Foreign policy address to the Storting 2018

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide's address to the Storting 27 February 2018.

1. Introduction

Mr President,

If there is one thing history has taught us, it is that progress is never steady and often unpredictable. Two steps forward have often been followed by one – or sometimes two – steps back.

The world today is full of stark contrasts.

While a growing number of people are stepping out of poverty – and the global economic indicators are once again pointing upwards – many other trends are going in the wrong direction.

The victories that have been won for democracy, freedom and human rights can no longer be taken for granted.

More than 65 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly serious.

The rules of communication are being challenged, and the distinction between what is true and what is false is being blurred.

Power is shifting. There is greater unpredictability, including in our neighbouring areas. There can be little doubt that great power rivalry and traditional geopolitics are back.

However, there are also many encouraging developments.

More children are going to school, not least girls.

Renewable energy production is increasing rapidly.

Through international cooperation, we have gained a global climate agreement and a set of Sustainable Development Goals that provide a framework for global efforts to fight poverty.

We are making significant progress in the fight against the terrorist organisation Isil.

For the first time since the global financial crisis, all the major economies in the world are experiencing growth. And in Europe, a sense of optimism is returning after many difficult years.

In other words, the world is not black or white.

We must see the nuances, and we must see the bigger picture.

Whereas a short while ago, many believed in linear progress towards a brighter future, today, the picture that is often painted by pessimists is one of a downward trajectory into an abyss.

In our part of the world, there was greater optimism and faith in the future just a few years ago. But we must never forget that the course of events is influenced by our political choices, and that we make those choices ourselves.

Pursuing a responsible foreign policy means relating to the world as it is, with all its complexity and dilemmas.

Only by doing so can we make full use of the opportunities available to us.

Only by doing so can we help to set the agenda and influence developments in areas that are important for Norway and Norwegian interests.

***

Mr President,

The Government's response to today's turbulent world is to focus on security and responsible governance.

Norway is in a strong position to address difficult challenges, not least because of the long-standing consensus in the Storting on the main principles of Norwegian foreign policy.

We have a robust economy, an equitable distribution of economic goods, an inclusive political debate, and there is a high level of openness and trust in our society.

These are invaluable strengths in a world of polarisation and confrontation, in which many of the fixed points of reference we have navigated by in recent decades are gone.

At the same time, the challenges we are encountering today reveal a striking feature of the practice of foreign policy: how much of it involves dealing with dilemmas.

Ideal solutions are the exception rather than the rule. Conflicting considerations must often be weighed up against each other. We must be honest about this.

Moreover, the complexity of the situations and dilemmas that we now face means that we rarely only have good alternatives to choose between.

Very often, we have to choose the lesser of the evils – and bear in mind that not making a choice is also a decision that has consequences.

The many contradictions and changes in the world around us are creating a need for debate on current dilemmas and priorities – here in Norway, too.

In my address today, I particularly want to underline the importance of foreign policy for safeguarding Norwegian interests.

We must focus on the areas that are most important – our security, our economy and our welfare.

We have taken the established world order too much for granted.

Now we must come together to defend the values we have built our foreign policy on – from democracy and human rights to free trade and respect for international norms and rules.

We must work even more closely with old and new friends and allies to safeguard the multilateral system, some parts of which are under great strain.

And we must use the framework provided by the SDGs in our efforts to create a better world for all.

This is particularly important at a time when identity politics and populism are convincing many people that the problems they are facing are due to globalisation – and that the answer is more protectionism and nationalism.

With these challenges as my starting point, I am now launching a new project to stimulate debate on Norway's interests in a multilateral world order. What do international institutions such as the UN, Nato, the WTO, the EU and the OSCE mean for Norway, and how can we best play a role in setting the agenda in these institutions? The project will invite a broad range of actors to debate these questions, and will result in a white paper to the Storting in the spring of 2019.

***

Mr President,

In the face of a changing and unpredictable foreign policy landscape, I would like to highlight three fundamental priorities in my address today, namely, the need to:

Secure and safeguard Norway and Norwegian interests, while maintaining our transatlantic ties;Promote a secure, free and economically strong Europe;Work to realise the SDGs and to maintain and strengthen multilateral institutions and the international legal order.

The Minister of International Development plans to address the Storting on international development policy later this spring.

***

2. A secure, free and economically strong Europe

Mr President,

As clearly stated in the Government's policy platform, Norwegian foreign policy starts in Europe.

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, our security and welfare are dependent on the existence of a secure, free and economically strong Europe.

Secondly, we are part of a European community of shared values.

***

A secure Europe is a Europe that is able to take greater responsibility for its common security, that can defend itself against external and internal threats, and that can reduce the divisions that fuel conflict and instability.

It is a common European responsibility to prevent wars like those we saw in the Balkans in the 1990s and 2000s from happening again.

There are now greater expectations of – and a greater willingness to work to strengthen – the EU's capacity to deal with Europe's security challenges.

In the Government's view, this development can strengthen European, and by extension Norwegian, security. It is in Norway's interests to cooperate closely with the EU and with EU member states in this area.

In this context, it is vital that the EU and Nato agree on a division of labour so that they continue to complement each other. Parallel and overlapping structures in the EU and Nato, with European countries' resources spread thinly across the two, are in no-one's interest.

Our efforts to promote a secure Europe are necessary for ensuring a free Europe.

Our aim is a Europe where the rights and freedoms of individuals are respected, democracy is promoted, and intergovernmental cooperation is based on international law.

Developments in several European countries in recent years show that we cannot take respect for these values for granted.

But as French President Macron has made clear: in the area of human rights and democracy we cannot accept a two-speed Europe.

The Government is seeking, both bilaterally and in cooperation with the EU, to influence governments that are adopting legislative amendments and other measures that are not consistent with the principles of the rule of law.

Nordic cooperation is a cornerstone of our foreign policy.

In recent years, Norway has played a leading role in a number of Nordic cooperation forums.

Last year, we held the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers and this year Norway holds the presidency of the Nordic Council.

Our strategic partnerships with the other Nordic countries are wide-ranging.

The Government is not just seeking to maintain a strong Nordic voice on issues relating to the UN and climate change.

We are also seeking to develop our security policy dialogue with our European allies, and we are continuing to build on the Nordic Defence Cooperation (Nordefco), of which Norway holds the presidency this year.

***

Economic strength is essential if we are to be able to safeguard our security and promote our values.

Under the EEA Agreement, we have access to a 'domestic market' of almost half a billion people – the most important market by far for Norwegian goods and services.

To give one example, more than 170 lorries containing Norwegian seafood freely cross the border into the EU every day. This would not have been possible without the EEA Agreement.

Almost 80 % of our exports go to the EU.

The EEA Agreement gives us easy access to skilled workers from other countries, and this has been an important contributing factor to Norway's growth and welfare in recent decades.

A common labour market of this kind is a source of economic strength. But it can also create opportunities for transnational work-related crime, such as undeclared work and other criminal offences. The Prime Minister has therefore proposed closer European cooperation to combat work-related crime – a proposal that has been well received.

Among other things, Norway is advocating the development of a common European strategy for combating work-related crime, and European pilot projects based on the Norwegian model of interagency cooperation.

The Prime Minister's initiative is an example of Norway's commitment to addressing common challenges in Europe – challenges that individual nation states cannot tackle alone.

Migration is another such challenge.

Here, responsible, European cooperation is essential, as part of a broader global effort.

Norway attaches importance to contributing to common European solutions.

A coherent European migration policy must make use of a wide range of measures.

We need effective control of our external borders, through the Schengen cooperation.

We must develop a well-functioning asylum system in Europe, based on solidarity and sharing of responsibility.

We must safeguard the institution of asylum in order to be able to give protection to those who need it. Ensuring that states fulfil their obligations to readmit their nationals if they are not in need of protection is one aspect of this.

And not least, we must strengthen cooperation with the countries of origin and transit.

Migration also needs to be seen in a larger, global context. Countries in the South are still receiving most migrants and most refugees.

Norway will participate actively in the UN negotiations in Geneva and New York on a global compact on refugees and a global compact for migration.

***

Cooperation with the EU also has a central place in the Government's climate change policy.

Norwegian manufacturing and the oil and gas sector are already participating in the EU emissions trading system.

We are now taking this a step further. We will enter into an agreement with the EU on joint fulfilment of the climate commitments under the Paris Agreement for the rest of the economy, in sectors such as transport, agriculture, buildings and waste management.

In this way, we are working together in Europe and sharing responsibility for addressing common challenges.

***

The UK's decision to leave the EU has not lessened the ambitions of the European cooperation we are part of through the EEA Agreement, the Schengen Agreement or other agreements.

Brexit will lead to changes in our relations with the UK, but not in our relations with the EU.

We have a common interest in ensuring that the UK's withdrawal from the EU takes place in an orderly manner.

Norway is focusing on five main areas in this context.

Firstly, it is important that we secure the same transitional arrangement, at the same time, as the one that is agreed between the EU and the UK, to ensure the integrity of the internal market during the transition phase.

Secondly, we are working to make sure that we have the same arrangements as those agreed between the UK and the EU for the parts of the withdrawal agreement that are relevant to us. This has a particular bearing on Norwegian citizens in the UK and their acquired rights, and UK citizens in Norway.

Thirdly, the Government is aiming to maintain as close and as wide-ranging relations with the UK as possible.

Fourthly, we are keeping a close eye on any new forms of cooperation the EU develops with third countries in the wake of Brexit, particularly in the fields of foreign policy and security policy and in the area of justice and home affairs.

Fifthly, we must also be prepared for a scenario in which the EU and the UK fail to agree on a withdrawal agreement.

I will talk in more detail about European policy in general and Brexit in particular in my address to the Storting later this spring.

3. Safety and security

Mr President,

Security is not just a fundamental priority. It is also a prerequisite for much of our foreign policy.

The situation in our neighbouring areas is still difficult.

Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of eastern Ukraine continues to threaten Europe's stability.

In Syria and Iraq, Isil has lost almost all of the territory it controlled.

But large areas of the belt stretching from the Sahel to Afghanistan remain unstable, and will continue to be a breeding ground for threats that can also affect Europe.

Progress in our efforts to bring an end to war and conflict in these regions is essential if we are to achieve the SDGs.

Our work to stabilise areas of conflict must also address the underlying causes of the conflicts.

That is why peace and reconciliation efforts are an important part of Norwegian foreign policy.

As an impartial facilitator known for its staying power, Norway's participation is sought after to address a number of conflict situations.

We seek to facilitate dialogue between the parties to a conflict, with the aim of finding lasting political solutions.

Together with our allies, we are, for example, assisting the parties to the conflicts in Afghanistan and South Sudan, and in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. We are maintaining our strong engagement in ensuring the successful implementation of the peace agreement in Colombia.

***

Since 1905, Norway's security has been inextricably linked to the West, first the UK, then the US and Nato.

Nato is the world's strongest defence alliance and membership of Nato is the cornerstone of Norway's security policy.

But Nato's strength lies not only in its military capabilities but also in its common values. Ultimately, it is these shared values that mean that we are willing to risk the lives of our soldiers to defend one another.

We often hear it said that Europe must take greater responsibility for its own security. But it is equally important that we take responsibility for each other's security. This is the essence of the transatlantic bond: that our security is closely bound up with that of our allies, and that the commitments we have made to each other go beyond our own interests.

It is therefore in Norway's interests to contribute to maintaining a strong alliance and close transatlantic relations.

However, this demands more of us than it did before; in financial terms, but also politically.

There is now greater diversity within Nato. In order to safeguard our collective security effectively, we are also cultivating closer relations with key allies and our Nordic neighbours.

Nato's member states experience security threats with varying intensity, and political developments in the various countries are not as similar as they were in the past.

Enhancing cohesion within the Alliance is therefore a top priority for Norway in the lead-up to this year's Nato summit. To achieve this, all members of the Alliance must contribute, and all members must feel that their security is safeguarded.

Norway will therefore contribute to all of Nato's core tasks, and to ensuring that the Alliance continues its process of adaptation. We have played a leading role in calling for the reshaping of Nato's command structure.

Norway is also playing a key role in the work to strengthen the Alliance's maritime dimension, with particular focus on the North Atlantic.

***

By adopting the Long-term Defence Plan, the Storting has unanimously endorsed an increase in Allied exercises and training in Norway, involving Norwegian forces.

This is a wise approach that is also in line with the memorandum of understanding on prestockage and reinforcement of Norway, which the Storting approved unanimously in 2006.

Norway's policy on the stationing of foreign forces has been to have no permanent bases for foreign combat forces on Norwegian soil during peacetime. Instead, in the event of a crisis, we rely on Allied reinforcements.

Preparations need to be made and exercises held during peacetime in order for this assistance to be effective should a crisis or armed conflict arise, and in order for the collective security guarantee to be credible.

For precisely this reason, we must make sure that we have sufficient capacity to receive Allied reinforcements. We must have a good set of national plans in place, and Nato's Readiness Action Plan must be kept up to date.

Since the 1980s, we have stored relevant Allied materiel in Norway. And we need to have well-developed and appropriate infrastructure.

For many years, there has been considerable Allied training and exercise activity in Norway, with the participation of countries such as Germany, the UK, the US, the Netherlands and France.

Given the increased military activity in our neighbouring areas, it is natural that there has been an increase in Allied training and exercises in Norway. This is a deliberate and long-term Norwegian policy.

***

The US remains our closest ally. The Prime Minister's visit to the White House in January reaffirmed the close ties between the US and Norway.

Since the US presidential election, it has been important for the Government to convey to the US authorities that our extensive cooperation is in the interests of both countries.

Our message has been that Norway is important for the US, and our cooperation ranges from culture and education to close collaboration on foreign, security and defence policy. We cooperate closely in the Arctic, where Norway's contribution is invaluable to both the US and Nato.

Our soldiers are involved in joint operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are working together to find a lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East, and a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan – to mention a few examples.

Although the rhetorical packaging has changed, much of US foreign policy is still recognisable.

However, in certain areas we are seeing significant changes.

Norway has made it clear that it considers it deeply regrettable that the US intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Today, US international engagement in the area of climate change is all but non-existent.

At the same time, a number of US states, cities and private sector actors have intensified their engagement in this area. One example of this is the agreement signed in August 2017 by Norway and California on promoting climate action, and I believe that the transition to a green economy will continue – irrespective of the signals coming from the White House.

There is also uncertainty relating to US trade policy.

Confrontational rhetoric in the WTO and the decision to withdraw from – and renegotiate – free trade agreements give the impression that US trade policy has already shifted course.

However, it is too soon to draw that conclusion.

In our dialogue with the US authorities, we stress that the US still has everything to gain from preserving the international trading system.

We must ensure that the WTO remains the primary framework for international trade.

Mr President,

International interest in the Arctic is growing.

Climate change is having a particularly severe impact in the north.

It is affecting social and business development for the four million people who live in the Arctic, and it is also a forewarning of dramatic global changes to come.

The High North is Norway's most important area of strategic responsibility.

It is here that our national interests are most exposed to geopolitical changes. What we do at the national level strengthens our international position as a responsible actor in the Arctic.

Last year, the Government launched Norway's Arctic Strategy, with the subheading between geopolitics and social development.

By taking a more coherent approach to foreign policy and domestic policy, we are seeking to make North Norway one of the most innovative and sustainable regions in Europe.

Norway's Arctic policy is about promoting international cooperation while at the same time building sustainable towns and local communities in the north.

It is about cooperation across borders, business development, knowledge creation, roads, airports, and vibrant local communities. And the next chapter of our Arctic policy will be about the oceans.

Our Arctic policy is the responsibility of the whole Government.

Through the Barents cooperation, the Arctic Council and the Baltic Sea cooperation, we are working with our neighbours to find common solutions in the north, on issues such as climate change and health, safety and the environment.

The role played by the Norwegian Armed Forces in exercising sovereignty and providing situational awareness is an important element of Norway's Arctic policy. It also contributes to regional stability.

***

Our relations with Russia remain a constant and important element of Norwegian foreign policy.

Norway's policy towards Russia must continue to be clear and predictable.

As neighbours that share a land and sea border, we face many common challenges.

We can best address these challenges by working together.

Over many years, we have developed close collaboration with Russia in a number of areas, ranging from fisheries management to people-to-people cooperation. That said, Norway's relationship with Russia has always been complex.

Our cross-border cooperation is developing steadily, but the substantial and increasing concentration of military forces on the Kola Peninsula is also affecting the situation.

In terms of values, the distance between Russia and the West has grown.

We strongly condemn all violations of international law.

And we are concerned about the situation for civil society in Russia.

Norway stands firm when it comes to its values and we are fully committed to our cooperation with our allies and European partners.

At the same time, we recognise Russia's own security interests in the north.

An increase in tensions between our two countries is in no one's interests.

In the current situation, our approach is to be predictable and firm in our dealings with Russia, while also showing willingness to cooperate.

Our policy towards Russia is shaped on the one hand by our extensive cooperation in areas of common interest, and on the other by the fact that we are part of the West and expect international law and other norms of international cooperation to be respected.

The broad political consensus on our policy towards Russia is of fundamental importance.

In today's turbulent times, the Arctic is a region of stability, where there is a willingness to engage in international cooperation based on international law.

The Arctic Council is the most important arena for discussing challenges in the Arctic, and this is one of the forums where Russia and Norway often have common interests and cooperate well.

The new agreement to prevent unregulated fishing in the central Arctic Ocean is a good example of the way in which Russia and Norway, together with the other Arctic states, are taking joint responsibility for our shared region.

***

Norway's sea areas provide a livelihood for many Norwegians and are crucial for our economy.

Ocean-based industries – fisheries, aquaculture, shipping and energy production – are the very backbone of our economy.

More than two thirds of Norway's exports come from ocean-based activities.

Over generations, we have acquired knowledge and experience that show that ocean-based economic development can be combined with strict requirements to safeguard the environment.

This means that we can play a leading role in efforts to promote sustainable use of the world's oceans.

The Prime Minister has invited leaders from a range of other coastal nations to take part in an international high-level panel, which will examine how sustainable use of the world's oceans can lead to even greater value creation in the future, and help us to reach the SDGs.

The Prime Minister will chair the High-level Panel herself.

***

Mr President,

Instability to the south of Europe's borders remains a major concern.

Our efforts to promote peace and stability are increasingly justified by security policy considerations.

Many of today's most volatile conflicts in the Middle East are in part proxy wars or the result of state failure.

This makes it all the more difficult to find political solutions.

Our efforts to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine must be seen in this light.

Achieving a lasting two-state solution would have a major impact on the situation in the Middle East, not least because the region is far more unstable and fragmented than when the Oslo Agreement was signed almost 25 years ago.

Our work as chair of the international donor group for Palestine (AHLC) helps to ensure broad international support for Palestinian state-building and economic development.

As a member of the global coalition against Isil, Norway has played an important role in the fight against the terrorist group.

In our efforts to prevent Isil from regaining a foothold in the liberated areas of Iraq, we will face further challenges.

It is crucial that the Iraqi authorities contribute to inclusive political development and promote the inclusion of the different ethnic and religious communities in the armed forces.

The conflict in Syria has lasted for seven years.

The suffering and attacks that are being reported from Eastern Ghouta are almost beyond human comprehension.

They are a shocking reminder that the war is far from over.

On Saturday evening, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on an immediate, 30-day ceasefire in Syria. The international community has made it clear that it expects the resolution to be implemented on the ground.

There is an urgent need for humanitarian aid and services, and to evacuate the critically sick and wounded.

I am deeply concerned by the escalation of the conflict in northwestern Syria in recent weeks.

The conflict has become even more internationalised than before, with developments such as Turkey's military operation in Afrin.

The extent of Turkey's intervention in Syria is worrying.

The suffering is immense and the humanitarian needs in Syria and its neighbouring countries are enormous.

Some 13.1 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance, 6.1 million are internally displaced, and 5.5 million have fled the country.

This year alone, Norway is giving NOK 2.25 billion in support to Syria and its neighbouring countries. Important priority areas are humanitarian aid and education, with a special emphasis on women and girls.

In 2016, we pledged to provide NOK 10 billion over a period of four years.

We are on track to deliver on this pledge.

The UN is working to achieve a negotiated political solution to the conflict.

We are supporting the UN's efforts, but its task is far from easy. A credible political process must begin before we can consider making long-term contributions to reconstruction efforts.

***

Even before the war started, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East.

Now the situation in Yemen is referred to as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

In December 2017, 17.8 million Yemeni people were food insecure, the UN had registered over a million cases of cholera, and three million people were internally displaced.

The parties to the conflict must fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law. This includes protecting civilians and ensuring unhindered humanitarian access to the civilian population.

Norway is supporting the efforts of the new UN Special Envoy for Yemen to bring the parties to the negotiating table.

Norway provided over NOK 320 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen in 2017. We plan to provide a substantial humanitarian contribution again this year.

***

The security situation in Afghanistan is serious, and there are regular attacks by the Taliban and terrorist organisations.

In the long term, it is only the Afghan Government that can safeguard the security of the Afghan population, but in order to succeed, the Government must have the capacity to do so.

Norway and the international community are therefore continuing to support and train the Afghan security forces.

Norway's contribution to Nato's training mission in Afghanistan will be continued.

Despite the security situation, there has nevertheless been progress in several areas in Afghanistan – for example in the health system, and with regard to children's schooling and the building of critical infrastructure.

Afghanistan will continue to be one of the main recipients of Norwegian aid.

However, the conflict in Afghanistan can only be resolved through genuine dialogue between the Afghan Government and the Taliban.

A political solution can only be achieved with the active support of the international community and Afghanistan's neighbouring countries.

Norway is playing a leading role in these efforts. The parties to the conflict have sought our involvement in the efforts to find a political solution.

For a long time, we have been engaged in efforts to facilitate contact between the parties with a view to ensuring an inclusive Afghan peace process.

In this work, we have to build trust and be patient.

***

The UN Secretary-General has called the situation of the Rohingya people from Myanmar the world's fastest developing refugee emergency. A humanitarian and human rights nightmare.

The situation is grave, both in the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh and in Rakhine state.

Since the escalation of the crisis in August 2017, Norway has provided NOK 134 million in humanitarian assistance.

Our message to the authorities in Myanmar is clear, and we have conveyed this message repeatedly in our meetings with the authorities: the violence must stop, humanitarian access must be granted, and the refugees must be ensured a safe and dignified return.

It is important to combine protection measures with measures to combat gender-based violence and abuse.

***

Some of our most pressing security challenges are global challenges.

Global climate change is also affecting Norway and leading to increased risks in a range of areas.

Climate change acts as a 'threat amplifier', with poor and vulnerable countries the hardest hit. The need to address climate change is moving up the agenda in organisations such as the UN, Nato, the OSCE and the AU.

We have just started work on a new strategy that will identify what Norway can do to address climate-related problems, and what the threat posed by climate change means for our intensified efforts in countries affected by conflict and fragility.

As part of this work, we have taken the initiative to establish a special commission on the geopolitical implications of the growth in renewable energy, in cooperation with Germany, the United Arab Emirates and the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

***

Cyberspace is of great and increasing importance.

We are becoming more and more dependent on digital solutions to both big and small problems. This makes our everyday life simpler, but it also makes us more vulnerable.

The whole of Norwegian society is dependent on secure and stable digital networks.

A serious cyberattack could harm critical infrastructure.

Cyberspace opens up possibilities for the emergence of new, serious threats from both state and non-state actors.

Broad national and international cooperation is crucial if Norway is to achieve the best possible protection.

In August 2017, the Government launched an international strategy for cyberspace for Norway.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working closely with other ministries and agencies on addressing cyber threats.

***

The spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear material and other weapons of mass destruction poses a major challenge to security.

The global disarmament and non-proliferation regime is under pressure. There is growing polarisation at the international level, and there are, in particular, concerns about developments in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and about the future of the Iran nuclear deal.

We must therefore uphold, and build confidence in, existing disarmament agreements.

Norway will continue to be a proactive, responsible and constructive partner in the international efforts to promote disarmament and non-proliferation.

Our aim is a world free of nuclear weapons, in line with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

We will further develop Norway's leading international role in the area of nuclear disarmament verification, with a view to making sure that genuine disarmament takes place.

The UN is now establishing a Group of Governmental Experts to look at the role of verification in advancing nuclear disarmament, following an initiative by Norway.

The Group will consider how credible verification mechanisms can be developed within the framework of existing non-proliferation regimes.

***

Mr President,

Maintaining good relations with the major emerging economies is important for Norway.

We have strengthened our ties with regional organisations such as the African Union (AU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac).

This is important not only because Africa, Asia and Latin America are gaining increasing influence, but also because we are completely dependent on working together to achieve the SDGs.

Latin America is becoming increasingly important for the Norwegian business sector, which has made particularly significant investments in Brazil.

Europe and Africa are neighbours and our fates are intertwined.

Although we still provide considerable amounts of aid to Africa, our business promotion efforts are becoming more and more important.

Africa offers significant opportunities for the Norwegian business community, and we must do more to encourage investments and promote business development and growth in the private sector in order to create jobs.

***

China is a major power that is engaged across the entire spectrum of global issues and is assuming greater responsibility on the global stage. We are following China's development as a foreign policy actor.

The political and economic choices China makes affect us all, not least in the areas of the environment, trade, and the development of new technology.

We are seeking to further develop our broad-based relationship with China. The establishment of an annual political consultation mechanism provides an opportunity to discuss all issues that affect Norwegian interests and our common interests – including human rights.

At the same time, we must bear in mind that China is a major power that is pursuing its own interests using a broad set of instruments, in our part of the world too.

Issues relating to values are an important part of our relations with China. The fact that we have different starting points and social systems should not prevent the constructive exchange of information and experience and discussions of viewpoints and policy.

China is one of the world's leading economies. It is positive that it has expressed strong support for the WTO multilateral trading system and the international financial institutions.

China is our largest trading partner in Asia, and our economies complement one another.

Negotiations on a trade agreement with China have resumed and are now well under way, and we are working to achieve the best possible terms for the Norwegian business sector.

***

The Government is also giving priority to a number of other key countries in Asia.

The Prime Minister's visit to Japan earlier this month showed that there is significant potential for closer cooperation between our countries in the areas of research and development, innovation, business and energy.

Norway and South Korea are cooperating closely on a number of maritime issues, including in the Arctic.

The cornerstone of our relations with Indonesia is the climate and forest partnership, but we also cooperate on matters relating to energy, the oceans and human rights.

Norway and India are engaged in extensive research cooperation that includes topics such as climate change, clean energy, food security and the bioeconomy. A new India strategy is currently being developed.

All this is cooperation for the future.

***

4. Liberal values, multilateral frameworks and the international legal order

Mr President,

We often say that the values on which Norwegian foreign policy is based are constant.

But these values must be cultivated and invested in.

Especially today, when we are seeing attacks on democracy and human rights, on gender equality and open economies.

The multilateral system is made up of institutions that are of crucial importance to the world as a whole, and to Norway.

Norway will be a strong voice for the maintenance and further development of this world order.

***

International law is our first line of defence.

And Norway will be first in line to defend it, in principle and in practice.

We will stand together with our allies in doing so.

And we must promote understanding of the fact that respect for international law is in the interests of absolutely everyone, large and small countries alike.

We must also continue to strengthen the UN.

Cooperation within the UN is the very foundation of our rule-based world order. It brings countries together to address challenges in areas such as global security, human rights, development and the environment.

The SDGs adopted in 2015 were an important breakthrough, and provide a unique framework for global cooperation to build a better world.

The role of UN organisations in setting global norms and standards is indispensable. These organisations bring all countries together and seek to build consensus on the way forward towards better, freer and fairer societies.

Regrettably, we are seeing increasing polarisation, and this is making it more difficult to reach agreement in the UN on value-related issues.

At the same time, we must set clearer requirements for UN reform. We must ask whether it is the UN that is best placed to address the various pressing challenges facing the international community, or whether other actors are in a better position to do so.

The UN Security Council will continue to be the world's primary body for promoting international peace and security.

The Council's fifteen member states take internationally binding decisions on conflict management, sanctions, peace operations and the use of force.

Membership of the Council enables the countries concerned to cooperate more closely with major powers and other countries, and gives them greater responsibility, visibility and influence.

The Government is therefore giving top priority to Norway's candidature for the Security Council for the 2021-2022 period.

We are seeking a seat on the Council to safeguard our national and global interests, to contribute to peace and conflict resolution and to support the rule-based world order that has served Norway so well for over 70 years.

We wish to engage the Storting in the campaign, which will require a concerted national effort.

We face tough competition from our Canadian and Irish friends, but if we work together we have the potential to succeed in convincing the majority of UN member states that Norway should have a seat on the Council again, 20 years after the last time.

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Respect for human rights and fundamental democratic principles defines who we are and what we stand for.

2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Since the Second World War, we have developed a comprehensive set of global norms and monitoring mechanisms.

We have done so to protect individual freedom, dignity and equality. To protect us all.

Setbacks in the fight for girls' and women's freedom and rights are one of the most discouraging trends we have seen in recent years. Sustained and targeted efforts are needed in this area. We are also seeing that the situation of sexual minorities is becoming more difficult.

Having the freedom to decide over one's own body and to make decisions about one's own life and health is a fundamental human right.

Freedom of religion and belief is another important human right. We are giving particular priority to the protection of religious minorities, who face increasing discrimination, prejudice and violence.

Every day, human rights defenders all over the world show tremendous courage as they fight to defend our common rights. In many parts of the world, they put themselves in grave danger. Norway has been at the forefront of efforts to unite the UN behind a concerted effort to protect those who are taking great risks on behalf of us all.

Yesterday, I was in Geneva to take part in the high-level segment of the 37th session of UN Human Rights Council. There I signed a multi-year agreement on financial support for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). This year we are increasing our support to around NOK 150 million.

This will give OHCHR a degree of financial predictability and flexibility that will strengthen its human rights efforts, thereby helping to prevent violations of fundamental human rights.

In Geneva, I reaffirmed that Norway is, and will continue to be, a committed supporter of the human rights institutions, politically as well as financially.

Patience and persistence are important in Norway's efforts to promote human rights, as are creativity and an ability to think outside the box.

Persistent, results-oriented efforts are often more effective than public criticism – not least in the regions and areas where human rights are now under greatest pressure.

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Armed conflicts are severely affecting the civilian population in several areas of the world.

Climate change and environmental degradation are prolonging and exacerbating the scale of humanitarian crises.

I have talked about the acute need in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar.

Overall, the number of people who are internally displaced or have fled across borders is higher than ever before.

In connection with the launch of its 2018 global humanitarian appeal, the UN has estimated that 136 million people in 25 countries are in need of humanitarian aid and protection.

The Government will continue to strengthen Norway's humanitarian efforts.

We increased the humanitarian budget by more than 50 % during our Government's first term in office, and we are increasing it further this year by nearly NOK 90 million.

This is essential.

We are a principled donor country that seeks to ensure that the organisations we support are independent, neutral and impartial in the field. Only by doing so can we reach the most vulnerable people.

Not all humanitarian crises make the headlines.

By increasing our support for the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), we are helping to ensure rapid humanitarian response to crises, including those that are beyond the glare of the international media.

Compliance with international humanitarian law is vital if we are to succeed.

Norway is working to promote an effective and well-coordinated response.

In today's complex crises, it is particularly important that humanitarian efforts and development assistance complement each other more effectively.

In order to find good ways of working in the future, we have just begun work on a new humanitarian strategy.

This work will involve close dialogue with Norwegian and international NGOs, which are key partners in our humanitarian efforts.

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The multilateral trade and financial institutions are also an important part of the rule-based world order.

The WTO has a set of binding global rules for international trade.

Norway and a great many other countries benefit from predictability, and from a multilateral trading system that ensures that it is not the law of the strongest that prevails. The challenges facing the system today affect Norway's core interests and our identity as an open, outward-looking trading nation with extensive investments around the world.

The IMF and the World Bank play a crucial role both in terms of developing norms and standards for financial and economic governance and in terms of the financial capacity they have to stabilise and develop the global economy.

The multilateral institutions play a key role in global efforts to combat corruption and illicit financial flows.

Corruption, tax evasion and illicit financial flows are undermining domestic resource mobilisation, social development, economic growth and political institutions in many countries.

Norway is participating actively in various processes under the OECD, the World Bank and the UN to encourage states and companies to make binding commitments to ensure full transparency and zero tolerance for corruption.

The OECD has a number of legal instruments and initiatives in place aimed at fighting corruption and tax evasion.

In the area of trade, the more recent WTO agreements on government procurement and trade facilitation contain anti-corruption provisions. These provisions are incorporated into regional free trade agreements entered into by Norway and its Efta partners.

As a result of pressure from Norway and the other Nordic countries, the World Bank has stepped up its efforts to combat illicit financial flows.

Norway will play a proactive role in this area.

We need a broad international coalition to strengthen tax systems and combat corruption and illicit financial flows.

5. Conclusion

Mr President,

I began this address by saying that the world is full of contrasts and contradictions.

The gravity of today's foreign policy situation demands a great deal of us.

We have just concluded what for Norway were a very successful Olympic Games in South Korea.

But not far to the north of Pyeongchang, we are seeing the first real nuclear threat since the fall of the Berlin Wall, due to the DPRK's uncompromising and irresponsible policies.

The situation in the Middle East remains dangerous and unpredictable.

Nevertheless, as things stand, I don't see a linear development in one particular direction, either towards a truly liberal world order or towards an authoritarian abyss. But we must be prepared for more instability and less predictability, including among our allies.

At the same time, the positive trends often go unobserved and are perhaps not receiving the attention they deserve.

We must continue to believe that we can reverse negative developments, alleviate human suffering and resolve intractable conflicts.

We are working to give refugees in Syria and South Sudan a roof over their heads and food on the table.

To ensure that the parties to the conflict in Colombia lay down their weapons.

To give Roma children in Bulgaria hope for a future without poverty.

And to ensure that a girl called Malaika can go to school in Tanzania and a boy called Hassan receives a polio vaccine in Afghanistan.

It is precisely these kinds of initiatives that are the essence of a responsible and forward-looking foreign policy, a policy that safeguards our own country and citizens, while giving the world a push in the right direction.

 

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