Article | Last updated: 2016-09-13 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The 71st session of the UN General Assembly will open with a week of high-level meetings beginning on 19 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.
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. Participation in the UN is a cornerstone of Norwegian foreign policy, especially in the areas of international law, security policy, development, human rights and humanitarian assistance.
We are facing a more challenging foreign and security policy situation than we have done for a long time. Violations of international law and war and conflict in Europe's neighbouring areas have caused major humanitarian challenges and created a breeding ground for violent extremism and terrorism, the consequences of which are also being seen in Europe. The brutality of Isil and other extremist groups is deeply shocking. The refugee and migration crisis is putting a great strain on countries neighbouring conflict areas, and the huge number of asylum seekers that arrived in Europe in 2016 is putting European cooperation to the test and having a direct impact on Norway. We are feeling the effects of problems elsewhere in the world more acutely.
However, we are also seeing positive developments. World poverty is being reduced, and a growing number of people are gaining access to education and health services. In 2015, the UN succeeded in achieving a global climate agreement, adopting universal sustainable development goals, and negotiating an agreement on financing for development. The nuclear agreement with Iran, the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US, and the positive developments in Colombia show that tenacious diplomacy has the potential to resolve previously intractable conflicts.
The UN's membership and universal mandate give it a legitimacy that makes it possible to find joint solutions to global challenges, including those relating to security policy. The Security Council is the international community's supreme body for the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN's ability to address the challenges of our time will be strengthened by ever closer cooperation with regional organisations. As we seek to navigate today's complex international environment, Norway's cooperation with its allies in Nato and its partners in the EU will also be crucial.
The UN's mandate and unique position in the world mean that it has a special responsibility to work to ensure that decades of progress in the areas of democracy, human rights, development and international cooperation are not reversed. Promoting international cooperation and compliance with international law is the best way of achieving concrete results and safeguarding countries' common interests. But 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 has to undergo a continual process of reform if it is to retain its relevance in a rapidly changing world. We need to safeguard the current international legal and security policy architecture, and improve its ability to deal with the challenges of the 21st century. Norway's desire to play an active role in this work is the reason why it is seeking to become an elected member of the UN Security Council for the period 2021-2022.
Not only does the UN have the mandate to maintain peace and security and the authority to make decisions that are binding for all UN member states, it also plays an important operational role in peacekeeping operations, conflict diplomacy, humanitarian efforts and development work. The Government considers it important to strengthen the UN's ability to work coherently and effectively at country level, in accordance with the expectations set out in the 2030 Agenda and the recommendations from the recent reviews of the UN peace and security architecture. The UN needs to work more effectively across its three pillars. The UN Secretary-General has given Prime Minister Erna Solberg a leading role in promoting the 2030 Agenda, by appointing her co-chair of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Advocacy Group. It is vital to strengthen the UN's capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts and to promote stabilisation and lasting peace in fragile situations. Concerted political and economic efforts are essential to achieve this, and Norway will do its part.
Norway will maintain a strong focus on promoting reform of the UN with a view to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation. The Ministry's UN70: A New Agenda project is a key element in this work. In this project, Norway has worked with six other countries from different regions (Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, and Mexico) to develop reform proposals. These will be presented to the UN's new Secretary-General in the autumn of 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 high-level week of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly will begin with a summit on refugees and migrants on 19 September. The general debate will begin on 20 September and will last until 29 September. Members of Norway's delegation will participate in a large number of bilateral and multilateral meetings during the high-level week.
Norway will work to make the UN more effective and to ensure that it plays a key role in the global efforts to implement the SDGs. Prime Minister Erna Solberg's role as co-chair of the SDG Advocacy Group will be important in this context. Among other things, Norway will seek to contribute towards efforts to end extreme poverty, to systematically strengthen fragile states, including through efforts to address the root causes of violent extremism and large-scale economic and social migration, and to achieve the SDGs relating to education, health and gender equality. We will also work to strengthen the UN's capacity to safeguard and promote international peace and security, international law, human rights and humanitarian principles. During this year's session of the General Assembly, the Government will give priority to the following topics, both at the formal meetings and at side events:
- The refugee and migrant crisis. This topic will be the focus of two summits during the high-level week. As one of the world's largest humanitarian donor countries and a host country for a significant number of quota refugees, Norway has an important voice in this area. In addition to helping to find better global solutions for dealing with the large flows of refugees and migrants, Norway will call for greater focus on the root causes of the current challenges, such as poverty, insufficient job creation, poor governance and corruption. The UN, with its unique mandate, must increase its support to fragile states. This will help to prevent problems such as irregular migration. Norway will also seek to ensure that the UN works in a more coherent and effective way to address the current refugee and migrant crisis.
- The prevention and resolution of conflicts and support to countries in fragile situations. Intensified efforts in this area will help to alleviate the problems associated with the refugee and migrant crisis. The UN is playing an increasingly important role in international peace diplomacy, for example in the Middle East and North Africa. But in order to improve the effectiveness of its work in this area, the UN needs to take a coherent approach and use all the tools it has at its disposal. Norway will call for a concerted international effort in this area.
- Upholding international law and a world order in which right prevails over might. An agreed set of international rules is essential if we are to be able to safeguard human rights and deal successfully with issues relating to environmental protection, the use of marine resources, air transport, trade, digital commerce, and complex financial and investment operations, as well as transnational law enforcement in the face of international terrorist threats. This is particularly important at a time when fundamental values are coming under pressure.
- The fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Norway will play its part in the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Efforts to fight terrorism, radicalisation and violent extremism need to be intensified. Norway will work to ensure that the Secretary-General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism is implemented effectively.
- Strengthening the UN's operational capacity at country level. Norway considers it important to make sure that the recommendations from the various reviews of the UN peace and security architecture continue to be followed up under the new Secretary-General. It is vital that the capacity of the UN Secretariat to carry out effective operations in the field is strengthened, and that the various UN agencies cooperate closely to maximise results on the ground in the countries concerned. Strengthening the UN's cooperation with regional organisations such as the AU is an important part of the work to follow up the reviews of the UN's peace and security architecture.
- Strengthening and increasing the effectiveness of the UN development system. In order to enable the UN to assist countries more effectively in implementing the 2030 Agenda, Norway will seek to make sure that the next resolution on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of UN operational activities for development provides clear guidance on the activities the UN development system should engage in, given its special advantages, in different country settings. It should also focus on how the UN's many development organisations should cooperate in a more strategic, effective and coordinated manner, for example by strengthening the role and authority of the resident coordinators. In Norway's view, the UN development system should intensify its efforts in fragile situations. Norway will also work to strengthen cooperation across the UN's three pillars and between the UN and the World Bank.
- The UN's humanitarian efforts. In view of the sheer scale of humanitarian need caused by the many current crises in the world, Norway will give priority to efforts to improve the effectiveness of the UN humanitarian system, ensure that it receives more funding, and make it better able to deal with the challenges we are facing. Norway will support work to improve the financing of the UN humanitarian system and will seek to ensure that it gains a wider range of partners, in line with the recommendations from the World Humanitarian Summit.
- Education. Education is one of the top priorities of the Government's development policy – along with health, the private sector and job creation, and humanitarian efforts. The Government attaches particular importance to learning outcomes and quality of education, girls' education, education in situations of crisis and conflict, vocational training, and the financing of education. The Government will seek to make use of different arenas, networks and relevant meetings during the high-level week to highlight the fundamental importance of high-quality, relevant education for social and economic development. Particular emphasis will be placed on the recommendations in the report by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, which is to be launched on 18 September.
- Strengthening health systems: The Government will make use of relevant meeting places and arenas during the high-level week to emphasise the importance of investing in the strengthening of health systems in order to deliver sustainable basic health services to women, children and young people.
- Economic development: Norway will promote growth, business development, job creation, good governance, and measures to combat corruption and capital flight, all of which are necessary to fight poverty. Developing countries are dependent on trade and new markets in order to be able to work their way out of poverty. The best way to combat poverty is to create jobs.
- Disarmament. Norway will work actively towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, and will promote the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Norway will be at the forefront of efforts to promote non-proliferation and disarmament with a view to achieving the elimination of nuclear weapons in a balanced, mutual, irreversible and verifiable manner, and will take a long-term perspective in its work to secure a legally binding framework to this end. Developments in the security situation in general and in Europe in particular pose challenges, and it is therefore vital to promote effective disarmament measures. Disarmament verification will be a high priority for Norway at the General Assembly. Norway will 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, and one of the reasons why it is seeking to become a non-permanent member of the Security Council, is to strengthen the UN's capacity to maintain international peace and security. Norway will intensify its campaign to be elected to the Security Council for the period 2021-2022. The election will take place in 2020.
The UN has a key role to play in preventing and resolving armed conflicts and promoting long-term peace- and democracy-building. The number of collapsed or failed states – and states that are experiencing problems due to lawlessness and porous borders – has risen in recent years, and 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 whole regions. No country is immune to these problems; even developed countries such as Norway are seeing the consequences. 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 placed on fostering peaceful, just and inclusive societies and good governance in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development gives the UN a stronger mandate to engage more broadly in fragile states, including in countries that are not on the Security Council agenda.
Norway will support efforts to strengthen the role of the UN in countries and areas with a high degree of fragility. It is crucial that the various UN instruments are seen in relation to one another, and that an integrated and coordinated approach to addressing global security challenges is taken. 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 fragile states. Norway will attach particular importance to strengthening the financing of UN conflict prevention efforts, and will seek to ensure that the recommendations are followed up, so that UN peace operations in the field become more effective. Norway will also work to ensure that the UN development system steps up its efforts in fragile situations.
The UN's response to the crises in the Middle East/the Gulf, the Sahel region, South Sudan, Somalia and the Great Lakes region (Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo) will be given priority. Norway will also promote the involvement of the UN in finding a solution to the Ukraine crisis 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 play an active role in ensuring that the UN works to safeguard human rights through peace operations and other international operations. This includes working to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by personnel serving in operations with a UN mandate and ensuring that any such allegations are properly dealt with.
Norway will actively support the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). We will also support the implementation of both the Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, including in 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.
The action points set out in the white paper on global security challenges will form the basis for Norway's work in this area. Global security challenges must be dealt with in accordance with international law, including human rights obligations. To ensure that this is done, Norway will play an active role in the development of UN policy, and will seek to make sure that UN resources are specifically targeted for this purpose.
Norway will actively support measures to prevent and combat violent extremism and terrorism. Norway will seek to ensure that the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is in line with human rights and other international norms. The effective implementation of the Secretary-General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism will be given high priority by Norway.
The implementation of Security Council resolution 2178 (2014) on foreign terrorist fighters will also continue to be a key priority. Norway will work to ensure that the gender dimension is reflected to a greater extent in efforts to prevent and combat violent extremism. One of Norway's main aims will be to mobilise young people in the fight against terrorism and extremism. In this context, Norway will participate in meetings and events aimed at identifying measures to prevent children and young people, in particular, from being recruited to extremist organisations.
Respect for international law
Norway will promote respect for international law and an international legal order.
Norway will maintain its commitment to promoting the rule of law at both national and international level. Norway will be open to the possibility of developing new instruments that are politically binding and binding under international law 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. The most important discussion relating to the law of the sea in the UN now 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 beyond areas of national jurisdiction. In June 2015, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the development of an international legally-binding instrument under the UN Convention on this issue, and a preparatory committee has been established to make recommendations on the elements of a draft text by the end 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. This year, 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 people 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 will follow the work of the International Law Commission closely, 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. Topics relevant for Norway's core interests that are dealt with in the Sixth Committee (the primary forum for the consideration of legal questions in the General Assembly) will be followed closely.
Norway will seek to strengthen its already leading role in 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 play an active role in ensuring that the protection and promotion of human rights is given priority in all UN activities, for example by continuing to support the Secretary-General's Human Rights Up Front initiative and promoting increased financing of the UN's third pillar.
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 to combat religious intolerance and hate speech. Norway will also continue to work to ensure civil society participation in UN processes.
Norway will play a key role in the work on the resolution on the death penalty, and will maintain its commitment to achieve the abolition of the death penalty. This commitment was highlighted when Norway hosted the sixth World Congress against the Death Penalty in Oslo in June 2016.
Norway will pursue an active dialogue with UN Special Representatives and will oppose attempts to undermine their independence and integrity.
Ensuring equality and equal opportunities for all, not least vulnerable groups, is in line with the 2030 Agenda's commitment to 'leave no one behind'. This will also guide Norway's priorities during the 71st General Assembly.
Norwegian representatives will participate actively in the discussions on resolutions relating to women's rights and gender equality, in particular the resolution relating to violence against women. Norway will also work to ensure that a gender perspective is integrated into the work of all the committees of the General Assembly.
Norway will continue to play a leading 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 the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Norway will draw attention to the benefits of greater gender equality, such as its positive impact on peace, economic growth and sustainable development.
Norway will work systematically, in alliances with other countries, to safeguard what has been achieved in terms of establishing a normative framework for women's rights. Norway will counter any attempts to weaken obligations, particularly those relating to sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights, inheritance and property rights, and the elimination of discrimination against women in marriage and family relations. Priority areas for Norway will be girls' education, combating violence and harmful customs and practices, the work to gain 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 on women, peace and security. A gender perspective is to be incorporated into all our peace and security efforts. We will work to promote women's participation in mediation, peace processes and peace operations.
Whenever Norway participates in the governing bodies of development organisations, it will promote the gender perspective as a cross-cutting issue and call for resources to be allocated and routines established to support this.
Norway will urge the new Secretary-General to give priority to increasing the recruitment of women to leadership positions, and to ensuring that all leaders in the UN system give due consideration to the gender perspective.
Refugees and migrants
New global solutions are needed to deal with the large flows of refugees and migrants that we are currently seeing. This will be the main topic of discussion at the two summits on the refugee and migrant crisis. A clearer distinction needs to be made between migrants and refugees. We will also work to preserve states' freedom of action in this area and to ensure that more countries take responsibility for and cooperate on the return of people who are not entitled to legal residence. Norway will actively support measures to create growth, jobs and education opportunities in countries that are affected by war and conflict and in countries hosting large groups of refugees. We will endorse the outcome document to be adopted at the High-Level Meeting on 19 September and support the work to develop two global compacts, one for refugees and one for migrants, which are due to be finalised in 2018. Norway will work to ensure that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has a key role to play in future efforts to address migration.
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 the work to follow up the World Humanitarian Summit that was held in May 2016, 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 sheer scale of humanitarian need in the world today has placed considerable pressure on humanitarian budgets, both in Norway and elsewhere. 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 the humanitarian crises highlight the need to allocate far more resources to conflict prevention and resolution.
In accordance with the recommendations of the UN General-Secretary's High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, Norway will work actively to identify ways of closing 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. Norway will also be at the forefront of efforts to ensure better cooperation and coordination within the UN and between the various UN actors and the development banks, particularly in protracted crises. Norway will seek to increase the proportion of global humanitarian aid that is allocated to education in crisis and conflict situations to four percent and will support the new
Education Cannot Wait fund with a view to ensuring increased financing and better coordination of efforts in this area.
Norway will work to promote respect for humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law. Top priority will be given to protection of civilians, refugees, internally displaced persons and other vulnerable groups, including in the negotiations on the humanitarian omnibus resolution in the General Assembly.
Norway will work to strengthen the protection of schools and education. Priority will be given to efforts to encourage more UN member states to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, with a view to preventing the military use of schools and universities, and ensuring that military forces and other actors do not attack schools in conflict situations.
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 prevention and risk management are given priority in national development plans.
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.
Norway will work to promote the effective implementation of the SDGs and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. It is important that all countries take responsibility for setting national development priorities that will enable them to achieve the SDGs. Norway will work to strengthen national resource mobilisation, including through taxation and countering illicit financial flows. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda will require closer cooperation between countries and between different parts of the UN system. Closer coordination with the World Bank and the regional development banks is essential, as is a clearer division of responsibility between these organisations. Norway will work to promote good intergovernmental arenas for international cooperation with a view to achieving the SDGs, closer cooperation between the UN's many development organisations and sound knowledge-based monitoring of global progress.
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. Norway will continue to clearly express its expectations of the UN development organisations. In particular, we will work to ensure that the UN development system uses the 2030 Agenda as a stimulus for more effective, strategic and coordinated action. This year's negotiations on the next resolution on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of UN operational activities will be very important in this context. Over the last couple of years, the financial contributions to the UN development system have been reduced. 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.
Norway is working to promote the development of a modern UN that can produce concrete results. This requires reforms, both at headquarters level and in the field. Norway will therefore play an active role in ensuring that processes aimed at strengthening and improving the efficiency of the organisation are continued and intensified under the new Secretary-General. This will also apply to the UN's intergovernmental bodies, which must be able to adapt to respond to new challenges and the demands of the 2030 Agenda. The UN70: A New Agenda project is Norway's most important contribution to the UN reform process in the lead-up to the appointment of the new Secretary-General.
Norway will continue to seek to improve the UN's ability to carry out effective operations in the field and work in a coherent and coordinated way at country level. This will require reforms, both at headquarters level and 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/humanitarian efforts. Norway will work to ensure that these priorities are clearly reflected in the next resolution on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of UN operational activities for development.
If the UN is to retain its relevance in today's world, it must also 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). Norway will work to ensure that the UN plays its part in developing a more coherent and effective multilateral system.
Due to the fact that major contributors to the UN have had to make budget cuts, the UN regular budget is currently under severe pressure. Norway will work in intergovernmental forums and in the governing bodies of individual organisations to ensure that the need for stringent cost-saving measures does not hamper the ongoing processes of reform in the UN. We will also seek to ensure that a larger share of the UN's regular budget is allocated to the UN's human rights efforts, and to secure more substantial and predictable financing in the areas of conflict prevention and resolution, as well as for the UN's efforts in fragile situations.
Norway will seek to prevent UN member states from micromanaging 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 assess the UN's use of resources on a regular basis. We will work to ensure that the UN continues to promote measures to combat financial irregularities, and that it builds a culture of accountability, strengthens internal oversight, and identifies cost-saving and efficiency-enhancing measures that do not negatively affect the quality of its work.