Priorities for Norway at the UN General Assembly 2015

The high-level week of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly will begin with a summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, the Sustainable Development Summit, on 25–27 September. The general debate will begin on 28 September and will last until 6 October. Members of Norway's delegation, which is headed by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, will participate in a large number of bilateral and multilateral meetings during the high-level week.

Norway's foreign policy

The overarching goal of Norwegian foreign policy is to safeguard and promote Norway's interests – our values, our security and our welfare. The Government is committed to doing all it can to ensure that decades of progress in the areas of democracy, human rights, free trade and international cooperation are not reversed.

Considerable progress has been made in the world in the past few decades. Never before have so many people in the world enjoyed such high standards of living or benefited from so much cooperation. World trade has increased eightfold since 1970, and the number of people living in extreme poverty has been halved. More people are learning to read and write, and more people are able to enjoy good health. At the same time, the past few years have taught us that we cannot simply assume that progress will continue, which only serves to underline the need for a well-functioning UN. After several decades of positive progress, the number of people killed in wars and conflict is now rising. Never before have so many people been forced to flee from their countries and homes. There are strong indications that these negative changes will be lasting. Norwegian foreign policy today has to respond to a highly complex and challenging threat landscape. Russia's violations of international law and destabilisation of Ukraine are spreading uncertainty throughout Europe. The brutality of ISIL and other extremist groups is deeply shocking. Migration flows and human trafficking across the Mediterranean to Europe are putting pressure on the external border of the EU, which is also our external border. The dividing line between foreign policy and domestic policy is becoming increasingly blurred. This makes a united and effective response essential.

In our efforts to navigate today's complex international environment, we will continue to cultivate political friendships with our trading partners in the EU and our close allies in the US and the rest of NATO. At the same time, we must intensify our efforts to engage with the emerging economies and new regional institutions. Our recent agreements with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the African Union (AU) are good examples of what we can achieve in this context. We will also continue to provide substantial support to multilateral institutions such as the UN.

Participation in the UN is a cornerstone of Norwegian foreign policy. Promoting international cooperation and compliance with international law is the best way of achieving concrete results and safeguarding countries' common interests. Together with increased trade and democratisation, the expanding scope of international law – to encompass everything from peaceful conflict resolution to air transport, working conditions, human rights, the use of marine resources, environmental protection and complex financial and investment operations – has created the world order we benefit from today. The UN's mandate and unique position in the world mean that it has a special responsibility to work to ensure that decades of progress in the areas of democracy, human rights, development and international cooperation are not reversed.

But the UN needs to adapt, both as an intergovernmental arena and as an actor on the world stage, to a world that is facing new challenges and new geopolitical power constellations. The UN has to undergo a continual process of reform if it is to retain its relevance in a rapidly changing world. We need to safeguard the current international legal and security policy architecture, and improve its ability to deal with the challenges of the 21st century. The further development and reform of the UN is primarily the responsibility of UN member states. Norway will maintain a strong focus on promoting reform of the UN with a view to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation. The Ministry's UN70: A new agenda project is one of several tools that will be used in this work.

This year's UN General Assembly – key Norwegian positions and interests

The UN General Assembly is the world's largest international meeting place, and a unique arena for promoting Norwegian interests, international cooperation and Norwegian positions on issues of key importance to Norway.

The high-level week of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly will begin with a summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, the Sustainable Development Summit, on 25–27 September. The general debate will begin on 28 September and will last until 6 October. Members of Norway's delegation, which is headed by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, will participate in a large number of bilateral and multilateral meetings during the high-level week.

Norway will work to make the UN more effective and to strengthen the organisation's capacity to safeguard and promote international peace and security, international law, human rights, humanitarian principles and sustainable development. During this year's session of the General Assembly, the Government will give priority to the following topics, both at the formal meetings and at side events:

The fact that world leaders have now reached agreement on the 2030 sustainable development agenda and the new Sustainable Development Goals is a major step forward. The Prime Minister will attend the Sustainable Development Summit, where the new goals will be adopted. Norway considers it important to mark the fact that the international community has made a clear commitment to renew its combined efforts to eradicate poverty through sustainable development by 2030.
The events of the past few years have reminded us how crucial it is to uphold international law and a world order in which right triumphs over might. An agreed set of international rules is essential if we are to be able to deal successfully with issues relating to environmental protection, the use of marine resources, air transport, trade, digital commerce, and complex financial and investment operations, as well as transnational law enforcement in the face of international terrorist threats.

Globalisation and the shift in global power make it all the more important to strike a balance between ensuring effective governance at the global level and addressing the legitimate ambitions of emerging states and regions. This is crucial for securing continued and stronger adherence to the common rules that are developed in the UN and other multilateral organisations.

It will not be possible to overcome ISIL and other violent extremist groups unless we make use of a broad range of political, military, ideological and economic tools. Norway is helping to develop effective tools in all these areas. The fight against ISIL, extremism and foreign terrorist fighters will be a key topic during the high-level week, and Norway will be giving high priority to this issue. Norway considers it important to ensure that the UN's role in this area is as clearly defined as possible. Strengthening the role of the UN in global counter-terrorism efforts is one of the action points listed in the white paper on global security challenges.

Efforts to promote peace, stability and development in fragile states is one of the areas in which the UN has a comparative advantage. The Government therefore considers it particularly important that the UN is able to play as effective a role as possible in fragile states, in terms of carrying out both peace operations and development work. Close cooperation between the various UN agencies is vital to maximise synergies and results on the ground in these countries. Norway also attaches importance to the efforts to improve the Security Council's working methods.

In view of the sheer scale of humanitarian need caused by the many current crises in the world, Norway will give priority to efforts to improve the effectiveness of the UN humanitarian system and make it better able to deal with the challenges we are facing. Norway will support work to improve the financing of the UN humanitarian system and will seek to ensure that it gains a wider range of partners.

Promoting women's rights and gender equality is a central element of Norway's foreign and development policy. The Prime Minister will take part in a Global Leaders' Meeting on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment, which will be co-hosted by UN Women and the People's Republic of China in connection with the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Norway will give priority to climate issues and meetings at which climate change is discussed. Prime Minister Erna Solberg will participate at the high-level luncheon on the climate summit in Paris to be hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President François Hollande, which aims to secure climate commitments from UN member states, with a view to achieving a good outcome from the climate negotiations in Paris later this year.

Education is the Government's number one development policy priority. The Government will seek to make use of different arenas, networks and relevant meetings during the high-level week to highlight the fundamental importance of education and job creation for development.

Peace, security and fragile states

One of Norway's overriding goals is to strengthen the UN's capacity to maintain international peace and security. The UN has a vital role to play in preventing and resolving armed conflicts, protecting civilians and promoting long-term peacebuilding efforts.

The number of collapsed or failed states – and states that are experiencing problems due to lawlessness and porous borders – has risen in recent years. There is a great danger that problems that have their roots in failed states will spread to stable and prosperous countries. The UN plays a key role in fragile states. The UN can carry out peace operations, humanitarian projects and development projects, and it can promote human rights. The emphasis placed on fostering peaceful, just and inclusive societies and good governance in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development gives the UN a stronger mandate to engage in fragile states, including in countries that are not on the Security Council agenda.

Norway will support efforts to strengthen the role of the UN in countries and areas that are politically fragile. It is crucial that the various UN instruments are seen in relation to one another, and that an integrated and coordinated approach is taken. The report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, which was presented to the UN Secretary-General in June, emphasised the need for an integrated approach to UN engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states. Norway will work to strengthen the financing of UN efforts in fragile states.

Norway will also promote the Security Council's protection mandates, for example by supporting resolutions and participating in debates on women, peace and security, sexual violence, children in armed conflict, the protection of civilians in armed conflict and the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing (Responsibility to Protect (R2P)). This year it is 10 years since the R2P norm was adopted, and it is likely that the Danish President of the General Assembly will propose a number of initiatives to mark the anniversary, including a new resolution on this issue. Norway will support these initiatives. Norway will help to develop ideas and proposals that can enhance the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Security Council and make it more transparent and inclusive, in part by participating in the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group (ACT), a group of countries that aims to improve the Council's working methods.

In its efforts to promote peace and security, Norway will also seek to support the candidacy of Sweden and Norway for a seat on the UN Security Council in the periods 2017–18 and 2021–22 respectively.

The UN's response to the crises in the Middle East/the Gulf, the Sahel region, South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic will be given priority. Norway will also promote the involvement of the UN in finding a solution to the Ukraine crisis that upholds Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Norway will play an active role in ensuring that the UN works to safeguard human rights in peace operations and other international operations. This includes working to prevent sexual abuse by UN personnel serving in UN forces and ensuring that any such allegations are properly dealt with.

Norway will actively support the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). We will also support the implementation of both the Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, including in UN humanitarian efforts and development activities. Norway will seek to increase awareness of the humanitarian consequences of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Norway will maintain its commitment to working towards a world free of nuclear weapons. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) provides the international framework for these efforts. We will actively promote the three pillars of the NPT: non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Norway will work to promote effective measures to further disarmament and non-proliferation. We will give priority to supporting the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), nuclear disarmament verification and the humanitarian perspective, which was highlighted by the Oslo conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Norway will also seek to secure as broad support as possible for the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.

Violent extremism and terrorism

Norway will work to ensure that the UN takes a proactive role in dealing with global security challenges such as terrorism, organised crime, cyber threats and piracy.

Norway will actively support measures to combat violent extremism and terrorism, in particular in connection with the Leaders' Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism that US President Obama is hosting on the margins of the General Assembly. The aim is to strengthen efforts to combat ISIL. This will involve working to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, and to counter the group's financing, propaganda and social media activity more effectively. ISIL must also be fought militarily. That is why Norway is helping to build the capacity of the Iraqi security forces. The underlying social, political and economic causes of violent extremism will also be discussed at the summit.

In preparation for the leaders-level summit, Norway hosted the European Conference on Countering Violent Extremism in Oslo in June. The conference resulted in a decision to establish a European youth network against violent extremism and a global alliance of women's organisations against violent extremism. Norway is also playing a proactive role in setting up the Strong Cities Network, a global network of cities that will work at local level to prevent violent extremism.

Norway will work actively to strengthen the UN's efforts to combat violent extremism and terrorism. The action points set out in the white paper on global security challenges will form the basis for Norway's work in this area. Global security challenges must be dealt with in accordance with international law, including human rights obligations. The UN needs adequate resources and a clear mandate if it is to play an effective role in this area.

In connection with the 10th anniversary of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2016, the UN General-Secretary will launch a new plan of action that will place greater emphasis on preventing violent extremism. Norway will play an active role in the development and implementation of the new plan of action.

High priority will continue to be given to implementation of Security Council resolution 2178 (2014) on foreign terrorist fighters. Norway will work to ensure that the gender dimension is reflected to a greater extent in efforts to prevent and combat violent extremism. Norway will participate in events with a view to identifying measures that can prevent children and young people, in particular, from being recruited to extremist organisations.

Respect for international law

Norway will promote respect for international law and an international legal order.

Norway will maintain its commitment to promoting the rule of law at both national and the international level. Norway will be open to the possibility of developing new instruments that are politically binding and binding under international law to counter new forms of serious and transnational organised crime, such as environmental crime and cybercrime.

Issues relating to the law of the sea and fisheries are important for Norway. This is particularly true of discussions on the conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainable use of marine resources in international sea areas and efforts to secure sufficient resources to support the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Norway will give priority to the work of developing a legal instrument to regulate and safeguard biodiversity beyond areas under national jurisdiction.

Norway will promote the implementation of effective measures to prevent or counter international crimes and to ensure that the people responsible for such crimes are brought to justice through proper legal processes. One of our overriding aims is to combat impunity and strengthen international criminal law. We will work to secure universal support for the International Criminal Court and close cooperation between the Court and the states parties. Norway has taken over as chair of the Working Group on Amendments and will work to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Court.

We will follow the work of the International Law Commission closely, particularly its work on immunity for state officials and on defining the scope of universal jurisdiction, but also on other topics that are relevant for the development of international law and for Norway's core interests. Issues relating to the scope of universal jurisdiction and criminal accountability of UN staff will also be important topics this year.

Human rights

Norway will seek to strengthen its already leading role in UN efforts to further develop the normative framework for the protection and promotion of human rights. Norway will play an active role in ensuring that the protection and promotion of human rights is given priority in all UN activities.

Top priority will be given to efforts to promote freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press and to combat religious intolerance and hate speech. Norway will lead the negotiations on the resolution on human rights defenders and will work to secure broad support for a more effective resolution that highlights rights such as the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of association and assembly. Norway will also work to ensure civil society participation in UN processes and will seek to become more involved in the work of the Committee on NGOs. Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and civil society under pressure will be the key topics for discussion at this year's Trygve Lie Symposium.

As co-sponsor of the biennial resolution on internally displaced persons, Norway will maintain a particular focus on this group during this year's General Assembly. Our aim is to strengthen the protection and rights of internally displaced persons, for example by helping to develop clear rules for intensifying the UN's humanitarian and development efforts in the field.

Norwegian representatives will participate actively in the discussions on resolutions relating to women's rights and gender equality, and will work to ensure that a gender perspective is integrated into the work of all the committees of the General Assembly.

Norway will pursue an active dialogue with UN Special Representatives and will oppose attempts to undermine their independence and integrity.

Norway will actively support Denmark's resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Norway will continue to play a leading role in the UN's core group of countries working to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Norway will continue to actively promote the resolution on the human rights situation in Syria.

Humanitarian affairs

Norway has significantly increased the amount of humanitarian aid it provides in recent years, in response to the many large-scale humanitarian crises taking place in the world, and further increases in Norwegian humanitarian aid are planned for next year. A large proportion of Norwegian aid has been earmarked for efforts to alleviate the refugee crisis in Syria and its neighbouring countries, where cooperation with UN agencies is vital. Norway will actively promote the need to increase humanitarian efforts in fragile states, in protracted refugee situations and in the areas of conflict prevention and education in situations of crisis and conflict.

The sheer scale of humanitarian need in the world today has placed considerable pressure on humanitarian resources both in Norway and at the international level. UN-coordinated humanitarian appeals have requested an unprecedented level of funding, and half-way through 2015, many basic needs were still not being met. The scale, length and complexity of the humanitarian crises have brought issues such as financing and the need to coordinate humanitarian aid and long-term development efforts to the fore. Norway supports the work of the UN General-Secretary's High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, which has a mandate to identify ways of closing the gap between rising humanitarian needs and available resources, and to develop solutions to promote more timely and predictable funding and more effective and flexible use of resources. Norway will be at the forefront of efforts to ensure better cooperation and coordination between the various UN actors, the World Bank and other development banks, particularly in areas where humanitarian needs are greatest. Norway will seek to increase the proportion of global humanitarian aid that is allocated to education in crisis and conflict situations to 4 %. Our common goal must be to ensure access to education for a further one million children in areas affected by conflicts and crises.

Norway will work to secure continued support for established humanitarian principles and respect for international humanitarian law. Top priority will be given to protection of civilians, refugees, internally displaced persons and other vulnerable groups, including in the negotiations on the humanitarian omnibus resolution in the General Assembly. Norway will promote gender equality as a cross-cutting issue. We will seek to further strengthen efforts to protect schools and education in crisis and conflict situations. Norway will work to ensure that UN member states commit to doing all they can to prevent military forces and other actors from attacking schools in conflict situations, and that they endorse the Safe Schools Declaration.

In its work to follow up the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Norway will promote the implementation of concrete and effective measures and will support the efforts of affected countries, for example by calling for closer cooperation between humanitarian and development actors. In this context it will be important to ensure that disaster prevention and risk management are given priority in national development plans.

Norway will actively support the preparations for the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, for example by maintaining a close dialogue with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Norwegian civil society organisations and NGOs. Given the extent of humanitarian need in the world today, new approaches will be needed in several areas if we are to succeed in creating a more effective and flexible humanitarian system. It will also be necessary for the UN humanitarian system to secure a wider range of partners, including UN member states, national and regional organisations, and the private sector. Norway will support the UN's efforts in this respect. At the same time, we will continue to give priority to humanitarian efforts in conflict situations, to education in conflict and crisis situations, and to gender equality, and we will participate in discussions on improving financing mechanisms and increasing resources in the run-up to the World Humanitarian Summit next year. Norway will support the work of OCHA, while continuing to call for more effective coordination of humanitarian efforts.

Sustainable development and UN development activities

Poverty reduction, human rights and sustainable development will be given priority in Norway's efforts to implement the new development agenda (the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development), in line with the Government's priorities.

Norway will work to ensure a smooth transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the new 2030 sustainable development agenda. Norway will continue to draw international attention to the MDGs that have not yet been reached.

Norway will put forward the view that all countries need to take responsibility for setting national development priorities that will enable them to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Norway's efforts will focus on the areas of education, global health, peaceful societies and good governance, women's rights, climate issues, natural resource and environmental management, and access to sustainable energy. Reducing child mortality and improving maternal health will also be priority areas for Norway, as will promoting universal access to health services.

Norway will seek to build on the measures set out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the outcome document of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. Norway will give priority to promoting the mobilisation of resources for sustainable development from a wider range of sources, to improving the effectiveness of the UN General Assembly's and the Economic and Social Council's (ECOSOC) work on the 2030 sustainable development agenda, and to ensuring that the UN's High-level Political Forum on sustainable development becomes a key instrument in the efforts to achieve sustainable development, based on a better knowledge base.

As a major contributor to UN development activities, Norway will work to ensure that the UN delivers results, and that these results are documented properly. Norway will continue to clearly express its expectations of the UN development organisations. In particular, we will work to ensure that the UN development system uses the new sustainable development agenda to achieve more effective and coordinated action.

UN reform

Norway is working to promote the development of a modern UN that can produce concrete results. This requires reforms, both at headquarters level and in the field. Norway will therefore participate in processes that seek to strengthen and improve the efficiency of the organisation, including processes relating to the proposed reform of UN peacekeeping operations, the reform of UN development efforts and humanitarian reform.

Norway will continue to seek to improve the UN's ability to work coherently and effectively at country level (the Delivering as One approach). This will involve strengthening the role of the resident coordinators and ensuring greater coordination of UN efforts in fragile states across the UN's three pillars: peace and security, human rights, and development. Norway will use the ongoing processes in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to secure support for including the need for these reforms in the next resolution on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of UN operational activities for development (to be negotiated in autumn 2016). In its work to follow up the 2030 sustainable development agenda, Norway will seek to ensure that the UN development system focuses on areas where it is particularly well-placed to succeed, and that it coordinates its efforts with the World Bank and other multilateral financial institutions, so as to achieve the best possible results.

If the UN is to retain its relevance in today's world, it must also work even more closely with regional organisations such as NATO, the OSCE, the EU, the African Union (AU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Norway will work to ensure that the UN plays its part in developing a more coherent and effective multilateral system.

Due to the fact that major contributors to the UN have had to make budget cuts, the UN regular budget is currently under severe pressure. Norway will work to ensure that the need for stringent cost-saving measures does not hamper the ongoing processes of reform in the UN development system, or prevent UN bodies that receive funding under the regular budget from following up the Sustainable Development Goals in accordance with their mandates. We will seek to ensure that a larger share of the UN's regular budget is allocated to the UN's human rights efforts, and to secure more substantial and predictable financing in the areas of conflict prevention and resolution, as well as for the UN's efforts in fragile states.

We will seek to prevent a situation where UN member states micromanage the UN through the General Assembly. If the Secretariat is to be able to fulfil its mandate and carry out its duties effectively, it needs to have the confidence of the member states. At the same time, the Secretariat must prove itself worthy of this confidence. Norway will assess the UN's use of resources on a regular basis. We will work to ensure that the UN continues to promote measures to combat financial irregularities, and that it builds a culture of accountability, strengthens internal oversight, and identifies cost-saving and efficiency-enhancing measures that do not negatively affect the quality of its work.

Cross-cutting themes

Norway will work to ensure that women's rights and gender equality are integrated into all the UN's work. Norway's efforts are based on a human rights-based approach. Norway will draw attention to the benefits of gender equality, such as the contributions women make to peace, economic growth and sustainable development.

Norway will work to promote the implementation of the ambitious goals and targets relating to women's rights and gender equality set out in the new sustainable development agenda, as well as the fulfilment of the commitments made in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Norway will work systematically, in alliances with other countries, to safeguard what has been achieved in terms of establishing a normative framework for women's rights. Norway will counter any attempts to weaken obligations, particularly those relating to sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights, inheritance and property rights, and the elimination of discrimination against women in marriage and family relations. Girls' education, efforts to gain acceptance for the concept of sexual rights, and women's political and economic rights and participation will be priority areas for Norway.

In connection with the 15th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, Norway will actively support efforts to ensure the best possible implementation of the resolution. Norway will maintain a high profile on this issue, by participating in side events and making statements in the open debate in the Security Council. Norway will also follow up the reviews of UN peacebuilding and the women, peace and security agenda (UN Security Council resolution 1325), and will advocate that efforts in these areas are seen in conjunction with one another. A gender perspective is to be incorporated into all our peace and security efforts. We will work to promote women's participation in mediation, peace processes and peace operations. Norway will support the efforts of the General-Secretary to increase the recruitment of women to leadership positions in the UN system.