Norway’s priorities for the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly

The 72nd session of the UN General Assembly convened on 12 September 2017. The high-level week begins on 18 September. Members of Norway's delegation, which is headed by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, will participate in a large number of bilateral and multilateral meetings during the high-level week.

UN General Assembly
Credit: The UN

The place of the UN in Norway’s foreign policy

The overarching goal of Norwegian foreign policy is to safeguard and promote Norway’s interests – our values, our security and our welfare – in a way that is sustainable. The UN is a cornerstone in Norway’s foreign policy, and a vital part of our work to protect our interests in areas such as international law, peace and security, development, human rights and humanitarian assistance.

Norway is facing a foreign and security policy situation that is more challenging than it has been for a long time. The challenges facing the world have become more complex, and problems in other parts of the world are affecting us more directly than before.  Norway is also affected by violent extremism and international terrorism. War, conflict and global security challenges have created major humanitarian challenges and led to widespread violations of human rights. Dealing with the flows of refugees and migrants fleeing from wars, conflicts, poverty and political turmoil is a major challenge for countries of origin and transit and for recipient countries. At the same time, it is important to bear in mind that it is the countries neighbouring conflict zones that are hosting the greatest number of refugees. These challenges have put European cooperation to the test, and some of Norway’s closest allies are having to deal with the political fallout.

However, we are also seeing some positive developments. World poverty is being reduced, and more and more people are gaining access to education and health services. The adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, and the Paris Agreement on climate change illustrate the international community’s ability to unite behind important decisions, although the US decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is a serious setback. The UN’s first Ocean Conference, which was held on 5-9 June this year, demonstrated a strong commitment to the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans. The Colombia peace agreement shows that tenacious diplomacy can resolve previously intractable conflicts. One of the aims of the new UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, is to make the UN better able to deal with the many complex challenges we are facing. Norway is actively supporting the Secretary-General’s reform initiatives.

The UN commands a high degree of legitimacy due to its universal mandate and broad membership, and as a result, it has a unique role to play in developing international norms and standards. The UN also provides a forum for its member states to work together to find joint solutions to global challenges, including those relating to security. The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security on behalf of the international community.

Closer cooperation with regional organisations is needed if the UN is to be able to address the challenges of our time. As we seek to navigate today’s complex international environment, Norway’s cooperation with its allies in NATO, its partners in the EU and the other Nordic countries will be crucial. At the same time, Norway will continue to build broad alliances across established blocs in the UN.

Norway considers it important to maintain and build on the well-established principles of Norwegian security policy, for example by seeking to strengthen the UN and to maintain and further develop the international legal order.  International cooperation and compliance with international law leads to results and safeguard countries’ common interests. The UN needs to adapt, both as an intergovernmental arena and as an actor on the world stage, to a world that is facing new challenges and new geopolitical power constellations. The UN must continually revise and renew its approach if it is to be able function effectively and retain its relevance in a rapidly changing world. We must safeguard the achievements in international law and the peace and security structures on which the international community has been built – and at the same time take the necessary steps to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century. Norway’s desire to work actively to this end is one of the reasons why it is seeking election to the UN Security Council for the period 2021-2022. enit

The Government considers it important to strengthen the UN’s ability to work coherently and effectively at the country level. This is in line with the expectations set out in the 2030 Agenda, the recommendations from the recent reviews of the UN peace and security architecture, the resolutions on sustaining peace, and the 2016 resolution on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of UN operational activities for development (QCPR). In other words, the UN needs to work more effectively across its three pillars: peace and security, human rights, and development. Ensuring that it does so is one of the Secretary-General’s priorities.

Norway is actively engaged in the work to continually reform and improve the UN. The cross-regional UN70 group is an important platform in this context. The group is actively supporting the Secretary-General’s reform efforts. Under this initiative, Norway has worked with seven other countries (Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Mexico and New Zealand) to draw up recommendations for UN reform, which were presented to the UN Secretary-General in autumn 2016. 

This year’s UN General Assembly – key Norwegian positions and interests

The UN General Assembly is the world’s largest international meeting place, and a unique arena for promoting Norwegian interests, international cooperation and Norwegian positions on issues of key importance to Norway.

The 72nd session of the UN General Assembly opens on 12 September, and the high-level week will begin on 18 September with a high-level meeting on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel. The general debate will begin on 19 September and will last until 25 September. During the high-level week, members of Norway’s delegation, which will be led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, will participate in a large number of bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Norway will work to ensure that the UN functions effectively and that it is able to provide coherent and integrated support to the member states’ efforts to reach the SDGs. Norway will participate in efforts to eradicate extreme poverty with a focus on countries affected by fragility and conflict. This will include working to address the root causes of violent extremism and large-scale irregular migration. Norway will also contribute to UN efforts to promote education, health, gender equality, international peace and security, international law, human rights and humanitarian principles.

Prime Minister Solberg has been appointed by the UN Secretary-General as co-chair of the group of SDG Advocates, who are charged with promoting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Prime Minister thus has a particular responsibility to raise awareness of the SDGs, and increase awareness, ownership and engagementfor the SDGs..

During the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, the Government will give priority to the following areas:

  • UN reform.This will be an important topic this year too. The Secretary-General will present proposals for UN reform in a number of areas. Together with other like-minded countries, Norway will support the Secretary-General’s reform efforts and build alliances with a view to getting the proposals through the difficult process of negotiations between the member states. The need to intensify efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts and to increase support for countries affected by fragility and conflict will be highlighted in the reform proposals. Norway considers it important that the various reform initiatives are viewed in conjunction with one another.
  • Upholding international law and a world order in which right prevails over might.Norway will continue its efforts to ensure respect for international law and promote an international legal order. Norway will support efforts to strengthen UN leadership of the international community, based on the principles set out in the UN Charter and other international rules of law. An international legal order provides a clear and predictable framework for the use of force, and for ensuring compliance with human rights obligations and international legal standards, and for the sustainable use of resources. 
  • Oceans. Norway will continue its efforts to maintain and further develop the UN’s role as guarantor of the law of the sea regime. Increasing support for, and improving implementation of, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea will be a key priority. Another key priority will be contributing to the development of new legal instruments (e.g. conventions) and political commitments (e.g. resolutions) relating to sustainable marine and fisheries management. Norway will promote sustainable use of marine resources and will seek to strengthen global and European efforts to combat the serious environmental threats facing the world’s oceans. This includes combating marine litter and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing), strengthening marine research and increasing sustainable use of living marine resources. During the high-level week, the Prime Minister will chair a side event on the oceans, which will be attended by heads of government and other high-level guests. The event will reinforce Norway’s leadership role on key ocean issues.
  • Climate and environment. The UN has a key role to play in the follow-up and implementation of the Paris Agreement, and in intensifying efforts to protect the environment. These are priorities for Norway too. Norway will work to ensure that the UN strengthens its climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts by promoting seamless and effective coordination between the various UN organisations working in these areas. With this in view, Norway will support the Secretary-General’s agenda for disaster risk reduction relating to climate change. A climate summit will probably be held in connection with the opening of the General Assembly, and Norway intends to take part.
  • Peace and security. Efforts to strengthen the UN’s ability and capacity to prevent, mediate and resolve violent conflicts and build lasting and sustainable peace are still a key priority. One of the aims of the Secretary-General’s planned reforms is to improve the coordination and effectiveness of the UN’s efforts at country level across the various pillars. The capacity of the UN Secretariat to carry out effective peace operations needs to be strengthened. The UN is playing an increasingly important role in international peace diplomacy, for example in the Middle East and North Africa. Early warning and early action mechanisms need to be strengthened considerably. In line with the resolutions on the UN’s peacebuilding architecture (the ‘sustaining peace resolutions’), Norway will promote a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention and peace efforts. Securing increased and stable funding for peacebuilding is an important part of this work. In addition, the UN must further develop its cooperation with other actors, such as the World Bank, regional organisations such as the African Union (AU), and civil society. Norway, Ethiopia and South Korea are co-chairing a group of countries that are supporting reform of UN peace operations. In September 2017, Ethiopia, as President of the Security Council, will hold an open debate on peace operations, and Norway will have the opportunity to participate.
  • Strengthening and increasing the effectiveness of the UN development system.The 2016 QPCR resolution is the most important policy instrument for ensuring that the UN development system supports countries in their development efforts in a coherent and integrated manner. High priority will be given to following up the resolution in relevant intergovernmental forums and in the governing bodies of the individual UN entities. The resolution requests the Secretary-General to put forward recommendations for enhancing UN entities’ functions and capacities, for improving the resident coordinator system and for strengthening the role and authority of the resident coordinators. It will be important to encourage the member states to make use of this opportunity to make the necessary improvements to the system. Norway wants the UN development system to intensify its efforts in countries affected by fragility and conflict. Norway supports the work to increase coordination across the UN’s three pillars. Norway will also seek to strengthen cooperation between the UN system and the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the regional development banks.
  • The UN’s humanitarian efforts.The UN Secretary-General has warned of the risk of famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria if humanitarian aid to these countries is not increased. The Secretary-General will probably hold a high-level meeting in connection with the opening of the General Assembly to discuss what can be done to prevent and respond to these impending famines. The humanitarian crisis in Syria and Syria’s neighbouring countries is also likely to be on the agenda. In view of the need for humanitarian assistance in many of the crises we are seeing in the world today, Norway will give priority to efforts to make the UN humanitarian system more effective, ensure that it receives more funding, and make it better able to deal with the challenges we are facing. Norway will support efforts to ensure that the UN humanitarian system works with a wider range of partners, in line with the recommendations from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.
  • Education. Education is one of the top priorities of the Norwegian Government’s development policy. The Government has attached particular importance to increasing financing for efforts to meet the educational needs of vulnerable groups, for example people in crisis-affected areas. Norway is therefore calling for an increase in funding for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and the Education Cannot Wait fund. As part of the follow-up to the recommendations of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (the Education Commission), which was initiated by, and is funded by, Norway, the work to develop an International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) aimed at lower-middle-income countries is continuing. The Government will make use of various arenas, networks and meetings during this year’s session of the General Assembly to highlight the importance of high-quality, relevant education for social and economic development with a particular emphasis on access for girls and disabled. High priority will be given to following up the Education Commission’s recommendations for increasing funding for education, not least the establishment of the IFFEd.
  • Health. Health is another top priority in the Government’s development policy. The main focus is on preventing health crises. Key areas for Norway’s efforts include vaccine preparedness through the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and improving women’s, children’s and young people’s health, with an emphasis on sexual and reproductive health for the most vulnerable groups, particularly those living in areas affected by conflict or crisis. The SDGs provide a framework for stronger cross-sectoral coordination, and this is something the Government is seeking to ensure in its health and education initiatives. The Government will make use of different arenas during the General Assembly to promote the priorities mentioned above.
  • Global security challenges.The fight against global security challenges, such as violent extremism, terrorism, organised crime, cyber threats and piracy, continues. Norway will promote the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, and will support the recently established UN counter-terrorism office (UNOCT). Norway and Jordan will co-chair a ‘group of friends’ against violent extremism, a cross-regional group that will seek to build consensus across regions with a view to countering and preventing violent extremism, one of the UN’s most important security policy priorities.  
  • Economic development. Norway will promote growth, business development and employment, and will work to combat financial irregularities and illicit financial flows. All these efforts are essential for reducing poverty. Developing countries need to facilitate business development by improving the business environment. This will enable them to increase trade and investments, and thus create more jobs. Developing countries must also do more to mobilise national resources. Norway will emphasise the importance of corporate social responsibility and respect for human rights and the environment, and will support much-needed capacity-building in public administrations. This is in line with the intentions behind the G20’s Compact with Africa initiative, which Norway has joined.
  • Disarmament. Norway’s nuclear disarmament efforts are  anchored in the Storting’s,  unanimous decision on 26 April 2016, asking the Government to work actively towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and to promote the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The decision also asked the Government to play a leading role in efforts to promote non-proliferation and disarmament, with a view to achieving balanced, mutual, irreversible and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons, and on this basis, to take a long-term approach to efforts to secure a legally binding framework for achieving this goal.

Developments in the overall security situation and the current situation in Europe pose challenges, and it is therefore vital to promote effective disarmament measures. Following up the resolution on nuclear disarmament verification, which was put forward by Norway at last year’s General Assembly, will be a key priority. Norway will also work to secure as broad support as possible for the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.

Peace, security and countries in fragile situations

One of Norway’s overriding goals in relation to the UN is to strengthen the UN’s capacity to maintain international peace and security. This is one of the reasons why Norway is seeking election to the Security Council for the period 2021-2022.

It is essential that the UN plays a key role in preventing and resolving armed conflicts and promoting long-term peacebuilding and democratisation. The number of states that are affected by conflict and fragility – including those experiencing problems due to lawlessness and porous borders – has risen in recent years. This has led to immense humanitarian suffering and huge flows of migrants and refugees. These problems often spread across borders, and a crisis in one country can destabilise a whole region. No country is immune to these problems; even developed countries such as Norway are seeing the consequences. However, the UN has a broad set of tools at its disposal for supporting countries in fragile situations. These include peace operations, humanitarian and development projects, and measures to promote human rights and address global security challenges. The emphasis on fostering peaceful, just and inclusive societies and good governance in the 2030 Agenda gives the UN a stronger mandate to engage more broadly in fragile contexts, and to contribute to conflict prevention in countries that are not on the Security Council agenda.

The UN’s response to the crises in the Middle East/the Gulf, the Sahel region, South Sudan, Somalia and the Great Lakes region will be given priority. Norway will also promote the involvement of the UN, in cooperation with regional actors such as the EU, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), in efforts to alleviate the humanitarian consequences of the Ukraine crisis and to find a solution that upholds Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Norway will promote the Security Council’s protection mandates, for example by supporting resolutions and participating in debates on women, peace and security, sexual violence, children in armed conflict, the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing (Responsibility to Protect (R2P)).

Furthermore, Norway will help to develop ideas and proposals that can enhance the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Security Council and make it more transparent and inclusive, in part by participating in the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group (ACT), a group of countries that aims to improve the Council’s working methods.

Norway will support efforts to strengthen the role of the UN in countries and areas with high levels of fragility. It is crucial that the various UN instruments are seen in relation to one another, and that an integrated and coordinated approach is taken. Norway wants the UN to move towards a common strategic One Country–One UN Framework. The UN peace and security reviews from 2015, including the report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, underline the need for a more coherent approach to fragility. The work of following up these reviews is continuing under Secretary-General Guterres. Norway will attach particular importance to strengthening the UN’s ability to prevent conflict and to increasing the effectiveness of UN peace operations on the ground. Norway will also help to ensure that the UN development system steps up its efforts in countries in fragile situations, for example by working to strengthen core public functions.

In addition, Norway will play an active role in ensuring that human rights are respected in UN peace operations and other international operations. This includes preventing sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel and personnel serving in peacekeeping operations, and ensuring that those suspected of such crimes are prosecuted. In recent years, the UN has worked hard to enforce a policy of zero tolerance towards sexual exploitation and abuse. The high-level week of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly will begin with a high-level meeting on this issue. Norway will promote more binding cooperation in this area between the member states, particularly between countries contributing military and police personnel to UN peace operations and other operations with a mandate from the Security Council.

Norway will actively support measures to prevent the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction and will help lay the groundwork for achieving the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Norway will promote the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This is also important in the context of UN humanitarian efforts and development activities.

Global security challenges, violent extremism and terrorism

Norway will work to ensure that the UN takes a proactive role in dealing with global security challenges such as violent extremism, terrorism, organised crime, cyber threats and piracy using a range of development and security policy tools. Effective implementation of SDG 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies will require a combination of tools and will be a key part of the UN’s work to address these global security challenges.

In 2015, human smuggling was one of the most profitable criminal activities in Europe. Of the more than one million migrants who came to Europe in 2015, 90 % used smuggling networks for all or part of the journey. Countering organised crime is crucial for tackling irregular migration.

Norway will actively support measures to prevent and combat violent extremism and terrorism. The white paper on global security challenges forms the basis for Norway’s work in this area.

The implementation of Security Council resolution 2178 (2014) on foreign terrorist fighters will continue to be a key priority. It is increasingly important to include civil society, particularly young people and women as they can act as catalysts in efforts to prevent violent extremism and terrorism. Norway will take part in various meetings and events aimed at identifying measures to prevent children and young people, in particular, from being recruited to extremist organisations. These efforts are also relevant for the implementation of Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security.  

Respect for international law

Norway will promote respect for international law and the international legal order. Norway will maintain its commitment to promoting the rule of law at both national and international level. At the same time, Norway is aware that there may be a need to develop new standards and instruments, both legally binding obligations (conventions and treaties) and politically binding commitments (declarations and resolutions to counter new forms of serious and transnational organised crime, such as environmental crime and cybercrime.

Issues relating to the law of the sea and fisheries are important for Norway. Currently, the most important discussion relating to the law of the sea in the UN concerns the development of a new agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. A Preparatory Committee in July 2017 recommended the General Assembly as soon as possible to take a decision on the convening of an intergovernmental conference to elaborate the text of a new agreement, and a resolution to that effect will be negotiated during the fall of 2017. This work is being given high priority by Norway. Norway also considers it important to secure sufficient resources to support the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, and to promote regional cooperation on ocean issues and research-based marine management. This year too, Norway is responsible for coordinating the consultations on the UN’s annual sustainable fisheries resolution.

Norway will promote the implementation of effective measures to prevent or counter international crimes and to ensure that the persons responsible for such crimes are brought to justice through proper legal processes. One of our overriding aims is to combat impunity and strengthen international criminal law. We will work to secure universal support for the International Criminal Court and close cooperation between the Court and the States Parties. Norway is chair of the ICC’s Working Group on Amendments and will work to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Court.

We attach great importance to the work of the International Law Commission, particularly its work on the identification of customary international law, on immunity of state officials from foreign jurisdiction, and on a draft convention on crimes against humanity. Other topics of relevance for Norway’s core interests that are dealt with in the General Assembly’s Committee for legal questions (6. Committee) will be followed closely.

The institution of asylum has come under pressure as a result of the large migration flows we have seen in recent years. Returning migrants who are staying in a country illegally is not only an effective way of combating irregular migration; it is also important for maintaining and protecting the institution of asylum. Norway will therefore seek to ensure that states fulfil their obligation to take back their own nationals.

Human rights

Norway will continue to support UN efforts to further develop the normative framework for the protection and promotion of human rights. The promotion of human rights and democratic rules is especially important at a time when fundamental values are under threat. Respect for human rights and democratic rules is essential if lasting and sustainable solutions to crises and challenges relating to security and development are to be found.

Norway will actively seek to ensure that human rights are a priority in all the UN’s work, for example by continuing to support a human rights-based approach in all UN efforts and by supporting former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Human Rights up Front initiative.

Top priority will be given to efforts to promote freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of the media, recognition and protection of human rights defenders, and efforts to combat religious intolerance and hate speech. Norway will also continue to work to ensure civil society participation in UN processes.

Norway will play an important role at this year’s General Assembly as co-sponsor of the resolution on protection of human rights defenders and the resolution on internally displaced persons.

Norway will also pursue an active dialogue with UN Special Representatives and will oppose attempts to undermine their independence and integrity.

The goal of ensuring equality and equal opportunities for all, not least for vulnerable groups, is in line with the 2030 Agenda’s commitment to ‘leave no one behind’, and will also guide Norway’s efforts.

Norway will continue to play an active role in the UN’s core group of countries working to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Women’s rights and gender equality

The SDGs put gender equality at the heart of the international agenda. Norway will work to ensure that women’s rights and gender equality are integrated into the UN’s normative work and operational activities. Norway’s efforts will be based on human rights and on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Norway will draw attention to the positive impact of greater gender equality on peace, economic growth and sustainable development.

Norway will work systematically, and in alliances with other countries, to safeguard the normative framework for women’s rights that has been achieved so far. Norway will also counter any attempts to weaken  commitments and obligations, particularly those relating to sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights, inheritance and property rights, and  women’s rights in marriage and family life. Priority areas for Norway are: girls’ education, combating violence and harmful customs and practices, promoting acceptance for the concept of sexual rights, and strengthening women’s political and economic rights and participation.

Norway will continue its longstanding engagement to promote the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security. A gender perspective is to be incorporated into all our peace and security efforts. We will also continue our work to promote women’s participation in mediation, peace processes and peace operations.

Norway will promote the gender perspective as a cross-cutting issue in the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and in UN governing bodies, in line with the QCPR resolution and the UN System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

Norway also considers it important that the Secretary-General fulfils his promise to increase the recruitment of women to leadership positions.

Humanitarian issues and migration

Protection of civilians who are affected by armed conflict and compliance with international humanitarian law are key priorities in Norway’s humanitarian efforts. Norway will work to strengthen respect for humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law, for example in the negotiations on the humanitarian omnibus resolution in the General Assembly and on the resolution on internally displaced persons.

In order to be able to deal with migration flows in the future, it is crucial that we establish a broad global partnership between the countries and regions of origin, transit and destination. The sudden influx of large numbers of people is particularly difficult for countries and regions affected by fragility and conflict to deal with, and can in itself lead to conflict and humanitarian crises spreading to new areas. In addition to providing significant humanitarian funding to help protect people who have fled their homes, Norway will also take an active part in UN negotiations on the global compact for migration and the global compact on refugees, which are part of the follow-up to the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, held at last year’s General Assembly.

In the work to develop these two global compacts, Norway is giving priority to the protection of refugee children and unaccompanied minors, but we also attach importance to addressing the particular vulnerability of refugee and displaced women. Norway will actively support efforts to create growth, jobs and education opportunities in countries that are affected by war and conflict and in countries that are hosting large groups of refugees. It is important to ensure a long-term approach to humanitarian efforts, and the integration of refugees into local communities in neighbouring countries is often a more sustainable solution than protracted stays in refugee camps.

We will support efforts to improve access to health services and equipment for women, children and young people in humanitarian crises and conflict situations, and will work to combat sexual violence and harassment in these contexts.

Norway will actively support efforts to follow up key issues raised at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, for example by maintaining a close dialogue with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Norwegian civil society organisations and NGOs. 

The vast scale of humanitarian need in the world today has placed considerable pressure on humanitarian budgets, both in Norway and at the international level. UN-coordinated humanitarian appeals have called for an unprecedented level of funding, but many basic needs are still not being met. The scale, length and complexity of current humanitarian crises have highlighted the need to allocate far more resources to conflict prevention and resolution.

The humanitarian response to the crisis in Syria and its neighbouring countries remains a high priority for Norway. Norway will also be at the forefront of efforts to prevent and respond to the impending famines in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northeastern Nigeria.

In line with the Grand Bargain, which was agreed at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, Norway will work actively to help close the gap between rising humanitarian needs and available resources, and to develop solutions to promote more timely and predictable funding and more effective and flexible use of resources, including the use of cash transfers. Norway will seek to strengthen cooperation within the UN and between the UN and the regional development banks, particularly in protracted crises. Norway will also be at the forefront of efforts to increase international support for education in crisis and conflict situations, and will support the Education Cannot Wait fund, which has been established to ensure more financing and better coordination of efforts in this area.

Norway will strengthen efforts to protect education from attack. Priority will be given to efforts to encourage more UN member states to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration. The aim is to prevent attacks on schools in conflict situations and the military use of schools and universities.

In its work to follow up the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Norway will promote the implementation of concrete and effective measures and will support the efforts of affected countries, for example by calling for closer cooperation between humanitarian and development actors. In this context, it will be important to ensure that disaster risk reduction is given priority in national development plans and in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and similar common strategic frameworks for efforts at country level.

Sustainable development and UN development activities

Poverty reduction, human rights, peaceful societies and sustainable development will be given priority in Norway’s efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. As of 2017, Norway is once again a member of ECOSOC, which, together with its various subsidiary bodies, is the most important entity for following up the 2030 Agenda.

Norway will work to promote the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. All countries must take responsibility for their own development and for achieving the SDGs. At the same time, it is necessary to improve national and international data and statistics in order to be able to develop targeted national polices and measure progress.

Norway will also work to strengthen national mobilisation of resources, for example through better collection of taxes and efforts to combat illicit financial flows. If we are to achieve the SDGs, all national governments will have to take responsibility for implementation in their own countries, and the various entities in the UN system will have to coordinate their efforts more closely at country level. It is important to establish closer cooperation between the UN and the World Bank and the regional development banks and to ensure a clearer division of responsibility between these organisations. Norway will promote the development of good intergovernmental arenas for international cooperation on implementing the SDGs and sound knowledge-based monitoring of global progress.

At country level, it is important that the UN ‘delivers as one’, in line with the QCPR resolution. The QCPR resolution is the UN’s most important instrument for ensuring that the UN development system supports countries in their efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda in a strategic, coordinated, integrated and effective way. The QCPR resolution is also important for strengthening focus on results and ensuring efficiency, transparency and accountability in the system as a whole and within the individual entities. High priority will be given to following up the resolution in relevant intergovernmental forums and in the governing bodies of the various UN entities.

Norway will work to increase the use of common financing mechanisms, for example by enhancing mobilisation of resources at country level. The financial contributions to the UN’s development activities have been reduced in recent years. It will therefore be all the more important for the UN development system to give priority to tasks it is particularly well placed to carry out, and to the countries and regions where the needs are greatest.

As a major contributor to UN development activities, Norway will work to ensure that the UN delivers results, and that these results are documented properly. This includes documenting overall UN results at country level. Norway will continue to seek to ensure that expectations and performance requirements for the UN development organisations are clearly communicated.

UN reform

Norway is working to promote a modern and more effective UN. Norway will therefore participate in processes aimed at strengthening and improving the efficiency of the organisation, and will support the Secretary-General in his reform efforts. During the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, Mr Guterres will present proposals for reform of the peace and security architecture, the development system, and for management reform.

It is expected that UN peace and security efforts will focus more on preventing conflict. In the sustaining peace resolutions, the member states have asked the Secretary-General to present a report setting out recommendations for how the various parts of the UN system can contribute to efforts in this area.

In the QCPR resolution, the member states have asked the Secretary-General to present recommendations for the reform of the UN’s operational activities for development, including an outline the various entities’ functions and capacity to implement the 2030 Agenda, and measures to increase the independence and authority of the resident coordinators, strengthen the role of ECOSOC and improve the UN system’s transparency and accountability to its member states. There are high expectations concerningthe Secretary-General’s report, and it will be important to help to ensure that full use is made of this window of opportunity to bring about change.

Reform of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), which is part of the UN Secretariat, is also on the agenda of the 72nd General Assembly.

UN reform will only be possible if like-minded countries join forces across regional divides. The cross-regional UN70 group can play an important role in this context, by providing input and influencing reform processes in the UN.

Norway will continue to seek to improve the UN’s ability to conduct effective operations and work in a coherent and seamless way at country level. The role of the resident coordinators must be strengthened, and the UN must to a greater extent coordinate its efforts across its three pillars: peace and security, human rights, and development. In countries where different kinds of UN entities are present, efforts at country level should be coordinated within a common framework. This will require reforms, both at headquarters level and at country level. It is also crucial that the recommendations from the various reform processes that are to be discussed at this year’s General Assembly are seen in relation to one another.

Norway will work to ensure that the UN plays its part in developing a more coherent and effective multilateral system. If the UN is to retain its relevance in today’s world, it must work even more closely with regional organisations such as NATO, the OSCE, the EU, the African Union (AU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The UN’s budgets are under severe pressure. This is true of the regular budget and of the budgets for peacekeeping operations. Core contributions to the UN are falling. Both in intergovernmental forums and in the governing bodies of the various UN organisations, Norway will seek to ensure that the need for stringent cost-saving measures does not compromise the UN’s ability to carry out reforms and fulfil its mandates.

Norway will seek to ensure that a larger proportion of the regular budget is allocated to human rights work, and that increased and more predictable financing is available for conflict resolution and prevention. Norway will also seek to strengthen UN efforts in countries in fragile situations.

Furthermore, Norway will seek to prevent UN member states from attempting to micromanage the UN through the General Assembly. If the Secretariat is to be able to fulfil its mandate and carry out its duties effectively, it must have the confidence of the member states. At the same time, the Secretariat must prove itself worthy of this confidence. Norway will take part in ongoing assessments of the UN’s use of resources. Norway will also seek to ensure that the UN continues to promote measures to combat financial irregularities, and to build a culture of accountability, strengthen internal oversight, and identify cost-saving and efficiency-enhancing measures that do not negatively affect the quality of its work.