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Norway’s main priorities for the 74th session of the UN General Assembly

Here are Norway's main priorities for the 74th session of the UN General Assembly - where the most important is to promote the country's candidature for a seat in the UN Security Council 2021-2022.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg will lead the Norwegian delegation to the UN General Assembly's general debate. Credit: UN Photo
Prime Minister Erna Solberg will lead the Norwegian delegation to the UN General Assembly's general debate. Credit: UN Photo

Main priorities:

Background

The UN General Assembly is the world’s most representative multilateral forum for dialogue and policy development. It is a unique arena for promoting Norwegian interests, for international cooperation, and for finding solutions to issues of key importance to Norway, in line with the overall guidelines for Norwegian multilateral policy, as set out in the white paper Norway’s Role and Interests in Multilateral Cooperation (Meld. St. 27 (2018-2019)).

The 74th session of the UN General Assembly will open on 17 September 2019 at UN Headquarters in New York, and will begin with the inauguration of the new President, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria. During the high-level week, from 23-27 September, heads of state and government and other leaders from all countries of the world will meet in New York in connection with the General Debate. Norway’s delegation will be led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg. The Norwegian delegation will take part in the General Debate, and in high-level meetings and side events. Talks will also be held with a number of countries and organisations.

The 74th session of the UN General Assembly lasts until September 2020. The negotiations in the General Assembly and its six main committees will continue throughout the session, and Norway will be represented by the Norwegian Permanent Mission to the UN in New York and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant ministries in Oslo. Observers from the Storting and representatives of Norwegian civil society organisations will also participate. In addition to these instructions, a number of other documents are being drawn up that will set out detailed priorities and goals for the negotiations in the General Assembly’s various committees.

In parallel with the work in the General Assembly, Norway will participate actively in the UN Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc). Ecosoc is the UN’s main body for the formulation of development policy. Norway’s Ambassador to the UN was elected President of Ecosoc in July 2019, for a one-year period. During its presidency of Ecosoc, Norway will aim to strengthen this key part of the multilateral system, which is so crucial for the UN’s work at country level.

1. Promote Norway’s candidature for a seat on the UN Security Council

Given the fact that the Security Council election will take place during this session of the General Assembly, the most important aim for Norway’s delegation this year is to secure enough support from member states for Norway’s candidature for a seat on the Council for the period 2021-22. The election will be held in June 2020.

Norway is competing with Canada and Ireland in the Western European and Others Group for two seats on the Security Council. In 2021 it will be 20 years since Norway was last a member of the Council.

The Security Council is the only body with responsibility for international peace and security that has a mandate to adopt resolutions that are binding under international law. If Norway is elected to a seat on the Security Council, the Government will seek to safeguard national and global interests by:

  • strengthening the UN, international law and the multilateral order;
  • helping to prevent, de-escalate and resolve wars and conflicts;
  • shouldering responsibility and strengthening relations with other countries, both within and outside the Security Council. 

2. Promote binding international cooperation and safeguard the multilateral system

International cooperation is vital for Norway’s security, economy and welfare. We are seeing a tendency to move away from addressing common challenges through compromise and cooperation in multilateral organisations. At the same time, the world is facing major global challenges that no country can solve alone. The UN must adapt to this situation. A key goal of the Government’s foreign policy is therefore to promote binding international cooperation and safeguard the multilateral system, so that we can improve our ability to deal with common challenges, while defending Norwegian and global interests.

  • Norway will support the implementation of the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly on the reform of UN management, the reform of the UN peace and security pillar, and the reform of the UN development system. Norway will work to secure better financing for the UN, and the Norwegian delegation will work to promote system-wide coherence and ensure that the UN works effectively across its three pillars: peace and security, human rights, and development.
  • The Norwegian delegation will work to promote results-based management in UN institutions, and to ensure that the UN has the funding and flexibility it needs to fulfil its mandates. The delegation will also work to ensure that the UN’s resources are managed effectively.
  • The delegation will promote effective cooperation across the traditional and regional divides of the General Assembly. It will seek to build bridges, listen, and use constructive diplomacy to facilitate solutions for the common good.
  • The delegation will work to strengthen the relationship between the General Assembly and the Security Council, and will actively promote Security Council reform and greater transparency in the work of the Council.
  • In 2020, the UN will mark its 75th anniversary. The delegation will play its part in ensuring a fitting celebration of the anniversary.

3. Strengthen the UN’s capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts

Norway will seek to strengthen the UN’s capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts, with a view to promoting peaceful and sustainable development. In Norway’s view, the UN should focus its efforts on countries and areas with high levels of fragility. It is crucial that UN efforts are coordinated and coherent. In order to achieve the best possible results, cooperation between the UN and other multilateral organisations, such as the World Bank and the regional development banks, is vital. 

  • Norway’s broad involvement in peace and reconciliation efforts has given us important experience and a unique position in this area. The delegation will seek to foster dialogue between parties to conflict and other relevant actors.
  • Norway chairs the international donor group for Palestine (AHLC), whose main task is to develop the foundation for a future Palestinian state. The UN is a key partner in this work. The donor group holds its annual ministerial meeting in New York during the high-level week. The AHLC is the only international forum that brings together the parties to the conflict and the donors for regular meetings to discuss measures that could enhance the prospects of reaching a negotiated two-state solution. The Norwegian delegation will seek to ensure that this work is continued and strengthened.
  • Norway gives high priority to efforts to promote the women, peace and security agenda. The delegation will work to increase the proportion of women participating at all levels of UN peace operations, both as civilian and military personnel. The delegation will work to strengthen women’s participation in peace processes and to ensure that the gender perspective is integrated into peace and security efforts, and will encourage countries to commit to concrete action in this area.
  • The General Assembly is a key arena for the work on disarmament. Norway is working actively to promote disarmament and processes that can bring countries closer together on this issue. Norway chaired the Group of Governmental Experts on Nuclear Disarmament Verification,which recently presented a report that recognises the crucial importance of verification in the process of nuclear disarmament and for achieving a world without nuclear weapons. The development of a credible multilateral verification regime is therefore vital for promoting disarmament. The delegation will contribute to negotiations on a new resolution that builds on the work of the Group of Governmental Experts, and that provides a basis for further efforts on disarmament verification within the framework of the UN.
  • Regional organisations have an important role to play in maintaining international peace and security, as the UN Charter makes clear. The partnership between the UN and the African Union (AU) is particularly important. The Norwegian delegation will work actively to strengthen this partnership, especially in the field of peace and security.
  • The delegation will work, in particular in cooperation with small island states, to raise awareness of the significance of issues relating to the oceans and climate change for international peace and security.
  • Norway is working to improve the effectiveness and coordination of UN peace operations. The Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative (A4P) is giving renewed impetus to efforts to implement the recommendations made by the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations in 2015. This year, too, the Norwegian delegation will actively support the initiative, including through the Group of Friends on UN Peace Operations.
  • The delegation will participate actively in UN efforts to combat international terrorism and violent extremism. Preventing violent extremism is a priority area.
  • Transnational organised crime is both a development policy and a security policy challenge. The activities of criminal networks are often a driving force behind – and an important source of funding in – conflicts. The Norwegian delegation will promote the implementation of targeted measures to identify and combat these networks.
  • The delegation will seek to maintain the international consensus that has been reached that international law also applies in cyberspace, in line with the reports issued by the UN Group of Governmental Experts for this field (GGE). Developments in this area must be based on consensus and on the previously adopted recommendations of the GGE. The delegation will support the UN in its work to promote greater understanding of the application of international law in cyberspace. 

4. Promote the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, with a particular focus on the oceans, climate change, education, gender equality, health, and domestic resource mobilisation.

 

The 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the UN member states in 2015. The 2030 Agenda is a global roadmap for sustainable development designed to benefit all people. It is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it commits states to leave no one behind. Priority must therefore be given to development that benefits vulnerable and marginalised groups.

Norway is an important partner for the UN and for developing countries in the efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. The UN Secretary-General has given Prime Minister Erna Solberg a leading international role in this area as co-chair of the group of SDG Advocates. Norway is following up the Agenda by providing financial contributions to UN funds, programmes and specialised agencies, by providing core funding for multilateral development banks’ funds for the poorest countries, and by engaging in bilateral cooperation. Norway will also use its presidency of Ecosoc in 2019-2020 to help ensure that the 2030 Agenda and SDGs are followed up in a coherent way.

If we are to succeed in achieving all 17 SDGs, we must further develop global partnerships and strengthen cooperation with the private sector and civil society, and forge new partnerships with countries and other actors that we have not worked so closely with before.

  • Again this year, the delegation will work to ensure that human rights are integrated into efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, with a focus on the overall objectives of leaving no one behind and promoting women’s rights and participation. In addition, priority will be given to addressing the needs of vulnerable groups, such as children, religious minorities, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and sexual minorities.

  • The delegation will seek to inject new momentum into the efforts to implement the SDGs, by promoting political commitments, strategic priorities and constructive partnerships.

In particular, the delegation will work to secure good results in the following areas: 

Climate change – which is threatening our efforts to reduce poverty and build peaceful societies

International cooperation has led to the adoption of the Climate Change Convention in 1992, and the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda in 2015. Norway must make the best possible use of this international framework. It is the most vulnerable groups who are most severely affected by climate change, and climate change is posing a threat to our efforts to reduce poverty. There is also growing recognition of the fact that climate change is a global security challenge and an underlying cause of conflict.

  • A Climate Summit will be held during the high-level week. With a focus on areas where Norway is in a particularly strong position to exert an influence, Norway’s delegation will work to secure a political outcome that strengthens the engagement of world leaders and their willingness to make commitments in this field. The impacts of climate change on the oceans are a priority area.
  • The delegation will work to put climate change adaptation and the prevention of climate-related and natural disasters on the international agenda.
  • Norway’s delegation will support the UN Secretary-General’s leadership on climate change. The high-level meeting to review progress made on the SAMOA Pathway (SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action) is important for Norway. Norway’s delegation will seek to contribute to the efforts to ensure that these countries are as well equipped as possible to deal with climate change and that they are able to strengthen their capacity to respond to natural disasters.
  • The delegation will work to strengthen efforts to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable food production.

Clean and healthy oceans – which are crucial to human survival

Issues relating to the Law of the Sea and ocean management are of great importance to Norway. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provides the framework for international cooperation on conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources. There is growing pressure on the marine environment and marine resources in several parts of the world. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing) and certain forms of fisheries subsidies are resulting in overfishing. The negotiations on a new agreement, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction are a high priority for Norway.  

Marine litter, including plastics and microplastics, is threatening to destroy the enormous potential that lies in the oceans. Norway is participating in the Global Campaign Against Plastic Pollution, an initiative launched by the President of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, and is a major contributor to the World Bank’s efforts to combat marine litter. The Prime Minister chairs the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which is made up of heads of government from a number of coastal states around the world. The High-level Panel will continue to cooperate closely with the UN and with other international ocean initiatives. Norway is hosting the Our Ocean conference in October this year, which will be an important contribution to efforts in this area in the run-up to the UN Ocean Conference in 2020.

  • Norway’s delegation will seek to ensure that the recommendations of the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy are successfully integrated into the UN’s agenda.
  • The delegation will seek to increase international recognition of the economic importance of the oceans, and of the need to promote sustainable use of marine resources and clean and healthy oceans as a source of value creation. It is important to ensure that women are given the same opportunities as men to contribute, and to benefit from, the development of new industries.  
  • The delegation will seek to strengthen and further develop the Law of the Sea as the basis for sound ocean management and the sustainable use of resources. 

Gender equality – which leads to greater welfare and democracy

Norway is working to enhance understanding of the benefits to society of promoting women’s and girls’ empowerment and influence. Norway will work to eliminate harmful practices such as child marriage and all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls, as well as attempts to disempower women and girls and limit their self-determination. We must tap into the enormous potential that women and girls represent and promote their social and economic participation. At the international level, work to promote gender equality is increasingly regarded as one of the keys to addressing several of the greatest challenges the world is facing, including those relating to climate change, the economy and global health. At the same time, efforts to promote gender equality are meeting strong opposition in some countries, particularly when it comes to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Targeted efforts and proactive alliance building are therefore essential. One of the SDGs is devoted to gender quality, and promoting gender equality is a priority for Norway.

  • Norway’s delegation will work to ensure that the gender perspective and respect for women’s rights are integrated into the efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, and will promote the adoption of binding commitments in this area in the UN General Assembly.
  • The delegation will work to improve women’s and girls’ access to education and health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, particularly in areas affected by crisis and conflict.
  • The delegation will also give priority to efforts to promote women’s participation in the labour market and in business, as well as in politics and governance.

Education – which is essential for social and economic development   

Norway will highlight the fundamental importance of high-quality, relevant education for all social and economic development. Priority is being given to promoting high-quality education, girls’ education, education in situations of crisis and conflict, vocational training, and investment in the education sector. Norway is playing a prominent role in promoting innovation and the use of technology as part of the efforts to ensure education for all. Norway is also co-chair of the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning. UN funds, programmes and organisations are important channels for Norwegian aid to the education sector.

  • Norway’s delegation will promote coordination between organisations, funds and programmes with a view to maximising the effectiveness of aid for education.
  • The delegation will work to ensure that education remains high on the UN agenda and that member states fulfil their commitments in this area. These include promoting access to education for all and domestic resource mobilisation for education.
  • The delegation will work to improve coordination between humanitarian aid and long-term development efforts in the field of education. The delegation will highlight the importance of education in situations of crisis and conflict.
  • The delegation will give priority to inclusive education, including education for children and young people with disabilities.

Good health – which is vital for sustainable development

UN funds, programmes and organisations are important channels and partners for Norwegian aid to the health sector. The health sector cannot be viewed in isolation from other sectors. Other sectors have a key role to play in promoting good nutrition and food security. Marine resource management is an area where there is huge potential in this regard.   

  • Norway’s delegation will work to ensure that children and young people have access to health services, and will promote measures that can reduce sexual violence and sexual harassment, particularly in humanitarian crises and conflict situations.
  • The delegation will work across regional groups of countries to help establish international norms and standards, mobilise funding and protect global public goods.
  • The delegation will work to ensure that the high-level meeting on universal health coverage, which is being held during the high-level week, is successful and is followed up effectively. Norway is participating in a cross-regional group that focuses on health as a global public good and an important foreign policy issue.  

Domestic resource mobilisation – which is the key to financing the SDGs

It is estimated that close to 90 % of the financing needed to reach several of the key SDGs will have to come from domestic sources. If used wisely to promote domestic resource mobilisation, aid can dramatically increase domestic revenues, promote a greater sense of ownership at the national level and lead to more sustainable public financing.

If we are to succeed in fighting corruption and illicit financial flows, as well as in increasing tax revenues in poor countries, a coordinated global effort is needed to improve tax systems, combat money laundering and ensure that corruption cases are properly investigated and prosecuted.  

Norway will play a prominent role in the discussions on financing for development during the General Assembly, and will for example participate in the high-level dialogue on financing for development to be held during the high-level week.

  • Norway’s delegation will promote the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, and will give priority to important issues such as illegal financial flows and the fight against corruption.
  • The delegation will emphasise the need for responsible borrowing and lending practices to prevent the risk of new debt problems undermining progress towards the SDGs.
  • The delegation will also highlight women’s role in and contribution to delivering economic growth.

5. Strengthen human rights and the international legal order

2018 marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Respect for human rights and fundamental democratic principles is at the core of what Norway stands for. There is growing pressure on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and in a number of countries the situation for civil society actors and human rights defenders is becoming increasingly difficult. Women’s rights are being threatened by groups seeking to reverse the progress made since the first World Conference on Women was held in 1975. The international legal order provides a clear and predictable framework for the use of force, and for ensuring compliance with human rights obligations. The UN’s mandate and unique position in the world mean that it has a special responsibility to work to ensure that several decades of progress in the areas of democracy, human rights, development and international cooperation are not reversed.

  • The delegation will continue Norway’s efforts to protect and promote freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief.

  • The delegation will work to ensure that global efforts to promote women’s rights are not undermined. It is particularly important to protect women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

  • At this year’s UN General Assembly, a high-level commemorative event will be held to mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The delegation will encourage countries to come together to celebrate 30 years of the Convention and highlight the importance of children’s rights.
  • The delegation will continue Norway’s efforts to ensure respect for international law and promote the international legal order. It will support efforts to promote a world order based on the principles set out in the UN Charter and international law. In particular, the delegation will:
  • work to combat impunity, and as in previous years, Norway will express its readiness to participate in discussions on a new convention on the criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission. On behalf of all the Nordic countries, Norway’s delegation will propose disclosing the names of states that are failing to comply with UN requests to establish jurisdiction over crimes committed by their nationals while serving as UN officials or experts on mission so that the perpetrators can be prosecuted or extradited for prosecution;
  • work actively to complete the work on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism;
  • participate actively in the discussions on universal jurisdiction, with a view to preventing the debate from being derailed or undermining our capacity to prevent and respond to the most serious crimes;
  • support the International Law Commission’s work on crimes against humanity, as we have done in previous years.
  • The delegation will ensure that Norway continues to play a key role in UN efforts to further develop the normative framework for the protection and promotion of human rights.
  • Norway will be at the forefront of efforts to ensure that civil society actors are able to participate meaningfully in UN efforts and processes. The delegation will ensure that Norway continues to play a leading role in the negotiations on resolutions on human rights defenders.

6. Strengthen the UN’s capacity to prevent and respond to humanitarian crises, and promote international cooperation on refugees and migrants

Norway will promote compliance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence in its efforts to help and protect people in need of humanitarian assistance.

  • Norway’s delegation will give priority to the efforts to reform the UN humanitarian system to make it more effective, ensure that it receives more funding, and make it better able to deal with the challenges the world is facing.
  • The delegation will advocate closer cooperation between the UN and other multilateral institutions in order to improve coordination between short-term, life-saving humanitarian action and long-term sustainable development efforts. The multilateral development banks have an important role to play in this context.
  • In 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted the Global Compact on Refugees. Norway’s delegation will work to achieve a more effective and better coordinated refugee response, in line with the Refugee Convention and the Global Compact.
  • The delegation will promote the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration and will contribute to processes that seek to address the underlying causes of migration.
  • Norway will be a strong advocate in the UN of the need to improve protection for internally displaced people, and we will help find lasting solutions in this area. Norway has called for the establishment of a high-level panel on internally displaced people, and the delegation will follow this up during the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.
  • The delegation will promote humanitarian innovation and new working methods that lead to a more effective response and better results for people affected by crisis.
  • The delegation will work to strengthen protection for people affected by crisis and conflict, with a particular focus on protection of children and young people, the fight against sexual and gender-based violence, protection of refugees and internally displaced people, and protection against weapons and explosives during and after conflicts.
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