Minister Eide’s remarks at the launch of Norway's new humanitarian strategy

(as delivered)

High Commissioner, dear Filippo, dear Anne Beathe, dear humanitarian friends.

It's fantastic to be here. Anne Beathe said it all, basically, but I would also like to underline a few points that matter a lot in this context from my side, which is first, of course, to echo what has already been said and what is very clearly stated in the strategy, which is that the number of conflicts, the intensity of conflicts, the humanitarian needs that flow from conflict are growing and much more severe than even five years ago, which was not good days. It's just that the world has gotten even more complex.

We have now for decades been dealing with the type of conflicts that came out of state collapse, state failure, civil wars, transnational wars in complex situations, which we kind of got used to working in. But at least we thought that wars between states no longer happened. So at least we had that shift towards the classical conflict between well-organized states to this more disorderly world. But on top of that, wars between states have come back. And sometimes they are the worst wars because the industrial capacity to carry out war is quite staggering when you look at those. And the two interact because the return of strategic competition between key players and the continued disorder in large parts of the world, they interact negatively to make all this even worse.

I think everyone in this room follows the drama in Ukraine on a daily basis. I know for a fact that everybody here follows what's happening in Gaza and in the West Bank, and the Middle Eastern situation on a daily basis. These are very severe and dramatic conflicts, and they need our attention. But they are two out of 110 conflicts, an estimated 110. As a former researcher on international affairs, I'm always careful with numbers, but 110 is as good a number as anyone has. It just illustrates all the forgotten conflicts out there, and many of them are equally severe for the people experiencing the situation but without the same attention. Sudan is one example, but there are many Sudans, many other situations.

And what also is getting more dramatic and more deplorable is that the compliance with IHL and with key humanitarian principles is not growing but falling. And when that happens, particularly in these most visible wars in Ukraine and in Gaza or the Middle East, it is particularly alarming because, in a sense, it sets a negative standard. So Norway has been among the most vocal countries, at least in the West, in saying that if we believe in principles, they have to apply throughout. Let me be very honest with you. Once we've taken a position in favor of Ukraine, which we obviously have because Russia violates every rule in the book, both when it comes to international law and international humanitarian law, it is not that costly for a NATO government to criticize Russia. We should, because it's correct, but it's not really very politically costly.

So if we believe that bombing a flat of civilian apartments in Kherson is wrong with weapons made for the battlefield, we are right. If the same type of bombing happens in Gaza City or in Khan Younis or in Rafah, it's also wrong, and we have to say it there as well, because otherwise, we are sending a signal to the world that this is a menu of principles from which we choose. Or as Groucho Marx once said: These are our principles, and if you don't like them, we have others. And that simply doesn't work. And that has created a very real sense, and understandable, substantiated sense in large parts of the international community, that principles are not as firm as they should be. And that is bad in Gaza, but it's actually also quite terrible for the standing of these norms globally.

So some players out there are then saying: Well, there are no norms. Ha-ha, they are not consistent, so there are no norms. Our answer is, on the contrary, there are norms and they apply throughout. And the same violation needs the same response. So this is a critical point for us to be very clear on humanitarian principles. We're also trying to do this in practice. And I will just mention that, Catherine. I saw you standing up, and I get the point. The point is that we also try in humanitarian diplomacy to actually work on strengthening the understanding, because not all players who violate IHL are aware that they violate IHL, not necessarily that it exists or that this applies to them.

Clearly, criticism and sanctions, but also training, education, making players aware that even in war there are rules, even in humanitarian disasters there are principles, there are certain things that should be shielded from the battlefield, and this is also very high on our common agenda. These were just a few foreign ministers' additions to the excellent presentation that the Minister of International Development already gave.