Hallmarks of Norway’s peace and reconciliation work

Norway’s peace and reconciliation efforts vary depending on the conflict in question and the local conditions, but there are certain general features of Norway’s engagement that are common to all Norway’s efforts in this area.

  • Ownership by the parties. Norway assists parties to conflict in their efforts to find peaceful solutions, but the overall responsibility for the peace process always lies with the parties themselves. Sustainable peace can only be achieved if the parties themselves show a willingness to work towards a political solution, and Norway will never push solutions onto the parties.
  • A long-term willingness to provide assistance. Many conflicts last for several decades, and it can take time before the parties are ready to negotiate a political solution. Norway has made it clear that it takes a long-term approach to its peace and reconciliation efforts. There is broad agreement on this in the Storting (Norwegian parliament). Several of the processes Norway is currently engaged in have lasted for many years and have been supported by different Norwegian governments. Our efforts in the Middle East and Colombia are two good examples. This continuity is one of our unique strengths; it ensures a high level of predictability and inspires confidence in Norway’s efforts.
  • A willingness to talk to all parties to a conflict. Norway talks to all parties that are seeking a political solution. Norway’s engagement in the Middle East, which involved entering into dialogue with Hamas at an early stage, is a good example in this context. Seeking to engage all parties helps build trust and enhances understanding of the underlying interests.
  • Acceptance of the risk of failure. Norway accepts that there is a high risk of failure in this field. A number of unsuccessful attempts are often needed for a later attempt at negotiation to succeed. This was the case in Colombia, where the parties succeeded in reaching a peace agreement in 2016, drawing on lessons learned from three previous unsuccessful attempts in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Available resources. Norway makes both human and financial resources available for peace and reconciliation efforts. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has its own Section for Peace and Reconciliation with 14 employees and flexible funding of around NOK 436 million (2021). This, combined with the significant amount of development assistance Norway provides, makes it possible for us both to support negotiation processes and to help ensure sustainable peace settlements, for instance by contributing to monitoring mechanisms and the implementation of peace agreements.  
  • Networks and close cooperation with partners. Norway does not work in a vacuum. Over time, Norway has built up a broad network of contacts, and Norwegian diplomats cooperate with these actors as appropriate. These contacts may be other actors involved in mediation, organisations working to promote dialogue and conflict resolution, think tanks, researchers, civil society actors, etc. Cooperation between diplomats and these kinds of actors and organisations is often the best way to get a process started. Norwegian NGOs have given Norway access to many peace and reconciliation processes. Every year, Norway organises the Oslo Forum, an annual retreat where international conflict mediators, politicians, researchers and other key actors involved in peace and conflict resolution processes can exchange experience and build networks. The Oslo Forum has also become a workshop where parties to conflict meet. 
  • Experience and knowledge. Norway has built up valuable experience and knowledge of peace processes through its long-term efforts in this area. This experience is an important part of Norway’s conflict resolution toolbox. Being able to refer to concrete examples of solutions can be very useful when negotiations reach deadlock. At the same time, it is important to recognise that all conflicts are unique, and knowledge of the specific conflict and the region in question is vital.
  • Impartial facilitation.When acting as facilitator in a peace process, Norway remains impartial. However, this does not mean that we are neutral when it comes to values; in peace processes in which Norway is engaged, we work actively to promote the principles of international law and human rights – even in cases where this meets resistance from the parties.
  • Inclusive peace processes. Peace processes that involve the civilian population, especially women and victims, create a greater sense of local ownership and result in better peace agreements. On several occasions, Norway has helped to ensure that women who would otherwise have been excluded from the process have had the opportunity to articulate their demands both at the negotiating table and in the implementation phase. More information about Norway’s efforts to promote the inclusion of women in peace processes can be found here. Transitional justice and the rights of victims is another of Norway’s focus areas.