Historisk arkiv

Norway and the UN Security Council - our experience so far

Historisk arkiv

Publisert under: Regjeringen Stoltenberg I

Utgiver: Utenriksdepartementet

Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thorbjørn Jagland, 16 May.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Thorbjørn Jagland

Norway and the UN Security Council – our experience so far

Oslo, May 16 2001

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Today I will focus on Norway’s work in the United Nations’ Security Council and our experience so far.

As a small country, it is in our national interest to promote an international community based on the UN Charter, on international law and on binding intergovernmental cooperation.

It was therefore a logical step for us to seek membership in the United Nations’ Security Council. We succeeded in getting elected due to the support of many of the countries that you are representing here today. Again, I would like to express my gratitude for your support, as well as my desire for expanded contact and cooperation on relevant UN and Security Council issues in the months and years to come.

As you are aware, a good deal of the work of the Security Council involves political crisis management. The handling of ongoing crises and conflicts. The Security Council’s agenda is therefore heavily influenced by international events.

What experience have we gained during these four months?

First of all, as chair of the sanctions committee on Iraq we have made a thorough study of the various aspects of the sanctions regime and how it works in practice. We recognize that the sanctions are not having the intended effects and that they need to be adjusted.

In this work, we must ensure that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi population are met as far as possible. But at the same time we must make sure that Iraq is prevented from developing weapons of mass destruction.

If we are to achieve these goals, the sanctions must be made more effective and targeted.

How can we do this?

First of all, we must try to facilitate the import of goods that will alleviate the hardships suffered by the general population in Iraq.

Secondly, we must practise more stringent control of goods that are likely to contribute to the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Thirdly, we must ensure that all revenues from Iraqi oil exports remain under UN control. Iraq must be prevented from keeping back any of the oil revenues.

Norway’s approach to the Iraq issue coincides to a large degree with the ideas of other key members of the Security Council. We are at present engaged in an intensive dialogue on the best way of pursuing these goals without weakening Resolution 1284.

We would like to see these changes implemented during the bi-annual revision of the oil-for-food programme, which will be concluded in early June. But of course this will depend on agreement being reached among the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Independently of the Iraq issue, the Security Council is currently having a general discussion on the use of sanctions.

My view is that sanctions – of all kinds, including economic – must be authorised by a decision in the Security Council.

Sanctions can be an effective instrument in the hands of the international community for altering a state’s conduct. At the same time, the aim of sanctions must not be to punish, but to change a situation.

In practice, sanctions are the only instrument available to the Security Council that lies between words on the one hand and military force on the other. The decision to impose sanctions is always a difficult one, but the alternative is often worse. The Security Council must therefore continue to be able to make use of this instrument when a specific situation demands it.

Refusing to make use of sanctions leaves us with two choices: military force or apathy and indifference.

All the sanctions regimes now in existence have been adopted since 1990. Our experience in this regard is mixed.

We need to make sanctions more effective and to target them more specifically, so that they primarily affect the real decision-makers in the state concerned. At the same time, care must be taken to minimise the sufferings of the civilian population.

Sanctions should as a rule have a time frame. This means that when the time limit is up, the Security Council has an opportunity to make a thorough assessment of whether the objective has been achieved or whether the sanctions need to be continued or adjusted.

A deadline helps to ensure that sanctions regimes receive broad support in the Security Council over time, and that they are not automatically continued without a thorough review.

Norway always emphasises the need to carry out comprehensive analyses of the humanitarian consequences of sanctions. Such analyses should be carried out both before the sanctions are implemented and after we have seen what effects they have.

Ladies and gentlemen,

But in addition to Iraq and sanctions, we have also dealt with a number of other current issues – ranging from Haiti to East Timor, from Serbia to Liberia.

All in all, the Security Council has dealt with more than 100 issues related to the maintenance of international peace and security over the almost five months we have been a member.

Most of the issues have been difficult, politically sensitive and of great concern to the countries and regions affected.

In addition to dealing with a number of current issues, we have tried to concentrate on the following three areas as regards our long-term work in the Security Council:

  • The underlying causes of conflict and war - such as poverty, under-development, inequality and oppression,
  • The need to strengthen the United Nations’ ability to carry out peace operations, and
  • The challenges facing Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We must ensure that the United Nations makes every effort to promote peace and security in Africa.

Today, about two-thirds of the matters on the Council’s agenda are related to conflicts in Africa.

Most of the conflicts in Africa are internal and have resulted in widespread human suffering and loss of human life. Many have their origins in ethnic differences, and others again in poverty and oppression, and in the struggle over the right to exploit natural resources such as petroleum or diamonds.

Our desire to focus on the underlying causes of conflict and war is especially relevant to the situation in Africa.

Unfortunately, we have to recognise the fact that the Security Council has had limited success in its efforts to manage these conflicts.

The Secretary-General’s recent reports on the UN operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Sierra Leone, clearly show the difficulties facing the UN in these very complex peace operations.

Economic motives are among the most important driving forces behind many African conflicts. Natural resources are being plundered and precious stones such as diamonds are being traded to help finance the hostilities. Often the economic interests behind such exploitation help to keep the conflict going.

The trade in goods of this kind is carried out through middlemen and in international markets with easy access to weapons. Thus the responsibility for dealing with these problems lies with the international community as well as the African countries involved.

We must do what we can to develop more effective instruments to contain these threats to peace and security. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to implement effective and targeted sanctions that directly affect the decision-makers that are profiting from the conflicts.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s conflicts – be they in the Middle East or Sierra Leone, in Kosovo, Haiti or East Timor – are often very complex. Political, economic, ethnic and social differences reinforce each other and fuel mistrust and hatred, discrimination and violence.

Complex conflicts are of course difficult to resolve. Most of all they require a coherent approach and cooperation between many different players. This involves the coordinated and coherent use of a broad range of measures - from military intervention and building up a police force and a judicial system, to humanitarian assistance and more traditional long-term development assistance.

A comprehensive security concept is therefore especially relevant to the work of the Security Council.

Comprehensive security means that we cannot maintain security by military force alone. Long-term stability and development means giving everyone a chance, playing by democratic rules and ensuring an equitable distribution of both goods and burdens. This applies at both the national and the international level.

Recently a number of Red Cross personnel were brutally murdered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the last ten years 90 per cent of the victims of hostilities have been civilians Comprehensive security also comprises protection of civilians, including humanitarian personnel.

At this moment - while I am speaking to you - there are several dozen wars going on in various parts of the world. And at least as many latent conflicts that can erupt into violence at any time.

All experience shows that it is much simpler and cheaper to prevent conflicts from breaking out than to stop a war that has already begun.

We must therefore prevent and resolve conflicts before violence takes over. The main responsibility for this naturally lies with the leaders of the country concerned. But the international community must also do its share.

Norway has been active for a long time in the efforts to strengthen the United Nations’ capacity for implementing conflict prevention measures. We recently took the initiative to establish the UN fund for preventive diplomacy, which serves as a resource that, for example, the Secretary-General can draw on in order to support peace and reconciliation processes. We have also supported the efforts to make the UN more active in the "early warning" of potential conflicts, and we support the sending of UN missions to conflict areas.

The Secretary-General will be publishing a report on conflict prevention in the near future. This report will have important implications for the efforts to enhance the UN’s capacity for conflict prevention.

But the United Nations cannot do everything. Regional organisations must support the UN’s efforts by taking responsibility for preventing and resolving conflicts in their respective regions. It is especially important to strengthen the regional organisations in Africa. At the same time, it is important that African countries themselves - in close cooperation with the UN - take greater responsibility for preventing and resolving conflicts on their continent.

Ladies and gentlemen,

UN peace operations have gradually developed from purely military forces in a buffer zone between two parties, to complex and multi-functional operations with a significant civilian component. Several of these operations - for example in East Timor - are primarily concerned with rebuilding a damaged society.

The requirements of modern peace operations are making new demands on the UN and its member countries. Last autumn a panel of experts headed by the previous Algerian foreign minister, Lakhdar Brahimi, presented a number of recommendations for improving the planning and organisation of UN peace operations.

The recommendations are based on a comprehensive security concept and advocate a broad set of instruments for conflict management before, during and after hostilities.

This is entirely in line with our own thinking, and Norway has prepared its own strategy for following up the Brahimi report.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Membership of the Security Council is an important but also a difficult job for Norway. It poses a great challenge for all aspects of Norwegian foreign policy. The day-to-day work of the Council takes up a good deal of time, resources and energy.

But at the same time membership is giving us better insight into complex conflicts and threats to our common security – in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America and in Europe. It forces us to be continuously involved - together with the other members of the Council - in trying to arrive at constructive solutions and compromises.

But before I conclude, I would like to say a few words about the current situation in the Middle East.

You may be aware that I have just returned from a visit to the region, which included bilateral meetings with Chairman Arafat, Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Khatib of Jordan.

Norway has long played an active role in advancing the peace process in the Middle East. The recent unrest and violence in the region has caused the situation to be taken up in the Security Council. Only yesterday the Palestinians requested the Security Council to consider the latest Israeli military actions in Gaza and the West Bank. The present situation is both serious and dangerous, and may threaten the political stability of the entire region.

We must now look ahead and base ourselves on the diplomatic initiatives that are trying to drive the process forward. The most important tasks are to reduce the level of violence and to stabilise the situation.

What is being done?

The peace plan proposed by Egypt and Jordan is one of the few diplomatic initiatives that may result in some progress in the short term.

Another initiative that will hopefully help to stabilise the situation in the region is the report by the Mitchell Committee, or the "Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee", to give it its official name. The committee’s mandate was to investigate the background for the new wave of violence in the region and to make proposals on how to advance the peace process.

The report contains a number of specific recommendations that must be followed up by both sides in the conflict. These should prepare the ground for the resumption of negotiations. I hope that the Mitchell report will lead to a resumption of the peace process, and that all the involved parties will give it their active support.

Thank you.