Meld. St. 27 (2018–2019)

Norway’s Role and Interests in Multilateral Cooperation — Meld. St. 27 (2018–2019) Report to the Storting (white paper)

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2 Introduction

2.1 The report’s purpose and structure

The liberal world order that emerged after World War II has played a crucial role in developing Norway’s security, prosperity and economy. Today, this order and many of the multilateral organisations that support it are under great pressure. This pressure comes both from emerging powers and from states that have played key roles in developing and defending the liberal world order. Shifting power relations could erode or immobilise certain multilateral organisations. In this situation, Norway must redouble its efforts in protecting the current rules-based world order as well as reconsider its priorities and working methods to ensure that our interests are safeguarded. We must also continue our efforts to strengthen and reform the system so that it remains viable in the future.

Ten years ago, a white paper describing the main features of Norwegian foreign policy was presented to the Storting.1 The world has changed a great deal since then, and these changes are reflected in a number of recent reports to the Storting on different aspects of Norway’s foreign policy. Now it is time to update Norwegian multilateral policy as well.

The purpose of this report (hereinafter referred to as the white paper) is to clarify Norwegian interests in multilateral cooperation and to present proposals for how Norway can best use its resources. The changes in the multilateral system are substantial and are unfolding quickly. Therefore, care must be taken when discussing how international cooperation will develop over time. This is the reason why this white paper has a five-year perspective.

The content of the white paper has been discussed over the past year at a series of open meetings held across the country. The private sector, civil society, and expert communities in Norway and abroad have provided input, and consultations have been held with the governments of several countries. The content of this white paper is based on the above input.

Part 1 of the white paper describes what the multilateral system is and the challenges it faces. Part 2 highlights Norwegian interests in multilateral cooperation, how the current challenges to the system can affect us, and what Norway should prioritise over the next few years. The white paper demonstrates how and why international cooperation is crucial to Norway’s national security, welfare and economy. It also describes how Norway can best work to ensure that the multilateral system continues to serve our national and common interests and what working methods we must use to succeed in reforming and strengthening the system.

The agreement on the 2030 Agenda with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals constitutes a common framework for solving the most important challenges facing humanity. The goals are therefore reflected throughout this white paper. The Sustainable Development Goals apply to all countries, at both the national and international level, and show how nations are mutually dependent on one another, in addition to how policy areas are interlinked. Coordinated efforts in areas of mutual dependency are necessary to achieve the goals. The changes in the global balance of power mean that the traditional division of countries into developing and industrial countries is becoming less and less relevant. Development policy is an integrated and important part of our foreign policy, and the Sustainable Development Goals underpin Norway’s involvement in the multilateral system.

It is not possible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without effective multilateral cooperation, nor solve challenges such as climate change, marine pollution, irregular migration or new security threats. This does not mean that multilateral cooperation is the answer to everything. Some problems are best solved by means of direct dialogue with one other country. Nor does it mean that multilateral cooperation does not come at a price. Finding solutions together with others means that we must accept compromises and make commitments over and above our own direct interests.

We must take our share of the responsibility to support an international order that has served our country so well. In these challenging times, Norway must contribute to ensuring that the content of international cooperation reflects our values and interests. Major initiatives enacted by the Norwegian Government, such as those relating to the oceans, global health, education and humanitarian work, as well as the candidacy for the UN Security Council, do just this. The white paper also presents a number of other proposals on how we can defend and improve the multilateral system, taking Norwegian interests and values as our point of departure.

2.2 Scope of the white paper

This white paper shows the breadth of Norway’s international cooperation rather than the depth. It highlights how we must adapt to a changed environment on the one hand, and attempt to influence it on the other. It builds on policy already adopted by the Government, including previous white papers to the Storting on global security challenges in foreign policy, private sector development in Norwegian development cooperation, globalisation and trade, education for development, human rights, oceans, development policy in light of the Sustainable Development Goals, Norwegian foreign and security policy choices, as well as strategies for cooperation with the EU and for Norwegian humanitarian policy.

The white paper takes a realist approach to multilateralism. Norwegian foreign policy must be based on the world as it is, and not on how we would like it to be. The purpose of foreign policy, including our multilateral efforts, is to safeguard Norwegian interests internationally.

In this white paper, Norwegian interests are defined as factors that are crucial to the economy, security and prosperity of Norwegian nationals, be it directly or indirectly. Norwegian interests include both our national interests, such as safeguarding the integrity of our territory and a strong national economy, and our interests in ensuring rules-based and predictable cooperation between states. In many contexts, global interests also constitute Norwegian interests. Norwegian interests are thus not limited to only our own direct national interests. It is, for example, in Norway’s interest that the multilateral system contributes to solving common challenges, supporting international law, states’ security and sovereignty, ensuring respect for human rights and attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.

The discussion of key Norwegian interests in international cooperation is organised by topic rather than by organisation, since our interests and international efforts cut across individual organisations and are presented in several forums simultaneously.

The white paper devotes most attention to international organisations of which Norway is a member or with which it has an institutionalised collaboration. It is through these that the Norwegian Government has the greatest opportunity to influence the agenda and promote our policy. Non-governmental organisations and the private sector, among other parties, also constitute key partners in many types of international cooperation, such as the work on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Norwegian Government is often in close dialogue with such partners when preparing and implementing multilateral policy. The conclusions of this white paper will therefore also be relevant to the Government’s cooperation with these parties.



Report No 15 to the Storting (2008–-2009). Interests, responsibilities and opportunities. The main features of Norwegian foreign policy.

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