behind Norway’s active role is that we give a good deal of emphasis to our co-operation with Norwegian and international NGOs. In many cases Norwegian NGOs have been our point of entry into peace and reconciliation processes. The extensive networks that these organisations have built up through decades of humanitarian work abroad have given us access to areas where official Norway has had little or no presence. In addition, we have been able to draw on their skills and expertise.
  • At the international level, Norway has good relations with many of the main players in the international arena. Norway enjoys a good and close relationship with the United States and we have good relations with other major players such as the European Union, Japan, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa.

We are also regarded in many quarters as impartial. Norway has no colonial past, and we are usually perceived as not having ulterior political or economic motives or agendas.

  • Finally, an important aspect of our involvement is that we are peace-helpers, not peace-makers. At the end of the day, the will to peace must come from the parties themselves. As a facilitator, we try to play our part in supporting the parties, but it takes a genuine will on their part to reach a negotiated solution.

Promoting peace is a responsibility that all countries share. No individual country is strong enough to bring about peace on its own.

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In our globalised age, home affairs and foreign affairs can rarely be separated. Threats know no borders. Security is indivisible.

Regardless of whether we are large or small nations, in America or Europe, we are all dependent on multilateral solutions in the end.

International terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are now the main threats to our security. They are by definition global threats.

Since 2001 the scale and brutality of terrorist operations have altered our lives and our thinking. Beslan, Madrid, Bali, New York – terrorism can strike anywhere and at any time. It is a threat to our security. It creates chaos, fear and suffering.

Nothing can justify the use of terror. No cause, however worthy, can excuse the killing of innocent people.

The fight against terrorism must continue to be a top priority for the world community. We must act in accordance with international law and human rights.

Poverty, injustice and lack of political freedom create breeding grounds for terrorists. Hence, our fight against terrorism must be a fight for human rights and dignity, for economic development and prosperity. We must develop efficient means for dealing with the underlying conditions that foster extremism, like lack of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, economic disparities, non-integration of opposition groups, extreme ideologies, and a tradition of political violence, dictatorship or occupation.

To succeed in combating terrorist networks we need long-term, committed international co-operation. The UN is particularly important as an overall foundation for this. Only through joint action will we be able to meet the terrorist threat. It is therefore positive that regional organisations like the EU and NATO are taking an active part in fighting the terrorist networks.

The UN High Level Panel has emphasised the need to strengthen international co-operation on combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This is an objective that Norway shares. It is one of the primary reasons for our active involvement in combating the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and an added reason for our engagement in the nuclear clean-up in north-western Russia. Terrorists must never get access to nuclear material that can be used for dirty bombs. We have achieved a lot in this area, but we need to continue our efforts to strengthen the various non-proliferation regimes.

Let me conclude by saying a few words on UN reform.

Norway welcomes the report from the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.

The UN does require substantial reform, because:

  • The authority of the Security Council is being challenged.
  • The General Assembly has lost some of its vitality.
  • There are major gaps in the way UN institutions are addressing the needs of countries that are under stress and risk sliding towards state collapse.

It is in my view very important that we do not allow this well-prepared reform process to result in a few cosmetic changes. There are five key areas where reform is needed:

  • Firstly, the authority and effectiveness of the Security Council must be ensured.

The UN Charter fully empowers the Security Council to address the wide range of threats facing states, but we need to make the Security Council work more efficiently, more effectively and more pro-actively. The Council should be expanded. But, and this is a vital point, we cannot allow this issue to dominate, or deadlock, other much-needed, wide-ranging reforms. And smaller nations must still have a reasonable opportunity to take part.

  • Secondly, I share the report’s view that development should be the first line of action.

Norway welcomes the proposals to strengthen the UN’s capacity for peace-building in the widest sense. This includes action to support fragile states and to assist countries in the transition from war to peace.

Norway has for many years been a strong advocate of a holistic, integrated approach. By this I mean an approach that takes account of political, security, humanitarian and development aspects of a conflict situation. The proposed Peace-building Commission could be a step towards this goal.

  • Thirdly, there is an urgent need to improve our assistance to countries in transition from war to peace. We must strengthen our collective ability to prevent violent conflict, to negotiate effective peace agreements, and to provide assistance to peace-achieving efforts.

The international community must focus more on the need for creating key institutions, functions and capacities that will result in a well-functioning state.

  • Fourthly, the United Nations must not again fail to protect innocent civilians. When a state ignores its responsibilities towards its people, the international community must not remain inactive.

We need to build greater consensus around the need for such collective action. We need to ensure an early diplomatic response in order to prevent the need for military intervention.

  • And finally, we need to strengthen international co-operation in order to prevent the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction, to combat terrorism and to fight organised crime. This must be based on adherence to legally binding commitments and if necessary the development of new ones.

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This year Norway is commemorating the centennial anniversary of the peaceful dissolution of its union with Sweden. This was accomplished by the use of patience, negotiations, diplomacy and political will on both sides, and the fact that the issue received international attention helped as well.

What we want to commemorate – and focus on – now in 2005 is the fact that on 7 June 1905 Norway joined the international community. The question of how conflicts can be resolved peacefully, is an extremely relevant one today. This is one reason why Norway focuses on security and peace.

We know that today internal conflicts are a global concern. It is obvious that countries like ours, situated in the far north, have a self interest in promoting peace in other parts of the world.

Conflicts are contagious, conflicts spread, and conflicts affect us all, directly or indirectly.

In our globalised age, home affairs and foreign affairs can rarely be separated. Threats know no borders. Security is indivisible. It is a moral imperative to contribute to peace. Everybody deserves a life in dignity and security.

We have the resources, and when we have the opportunity to secure peace, we must seize it.

Thank you.