Enable Javascript in your browser for an improved experience of regjeringen.no

Should Norway aspire for a seat at the UN Security Council?

State Secretary Jens Frølich Holte's remarks at the Civita event "Should Norway aspire for a seat at the UN Security Council?".

Check against delivery

State Secretary Jens Frølich Holte during his remarks. Credit: Marte Lerberg Kopstad, MFA
State Secretary Jens Frølich Holte speaks about Norway and the candidature to the UN Security Council 2021-22. Credit: Marte Lerberg Kopstad, MFA

Good morning!

I want to thank my good friends in Civita for hosting this event, and Efraim Gomez and Ian Martin for being here to share their views and insights.

It should come as no surprise that this morning’s topic is a top priority for the government: Norway’s candidature to the UN Security Council 2021-22.

So let me start by answering the question posed in the title of the seminar: Yes. Norway should aspire for a seat at the UN Security Council. It is in our national interest to do so, and we have a lot to bring to the table.

Let me briefly explain my reasoning, and I look forward to your comments and questions.

Since its establishment, Norway has been a consistent pillar of support for the United Nations and a rules-based international order.

Norway has a fundamental interest in a well-functioning global order where right prevails over might.

It is in our national interest that relations between states are governed by binding standards, rules, and conventions.

The last 75 years or so has been great to small nations with open, marked-based economies. Such as Norway.

  • Our economy has grown strongly, thanks to international trade rooted in multilateral agreements.
  • Our right to explore our oil and gas resources is protected by international law, based on UN conventions.
  • The Government Pension Fund relies on well-functional global capital markets and enjoys the global financial stability provided by cooperation across borders.

For Norway, multilateralism has been like hitting 7 right numbers every Saturday in the lottery. It has been our golden ticket.

Today, multilateralism is under pressure. It is increasingly important that we stand up for the UN and international cooperation. A multilateral system cannot work if countries behave as free riders. We all need to continue defending, reforming, strengthening and, most importantly, participating actively in the system and the institutions we have all benefitted from.

Being member of the Council will give us a unique platform to influence how the Council works and make sure it fulfils its role for international peace and security.

It is certainly the case that most conflicts on the Security Council’s agenda take place pretty far from Norway. The agenda of the Council is dominated by conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.

This, however, by no means imply that the Security Council is less relevant to Norway.

In an interconnected world, the consequences of violent conflict are extending far beyond the battlefield.

Migration, violent extremism and trans-border crime are some possible effects of warfare, not to mention the grave humanitarian consequences for those directly involved.

No country is immune. Even if conflicts are far away geographically, they will affect our security and economy.

In 2013, when our government took office, we did not know that we would experience conflict in our immediate neighbourhood. The example of Ukraine shows that security issues also arises close to home.

Countries like Norway should be present around the table when binding decisions on war and peace are being made.

Critical issues are at stake, also for us, and we cannot simply leave these decisions to others.

A seat on the Security Council will also provide an opportunity to expand and strengthen our relations to all member states at the UN, inside and outside the Council, and to build deeper partnerships on other matters as well.

This process has already started with the campaign, it will be strengthened during our tenure 2021-22, and it will continue to have an effect long after 2022.

Investing in diplomacy is a wise choice these days. Traditional allies are changing their priorities and new global actors become more powerful, we need to expand our partnership and work even broader globally.

The UN Security Council is a platform for continue fighting for what we believe in, to contribute constructively to international peace and security - in effect promoting and defending our core national interests.

We know it will be a tough race. We have good competitors in Ireland and Canada, Canada is a NATO-ally and Ireland is a friend in the same economic area (EEA).

That a number of good candidates want to run for the Security Council is a sign of strength.

That being said, I believe Norway has experience, capacity and policies that will serve the Security Council particularly well.

Norway has a history of speaking with an independent voice. We have repeatedly seen that small countries working together can be effective in forging diplomatic solutions.

Norway brings to the table more than 25 years’ experience from peace and reconciliation efforts all over the world. We have the credibility to build cross-regional partnerships, bridging gaps between developed and developing countries. We aim to be a reliable and constructive problem solver.

Sweden has clearly demonstrated how smaller elected member states have the ability to make a difference when larger and presumably more powerful countries fail. We are impressed by Sweden’s achievements in the council and my fellow panellist will share more of the Swedish experience.

If elected to the Security Council – or I prefer to say when elected to the Security Council – our main priority will be to deal effectively with the conflicts on the Council’s agenda.

We aim to be a fair player that listens to the views of other countries. We will work to find common solutions by consulting with member states, regardless of their size and location.

We will work to improve the UN’s relevance and ability to take coherent action across its peace, development and human rights pillars, including in the area of women’s rights.

We want the Security Council to be better when leave, than when we entered. We will push for increased transparency and inclusivity in the work of the Council.

This will mean working closely with civil society in Norway, and internationally, to ensure that we see the whole picture.

Those of you who have visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently, will have noticed that we have now all switched to campaign mode.

The pink campaign colour lightens up everything from our necklaces, to business cards and note books. It’s a bit like Norwegian elections, except that “dørbank” is done at other Ministries of Foreign Affairs, not Norwegian homes.

However, apart from the bright colours, I must say that there is in fact very little new about the content of our campaign.

We are not launching any new policies, and we are certainly not changing who we are and what we stand for internationally.

We are not giving up on our principles in order to secure a vote. On the contrary, I believe one of our main strengths lies in our consistency and the fact that our international commitment does not change.

Norway has always been, and will continue to be, a strong supporter of the UN and a rules-based multilateral order.

We will continue abiding by our international commitments. We will continue speaking with an independent voice and fighting for what we believe is right.

We will be elected because we are Norway and represent what Norway has always represented. Anything else would not be credible, and would make us less electable.

Our task now, and the core of or campaign, is to show who we are and what we stand for.

We want to demonstrate how our longstanding support to the United Nations, as well as our long experience in peace diplomacy, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian response, build a strong candidacy.

If we manage to get that message across, I hope and believe we will be successful in our bid for the Security Council.

We would certainly make a valuable contribution to the Security Council, and, as I pointed out in the opening of my statement, it would be in our clear national interest to do so. The age of multilateral cooperation has been Norway’s golden age. And we intend to keep it that way.

Go to the top