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Norwegian foreign policy in a changing environment

Historical archive

Published under: Bondevik's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Statement by Foreign Minister Jan Petersen at Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle, USA 13 April. (15.04.04)

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Jan Petersen

Norwegian foreign policy in a changing environment

Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle, USA
13 April 2004

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Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here at Pacific Lutheran University, with its strong Nordic profile. Ever since the Norwegian minister Bjug Harstad founded the University more than 100 years ago, it has fostered close relations with Norway. The Scandinavian Cultural Center plays a particularly important role in this regard.

Fresh thinking has always been one of the trademarks of this institution. By introducing your programme on Nordic Approaches to Peace, Democracy, and Development, you are continuing in that great tradition.

I welcome the opportunity the programme provides to study the way democracy is practiced in Norway. This includes our philosophy and approach towards aid to developing countries and our participation in peace mediation and conflict resolution. The participation of the University of Namibia in this programme is crucial for understanding the issues from the point of view of a developing country.

I hope that many students from the PLU will take advantage of the opportunity to learn about the Norwegian approach through the semester programme offered at Hedmark University College.

It is programmes like these that ensure that the long-standing ties between Norway and the United States will remain as strong in the future as they have been in the past. To achieve this we need to promote and nurture people-to-people contacts. The Norwegian-American community is an immense resource to that end. We are grateful to have such a large and influential group of supporters here on the West Coast of the United States.

My visit here is an expression of the political significance I attach to forging the bonds between our two countries, and to personally meet with those Americans who have a relationship to Norway, and who share my interest in strong Norwegian-American ties.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The aim of Norwegian foreign policy is both to safeguard national interests – directly and indirectly – and to fulfill our shared political and moral obligations. The one does not exclude the other.

The close and warm relationship between the US and Norway is built on the fact that we subscribe to the same basic values. We share a clear commitment to freedom, democracy and human rights, good governance and the rule of law, and a market economy.

A small country like Norway can only safeguard its security and its national interests through multilateral co-operation. We therefore seek multilateral solutions wherever possible and will continue to provide ideas, military and civilian resources, and humanitarian and economic support for such joint endeavours. We will remain strongly committed to the UN. And we will continue to do what we can to strengthen the transatlantic ties - first and foremost in the North Atlantic Alliance - NATO.

To be successful in promoting national interests you have to be visible, you have to be heard. During the Cold War era, Norway was in a vulnerable and strategically important geographical position, due to our common border with the Soviet Union. But, we knew we could always count on the support from our Allies and close friends.

Now, the situation has changed radically. The Soviet Union does no longer exist. We are a privileged nation in one of the most peaceful corners of the world.

But, our need for good, responsive partners has not diminished. On the contrary, time and time again we have experienced that networking is absolutely necessary in order to attract attention to our national interests.

Partnership is both about giving and taking. If we wish support from our partners, we must be prepared to contribute in areas where they need our backing. We must demonstrate that Norway stands ready to support its close friends and allies, and that we are a useful and valuable co-operation partner.

We must also be willing to make concrete contributions to resolving the common problems we are facing, both by providing military resources and by showing the political will to take responsibility in an emergency. This responsibility no longer applies only to Europe. Global threats are accompanied by a global responsibility, also for us.

Our involvement in peace processes, our participation in peacekeeping and stabilization operations, our efforts to promote human rights, and our extensive humanitarian efforts and development co-operation can partly be viewed in this perspective. Our contributions – and our strong support for the UN – reflect Norway’s determination to take responsibility. But, the efforts to achieve a world based on binding international co-operation, international law and freedom from want and strife are clearly in our own self-interest.

The present threats and challenges are of a global nature. Security is indivisible. International engagement is an investment in our own security.

Moreover, our contributions to international efforts reflect the conviction that if we can help other people to achieve a more secure, more decent life, we quite simply have an obligation to do so. Sixty thousand people have been killed in the conflict in Sri Lanka. If Norway’s efforts can make a difference to the situation there, that is of course a good enough reason to be involved.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The tasks facing the international community are daunting. The thaw in East-West relations was unfortunately accompanied by a thaw in the many ethnic and local conflicts that had been frozen during the Cold War. The result was all too often regional conflicts, increased poverty, corruption, organized crime, and illegal trafficking in human beings, weapons and drugs.

Such environments provide fertile ground for the recruitment of terrorists, and for a black market economy that finances their activities. This is part of the reason why international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction have become the defining threats to international peace and security.

International law, the United Nations Charter and the resolutions of the UN Security Council should be the foundation of our efforts to achieve peace, security and stability. We need the broadest possible coalition to effectively address the most pressing security challenges. With its universal membership and broad range of instruments, the UN is the most suitable organization for concerted action by the international community.

The threats and risks to international peace and stability have changed since the UN Charter was drafted. There is a need for reform of the UN in order to adapt to the new situation. We look forward to the report of the High Level Panel that the UN Secretary General has appointed to explore how the UN could meet the new security threats and challenges. While looking forward, the Panel should also draw on experiences from earlier activities. The UN cannot afford repeating the mistakes of its Bosnia operations in the 1990s. We cannot afford another Srebrenica

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our participation in the North Atlantic Alliance is a cornerstone for Norwegian security. The transatlantic ties are also vital to our success in countering international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Norway will do its utmost to ensure that coming generations will continue to enjoy the same sense of security and solidarity provided by the transatlantic ties that we have largely come to take for granted. We want NATO to continue to safeguard the security of all its members.

Transatlantic tensions are nothing new. We have seen them before. Kyoto, the International Criminal Court and the Test Ban Treaty are just a few of the most recent examples.

Today’s situation, however, is cause for greater concern. The differences of opinion across the Atlantic are greater in number than before, and they go deeper. And they reflect very divergent attitudes to international co-operation.

It is essential that NATO continues to be the most important forum for transatlantic dialogue on security issues. But then we will have to examine within NATO what we can do to bring the European and the American view of the world and possible course of action closer together. NATO must continue adapting to the new situation to be relevant.

The differences over Iraq between members of the Western Alliance are now largely behind us. I am confident that the NATO summit in June in Istanbul will confirm the strength of our transatlantic ties.

The Alliance has already taken on a heavy responsibility in Afghanistan through its leadership of the International Security and Assistance Force - ISAF. This is the first time NATO is involved outside the Euro-Atlantic area. In this sense Afghanistan is a credibility test – and it is a tough one. We simply cannot afford to fail. It will also have a significant impact on the further development of NATO, as we must be prepared for a long-lasting engagement. Therefore, Afghanistan must be a top priority for the Alliance.

Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. The difficult security situation and the drug-related economy pose a significant threat to the political and economic development of the entire region. The elections next September will be a milestone, as they provide an opportunity to form a fully representative government in Kabul. ISAF must, to the extent possible, contribute to providing the necessary security for carrying out the elections.

Norway is committed to a broad and long-term engagement in Afghanistan. Our military contribution to ISAF will continue. As part of this, we will participate in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams that will be established outside Kabul this year.

This month we will also be sending a group of police instructors to Afghanistan, who will assist in building up and training an Afghan police and border police force.

We have recently upgraded Afghanistan’s status to be one of our designated partner countries in development co-operation. This means an increase in long-term development assistance to the country. Our political commitment to Afghanistan clearly is for the long haul.

There is an important lesson here: "There is no development and reconstruction without security, and there is no security without development and reconstruction." To my mind, the case of Afghanistan clearly shows that, in certain situations, the use of military means is indispensable for building peace and stability.

NATO may also be called upon to take on a stronger role in the stabilization of Iraq. As in Afghanistan, improved security is the key. Norway is currently participating in the stabilization force. We also believe that the UN needs to play a more prominent role in Iraq. Only the UN can give the political process the necessary legitimacy.

We also have unfinished business on the European continent. Norway has contributed substantively to the NATO-led military presence in the Balkans – first in Bosnia, then in Kosovo. We have also contributed to the military presence in Macedonia – first under the leadership of NATO, and later under the leadership of the EU. And, we will participate when the EU takes over command of the military presence in Bosnia from NATO.

Norway fully supports the aim of the EU to develop and implement a European security and defense policy – the ESDP. We consider it vital that the ESDP is developed in close co-operation with NATO.

A close partnership between the EU and NATO is essential in order to ensure confidence and co-operation across the Atlantic. I am convinced that increased co-operation and a sensible division of labour between NATO and the EU will strengthen the security of all allies. It will enable NATO to focus its resources more efficiently on the new security threats.

Most of the security problems we faced in the past had their roots on the European continent. Today the roots of the most pressing threats to our security are found in what is increasingly referred to as the Greater Middle East. There is a need for democratic reforms in this area. Reform efforts will no doubt be met with resistance by many. There is no lack of skeptical voices. But I am also convinced that support for reform is stronger than ever – and growing. In order to move the process forward, we must now demonstrate inclusiveness and work to generate the ownership of the countries concerned.

In view of the recent developments in the Middle East there is an urgent need for concerted action. The international community must make use of all the instruments at its disposal to support the peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. The members of the Quartet - the UN, the EU, Russia and particularly the US – carry a special responsibility in this regard. If requested by the parties, NATO should be prepared to consider a role for securing a peace agreement.

A solution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians would have a huge, positive impact on other problems in the region. On the other hand, resolving other problems in this part of the world is not necessarily dependent on a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. NATO and the EU – with its broad set of instruments – should offer to assist in such endeavours. However, that would require the two organizations to develop a co-ordinated and mutually supportive approach.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you may know Norway gained valuable experience as a facilitator of the peace talks that led up to the Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians. One of the most important lessons we learned from this process is that success is contingent on trust between the parties, and that cease-fire agreements must be independently monitored.

We have applied these and other lessons when we have been requested to mediate between conflicting parties elsewhere in the world. As you may be aware, such requests have come from Latin America, the Horn of Africa, Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia.

Why Norway, you might ask? To explain our participation in these processes, I would like to emphasize three factors in particular.

First, Norway’s role as a peace facilitator is in many ways a continuation of our long-standing commitment to peace through humanitarian action and development co-operation. Most Norwegians share the conviction that we have a moral responsibility to help alleviate poverty and conflicts wherever we can.

Second, as a small country with no colonial past and few vested interests, we are considered a neutral and impartial broker. We have no second agendas.

Third, our government co-operates closely with Norwegian non-governmental organizations. Norwegian NGOs have gained valuable experience through activities in different parts of the world for several decades. And perhaps even more important, their idealistic approach has earned them a reputation as highly professional and dedicated to helping others. Therefore we have good networks and hands-on knowledge of the various regions.

A common denominator for many of the peace processes in which we have been involved has been the interaction between diplomatic and humanitarian assistance, and between government and non-state actors. This is a recipe that has proven to be quite successful.

Let me give you a few concrete examples. For the past five years Norway has been involved in facilitating talks between the conflicting parties in Sri Lanka. The government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers have been at war for at least 20 years. Our role has been to assist the parties in their efforts to reach a political solution, not to impose a solution on them. The peace process has made substantial progress since the two parties entered into a cease-fire agreement in February 2002. The parties have agreed on the basic principles of a political solution, and are now working on the practical details. Two years of cease-fire, and active involvement from donors, have given the people of Sri Lanka a real peace dividend. They clearly do not want renewed hostilities. This shows the importance of backing peace-efforts with development assistance and financial contributions.

Peace facilitation is, however, a cumbersome process that requires patience. Maintaining the cease-fire is part of the key to success. Therefore an independent monitoring mission has been established. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission is led by Norway and includes observers from the five Nordic countries. The aim of this mission is to make independent rulings on alleged violations of the cease-fire. These monitoring activities help build trust between the parties.

Just to underline my point that patience may be the most important ingredient of a successful process, the peace talks are now on hold due to various internal developments. However, all parties have expressed their willingness to restart talks following the parliamentary elections that were held on the 2 nd> of April. The parties hope to resume talks on an interim arrangement, while continuing their search for a lasting settlement.

We are also involved in the peace process in Sudan, which grew out of our long-standing humanitarian assistance to the country and the work of Norwegian NGOs in this region. This engagement brought us in contact with both parties to the conflict, which goes back 20 years. In facilitating communication between the parties, we were gradually trusted as an "honest broker". In September last year the parties agreed on the principles for resolving the sensitive issues related to security arrangements for a peace agreement. In February this year peace talks were resumed and the parties are now in the final stages of the talks.

Peace in Sudan would end one of Africa’s longest lasting conflicts. Two million people have been killed and more than four million have become refugees over the last twenty years. A peace agreement is long overdue, both for the people of Sudan and for the region as a whole. Putting an end to the human suffering will, however, require broad international engagement; also after a peace agreement has been signed. Economic development will be vital for sustaining peace and stability. Norway has therefore offered to host a donor conference once a peace agreement is signed.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Successful mediation is only possible if both parties have a genuine will for peace. Success as a mediator also requires that we have a clear notion of our own role, and a clear notion of the role of other international actors. We need to take a common approach and act in a mutually supportive way. And last but no least, it is important to remember that every conflict has its own dynamics. The role of third-party facilitator needs to be carefully tailored to the situation at hand, and based on close dialogue with the parties concerned.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is, more than ever, a need for co-ordinated efforts by the international community, whether addressing threats of international terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or regional and local conflicts. We must make full use of the UN, NATO, the EU and other international organizations in meeting these threats.

In a changing foreign policy environment, I am confident that close transatlantic ties will continue to be as important as ever in meeting the security challenges of the 21 st> century. Norway will continue to work hard to reinforce our ties across the Atlantic.

Thank you for your attention.