Priorities for Norway at the UN General Assembly 2014

The 69th session of the UN General Assembly will open with a week of high-level meetings from 22 to 26 September 2014. This year there will be a Climate Summit convened by the Secretary-General and a special session on population and development. The Prime Minister will chair a meeting to promote implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. A number of high-profile events will focus on the work to develop a set of post-2015 global sustainable development goals.

Foto: Nick Corble/UN

UN General Assembly Meeting Hall. Photo: Nick Corble, UN

The 69th session of the UN General Assembly will open with a week of high-level meetings from 22 to 26 September 2014. The Norwegian delegation will be led by the Prime Minister, and will also include the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Climate and Environment.

This year there will be a Climate Summit convened by the Secretary-General and a special session on population and development. In addition, the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples will be held on 22 and 23 September. The Prime Minister will chair a meeting to promote implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. A number of high-profile events will focus on the work to develop a set of post-2015 global sustainable development goals.

Human rights, poverty reduction and gender equality will be cross-cutting issues for Norway. We will work to make the UN more effective and to strengthen the organisation’s role as guardian of international peace and security, international law and justice, human rights, humanitarian principles and sustainable development. We will build alliances with other member states and build on the close cooperation that already exists between the Nordic countries.

The UN General Assembly is the world’s largest international meeting place, and Norwegian politicians will participate in a large number of bilateral and multilateral meetings during the high-level week, including a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) for assistance to the Palestinians.

Peace and security

One of Norway’s overriding goals is to strengthen the UN’s capacity to prevent and resolve armed conflicts and to promote long-term peacebuilding efforts, for example through UN-led operations. The gender perspective is to be included in all Norwegian peace efforts. Norway will work to promote women’s participation in mediation, peace processes and peace operations. Norway will also 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 (R2P) norm. We will also support concrete efforts to enhance the capacity of UN operations to implement wide-ranging protection strategies.

The UN’s response to the crises in the Middle East, the Sahel region, South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic 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 help to develop ideas that can make the Security Council more transparent and effective, in part by participating in the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group of UN member states, which seeks to improve the Council’s working methods.

Norway will support the Secretary-General’s ‘Rights up Front’ initiative, which will be the topic of this year’s Trygve Lie Symposium. The initiative seeks to ensure that the human rights dimension is integrated into all UN activities. The purpose of the initiative is to improve the ability of the UN to use the full breadth of its mandates and activities to protect peoples at risk of, or subject to, grave violations of human rights and/or of international humanitarian law.

Norway will work to enhance the relevance of the UN Peacebuilding Commission at country level, for example through the forthcoming review of the UN peacebuilding architecture. Norway will support initiatives to improve the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping operations that have broad mandates and in which civilian, police and military personnel serve together. We will promote peacebuilding at an early stage and as an integral part of peace operations, with particular emphasis on security sector reform and the development of the rule of law. We will also emphasise the importance of the UN taking a more integrated approach to security challenges such as transnational crime, terrorism, cyber threats and piracy. We will follow discussions on these topics in several committees (including the Economic and Financial Committee, the Legal Committee, the Administrative and Budgetary Committee and the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee).

Norway has ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and will work to ensure its entry into force at the earliest possible date. We will also actively support the implementation of the Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, including in UN humanitarian efforts and development activities. Norway will promote the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted at the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2010.  It is important that the Programme of Action is implemented if the Review Conference in 2015 is to be a success. In this context, Norway will also work actively to ensure that the humanitarian perspective, as highlighted by the Oslo conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, is integrated into further efforts in this field.

Norway will play a very active role in the work to further strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and speed up progress in the area of disarmament. Norway will seek to generate as broad support as possible for the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.

The regional dimension

Any consideration of the relevance of the UN must take into account the growth and emergence of regional organisations and cooperation structures. A growing number of security and development challenges cut across thematic categories and geographic regions. To an increasing extent, economic, social and political integration is taking place at the regional level, and regional organisations such as the African Union (AU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are playing a more important role. Together with the other UN member states, Norway will work to ensure that the UN plays its part in developing a more effective multilateral system that is adapted to meet these new challenges and opportunities.

Sustainable development and UN development activities

Norway will work to promote the achievement by 2015 of all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). High priority will be given to the work carried out by Prime Minister Erna Solberg in her role as co- chair of the UN Secretary-General’s MDG Advocacy Group, a position she holds together with President of Rwanda Paul Kagame. It is important to ensure that the UN and its member states give their clear support to renewed efforts to achieve the MDGs. At the same time, we must now work towards developing a new set of goals to succeed the MDGs in 2015. Following up the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) is a key part of efforts to develop the new global sustainable development goals. Norway has participated actively in the UN’s Open Working Group, which submitted its proposal for a set of sustainable development goals in July 2014.

It was agreed at the Rio+20 Conference that the new goals would apply to all countries. We are seeking the adoption of a set of goals that incorporate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. Poverty reduction, human rights and gender equality will be cross-cutting issues for Norway. An extra effort will be made to promote education, global health, peaceful societies and good governance, women’s rights, climate issues and access to sustainable energy. In this work we will take into account the fact that developing countries should also be able to benefit from the rapid economic and social development afforded by the digital age, particularly in the fields of health and education, and we will support processes that promote this.

We will place particular emphasis on the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4ALL), for example by participating in the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014–2024). Reducing child mortality and improving maternal health will also be priority areas for Norway, as will promoting universal access to health services. Norway will work to ensure that the UN’s new High- level Political Forum on sustainable development becomes a key instrument in the efforts to achieve sustainable development. The Climate Summit 2014 in September will be an important milestone in this context.

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, which include an ability to adapt to new challenges and to a new post-2015 development agenda at both global and country level. In areas where the UN’s approach is agreed on by all the agencies and units within the Secretariat, we expect to see better coordination of UN efforts through effective systems and clear leadership.

We will continue to support the Delivering as One reform process at country level and will continue our active engagement to improve UN leadership and coordination. This will be done through follow-up of the recommendations of the UN Panel on System-wide Coherence and work on integrated peace operations, through consultation processes, negotiations and dialogue with key developing countries, as well as through partnerships with civil society and the private sector. Norway will seek to ensure that the UN coordinates its activities with the World Bank so that the individual organisations are able to exploit their comparative advantages.

Priority will be given to Norway’s role in the preparations for the third international conference on financing for development. We will work to secure support for the conference and its objectives. It is in Norway’s interest to ensure that the objectives are ambitious, yet realistic.

UN leadership and budget

Norway is working to promote the development of a modern UN that can produce concrete results. This will require reforms, both at headquarters level and in the field. Norway will therefore participate in processes that seek to strengthen and improve the efficiency of the organisation.

Due to cuts by major contributors, the UN regular budget is currently under severe pressure. Norway will work to ensure that the need for stringent cost-saving measures does not compromise the adoption and implementation of necessary reforms. We will seek to prevent a situation where UN member states micromanage the UN through the General Assembly. If the Secretariat is to be able to fulfil its mandate, it must have the confidence of the member states to carry out its duties.

Norway will assess the UN’s use of resources on a regular basis. Norway will work to ensure that the UN continues to promote measures to combat financial irregularities, enhance accountability and strengthen internal oversight.

Women’s rights and gender equality

Norway will work to ensure that women’s rights and gender equality are mainstreamed in UN activities. Norway will have a seat on the UN- Women Executive Board until the end of 2014 and is one of the entity’s largest financial contributors. Norway will support the normative role played by UN Women globally. We will seek to ensure that gender equality is also given priority in all UN entities, including UN funds, programmes and specialised agencies, and is integrated into the work of the UN committees. Norway will take a human rights-based approach, while at the same time highlighting the positive effects of gender equality, such as the contribution that women make to peace, economic growth and sustainable development. Girls’ education, sexual and reproductive health and rights, the women, peace and security agenda, and women’s political and economic participation will be priority areas.

Norway will play an active role in negotiations on resolutions relating to women’s rights. Particular importance will be attached to resolutions relating to violence against women, child marriage, the follow-up to the Beijing Conference, and the two resolutions aimed at ending obstetric fistula and female genital mutilation, which are particularly relevant for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Norway will strengthen its partnerships with countries in the South with a view to building broader alliances and securing stronger support for women’s rights and gender equality.

Human rights

In addition to resolutions on women’s rights, Norway will attach particular importance to negotiations on resolutions relating to civil and political rights.

Efforts to promote freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and freedom of  assembly, and to combat religious intolerance, racism and hate speech will be given high priority. Norway will also address the issue of internet freedom, for example by participating in the debate on the right to privacy in the digital age and on issues relating to electronic surveillance.

Two UN resolutions are related to the right to life. Norway will work to increase support for the resolution that calls on all UN member states that have not yet abolished the death penalty to establish a moratorium on its use. Norway will also provide close support to Finland, which is the main sponsor of the Nordic resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Norway will play an active role in preparing for and participating in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September.

Norway will continue to work actively towards securing resolutions on the difficult human rights situations in Syria and North Korea. Together with the other Nordic countries, Norway will follow up the UN’s work on strengthening the human rights treaty bodies.

Norway plays a leading role in the core group for the promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) rights. Issues relating to LGBT rights will, for example, be promoted in connection with Human Rights Day on 10 December. Priority will also be given to maintaining interactive dialogues with UN Special Representatives.

Humanitarian issues

Norway will seek to ensure that humanitarian principles are adhered to and that international humanitarian law is respected. Ensuring rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian actors is a top priority. Norway will work to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and to reduce the number of attacks on medical personnel and equipment. We will seek to prevent hospitals and schools from being used by armed groups and to ensure that people who are forced to flee their homes receive the protection and assistance they need. We will give priority to efforts to improve access to sexual and reproductive health services in humanitarian crises.

These priority areas will be key topics in the negotiations on the humanitarian omnibus resolution in the General Assembly. Norway will support the efforts of affected countries to prevent and manage humanitarian crises, while at the same time seeking to strengthen cooperation between humanitarian and development actors. Norway will also work to ensure that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN humanitarian system gain a broader range of supporters and partners, including among UN member states, the private sector and national and regional organisations.

At the same time, Norway will continue to be one of the UN’s closest supporters and partners in responding to humanitarian crises. We will also continue to call for OCHA and the international humanitarian system to be made more effective, and to support the work being done in the lead-up to the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. In its preparations for the summit, Norway will give priority to issues relating to conflict-affected areas and will promote gender equality as a cross-cutting issue.

Promotion of justice and international law

Issues relating to the law of the sea and fisheries are important for Norway. This is particularly true of discussions on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in international sea areas and efforts to secure sufficient resources to support the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. In the area of fisheries, priorities for Norway include food security and efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. We will also work on measures designed to improve safety in the shipping industry.

In the UN Legal Committee, Norway’s focus will be on combating impunity and on strengthening international criminal law. This involves seeking to prevent a narrowing of the scope of application of the principle of universal jurisdiction, as this would limit the international community’s capacity to prosecute those responsible for the most serious forms of crime.

Norway’s interest in maintaining a stable international legal order also applies to the digital space. Norway will follow discussions on issues relating to the digital space in key forums. One of our primary objectives is to ensure that international law is adhered to and respected in the digital space. This means taking part in discussions aimed at securing an internationally agreed understanding of the principles of international law and its application in this area.

We will follow the work of the International Law Commission closely, particularly its work on immunity for state officials and on other issues that have direct relevance for Norway’s core interests.

Following up the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law, held in 2012, will continue to be a key issue for Norway. We will work to ensure that the High-level Meeting is followed up in a plenary session of the General Assembly rather than in the Legal Committee, as this is such an important area and one that concerns all three main pillars of the UN: peace and security, development and human rights.