Historical archive

Leadership is about making choices

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

New York, 27 September 2012

"People are only truly free when they are able to choose the way they want to live their lives. Regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. The freedom that allows every child to live a healthy life, to receive an education and to walk to school without the fear of land mines or cluster munitions", Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide said in his statement in New York on 27 September 2012.


Check against delivery


Mr President,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Leadership is about making choices.

It is about the ability to make the right decision at the right moment, and the stamina to deliver accordingly.

It is about the will to help shape the future of individuals, nations and the planet. And it is about the courage that lies behind seeking peace with your enemies, as Yitzhak Rabin once taught us.

Leadership is also about creating the conditions for people to able to choose how to live their own lives. Freedom is more than the mere absence of physical or legal obstacles.

Mr President,

The very purpose of the United Nations is to promote freedom for all people:

-          Freedom from want

-          Freedom from fear

-          And the freedom to live in dignity.

People are only truly free when they are able to choose the way they want to live their lives.

Regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.

A woman’s freedom to choose when to have children and when not to have them.

Her freedom from intrusion, her physical integrity and right to think and say what she wants.

The freedom that allows mothers and children to survive childbirth.

The freedom that allows every child to live a healthy life, to receive an education and to walk to school without the fear of land mines or cluster munitions.

The freedom of every man and every woman to organise, to speak out and to have their say as society progresses.

These freedoms lay the ground for development and prosperity. They give men and women a chance to build a better future for themselves and their families. 

Some people can only dream of these freedoms.

But where they do exist, they are often the result of collective action - in families, communities, regions and states, and at the global level.

At the end of the day, this is why we are here in this assembly.

In Syria, mass atrocities are continuing to take place. The crisis in Syria started with a call for freedom and dignity through peaceful protests.

The Syrian Government bears the primary responsibility. The privileges of the few should no longer stand in the way of the aspirations of the many.

The regime of Bashir al-Assad has lost all legitimacy and must hand over power.

The violence in Syria must stop.

Even in war, there are rules. All parties have clear responsibilities under international humanitarian law. To any party that violates these principles, I say this:

You are all individually responsible.

When justice prevails, you will be held accountable for the crimes you have committed. Do not expect to be pardoned just because your opponent carried out the same crime.


Mr President,

When the United Nations was formed in San Francisco in 1945, it was decided that a Security Council should be established to act on our behalf.

The permanent members were entrusted with the right to veto.

My country’s delegation at the time was led by Trygve Lie, who later became the first UN Secretary-General. On behalf of my country, he cast his vote in favour of the right to veto.

So did many other small and medium-sized countries.

This was due to the world order of the day, but also because they wanted to ensure that the Council would have the authority to make decisions and to act on our behalf.

It was not because they held certain states to be superior to others.

Therefore, and in light of the dramatic events in Syria, my message to the members of the Security Council is this:

People in the Arab world, in Europe, in Asia, in Africa and in the Americas are watching with horror how history repeats itself.

Once again, the permanent members of the UN Security Council are divided and unable to protect the people on the ground. In the meantime, extremists on all sides are free to kill, maim and rape.

Now – we expect the members of the Council to act. We expect you to put away outdated ideas of zero-sum games and spheres of influence and to strive to seek a common position.

Enough blood has been shed.

The verdict in history is harsh on those who choose the wrong side.

Do not allow narrow self-interest to stand in the way of the winds of change that the vast majority of this Assembly applauds.

President Assad of Syria was not forced to go down the path of conflict and confrontation – he could have opted for compromise and cooperation.

Elsewhere in the world, quite different choices are being made.


Mr President,

Today, in this assembly, we have heard how Myanmar’s reformist President Thein Sein is opening the door for a free and democratic Myanmar. I commend the courage shown by the Myanmar Government.

I also commend the courage of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She has chosen to talk to the very people who held her in confinement.

Today, in Addis Ababa, the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan have chosen to end a bloody conflict that has marred their peoples’ lives for decades.

Sudan and South Sudan have once again been on the brink of war – but by signing today’s agreements they opted for peace. We salute the African Union, which, in close partnership with the Security Council, has helped to make this possible.

In Colombia the Government and representatives of FARC have wisely chosen to enter into formal negotiations in order to end another age-old conflict.

Mr President,

As Norway’s Foreign Minister, I am the Chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) for support to the Palestinian authorities. We met on the eve of this General Assembly.

I want to share my deep concern about the state of play in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

Exactly one year ago, we agreed, here in New York, that the Palestinian state-building process had reached a level where the institutions of state are in place.

Great expectations were created, and then frustrated.

Time is running short. Shorter than many seem to understand.

There is significant fatigue among the Palestinian population. They may well start looking for alternative options, options that would seriously hamper prospects for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

I see a similar fatigue developing among the countries that are funding the Palestinian authorities.

The two-state solution is the only path to sustainable peace. But the prospect of realising a Palestinian state based on the two-state solution is diminishing as the expansion of Israeli settlements continues. These actions remain the main obstacle to peace, and must stop.

To get the peace process back on track, we need to break the impasse, and renew trust in a political horizon based on the final status issues. Negotiations remain the key to achieve this. They must start now.


Mr President,

Leadership is also about trust.

To achieve our goals, we need a strong United Nations. I applaud the Secretary-General’s tireless efforts towards reforming the internal workings of this organisation.

We have elected a Secretary-General to lead us. So then we must allow him to do so. In any modern organisation, micro-management of what should be the Chief Executive’s prerogative is not going to work. The same applies to the UN.

Mr President, to conclude:

Leaders have real choices.

Leaders have real responsibilities.

Mankind shapes its own future.

Failing to solve the most critical challenges of our time not only harms those who are already suffering under poverty, war, or oppression. It also deprives people of the conviction that they too can shape their future.

And that very conviction, that belief in ourselves and each other, is what will make freedom from want, freedom from fear, and the freedom to live in dignity possible for all. That is the purpose of our leadership.

Thank you.