Foreign policy address to the Storting 2017

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Børge Brende's foreign policy address to the Storting 7 March 2017.

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Mr President,

I described the overall tone of last year's address as sombre.

I would have liked the tone of this year's address to be lighter. And I'm happy to say that there are many positive things to report:

  • better living conditions, education and health for millions of poor people,
  • a victory for democracy in Gambia, continued progress towards peace in Colombia and Sri Lanka, and several steps forward in the fight against Isil,
  • and the normalisation of our relations with China.

But we must consider the global situation as a whole. A global sense of unease has taken hold, and today's unsettled world is challenging us in even more fundamental ways than was the case last year.

***

The crises in the Middle East and in North and West Africa are causing immense suffering. They continue to claim thousands of lives, and are fuelling terrorism and forcing large groups of people to flee.

The state system in the region, which, to a large extent, was developed by major European powers in the early twentieth century, is under severe strain. The conflict in Syria has already lasted longer than the Second World War.

The conflict in Yemen has been overshadowed by other conflicts, but has caused human suffering on an inconceivable scale.

There is a significant risk that short-term progress in conflict-affected regions will be followed by new and deeper crises in fragile states. With tragic consequences for the local populations.

Last year, 180.000 people crossed the Mediterranean to reach Italy. The political, economic and demographic developments that spurred the first major wave of migration remain a serious problem. Although the number of migrants from Turkey to Europe was reduced in 2016, migration will continue to be a challenge in the time ahead.

Terrorism is now part of the threat landscape in Europe. This, together with the challenges posed by migration, illustrates how closely our own security is linked to the conflicts in areas to the south and east of the Mediterranean.

The conflict in Ukraine continues unabated. We have seen a renewed escalation of violence in recent weeks, and more lives have been lost.

Polarisation and political conflicts are increasing in many countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, as well as in Turkey. Pressure on the region from a more aggressive Russia is growing, and at the same time we are seeing a more inward-looking EU that is struggling to retain popular support in many countries.

The financial crisis and its repercussions have exacerbated the turbulence in a globalised economy that has been unable to revert to its previous rate of growth. A rate of growth that is necessary to create the jobs and ensure the stability we all want.

Western-led attempts to promote democracy and stability in fragile states to the south and east of the Mediterranean since 2001 have not produced the desired results. The invasion of Iraq was a failure and has had far-reaching negative consequences.

Authoritarian regimes are tightening their hold on power in the name of stability, and efforts to promote democracy and human rights are being thwarted.

Both brexit and the political situation in the US reflect the way in which centres of political power are losing touch with large groups of voters. Waves of populism, anti-migration movements and dissatisfaction with economic policy are threatening to weaken political institutions and stability.

These developments are threatening to shatter the liberal world order that has been built up over the past 70 years. For a long time, we have tended to assume that this world order would simply continue to grow stronger, but now we are asking ourselves what we can do to ensure its survival.

A chaotic explosion of information worldwide is further exacerbating the problems. Our notions of what is true and what is not true, and of right and wrong, are being challenged. More and more people get their information from media platforms that are unedited and easy to manipulate.

The risk of individuals and groups barricading themselves in their own echo chambers is growing. More than ever before, we need a critical public debate where the focus is on seeking the truth, but this is becoming more difficult to achieve in several parts of the world.

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Together, these developments are threatening to undermine much of what we have achieved since the Second World War.

But it is precisely at times like this, when there is so much turbulence in the world around us, that it is important for us to remember the victories we have won and the institutions the international community has built up over the past 70 years.

These achievements are our springboard; they give motivation and direction to our efforts to promote Norwegian interests and a world order that safeguards the fundamental values that mean so much to us.

Firstly, whether viewed from a global, European or Norwegian perspective, the world has made enormous progress since 1945.

Out of the ruins of two world wars that killed tens of millions of people, we have built a world order, brick by brick, step by step, year by year, that has ensured stability, peace, security, freedom, democracy and prosperity for an increasing proportion of the world's rapidly growing population.

With the UN Charter, international law and a network of international institutions as the foundation.

Secondly, the victory of the free world in 1990 demonstrated the sheer potency of freedom, democracy and human rights, as an increasingly universal set of norms on which to base the modern nation state.

Nobody could claim that these norms are not being challenged today. But the UN human rights conventions stand firm. Threats to and violations of human rights are not the new normal; they are deviations from the fundamental norms on which our political societies are based.

Thirdly, the end of the Cold War also put an end to the rivalry between two economic systems. We moved towards a common understanding of economics based on liberal economic principles, free trade and a free private sector, within a predictable multilateral framework.

Fourthly, economic growth over the past seven decades has been unprecedented. This growth has been distributed – by no means perfectly, but in a way that has lifted billions of people out of poverty.

Fifthly, black smoke rising from factory chimneys was, for a long time, seen as a positive sign of economic activity and gainful employment. In recent decades, the international community has recognised the vulnerability of ecosystems, the limits to how much pollution the environment can withstand, and the fact that that climate change is one of the greatest threats to the welfare and security of future generations.

The Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 and ratified last year, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the extensive body of global and regional environmental agreements represent a quantum leap forward compared with the situation just a few decades ago.

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These five points sum up the achievements of a European and global order that is truly impressive in historical terms and that has made it possible for more and more of the world's citizens to enjoy peace, freedom, democracy and welfare.

Further strengthening these pillars of the global order is fundamental to Norwegian interests.

Norway has played an active role in developing this global architecture. We have positioned ourselves well and made the most of the opportunities this world order has offered us.

We are well integrated into the European economy and can hold our own in the global economic competition. Norway is making its mark as a technically advanced, forward-looking and resource-rich nation in areas such as energy, finance, shipping, seafood and the blue economy.

Let me give a few examples: we are building on our maritime strength and are world leaders in emerging industries such as green shipping and large-scale, sustainable seafood production. With our forward-looking electric vehicle policy, Norway has set an example for the world to follow.

And I would also like to mention CEPI – the new Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. This is another example of Norway taking on a leadership role in the area of global health. CEPI is a public–private partnership established to promote the development of vaccines against epidemics as well as other innovative ways of preventing future health crises. CEPI has attracted considerable international attention, and its headquarters will be in Oslo.

Mr President,

We are living in a time of contrasts. Epoch-making progress is now being threatened by serious challenges to the world order we have created. How should we interpret, understand and manage these developments?

In last year's address I talked about a growing sense of unpredictability and vulnerability, about the fact that we can no longer take continued progress for granted.

I believe that the growing unease we are seeing today is to a large extent linked to the strong sense of optimism that prevailed in our part of the world from 1990 onwards.

At that time, some people even predicted the end of history, suggesting that the West had won, and that no rival system would ever again be able to prevent democracy, freedom and the market economy from prevailing across the globe.

So we have to ask ourselves: Are the conflicts and unrest we are seeing today temporary setbacks on the way to an ever better and safer world? Or is this the 'new normal' – a world that is becoming more dangerous, more unstable and more unpredictable?

Unfortunately, there is little indication that the level of tension we are now seeing will be reduced any time soon. I think we have to be prepared for new and even tougher challenges.

We have been too quick to assume that democracy would prevail.

We have put our faith in reason, an informed public debate, and the ability of our political system to manage the process of globalisation and share its benefits among all population groups. We have believed in the ability of democracy to cultivate the best leaders, almost automatically. And we have believed in the ability of the major political parties to modernise and further develop society.

We were not prepared for how rapidly even the most robust social systems would come under pressure from waves of migration, increasing threats of terrorism, economic and social alienation, and a lack of hope for the future.

This is the reality we are facing today, as Europe prepares for a number of important elections over the next few months that could drive us further away from the political visions we have worked so hard to realise.

It is now more important than ever to take concerted action:

  • to consolidate democracy and defend the values on which it is based.
  • to bring new momentum to our efforts to address our challenges at home and the complex conflict landscape to the south of and in the east of Europe.
  • to revitalise the impressive institutional architecture that has made us far better equipped to resolve crises than at any previous time in history.
  • and to work step by step to ensure that the turmoil we have seen since 2014 is just a short phase that we can learn from, and not the new normal in international politics.

***

Our fundamental values and interests remain constant, but the challenges in the world around us make it necessary to reflect continuously on our foreign policy choices, and on how we set priorities.

Having provided this analysis, I will now move on to talk about the political action that needs to be taken. I would like to highlight five main pillars:

Firstly, we must give priority to what is most important: the security, safety and welfare of Norwegian citizens and Norwegian society. The Government will shortly present a white paper on the future course of foreign and security policy, and this principle will be at the heart of it.

We will be a staunch, readily recognisable and predictable friend to our partners and allies. The transatlantic cooperation is facing new challenges, but it is more important now than ever. We are increasing investments in defence and public security, and stand together with our allies in the effort to restructure Nato.

Secondly, we must strengthen our already close ties with allies and friends in neighbouring areas. Nordic cooperation is particularly important.

European heavyweights like Germany, France and the UK are important trading partners and are becoming increasingly important partners in the area of security policy too.

The G20 is an important platform for promoting Norwegian interests and international cooperation this year, as Norway has been invited to participate as a guest country by Germany, which holds the G20 presidency in 2017.

Norway has received this invitation from Germany because our two countries have very similar views on key global issues, and because we already cooperate closely on finding solutions to many global problems.

Thirdly, we will continue to further develop our society. Foreign and domestic policy are becoming increasingly intertwined. A robust economy and a strong, mature democracy are vital resources in today's turbulent world.

We pursue a proactive policy based on our interests, which involves fighting protectionism and providing effective support to an increasingly globalised Norwegian business sector.

Later this spring, we will be presenting the first ever Norwegian white paper on the place of the oceans in our foreign policy. This, together with the recent national ocean strategy, sets out our robust and innovative interest-based policy in areas where Norway plays an important global role.

Fourthly, it has never been more important to invest in the values on which our society is based, and which we want other countries to associate with Norway: freedom, human rights, democracy, gender equality, justice, and respect for the environment.

These values are at the heart of both Norwegian society and our international engagement. They are also the reason for Norway's substantial contribution to the efforts to achieve the SDGs, and our particular focus on peacebuilding, global education and global health.

Fifthly, we will continue to strengthen our role and profile as a country that seeks good solutions in cooperation with others, and invests heavily in these – in Europe, our neighbouring areas, and globally.

Only by doing all this can we be a credible supporter of the important international institutions that are now under more pressure than at any time since the Second World War.

***

These five points outline the essence of the Government's foreign policy in response to extremely challenging situation we are seeing today. It can be summed up as responsible realism.

'Realism' because the gravity of the foreign policy situation means that we must give priority to national interests, and the security and welfare of our citizens. And 'responsible', because a well-functioning regional and global world order based on robust institutions and effective cooperation is vital for realising our interests.

Responsible realism means pursuing a clear, but at the same time balanced and well thought-out policy at times when our values and interests are being challenged, as is the case today.

This applies not least to our dealings with countries and actors that have political systems and priorities that differ from our own. This does not mean that we should change or compromise key values. It means that classic and skilful diplomacy is needed as we engage with an increasingly multipolar world.

Often this will mean focusing more on results than on symbols. We need more dialogue and less megaphone diplomacy. We need to identify common interests and build on these. To combine firmness with humility and a willingness to understand where other people are coming from.

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As much as anything, geopolitics is about geography. If I were to highlight one important consequence of today's tumultuous foreign policy environment, it is that we must focus more on areas close to home.

Geographical proximity, common values and strong interests in the areas of economics, politics and security form the basis for fruitful regional cooperation. Norway's foreign policy begins in Europe. The other Nordic countries and major European countries such as Germany, France and the UK will be even more important partners for us than they have been in the past.

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The Government's focus on the Arctic is a key aspect of our strengthened policy towards our neighbouring areas. The Arctic is Norway's most important foreign policy priority. Later this spring, we will be presenting an ambitious new Arctic strategy.

The Norwegian part of the Arctic is thriving. In 2015, a total of 4 020 new companies were set up in Nordland, Troms and Finnmark. Growth is higher and unemployment lower than in the rest of the country.

This year, the Government has allocated NOK 3.4 billion to Arctic-related efforts, which is nearly 75 % more than the amount proposed in the 2013 budget.

Our most important resource in the north is not fish or oil; it is people. Attractive places to live, well-developed infrastructure, good schools, universities and research groups, and interesting jobs are needed to create dynamic local communities.

Norway has helped to put the Arctic on the map. We play a leading role in Arctic cooperation forums such as the Arctic Council, which has become the most important arena for Arctic cooperation.

The increasing activity in the Arctic sea areas means that both our own emergency preparedness and our cooperation with other Arctic states in the area of emergency preparedness and security must be highly effective.

We are engaged in diplomatic efforts vis-à-vis the EU to highlight the importance of the Law of the Sea and of ensuring a good balance between conservation and sustainable use.

The growing interest in the Arctic means that we must further strengthen our Arctic diplomacy. I was in Brussels myself a few weeks ago and the Arctic was high on the agenda.

Norway's sea areas are crucial for our economy. But if we are to be able to exploit our marine resources, we must protect and manage the marine environment in the best possible way.

Our relations with Russia in the north are a constant and important element of Norway's Arctic policy. Norway wants to have good neighbourly relations with Russia. I look forward to meeting Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a conference on the Arctic in Arkhangelsk later in March.

Our basic approach is to be firm, consistent and predictable. Our willingness and ability to engage in practical cooperation and our positions on matters of principle are easily recognisable. Together with the other Arctic states, we are working to ensure that the Arctic remains a region of stability and cooperation based on the Law of the Sea.

Norway is engaged in extensive cooperation with Russia in other areas, such as nuclear safety, the environment and fisheries management in the north, coast guard and border patrols and people-to-people cooperation. On 4 March this year, the local border traffic regime was expanded to include inhabitants from the whole Neiden area, and last autumn we signed a protocol on notification of nuclear incidents.

Together, we managed to halt the flow of asylum seekers seeking to enter Norway via the Storskog border crossing. An agreement on collection of seismic data up to and along the delimitation line between our two countries will be signed in the near future.

Over the next few months, the Norwegian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation, the Joint Norwegian-Russian Commission on Environmental Protection and the Norwegian-Russian Commission for Nuclear Safety all plan to hold meetings. We also enjoy constructive cooperation on education and research.

However, we will continue to follow Russia's military build-up in the Arctic closely. What we are seeing is the modernisation of military equipment, the development of new capabilities, increasing military activity, more complex exercises, and the re-opening of military infrastructure.

We have been making use of forums such as the Nato Summit in Warsaw last summer to draw the attention of our allies to the strategic maritime situation in the north.

***

The Nordic countries are key partners in in the Arctic. As the world becomes more unsettled, our Nordic cooperation is increasingly important.

Everyday life in the Nordic region has been more directly affected by international affairs in recent years. Crises elsewhere in the world are coming closer. We are facing more challenges both internationally and in our own region.

Norway is leading a number of Nordic cooperation forums this year. We will use this opportunity to strengthen Nordic cooperation on foreign and security policy.

With regard to security policy, it is particularly important that we share information, assessments and proposals for measures so that we can develop a shared situational awareness and ensure a coordinated response, even in situations of crisis. We participate in each other's military exercises more and more often, in and outside Nato, and in this way show the rest of the world that the Nordic countries take the issue of security seriously.

I maintain close contact with my Nordic colleagues. Informal contact and exchanges of experience between neighbouring countries are extremely valuable in today's turbulent world.

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These are turbulent times in Europe too. The start of the brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK is just round the corner.

In time, a new partnership will be established. A comprehensive trade agreement is high on the UK's wish list, as are new arrangements for cooperation to fight crime and terrorism.

It is important to find good solutions that ensure continued close cooperation between the UK and the EU in these areas, and not least on foreign policy. Rarely has the need for a strong European voice been greater.

The Government is maintaining close contact with Brussels, London and other important capitals in order to promote Norwegian interests as this process continues. One of our main priorities is, of course, to put in place a new framework for our economic relations with the UK.

Our clear aim is to ensure that any new arrangements, whether temporary or permanent, continue to regulate our trade with the UK from the moment the UK leaves the EU and the internal market.

We are also paying close attention to further developments in the partnership between the 27 countries that have the job of moving the EU forward, without the UK.

The European Commission has just presented its reflections on and proposals for the future of Europe in a white paper on the subject. We will no doubt also see new proposals for closer EU cooperation on security and defence policy. It is vital that Norway follows these developments closely.

The EU is still by far Norway's most important market and a very valuable political partner. The Government will therefore work to safeguard the EEA Agreement, which is crucial for economic growth, jobs and welfare in our country. The Minister of EEA and EU Affairs will give an address to the Storting on these important issues in April.

Over the past year, the members of the Government have made a conscious effort to increase contact with their European colleagues, to promote Norway's interests and communicate our views on both the brexit process and the other challenges Europe is facing.

We are also following the situation along the EU's borders closely. Tensions are rising in the EU candidate countries and potential candidate countries. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq are affecting the situation in Turkey, and at the same time internal tensions in the country are growing and giving increasing cause for concern.

Stability in the Balkans can no longer be taken for granted. Internal tensions, political crises, and interference from third countries in several Balkan countries could spark new crises in the region. Norway will intensify its efforts to promote stability and development in the Western Balkans.

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Since the Arab Spring in 2011, the conflict situation in the Middle East has become more and more complex, and it has become increasingly difficult to gain an overview of the actors involved.

These developments have coincided with the emergence of serious challenges in the countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Horn of Africa, and growing migratory pressure from many African countries.

In geopolitical terms, Russia's engagement in the region – combined with the more proactive role being played by regional actors – has altered the parameters for conflict management. It has also created a new security situation for Turkey and Nato. Russia, Iran and Turkey are now playing the most important role in the negotiations between the parties to the conflict in Syria.

However, in order to achieve a lasting and sustainable peace settlement in Syria, it is vital that all parties to the conflict participate, and the role of the UN will be decisive. The UN-led peace talks on Syria in Geneva last week were a small step in the right direction.

The international efforts to combat Isil in Iraq and Syria have gradually reduced the terrorist organisation's power and capabilities. Nonetheless, the war against Isil is continuing unabated, given the danger that the organisation will gain a foothold in other parts of the region.

Norway is participating on a number of fronts in the work to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East. The Government has already addressed the Storting on Norway's efforts in the fight against Isil. Norway has also helped to transport chemical weapons out of Syria and contributed in practical terms to facilitating the agreement on Iran's nuclear programme.

Norway is shouldering considerable responsibility as a humanitarian donor to the civilian populations affected by these conflicts. We are particularly aware of the extremely difficult situation for persecuted religious minorities in the region. And we are playing an active role in the international work to prevent and limit the flows of refugees and migrants heading for Europe.

Norway's role as chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for Assistance to the Palestinians (AHLC) is one of its most important contributions to the efforts to bring peace to the Middle East. The AHLC is one of the few arenas that still brings together the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for constructive talks.

Despite broad international agreement on the need for a two-state solution, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict remains unresolved. Acts of violence and settlement expansions are closing the window of opportunity for finding a solution based on the Oslo Accords.

We are intensifying our efforts to promote conflict resolution and stability, and increasing our support for peace and reconciliation efforts elsewhere in the region. We are giving priority to supporting countries where there have clearly been positive political developments, such as Tunisia.

We are also engaged in the work to resolve conflicts in the Horn of Africa and in the Sahel region.

The situation in South Sudan is going from bad to worse; a new famine is now affecting millions of people who are already in dire need. We have decided to allocate NOK 135 million to efforts to address acute humanitarian needs in 2017. Our work to promote conflict resolution and stability continues to have high priority.

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One of the key conclusions of the white paper on Norwegian foreign and security policy that will be presented in a few weeks' time is that we need to give priority to Europe and our neighbouring areas. This is important for our foreign policy and not least for our security policy.

Europe is now seeking to take greater responsibility for its own security. This will have an impact not only on defence cooperation between European allies, but also on foreign policy priorities in a far wider sense.

We will continue our traditional security policy based on deterrence and détente. This dual-track approach has been effective.

Through the new long-term plan for the Norwegian armed forces, we will strengthen the defence of Norway and Nato's collective defence capability.

Norway is not – and never will be – strong enough to defend itself on its own. Nato's principle of collective defence is fundamental to Norway's defence, and Allied exercises are carried out to enhance Norway's security. This provides us with an adequate defence and ensures that our deterrence is credible.

We are participating in Nato's new concept for enhanced forward presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, Enhanced Forward Presence. We are deploying 200 soldiers to Lithuania for six months in 2017, in cooperation with Germany and the Netherlands. In this way, we are helping to strengthen the Alliance's deterrence capability, while enhancing our already close military cooperation with key European allies.

Nato's collective security guarantee is vital, and it must be credible. We are therefore giving priority to strengthening Nato's collective defence capability throughout Alliance territory. Important progress has been made in this context, but much remains to be done. Norway is taking responsibility by leading one of the Standing Nato Maritime Groups for the whole of 2017.

In recent years, we have seen the emergence of a more assertive Russia. The annexation of Crimea was not only a serious violation of international law; it was also a breach of confidence. Russia's actions have created a sense of uncertainty.

The security landscape in Europe has changed. We must rebuild confidence if we are to reduce tensions. Fulfilment of the Minsk agreements would be an important step forward in this regard.

In our relations with Russia, we seek to be predictable, consistent, clear and firm. We must seek to reduce uncertainties and misunderstandings, and thereby the potential for conflict and undesirable actions.

An important part of our policy of reassurance is our willingness to understand and recognise that Russia has legitimate security interests in the Arctic – and to take these interests into account in our policies.

This approach has won us respect in Russia, and it has served Norway's interests and the interests of our allies in the north. There is consensus on the policy of deterrence and reassurance, which was established during the Cold War, and which is an important principle in Norway's security policy. This policy will be maintained.

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In its work to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the Government is maintaining a long-standing position in Norwegian foreign policy. We are working systematically towards the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, in accordance with the unanimous decision in the Storting on 26 April last year.

Real and lasting progress on disarmament cannot be achieved with the stroke of a pen. What is needed is the full implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) commitments, and balanced, mutual, irreversible and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons.

At the UN General Assembly last year, Norway put forward a resolution on nuclear disarmament verification, which received almost unanimous support. We will continue our efforts within the UN to strengthen the verification mechanisms, while also continuing our close cooperation with the UK and other countries in this area.

The Government is engaged in the international efforts to prevent non-state actors gaining access to weapons of mass destruction and nuclear material. The work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is crucial in this area, as are a number of other international projects and initiatives.

The nuclear agreement with Iran has strengthened the efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The agreement is an important victory for the international community. Norway has played an active role. Last month, the IAEA reported that Iran had removed excess centrifuges and infrastructure from the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, in line with its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

One of the most serious challenges we are now facing is North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and the country's development of missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The international community must stand united in opposing these developments.

The international community must also stand together in condemning and preventing the use of chemical weapons, as we have seen in Syria. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has its 20th anniversary this year, continues to play a central role in this area.

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During my time as Foreign Minister, I have attached great importance to maintaining and strengthening our cooperation with the US.

I was in Washington, DC just last week, and I met a number of representatives of the US administration while I was there. Our talks were generally positive, and Norway is seen as an important ally and partner in the efforts to address regional and global issues. Norway's peace and reconciliation efforts are particularly valued.

If we are to maintain our close relationship with the US, it is vital that we are seen to be a relevant partner, and we are clearly showing that we are. Close military cooperation and participation in international operations are key. In the fight against Isil, we are again proving our willingness and ability to shoulder responsibility.

I have also attached importance to taking part in the work to promote disarmament and non-proliferation.

Successive Norwegian governments have given priority to cooperating with successive US administrations. Norway is dependent on having good relations with the US, which is our most important ally.

Our cooperation with the US is wide-ranging and has deep historical roots. This makes it easy for us to raise issues in cases where we disagree. A recent example was the US travel ban, a revised form of which was presented yesterday.

There has always been openness to discussion and disagreement in our relationship with the US, irrespective of who is President and which party has the majority in Congress. And my impression is that there is broad agreement on this in the Storting.

President Trump's new administration has only just started its work. Policies in a number of areas have not yet been fixed. There are signs of unfortunate changes in important policy areas such as trade, climate change, and development.

However, in the last few weeks we have seen encouraging signals confirming US commitment to transatlantic cooperation and Nato solidarity as embodied in Article 5. And Europe has responded by showing a clear understanding of the need to take greater responsibility for its own security, and a willingness to contribute more to Alliance defence.

There has always been strong support for Nato in Congress, and Republican heavyweights have shown their support for Nato on several occasions. This was also the message I heard during my visit to the US last week.

We must also accept the fact that many of the forces that seem to be shaping the agenda of the current administration are at least as strong in Europe and other parts of the world.

In any case, the current situation calls for strategic patience and targeted efforts to promote Norway's interests in the US. Not least, we need to convey the message that a strong and united Europe is in the interests of the US.

We are already doing this. The close and deep-rooted relationship we have built up over time, extending far into American society, is more important today than ever.

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Normalisation of relations between Norway and China has been a priority for the Government since its first day in power. During my visit to Beijing on 19 December last year, the normalisation of our relations was finally announced. This was the result of long-term and tireless diplomatic efforts.

The normalisation of relations is an important and encouraging turning point in the relationship between our two countries. It is based on mutual respect and national interests.

China's role in the world is growing, and the country is becoming increasingly important for Norway. Its significance for the Norwegian economy and business sector is obvious. The resumption of negotiations on a free trade agreement will be given high priority.

China also has considerable political influence, both in Asia and globally. President Xi Jinping's unambiguous remarks in favour of free trade and against protectionism in his speech at Davos in January were important, as was his support for the Paris Agreement. They reflect the responsibility China is taking for promoting multilateral cooperation. The timing could not have been more significant.

Nevertheless, there are clear differences of opinion between Norway and China and different attitudes on many issues. We are not naïve when it comes to the policies and ambitions of major powers.

What is positive is that we now have opportunities to develop a broad policy of engagement with Beijing. A growing number of Chinese actors are becoming familiar with Norway's interests and positions.

We are cooperating in conflict areas such as South Sudan and Afghanistan. And the Chinese delegation to Arctic Frontiers in Tromsø in January, which was larger than ever before, was able to see Norway's Arctic policy at its best: in-depth knowledge, responsible management of resources and inclusive Arctic diplomacy.

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International law – and the conviction that right prevails over might – form the foundation for security policy and the broader efforts to achieve a well-functioning world order.

These words sum up, in one sentence, the lessons of the two world wars fought on European soil. They apply to all countries, but especially to small countries whose neighbours are major regional powers.

That is why the work to protect and strengthen the liberal world order, which I highlighted at the beginning of this address, is so important. And all the more so now, when we are seeing – for the first time in 70 years – a real possibility that multilateral cooperation could be systematically undermined. We must do everything in our power to prevent this.

The UN is, and will remain, the backbone of international cooperation. No other organisation has the legitimacy to bring about agreement on global norms, or to serve as an arena where countries can hammer out joint solutions on specific issues. The universal adoption of the SDGs gives the UN a unique political platform.

The unanimous decision to appoint António Guterres as the new UN Secretary-General was good news. He faces high expectations, and has already shown impressive leadership skills.

The Prime Minister and I have met Mr Guterres on several occasions. Through the UN70 initiative, we have presented recommendations for a forward-looking agenda, which the Secretary-General has shown – through both words and action – that he appreciates.

Our recommendations had greater impact because they were developed in cooperation with countries from other continents. Alliance-building of this kind yields results, as well as being a good way of building networks where we can promote Norwegian interests.

As you are aware, Norway is seeking to be elected to the Security Council for the period 2021-2022. This is part of a long-term policy to safeguard our strategic interests in the UN. In addition to enabling us to support the UN and the Security Council's global and systemic role in the world, membership of the Council will give us an opportunity to promote other Norwegian interests and priorities.

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Throughout the post-war period, globalisation and trade agreements have served Norway and the rest of the world well. Now that we are encountering new attitudes and changed values in Europe and the US, we must show in practice that global and multilateral cooperation is in the best interests of the people.

Globalisation has lifted millions of people out of extreme poverty. The progress made towards achieving the UN millennium development goals would not have been possible without trade and today's multilateral system.

In order to continue this positive trend, poor countries need to be more closely integrated into the world economy. This will give them access to local and global markets, and enable them to import goods and services, attract investments and benefit from new technology.

We must work to counter growing inequality and ensure better distribution of resources and opportunities. This is a matter of having a sound and forward-looking national policy, with an emphasis on domestic resource mobilisation, education, and an ability to adapt.

Protectionism is not the answer. For Norway, the WTO multilateral trading system is, and will remain, our most important international economic framework, supplemented with bilateral free trade agreements.

The WTO is unique in that all member countries have the same rights and duties, follow the same rules, show transparency and engage in dialogue on policies, and are bound by dispute resolution obligations.

If the WTO's credibility and rules are undermined, there is a risk that large countries and economies will exploit their powerful position and seek solutions that serve their own interests. If that happens, we could face the prospect of a trade war.

That is why I took the initiative to hold an informal ministers' meeting in Oslo last autumn, which brought together 25 ministers with responsibility for issues relating to the WTO. It is also why we are playing such an active role in the preparations for the WTO's next Ministerial Conference, to be held in Argentina in December.

The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report for 2017 places extreme weather events at the top of the list of threats to the global economy. Natural disasters, water crises and failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation are also among the top five risk factors identified.

It is important that Norway follows up the Paris Agreement, not only because of climate change considerations, but also for the sake of the global economy and the security of Norway and other countries. We need to follow up the Agreement at the national level and by maintaining a high level of funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

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This year's address has focused a great deal on our neighbouring areas, on security policy, and on the work to strengthen the multilateral framework that is so important to Norway. This reflects the gravity of the current foreign policy situation, and the Government's clear emphasis on giving priority to national interests.

But there is no inherent contradiction between pursuing a policy based on national interests and contributing to the fight against poverty and efforts to promote sustainable development. We are showing in practice how greater coherence between our foreign and development policies is increasing the foreign policy options available to us.

By intensifying our efforts to address the problems of fragile states, we are laying the foundations for development. Successful development helps to prevent large-scale migration flows, and reduces the recruitment base for radicalisation and terrorism. Development leads to economic growth, which in turn increases the market opportunities for the Norwegian business sector.

Human rights are at the heart of our foreign and development policy. Freedom of expression, the protection of minorities and the fight against the death penalty are key areas, as are promoting women's rights and gender equality, and advancing the rights of LGBTI people.

I am looking forward to presenting a white paper to the Storting this spring on the SDGs and central issues in Norwegian development policy. Not least because this will provide an opportunity to take stock and discuss the way ahead in important areas of policy such as education, health, the environment and climate change, and business development in poor countries.

Today, I would like to highlight certain aspects of humanitarian aid. Norway's humanitarian budget has never been larger. In this year's budget, Norway has allocated over NOK 5 billion for humanitarian response to crises and conflicts, more than ever before.

This is an increase of over 50 % since the Government took office. Norway is the fifth largest donor to Syria and its neighbouring countries, and provided a total allocation of around NOK 2.7 billion in 2016.

According to UN estimates, up to 130 million people are in need of emergency aid. The UN appeals for 2017 are bigger than ever.

Humanitarian aid is first and foremost a matter of giving urgent, lifesaving assistance, based on international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles.

We also have a responsibility to create development opportunities and give people in areas affected by conflicts and crises hope for the future.

That is why the Government has stepped up its efforts to support land mine and cluster munitions clearance.

That is why we will, where possible, replace food aid with cash and crop seeds, to stimulate food production and local markets.

That is why we will continue to play a leading role internationally to promote education in crises.

It is also more important than ever that Norway participates actively in the international cooperation to find sustainable solutions to the refugee crisis.

Refugees and migrants receive a lot of media attention, but we must not forget all the people who are internally displaced, for example in north-eastern Nigeria, where 1.8 million people have been forced to flee their homes by the terrorist organisation Boko Haram.

At the recent donor conference in Oslo for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, we announced that we will provide NOK 1.6 billion in humanitarian and development aid for the 2017-2019 period. More than 11 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance because of the crisis in the region.

Boko Haram's brutal actions are unfortunately just one illustration of the fact that girls and women are particularly vulnerable in today's armed conflicts. The Government is giving priority to incorporating the gender perspective into Norway's humanitarian aid efforts. This means providing support for girls' education and for promoting sexual and reproductive rights.

The Trump administration's decision to deny funding to development-oriented health organisations that provide information about abortion as part of their healthcare work is deeply regrettable.

Norway has recently allocated NOK 85 million to organisations affected by this decision, and will continue its cooperation with like-minded countries to counter the effects of policies of this kind. Norway will also continue its international engagement, both in the UN and at country level, to defend and strengthen women's rights.

Mr President,

This is the last foreign policy address of this parliamentary period. It has been a challenging period for Norwegian foreign and security policy.

The Government has therefore attached importance to being clear and predictable, to focusing on the most important matters, and investing in binding international cooperation. The SDGs and the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 were important global breakthroughs that provide a clear framework for Norwegian policy, both at home and abroad.

We have achieved a lot over the last four years.

  • Although it has been an extremely challenging period, we have maintained consensus in this chamber on the main lines of our foreign policy. The Government's cooperation with the Storting has been close and constructive. This has been important for Norway.
  • We have pursued a clear and firm security policy, and have made significant defence investments, in cooperation with our key allies in Europe and Nato.
  • We have maintained and strengthened our Arctic policy, during a period that has seen increased geopolitical tensions, low oil prices and growing concern over climate change.
  • Tireless and tenacious diplomacy resulted in a well-balanced and constructive agreement on the resumption of full diplomatic relations between Norway and China.
  • We have pursued a forward-looking development policy based on the SDGs. This has included a doubling of our aid to education, a significant increase in humanitarian aid and an ambitious policy on global health.
  • We have further developed Norway's effective peace diplomacy, for example in Colombia and the Philippines, in line with our overall strategy for efforts in fragile states.
  • Last but not least: we have stepped up our assistance to the Norwegian business sector and Norwegian citizens abroad. More than 1.3 million consular enquiries have been dealt with since autumn 2013. These have included some extremely difficult cases involving detention and imprisonment.

Taken together, these points embody the kind of responsible realism I spoke about earlier in this address. Our unwavering efforts to safeguard Norway's interests. Our extensive work to strengthen the multilateral system, and to consolidate 70 years' of progress towards a well-functioning world order. And not least, to ensure that right continues to prevail over might.