A time for tough decisions and clear priorities

Article in Dagens Næringsliv, 2 February 2015

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes a two-track approach in its work to prepare Norway to meet the challenges of the future. Both tracks involve promoting Norway’s interests and safeguarding the values we share with our allies and international partners, writes Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

The year 2014 was a year of crises, and it has left a deep impression. So far, 2015 looks set to continue in the same vein.

Russia’s violations of international law and destabilisation of Ukraine are spreading uncertainty throughout Europe. The terror attacks in Paris show that Europe is being directly affected by the global conflict landscape. The brutality of ISIL and other extremist groups is deeply shocking. Not since the Second World War have so many people had to flee their homes. Half of the population of Syria has been internally displaced. Boko Haram, the brutal terrorist movement in Nigeria, is capitalising on the political and military vacuum in the Sahel region, and gaining a reputation as the African equivalent to ISIL. It aims to establish a caliphate stretching from west to east across the region. The very integrity of the nation state is being challenged, from Nigeria in the west to Iraq and Afghanistan in the east.

Global crises make it necessary to make tough decisions and set clear priorities, and to concentrate our efforts on the most important aspects of foreign and security policy: territorial integrity, freedom, human rights and democracy, economic and social sustainability, and value creation.

Over the last year we have seen that certain countries are willing to disregard international law. From Norway’s perspective, this is cause for grave concern.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes a two-track approach in its work to prepare Norway to meet the challenges of the future. Both tracks involve promoting Norway’s interests and safeguarding the values we share with our allies and international partners:

  • The first track is dealing with crises. In the last year I have had to give priority to this. These crises have been driven by forces beyond our control, and in dealing with them our most important task has been to defend our fundamental values and interests.
  • The second track is making Norway more robust. This is a matter of strengthening Norway’s resilience in the face of unpredictable events, and preparing Norway for the future.

With this in view, we are further developing existing policies and drawing up new ones in accordance with the five main strands of Norway’s foreign policy.

The first of these concerns our fundamental values. Over the last year, we have learnt that we cannot take universal values for granted. We are therefore intensifying our efforts to promote the values that define who we are and what we are willing to fight for, as people and as a nation state. Freedom, human rights, democracy, international law, humanitarian principles, the principles set out in the UN Charter, and a world order based on the rule of law. 

The second main strand concerns security. We must safeguard Norway’s future. Norway must continue to be a safe country to live in. Our security policy must be adapted to new and existing threats. We need to be able to deal with ever more complex threat scenarios, as well as multiple threats. We will invest heavily in NATO and our own armed forces, and we will also support other relevant actors, both at the bilateral and multilateral level. We need to be better equipped to deal with unforeseen events. Our development policy and our efforts to promote peace and reconciliation must also help to secure a safer future for Norway.

The third strand relates to Norway’s economic interests. Few things are more important for the Norwegian economy than ensuring stable and predictable conditions for Norwegian companies. We must enhance our understanding of global economic development, promote global free trade and global frameworks for trade and investment, and we must promote Norway’s interests in our dealings with the WTO and the EU. We will present a white paper on this topic, which will set out the framework for our work, and we will intensify our efforts to support Norwegian companies that have operations abroad and to promote Norway as a destination for investment.

The fourth strand of foreign policy focuses on Norway’s efforts to promote peace and development and provide humanitarian relief. Our extensive engagement in these areas enjoys broad support among the Norwegian population and is based primarily on the needs of people in the affected areas. However, this does not mean that we are placing less emphasis on results and performance. Pursuing an effective policy in these areas also directly promotes Norway’s interests. For example, we are witnessing how wars and conflicts in other regions are spreading to Europe, Norway included, and we are seeing new migration flows and increased terrorism. It is therefore in our interests to address these challenges, and we see that Norway’s visible engagement opens doors for us in capital cities around the world. Moreover, a successful development policy can lead to a rapidly growing and increasingly globalised middle class, which in turn results in greater demand for Norwegian goods and services.

Last, but not least, the fifth main strand concerns the fight against climate change. Climate change is threatening the very foundation for global development. That is why the fight against climate change is a key foreign policy priority, and it is why we must succeed in reaching a new climate change agreement in Paris in December 2015.