Norway and its Perspectives on United Nations Peacebuilding

10/27/2008 // " The Norwegian Government will increase Norway ’s initiatives and activities aimed at fighting poverty and creating a more democratic world order, both globally and regionally. We believe that the best way to do so is through the UN," Ambassador Johan Løvald said in a speech at Fairleigh Dickinson University 21 March 2007.  

Norway is a small country, and we have always been depending on the world outside our borders. The Norwegian economy has been relatively open since the Viking age. Later timber  – and shipbuilding – became our most important income sources. In the mid 1960s, Norway embarked on the petroleum era, referred to in Norway as the Oil Adventure. Being the 7th largest petroleum producer in the world, and the 3rd largest petroleum exporter, Norway is a wealthy country.

Norway has been fortunate. But as we also know, natural resource abundance does not need to be a blessing, and in some cases it is even described as a curse. Well-functioning institutions, democratic control, transparency, accountability and political will to share the wealth are crucial elements to succeed in converting natural resource abundance into socio-economic development.

In Norway, we are grateful for our fortunate situation, and at the same time, there is a consensus that we have an obligation to contribute to a fairer global wealth distribution. The Norwegian Government will increase Norway’s initiatives and activities aimed at fighting poverty and creating a more democratic world order, both globally and regionally. We believe that the best way to do so is through the UN.

Norway wishes to be a peace nation, and we are proud of our responsibility for the Nobel Peace Price. Many countries look upon Norway as an independent actor, considering that Norway is a small country and not even a member of the EU. Thereby Norway can – and does – play the role as facilitator, or a third party, in peace negotiations and peacebuilding processes.  

The Norwegian Government truly believes that Norway can play a more important role in peacebuilding than in other foreign policy areas, and that we can strengthen this field through a further systematisation of Norwegian initiatives and activities, especially through the UN. We also have a self-interest in this: A number of conflicts contribute to international terrorism, the spreading of weapons of mass destruction, ethnic hatred, environmental or economic crises and large waves of refugees. This may also have a direct impact on Norway.

The prevention of new conflicts is a crucial part of peace building. It is a sad fact that roughly half of the countries emerging from violent conflict relapse into violence within five years. The transition from war to peace is not an easy process. To deal with this issue, the UN Peacebuilding Commission commenced its work the summer of 2006.

The purpose of PBC is to bring together all  relevant actors such as governments, different UN organs, civil society, international financial institutions and regional organizations to marshal resources in a joint effort to build sustainable peace. It is in the country specific settings that the work of the Peacebuilding Commission ultimately will be judged. With this in mind the Commission quickly started its work with Burundi and Sierra Leone.

Norway plays an important role in the PBC, being the vice-chair of the commission and the leader of the work on Burundi.

The PBC has a close and broad cooperation with the countries on its agenda. The governments of Sierra Leone and Burundi need to be centre-stage and take the lead in these processes. To secure national ownership to peacebuilding processes, the governments must set out priorities and remain active in the work.

However, it is equally important to include all relevant actors, such as civil society, regional organisations, neighbouring countries, women’s organisations, donors and IFIs to contribute with their knowledge and experiences.

At the outset of the work in Burundi the Government of Burundi was asked to give the Commission guidance on critical peacebuilding challenges facing the country. The Commission agreed with the Government of Burundi that these were good governance, rule of law and security, sector reform and community recovery. PBC’s engagement in Burundi has now evolved into its substantial work on an integrated strategy for peacebuilding.

However, it is also a well-established fact that little can be done without sound financial support. The establishment of the Peacebulding Fund was crucial. Norway has already made a large contribution to the Peacebuilding Fund, and will consider additional allocations in the future.

While experience from a number of countries shows that it takes too long to marshal resources for reconstruction once the parties to a conflict have laid down their arms, the PBF will make it possible for the UN to act swiftly and initiate peace building efforts quickly. This is also a point stressed by Norwegian State-Secretary Stenhammer, who said that money will be used, for example, to enable the national authorities to establish necessary rule of law institutions, national reconciliation processes and other measures to prevent conflicts from flaring up again.

In all of the work of the PBC, the gender perspective needs to be addressed properly. This is clearly expressed in the founding resolution of the PBC, and Security Resolution 1325, which stresses the crucial role of women in peace-building. The resolution also underlines the importance of adopting a gender perspective in peace building efforts, including measures that support local women’s initiatives. 

Women both in Burundi and in Sierra Leone have lived through horrific periods where all forms of violence were acceptable. Gender violence has humiliated and harmed  women and attached the very fabric of families and communities. In too many cases women suffer double discrimination as communities reject girls who had been victims of sexual crime. The difficult question of impunity needs to be addressed.

In these processes women should not be regarded only as victims of conflict and gender-based violence, but as an invaluable resource in peacebuilding efforts. 


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