Tale/innlegg | Dato: 29.11.2012
- What we really need to do is to try to be consistent, predictable, honest, recognizable, and to - rather than to say that this is our brand name - say that “well, observe what we do and see if you recognize us, and see if you can create your own image out of what we are doing, sa utenriksminister Eide i sin innledning.
Referatet er basert på en direkte avskrift fra lydopptaket
Wally Olins, expert on corporate identity and branding,
Norwegian foreign minister Espen Barth Eide,
professor Janne Haaland Matlary from the University of Oslo, and
Elisabeth Grieg, chairman of Grieg Star.
Moderator: Kristoffer Rønneberg.
«Cold, peaceful and boring? A meeting on Norway’s international reputation”
Thank you and congratulations on a great theme, and a great venue. It is good to listen to Wally Olins and his challenge to us all as Norwegians - me as the Foreign Minister, but also everybody else who is Norwegian or who thinks Norwegian or who wants Norway to be important in the world.
I wanted to start with a quote questioning what kind of ambition we are searching. Because I remember very well that Thomas Henry Ylves, who is now the President of Estonia but who used for many years to be the Foreign Minister of Estonia and a very good personal friend of mine, he used to say that “You know Espen” - and he said this to everybody else too – “you know Espen, we want to become like you; another boring Nordic country.”
And his point was that that there had been far more excitement in Estonia’s recent history than they actually needed. So, to become predictable, stable, Nordic, modern, technologically advanced and so on, was much more important to Thomas Ylves and the Estonians - and I think many Estonians agree with him – than to be extremely sexy and fascinating.
Whether they have achieved the second part, is up to others to judge, but they have become the genuinely Nordic country that they strategically set out to be. Their purpose was then not so much branding, but stability, being a NATO-member, an EU-member, organizing the systems - that was their ambition. So there may be other ambitions than being sexy, other ambitions than being recognized all over the world.
And of course there is a methodological question: Do we want everybody to know about us all the time? Or do we want someone to know about us in certain specific contexts?
And I will come back to that. I will also say that one of our major ambitions right now – and you will probably call it branding – is to become more present and more recognized in the emerging markets, in the emerging world in Asia, in Latin-America and parts of Africa where we are seeing most of the growth.
We are living in times where, at least until very recently, we could statically say there was more optimism on the globe than ever before. It was just that it wasn’t here. It wasn’t in Europe or North America, but in a lot of other places. Tomorrow is brighter than yesterday, and the future looks promising. But we are of course, for obvious reasons, more recognized in the more traditional world - North America and Europe – and need to be more present, more visible, more active and more engaged in the part of the world which is now becoming more important.
Then I want to be the first one to confirm that Norway in many statistical respects is a small country. You put on us on number 118 on the population list. If you look at Norway’s economy we are in the low twenties, which means that we are not really among the G20 yet, but we are one of the first ones who aren’t among the 20. That is a rather significant economy.
We have the largest state pension fund. We have the largest welfare system in the world. We are clearly ahead of the Arabs, and a major investor all over the world. We are a significant investor in Europe - seven percent of all the stocks in Europe - and increasingly now in Asia, too. That’s really recognized, perhaps not by everyone, but by the marked that is interested in this issue. We are, as you mentioned, big on oil and gas. In the European context we are one of the three major exporters of gas to Europe, the others being Nigeria and Russia. And there are some Europeans that say that it wouldn’t necessarily be a disadvantage if even more of the gas came from Norway.
And another statistic which I, as the former Defense Minister, take some pride in, but not everybody likes; we have the biggest per capita spending in Europe on military equipment and the seventh largest in the world. And we are also a major exporter, and major importer, of arms. So we are significant in a number of contexts.
But what I think is important is how to manage our success. Because our apparent success - in the sense that we are rich and able to create a stable, peaceful, modern country - may look boring and a little bit irritating at times. That’s one of our real challenges.
And one of the ways to compensate for that is to take a global co-responsibility, which we of course do for several reasons. One is that we believe in it and we think that it is in any small country’s interest to have a stable predictable world. But also in a sense to compensate for the impression left if the only thing you knew was that we were a rich country, which not only found natural resources, but also managed them well.
Another way is to share our experiences. We have an interesting experience which I don’t think can be copied, but which can inspire. And there are a number, a surprising number, of countries who are now coming to us - not only us, but to all the Nordic countries – asking “what is it in your social model that we can learn from?” Is there a relationship between the relatively low discrepancy between rich and poor and your economic stability? Our answer is yes. There is a responsibility. Equality helps the economy. Is there a relationship between high quality of welfare and the ability to transform the economy? Between competitiveness on a surprisingly high level and adaptability to a changing world marked? Yes, there is a relationship. There is something to learn from that, from the fact that we have the second best figure on female participation in the work force.
The questions do not only come from similar countries, but from a number of countries who are in the process of development. I always say that what we did, was that we were able, at an early stage, to create a foundation for inclusive growth. We did not become rich and then we started to distribute the economy. We grew together. And that’s thanks to a certain political system and thanks to the relationship between labor organizations, employer organizations, and the state that developed from the 1930s in response to a very challenging economic landscape and a deep crisis in Europe. And again, today, we are seeing that we are doing, together as Nordic countries and maybe right now particularly as Norway, systematically better than other similar countries.
So I think what people are increasingly interested in, as I see it from my daily experience in global affairs, is not necessarily the peacemaker. We are not able to engage or to create peace or stability in any country, but we are relevant in Columbia, in the Philippines, in Myanmar, and obviously in the Middle East where we today have a rather important development with the upgrading of the status of the Palestinians. But the peacemaker image is perhaps not the first thing people come to, but rather these questions on our economic model, and our social and welfare model.
And one of the things we are now working on and engaging in, is to see how that can be part of what Norway communicates as a relevant experience to the world.
Another consequence of this image of being small, rich and peripheral is the question of “how do we manage the money?” and I think the fact that we don’t only have the largest sovereign welfare fund in the world, but that we also have the only one - or one of very few ones - with very clear ethical standards combined with it, is positive. We have an ethical committee, and certain things we are not going to invest in, not necessarily because they are illegal, but because they are immoral, or they are in other terms the wrong thing to do. This combination of a kind of values approach and economic power, I think is positive and good and something that we can develop further.
One of the grand names of Norwegian tradition is Fridtjof Nansen. And Fridtjof Nansen represents us in two very different ways. One is the humanitarian Nansen. The other one is the polar explorer, which brings me to the Arctic. I was in Singapore few weeks ago, and one of the great interests that Singapore takes in Norway is the developments in the Arctic. Now, Singapore is not particularly Arctic. It is on the right side of the globe because it is one degree north of the equator. So it is not in the south, it is in the North. But it is still a very far stretch from the Arctic.
But Singapore sees the development in the Arctic - new sea routes, new opportunities for resources, and sailing and other kind of maritime activities, which they are very engaged in, as many other countries. We are increasingly emerging as one of the key Arctic players. Not because we are the biggest country in the Arctic, not but because we speak about it, but because we act on it. We engage in the development on international regulations and so on in the Arctic.
So both the “peace theme”, the “what-do-you-do” theme, the “how-did-you-get-there” theme and the Arctic theme, are key elements of our story right now.
And let me conclude these short initial words by saying that I don’t really want to see Norway branded as if it was a company. I very much understand why companies invest in branding. But I don’t think that is what we need to do. What we really need to do is to try to be consistent, predictable, honest, recognizable, and to - rather than to say that this is our brand name - say that “well, observe what we do and see if you recognize us, and see if you can create your own image out of what we are doing.”
That may be the wrong answer in a branding conference. But I think it is necessary in order to keep these elements clear and to understand perhaps one of most important themes to discuss; how do we look, to which extend does it matter, and what do we do about it. These are extremely important and interesting themes and naturally quite high on a foreign minister’s agenda, both here in Norway and in many other countries.