Historical archive

Norwegian public diplomacy

Historical archive

Published under: Bondevik's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Utenriksminister Jan Petersens tale ved Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle

Foreign Minister Jan Petersen's statement at the Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle, USA, 12 April. (13.04.04)

Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Petersen

Norwegian public diplomacy

Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle,
12 April 2004

Check against delivery

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here today, and to have the opportunity to meet with so many people who are crucial to Norwegian-American relations.

I am not playing to the gallery when I say that I feel very much at home in here Seattle. The 2000 census tells us that the Norwegian-American community in this city numbers 350,000. The only place in Norway that has more Norwegians is Oslo.

I have been told that there are as many as 50 Norwegian-American organisations and institutions in this area. And tonight’s audience bears witness to a thriving Norwegian-American business community.

Indeed, the Norwegian-American community here is widely known as a dynamic business community that still manages to keep up the old customs and traditions. But above all it is renowned for its generosity in funding Norwegian-American initiatives.

Today I have been received by Dr. Terje Leiren of the Scandinavian Department at the University of Washington, Ms. Andrea Thorland and Mr. Robert Solem at the Norse Home and Mr. Wilhelm Quigstad at Leif Erikson Lodge. These are some examples of institutions that have benefited from this generosity. Tomorrow we will visit the Pacific Lutheran University.

The Nordic Heritage Museum is another good example. I would like to congratulate Director Marianne Forssblad on a great museum. I am impressed with your achievements - and with the forward-looking plans for a new museum.

Seattle has also become the headquarters for the Norwegian-American Foundation under the leadership of Chairman Hans W. Mauritzen and CEO Kim Nesselquist. We are grateful for the partnership between the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, the Norwegian Embassy in DC and the Norwegian-American Foundation regarding the 2005 Centennial Anniversary, and the role the Foundation has in the planning of this event.

It is also a fact that the consulate here in Seattle is one of the oldest Norwegian consulates. It was established early in l906. In 2006, the Stang family will have served this consulate for 100 years, which is a truly impressive record.

So many of you are doing an enormous amount to promote Norway both in your daily work and in your spare time. Seldom do I meet "ambassadors" as dedicated and inspiring as you are. I can assure you that we truly appreciate your efforts. We are grateful to have such a large and influential group of supporters here on the west coast of the US. The result is that we are more visible here than in many other places.

From a foreign policy perspective, visibility and a clear profile are essential if we are to be regarded as an interesting and reliable partner and gain acceptance for our political views. They are also important from an industrial and domestic policy point of view, for our export and tourist industries. Promoting Norway’s image abroad is also a way of promoting Norwegian art and culture and vice versa.

In addition to these more obvious motives, a good reputation says something about our values, and reflects the way we want others to perceive us.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our deep-rooted economic, political and security bonds with the US have for generations been strengthened by the ties between Norwegians and Americans who are either of Norwegian descent or harbour a special interest in Scandinavia.

Our goal is to further develop our transatlantic ties with North America to the benefit of future generations. The close relations between us must not be taken for granted. They must be nurtured and developed. They must also be allowed to evolve and adapt to a new era in international co-operation.

To do this we need to build relations with many different groups of people, organisations and networks. The catchword for this kind of networking is "public diplomacy".

Tonight I will touch on three aspects of Norwegian public diplomacy: cultural manifestations, commercial presentation and disseminating information about Norway. Like all politicians, I am used to being criticised for talking without doing. But not tonight, as I will end my address by launching two new websites dedicated to Norway.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Next year we will commemorate the centennial of the peaceful dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden. Norway’s celebration of its first 100 years as an independent state will provide good opportunities for public diplomacy.

Just as Norway’s historical and cultural relationship with the United States is special – so should the centennial anniversary next year in the US be special.

The US was one of the very first countries to recognise Norway as an independent nation in 1905. Thus, the 2005 centennial programme should be comprehensive, contemporary and visible, and reflect the many bonds between our two countries. It should mark our common history, and the close ties that exist between us today. It should also establish new networks.

We are well aware that the success of the centennial programme will depend on close co-operation with local partners at all stages of the process. The main criteria in selecting programme ideas and proposals have therefore been local interest, participation and whether there was an established network in place. This is what we see here in the United States. There are a number of established Norwegian-American networks, personal bonds and contacts, and close co-operation between organisations and universities. There are student exchange programmes, scholarships programmes, etc., etc. These networks are the glue of Norwegian-American relations.

One mark of great art is that the artist has used his or her local experience to create something that is understood worldwide. Such art provides an excellent basis for public diplomacy.

Very few Norwegian artists fit this description better than Henrik Ibsen. In 2006 we will commemorate the 100 th> anniversary of his death.

Ibsen’s plays are staged all over the world. His message to women, to men and to society is as significant today as it was a 150 years ago. Themes like gender equality, corruption, the environment, freedom of speech and misuse of power are all issues that modern society is still struggling with.

Even though Norwegians and Americans share the same basic values, we may have arrived at different answers to some of the questions Ibsen poses. 2006 will provide a good opportunity to have a dialogue on these dilemmas.

Our aim in 2006 will be to make Ibsen even better known abroad by focusing on his work and thereby on his native country. We will encourage and challenge theatres, libraries, universities and young people to take up Ibsen and focus on what he has to say to us today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Norwegian business has from time to time complained over what is seen as lack of support and understanding from the Foreign Service. While this criticism may have been a bit over the top, I admit there is room for improvement.

One of the recent measures taken by the Norwegian Government in this respect is to create a new entity called Innovation Norway. The entity is a merger between the Trade Council, the Tourist Board, the Industrial and Regional Development Fund, and the Government Consultative Office for Inventors.

The idea is that such a set up will create synergies and establish a clearer link between innovation and internationalisation.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be closely associated with the overseas activities of the new entity. Its representatives abroad are now being integrated into our Foreign Service missions.

This is an advantage for all parties. For the representatives of trade, industry and tourism it means that they can more readily capitalise on the embassies’ networks, and it will probably increase their geographical reach. And for the Foreign Service it will mean greater insight into how to advance Norwegian commercial interests abroad.

This has always been one of the main tasks of diplomats. The new thing is that we will now have experts on these issues integrated into the day-to-day work of the missions. At the same time, we will also give higher priority to developing expertise in export promotion in the Foreign Ministry in Oslo.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Another important task of our Foreign Service is disseminating information about Norway. One of my general policy aims is that the Norwegian Foreign Service should be as efficient and up to date as possible, particularly in this field.

If a small country like Norway is to hold its own in competition with larger and better-known countries, we must be at the forefront of developments in expertise and technology. Recent advances in information technology have given us a number of new ways of achieving this. The enormous increase in the number of people using the Internet in particular has led to a new approach to information activities.

In response to this, my ministry has digitalised almost all of its strategies for promoting Norway abroad. We are reducing the use of printed publications and are using the Internet more and more as an information channel. One of the results is a portal which is called Norway – the official site, the US version of which I am launching here today.

It is a particular pleasure for me to be launching the Norwegian-American Foundation’s new website at the same time. Norway.com is the joint website of the Norwegian-American Foundation and the Norse Federation.

I now have the honour to declare Norway – the official site in the USA, and the new version of Norway.com to be open.

As you can see, both portals have clean and simple lines, in keeping with the best of Scandinavian design. And when you start using them you will see that they are useful information tools as well.

Norway.org is the official Norwegian website in the United States. It is also the website for the Norwegian embassy and the consulates general. On this site you will find an enormous variety of information about Norway in the fields of politics, the economy, tourism, education and research and, last but not least, culture.

To give you an idea of what the website has to offer, I would like to show you two examples in the field of culture. Here you will find both background material and information about major projects and recent events.

Let’s click on "music" and the article about jazz. This text gives the reader a general introduction to Norwegian jazz music and artists, such as Jan Garbarek.

The website also offers articles on recent events and news stories. This article is about Andreas Viestad, who introduces American viewers to Norwegian cuisine on his television show "New Scandinavian Cooking".

This was a little taste of the official Norwegian website. As you can see it has a lot more to offer, including a general introduction to various aspects of Norwegian society.

Americans with a special interest in Norway will find another very interesting website when they search for information on the Internet. As you see, Norway.com presents a number of exciting themes. The Norwegian centennial celebration has a prominent place on the home page, and the website includes many articles on the 2005 anniversary, which is in keeping with the Norwegian-American Foundation’s active co-ordinating role in connection with the centennial.

Norway.com is also a showcase for Norwegian firms that hope to gain a foothold in the American market. Here you will find more information on the producers, with links to their websites. This includes information on where the products can be purchased in the USA, for example here in Seattle.

The ties between our two countries are close, particularly the family ties. Norway.com has a separate page on genealogy, Norway Roots, which has links to useful resources for helping people to trace their ancestors in Norway.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This was just a quick glance at the two websites. Both have a great deal more to offer than I’ve had time to show you today. Norway.org and Norway.com are both excellent tools for promoting Norway in the USA, and I am confident that they will further strengthen the close ties between our two countries.

In closing I would like to wish you every success with Norway.org and Norway.com. And to thank you for this opportunity to practise public diplomacy.

Thank you.