The Government’s policy platform states that “it is in Norway’s interests that we have a UN-led world order, rather than a situation where nations take the law into their own hands.”
Is that where we are headed?
Some years ago, many people were concerned about the future of the UN. They maintained that the UN needed to prove itself more useful, that it needed to regain more of its former relevance.
There is no objective scale against which the UN’s performance can be “measured”.
Much of the criticism was constructive, and I myself have pointed out that Norway – as a loyal member and major contributor, as a friend – should not refrain from expressing criticism.
I believe Norway should be realistic about the UN and its opportunities and challenges. We should speak out clearly about things we are not happy about.
There have been some changes over the past three or four years. Even in the short space of time since I was standing here a year ago. I would claim that – to a certain degree – the UN has become more relevant, has a clearer profile and enjoys more respect. This may be because we have had a taste of what might be called the “alternatives”. They are not good.
We see that the UN – which is the sum of its member states – is in a situation akin to riding a roller coaster because its members keep changing their positions. Our close ally, the US – to take one example – has taken radically changing positions.
The US has chosen not to participate in multilateral solutions to a number of important international issues. This applies, for example, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Kyoto Protocol. The US has sought to establish “coalitions of the willing” to address tasks related to peace and security. And, interestingly, we see from the invitation list for the US’s own initiative on climate change this autumn that they are taking the same approach in this area too.
A trend of seeking alternatives to multilateral cooperation, where participation is on equal terms, is – in my view – problematic. This approach has been particularly evident under President Bush, and has triggered reactions that are affecting the work of the UN.
But Norway too should be critical when necessary. As a friend of the UN we should not leave the job of criticising to others, to those who are most sceptical of the organisation.
The UN will never be perfect. It is important to be aware of and take account of its strengths and weaknesses. In some cases it is appropriate to use the UN, while in others it may be beneficial to consider alternatives. The alternatives are, however, often bad.
Insisting on political processes that lead nowhere will not strengthen the UN. The seven-nation initiative on disarmament – a good initiative taken by my predecessor, Jan Petersen, which I have continued and will say more about later – is an example of a realistic and creative approach.
A year ago I said that the UN had too many tasks in relation to the resources at its disposal. This problem has not diminished. The tasks placed on the UN are growing and in many cases require resources the organisation does not have. This makes it necessary to set priorities, focus efforts, set targets and improve human resources policy to ensure optimal use of the assets the organisation does have. Much remains to be done here, and Norway intends to play the role of a critical and constructive supporter of the UN, both of the Secretary-General and of the organisation as a whole.
It is quite clear that we will have to keep up our insistence on the need for reform of the UN’s operations and the need for greater efficiency. The more important the UN is to us, the more important it is that the UN functions well. We must have ambitions for the UN, we must express clearly our vision of what the UN should be, and we must be realistic with regard to what the UN is today.
But I would like to step back just for a moment. What do we actually mean when we say “the UN”? The term is used to mean anything from the General Assembly with all 192 countries represented, to the Security Council, the Secretary-General, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), peacekeeping forces, specialised agencies, programmes and funds. It may be used to refer to organisations such as the WHO, which I have extensive experience from, or to conventions, agreements and standards – the whole normative framework. All of this is “the UN”. Moreover, the various parts of the UN are subject to different framework conditions.
The Ministry has published a new version of its information brochure on UN issues, Aktuelle FN-spørsmål. It shows what a broad range of issues the UN covers. (Feel free to take a copy or two.) I will not go into all of these issues now, but rather concentrate on four main aspects of our UN and foreign policy, which overlap to a great extent:
- firstly, peace mediation, peacebuilding and prevention of armed conflict;
- secondly, disarmament and arms control;
- thirdly, human rights;
- and finally, some thoughts on development, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), climate change and health.
I will be happy to answer questions at the end.
I will now say more about my first main theme: peacebuilding.
Here I will talk about our new platform for an integrated Africa policy, which I announced in my foreign policy address to the Storting (the Norwegian Parliament) in 2006. I will also say a few words about the situation between Norway and Ethiopia, partly because it sheds light on some of the challenges we are facing in our policy of engagement.
But first I must point out – although I hardly need to say it – that the UN has in some way been indispensable in virtually every conflict that has take place since 1945. Not so often on its own, for it is together with other actors that the UN has shown its true potential.
The UN’s greatest advantage as a forum for promoting world peace is its wide range of tools: it can play a role in all stages of a conflict – from before the outbreak of hostilities, via peace operations and transitional assistance in the period following a peace agreement, to long-term development efforts and institution-building on the road towards lasting peace.
Now the UN has taken on a number of new, challenging peace operations around the world. One of them is the operation in Darfur, where the UN will be cooperating with the African Union (AU). We are also seeing what the UN means to refugees, internally displaced persons and the victims of disasters.
But we have also seen what an excruciatingly long time it has taken the UN to intervene due to the differing positions taken by the US and China in the Security Council – on Darfur, on Sudan, in fact on China’s new role in Africa in general. This shows, once again, that it is the sum of the individual – and in particular the most powerful – member countries that constitutes the UN’s capacity, strength and power. Furthermore, it shows that it is the decisions made by the Security Council that are decisive.
In several places, the UN has been given responsibility for complex political tasks aimed at creating peace and stability, such as in Nepal and Burundi.
In other places, the task of the UN is to bring about greater justice, for example the Hariri tribunal in Lebanon, the efforts to rebuild the judicial system in Guatemala and the trial of the Liberian war criminal Charles Taylor.
The UN has become an important actor – as mediator, as peacebuilder and as a catalyst for justice and accountability. Sometimes it succeeds. Other times political conflicts get in the way – not surprisingly as its working environment is often highly complex. But frequently the UN is able to play a role in promoting peace and reconciliation.
Norway will continue to support the UN in these efforts. And it will do so while keeping several considerations in mind. The history and context of the situation in question and the comparative advantages of the various actors should determine the degree of UN engagement.
Norway is also part of the picture as a peace facilitator, but we do not operate alone. We have people with a great deal of experience from peace facilitation and conflict resolution efforts, and I see that several of them are present here today.
The Government has increased the allocation for peace and reconciliation efforts by NOK 170 million, bringing the total for 2007 up to NOK 760 million. We have increased our efforts in this field in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Somalia and Nepal, and we have increased our support for measures aimed at promoting gender equality, including support for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
However, Norway’s peace efforts are not a solo undertaking. They are conducted in close cooperation with the UN.
The UN is playing an important role in the efforts to build peace and prevent armed conflict in Lebanon and Syria. Geir O. Pedersen and Terje Rød-Larsen have, for a long time, played important parts in this connection. Our peace efforts in the Middle East are closely coordinated with the UN.
In Sudan, the UN’s legitimacy and operative capacity are invaluable. Here Norway has helped to pave the way for the UN operation that is now taking form. For several decades, we have been providing a significant share of the emergency relief to South Sudan, as several people here today are aware, and later to Darfur.
In Haiti, where Norway has taken part in reconciliation efforts for several years, we have now become engaged in direct cooperation with the UN Special Envoy. We have established a reconciliation fund and provide resources for the UN operation (MINUSTAH) to stabilise the situation.
Norway is also playing a part as member of the UN’s new Peacebuilding Commission. We are facilitating the international peacebuilding efforts in Burundi, and Norway’s UN Ambassador, Johan L. Løvald, is playing a key role in this work.
One of the important tasks ahead is to support the development of a comprehensive peacebuilding strategy. Norway is also helping to expand the UN’s capacity for preventing armed conflict by providing financial and practical support for its newly established Mediation Support Unit. We support the whole breadth of the UN’s mandate. We believe the UN is relevant in different ways in different phases of peace efforts.
Paradoxically, there are surprisingly few people working for peace within the UN. The resources for this area are limited.
One of the things I would like to mention today is that we have committed ourselves to funding a standby force for peace mediation. The peace mediation experts that will make up this group are currently being recruited. The force will be administered by the Norwegian Refugee Council. It will be at the service of the UN, and we hope that its resources will be drawn upon, as it will provide a considerable boost to the UN’s conflict resolution capabilities.
Another piece of news is that the Government is currently establishing a Norwegian resource centre for peacebuilding. The tasks of setting up and running this centre are currently out to tender. It will start operation during the course of next year and will be linked to Norwegian research centres with international networks. It will play a part in the further development of Norwegian peacebuilding and statebuilding resources and expertise and will support the UN.
I have mentioned Darfur, Sudan, and would like to say more about Africa.
Today, I am launching our platform for an integrated Africa policy. One of the main objectives is to see our interaction with African countries from a more holistic perspective, including other areas than development cooperation.
Our ties are interaction is extending into more and more areas, from sport and culture to the fight against HIV/Aids, climate change and terrorism. We are increasingly affected by developments on the African continent. We have common interests.
There are nearly 50 000 people of African origin in Norway, and we have a long tradition of cooperation with African countries. Key words here are support for liberation struggles, development cooperation, private sector cooperation, student exchange, cultural projects and contact between religious communities. Just to mention a few. All this has given us contacts and knowledge.
Africa is changing. In recent years, the continent has seen significant economic growth, and African countries are becoming increasingly important political and economic actors at the international level. Peace and development in African countries will strengthen our own security. Poverty, war and oppression can lead to extremism, the spread of infectious diseases, large numbers of refugees and environmental damage.
The Norwegian private sector does not have a strong tradition of engagement in Africa. But today, Norwegian oil companies account for major investments on the continent. For example, Statoil is generating significant tax revenue in Angola. African countries want and need foreign investment that can lead to development and prosperity.
Development cooperation alone cannot create development. Other private and public investments are also vital. And it is, of course, extremely important that Norwegian companies show proper corporate social responsibility – in Africa as elsewhere. In fact, we are currently producing a white paper on corporate social responsibility.
We want to be in close contact with Norwegian actors – so this is an open invitation! As a follow-up to the platform, we are planning to hold meetings where we can discuss the challenges we are facing, such as future cooperation and Norwegian priorities in Angola, and Norwegian strategies in West Africa. We want to develop a partnership with African countries that is based on equality and mutual respect.
The Government also has the clear aim of increasing civil and military participation in UN-led peace operations, with particular emphasis on operations in Africa. I have already mentioned Sudan.
The African countries are moreover key cooperation partners in the effort to strengthen the UN and the multilateral system. We will support the development of strong joint institutions and cooperation with African countries. Today we see how African countries are taking an increasingly active part in the WTO.
Climate change could have catastrophic consequences for Africa. While global warming will give us milder winters, it will bring more drought and flooding to Africa. In sum we will all become poorer.
The costs of climate change will be hardest for the poorest countries to bear. This is not acceptable, and global action has to be taken. Developing countries must be able to enjoy economic growth and development at the same time as the environment must be protected.
We must not generalise about Africa. It consists of more than 50 very different countries, and our policies must be adapted to each. More and more opportunities are arising for economic cooperation and cooperation in other areas that have nothing to do with poverty, famine and need.
The new Africa platform gives us a stronger basis for our engagement on the continent and explains the priorities the Government has set in its Africa policy. You can find this document on the Ministry’s website, and I have also brought copies of the printed version to our meeting today.
I would now like to say a few words about Ethiopia.
As you have seen in the media over the last few days, Ethiopia has unilaterally and completely unexpectedly for us (in a note dated 15 August), requested Norway to reduce its diplomatic presence in Addis Ababa.
This decision does not imply any break in our diplomatic relations with Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian authorities have made unfounded allegations that we have undermined Ethiopian security interests. But exactly what are they claiming we have done?
We are surprised and deeply concerned by this decision. The attempts we have made to clarify any possible misunderstandings and to get the Ethiopian authorities to reconsider their decision have proved unsuccessful.
Nevertheless, it is important that we are clear about the role that Norway has played in efforts to promote peaceful development in the Horn of Africa. Our role has been neither facilitator nor neutral observer. We have been directly engaged – not alone, but together with the UN and other countries. Not just to support the parties in finding a solution to the border conflict, but also to improve the human rights situation in the region. We have done so on the basis of international law and Security Council resolutions.
We must consider what consequences the reduction in diplomatic staff (from nine to three) at the embassy will have for our development cooperation. The new situation may affect our cooperation partners. While we will continue to attach great importance to maintaining our cooperation with the African Union, we will have to consider how it will be affected by the reduction in staff. Norway has cooperated closely with Ethiopia for many years, and we deeply regret the situation that has arisen. I have requested a meeting with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister in connection with the UN General Assembly next month.
This situation invites reflection on important challenges in Norway’s policy of engagement. Our role is always based on respect for human rights and the legal principles enshrined in international law. Norway is not neutral in this respect. The same applies to our clear position on Israel’s settlement policy, which was discussed on the radio today.
To return to our UN policy and our peace and security policy. We have two approaches to strengthening the UN’s peace operations, as the Government set out in its policy platform:
- Firstly, we are expanding our efforts and participation in both military and civil functions.
- Secondly, we are helping to further develop the multi-dimensional, integrated approach to the UN’s peace efforts. We want to see better coordination between four pillars of UN peace operations: security, political processes, humanitarian efforts and long-term development.
Even in war zones, the various parts of the UN organisation are to “deliver as one” as set out in the report of the High-Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence, which was co-chaired by Prime Minister Stoltenberg.
The UN has become much better in this respect. All UN operations since 1999 have had multi-dimensional mandates. Planning and implementation have been improved. But much remains to be done.
As a follow-up to a conference the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held on this subject in Oslo in 2005, we have arranged a series of seminars on four continents. These have drawn on the experience of people who have been involved in the coordination of security, humanitarian and long-term development aspects of UN peace operations. We will hold the final conference in Oslo at the end of October, and the recommendations from the conference will be submitted to the UN Secretary-General.
We are also continuing our efforts to increase the number of Norwegians in key positions in the UN. Norway now holds the second highest military position in the UN Headquarters in the person of Major General Per Arne Five, who is serving as Deputy Military Adviser.
We hope that the UN–AU operation in Darfur will get off the ground soon. This will be a major challenge for both Norway and the international community. Meanwhile we are continuing our engagement in the peace process between North and South Sudan.
Every third person in Darfur is displaced. Several million depend on humanitarian relief. And humanitarian organisations are still being prevented from reaching those who are suffering. They should be given much better access. The UN force is being put into place to change this situation.
Progress in Darfur also depends on developments in the neighbouring countries, particularly in Chad and the Central African Republic. The UN is drawing up plans for a separate operation in these two countries, and is in close contact with the EU, which is expected to provide the military component for the preliminary phase.
Our main focus now is on the UN–AU operation in Darfur. This cooperation is a new development. The top civil and military leaders are both African, and have been appointed by the UN and the AU jointly.
We will do our best to ensure that the force is in place as soon as possible, but this is not up to us to decide. Norway and Sweden have offered to provide a joint engineering unit. Nevertheless, we know from experience that it takes some time to recruit personnel and get operation of this kind up and running. We are, after all, talking about a force of more than 20 000. It is not realistic to expect the whole force to be in place before the beginning of next year.
From peace operation to my second main topic – disarmament and arms control.
I have recently requested an overview to be drawn up of the disarmament challenges facing us, and this work is to be given top priority. It will result in a white paper on disarmament and non-proliferation, and – as always – input from civil society will be important.
There are many dimensions to disarmament and non-proliferation.
We have to prevent new countries gaining nuclear weapons. This applies first and foremost to Iran and North Korea. With regard to the latter, the development has not been entirely negative, as there have also been some encouraging signs, but we know from experience that there may be new setbacks. Norway – and other countries – must therefore support the diplomatic process. It is important that North Korea sees that it has everything to gain by discontinuing its nuclear programme.
With regard to Iran, we have also seen some signs of a positive development. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should be applauded for its efforts to resolve this problem by political means. But we are far from reaching our goal. It would have helped – to put it diplomatically – if the Iranian authorities had discontinued the activities that the UN has defined as problematic, such as the enrichment of uranium. This would have been an important step towards starting real negotiations. Until we reach this stage, we must maintain political pressure on Iran. Norway supports and implements the measures that have been unanimously adopted by the Security Council.
If Iran and North Korea were to acquire nuclear weapons, the global non-proliferation regime would be severely undermined and there would be a risk of regional arms races. This issue has recently been raised in the press.
Our vision is a world without nuclear weapons. The road towards this goal is a long and difficult one, but we must not lose sight of our goal.
In addition to the challenges we are facing vis-à-vis Iran and North Korea, we see that progress in the whole disarmament area is too slow, and this gives cause for concern. Here are some examples.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was adopted 11 years ago, but it has not yet entered into force. There are still around 30 000 nuclear warheads in existence. Attention needs to be drawn to this fact and it needs to be discussed.
We are noting worrying signs that nuclear powers may be attaching more importance to nuclear weapons. Modernising arsenals – while advocating a reduction in the role of such weapons in security policy – is an unfortunate signal to be sending. Modernisation does not necessarily mean reduction.
Norway plays an important role in the international efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We are leading the seven-country initiative, which has gained broad support from about 100 countries. We have also made full use of our opportunities as member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors over the last two years.
The strength of the seven-country initiative is its comprehensive approach, with progress being made in three main areas: nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear power. It includes both a nuclear power (the UK) and leading countries in the Non-Aligned Movement (South African and Indonesia). The measures that we reach agreement on in this forum could form the basis for a new international consensus. This is a cooperation method that I have great faith in. Other examples are the Oslo group in the WTO and the group of countries that are working on the health and foreign policy initiative.
What are the most relevant measures?
- Firstly, to continue to support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
- Secondly, to start negotiations on the ban on the production of fissile material for weapons purposes.
- Thirdly, to continue the process of reducing the number of nuclear warheads.
- Fourthly, to support the efforts to establish nuclear-weapon-free zones.
- And fifthly, to continue efforts to make the non-proliferation regime completely watertight. Last year, we held an international conference at the Nobel Peace Center on the efforts to prevent the use of highly enriched uranium in civilian plants. Both political decision makers and scientists were invited. This is another example of a good cooperation model.
We are also working closely with other NATO countries on this issue. We are strongly advocating that the Organisation becomes more actively engaged in disarmament. Particularly with Germany we have a close cooperation and dialogue in this respect, and I last spoke with Foreign Minister Steinmeier about this matter during his visit to Tromsø and Svalbard this week.
I am not under the illusion that it will be easy to gain new momentum in the disarmament policy area. There are a lot of tricky questions to be resolved,
One is the plans to develop a territorial missile defence system, which is obviously a difficult issue. Norway is among the countries that is sceptical, to put it diplomatically. I am concerned that a missile defence shield could trigger a new arms race, and I am not sure exactly what threat assessment the plans are based on.
But there are also positive developments. I will be taking part in the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the production and use of this type of weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons were last used in the 1980s.
This illustrates that international cooperation and engagement can produce results. We should allow ourselves to be inspired. Today it is exactly 10 years since the Mine Ban Treaty was negotiated at a conference in Oslo. The text of the Treaty was finalised on 18 September 1997, marking a breakthrough in efforts to achieve important humanitarian goals.
The Mine Ban Treaty was drawn up in close cooperation between civil society and countries from different regions, including several mine-affected countries. It was unique in that it succeeded in encompassing the whole breadth of humanitarian problems that mines cause.
Today, 155 countries have acceded to the Treaty. It is true that some of the most important countries in this connection are not among the signatories, but they are under considerable pressure to do so from those that are. Many of the UN organisations have contributed to the fulfilment of commitments made under the Treaty. And some of the results are:
- 40 million anti-personnel mines have been destroyed in the last 10 years;
- trade in mines has in practice stopped;
- many thousands of victims are being helped every year, and the number of new victims is falling; and
- even countries that have not signed the Treaty have chosen to respect it.
The Mine Ban Treaty is therefore an example to be followed. I have invited all the states parties, relevant UN organisations, the Red Cross and many other NGOs – many of which are here today – to the anniversary to discuss their experiences, the method itself, how these efforts can move further forward, and how we can work together to meet other humanitarian challenges.
One such challenge is cluster munitions. Norway has started an international process with a view to achieving a prohibition against this type of munitions.
This work is progressing well. Systematic learning has been gained from the efforts to ban landmines. Again this is a question of method. The process is being led by Norway, together with a core group of like-minded countries, and – again – vital support from civil society, including both national and international humanitarian organisations, and from the UN. It has so far won the support of 75 states.
It is an independent process in the sense that it is open to all states regardless of whether they are members of the UN’s more established disarmament forums.
Some people maintain that this is a process “outside the UN”. This is wrong. It is actively supported by the UN Secretary-General, and the major UN organisations such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are involved.
The third main topic of my address is human rights and the UN Human Rights Council.
It has been claimed that what are known as “Western values” are in decline. “Western values” is not a good term; it divides the world into “us” and “them”. If what we really mean are the fundamental tenets of liberalism – including the belief that each and every individual has inviolable human rights – then we are talking about values that are shared by a clear majority of the world’s population. They are universal values.
The fact that some regimes and power elites can see political advantages in undermining these values in the UN is something different, and this is a challenge. The values the UN was built upon may be under pressure, and one of these values is equality.
This means that Norway must take a creative approach within new and changing alliances across regional and political divisions. We must emphasise building bridges between the various points of view.
We have particular advantages here. In our dialogues with others, we present our positions clearly at the same time as we show respect for the opinions of our dialogue partners. This enables us to build bridges effectively. The same applies within the UN. There is no doubt about what Norway believes and stands for in important issues, for example the issue of the death penalty.
During the course of the last year, the new UN Human Rights Council has taken over from the old Commission on Human Rights. And the obvious question is: What difference has this made in practice?
- Firstly, the UN’s human rights efforts have been upgraded in that – and this is significant – it now reports directly to the General Assembly.
- Secondly, it will be a permanent body, unlike the Commission, which only met once a year.
- Thirdly, the Council will be in a better position to monitor the human rights situation worldwide.
However, since its establishment, the Council has in many ways been a disappointment, the main criticisms being: politicisation of its debates, one-sided focus on Israel, and insufficient ability to raise serious violations of human rights in other countries. This is not something that can be covered over.
I agree with the criticism. Nevertheless – or rather precisely therefore – I believe that Norway should step into this arena.
The Human Rights Council is the UN’s main human rights body, and human rights are the normative foundation of the whole organisation. It is that simple, and that complex. We bear a responsibility for doing what we can to ensure that violations of human rights are not hushed up. It has always been necessary to make states responsible for violations – and this has always been controversial. But we have a responsibility to take part in these efforts.
I have therefore decided that Norway will stand for election to the Human Rights Council for the 2009–2012 period. We will do so because the UN needs countries that are able to see solutions where others see problems. We have much to offer the UN Human Rights Council. We will seek new alliances and break up regional blocs. The so-called “Western countries” are now in the minority. We want to take part in this important early phase where the Council is still in its making. We will take part with a clear message, with commitment.
In the fourth and last part of my address, I will discuss issues relating to development, health and climate change.
One of the General Assembly’s most important processes – which has an a rather dull name “Financing for Development” – is following up the International Conference on Financing for Development in preparation for the summit to be held in Qatar in 2008. Norway is a facilitator in the process, together with Egypt.
This is an extremely important process. Failure to produce results in the development arena will create a poor negotiation climate in the UN in many other areas. Everything is interconnected.
By 2015, the MDGs should have led to a noticeably better world, particularly for the poorest. But this can only be achieved if the necessary capacity is built up in individual countries and new resources are mobilised.
Norway is making a contribution through increased development assistance, targeted efforts to reduce child mortality, cancellation of development countries’ debts, innovative financing mechanisms, and initiatives to fight corruption and capital flight and promote good governance.
Norway is making a contribution as a significant and reliable supporter of and partner in a number of the UN’s funds and programmes, such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). These are important actors.
And Norway’s engagement is noticed, as we see from key appointments over the last year: Hilde Frafjord Johnson – Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Olav Kjørven – Director of the Bureau for Development Policy in UNDP, and Paul G. Larsen in the World Food Programme (WFP).
Norway is the seventh largest financial contributor to the UN’s efforts. We have a right and an obligation to demand that this money is used in the best possible way, to demand results. UN reform is therefore a top priority for us.
As you know, Prime Minister Stoltenberg, co-chaired the High-Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence, which examined the organisation’s effectiveness in the areas of the environment, humanitarian assistance and development cooperation. The panel submitted its report in November last year, and its recommendations are now being tested.
The follow-up of the panel’s recommendations will figure prominently in Norway’s UN policy. The triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system will be a key issue at the forthcoming session of the General Assembly. The goal is – as you know – that the UN should “deliver as one” at country level, with one leader, one programme and one budget – and preferably one UN office.
This model is now being tested in eight pilot countries, partly with Norwegian funding. Vietnam is the country that has come furthest, and the results so far are promising.
Strengthening efforts to promote gender equality and the rights of women is one area in which the panel made concrete and ambitious recommendations. Gender equality needs to be given more emphasis in the UN, and I hope that this will be one of the first results of the reform process. Norway will continue to play a leading role in strengthening the focus on gender equality in the UN. Together with the other Nordic countries, we have presented a statement on gender equality to the General Assembly.
And I would like to let you know that we have benefited from the pressure brought to bear on us by Norwegian and international NGOs. Keep up your commitment, also within the global network.
Development is closely connected with global climate change, which is one of the greatest environmental and economic challenges facing the world today. This will have an impact on this year’s session of the General Assembly. The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have now, as you are aware, established beyond reasonable doubt that climate change over the last 50 years is due to human activity.
And you are also aware that we have set ambitious goals to combat climate change. The Government has decided that Norway will strengthen its Kyoto commitment for the period up to 2012 by 10%. This means achieving a 9% reduction in emissions in relation to the 1990 level rather than an increase of 1% as originally agreed. We intend to reduce global emissions by the equivalent of 30% of Norway’s emissions by 2020. And we have undertaken to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases by the equivalent of 100% of our own emissions by 2050. This will make Norway carbon neutral.
Norway is also taking part – at the invitation of the UN – in the efforts initiated by the Secretary-General to make the UN carbon neutral. Gro Harlem Brundtland is also playing a key role here as one of the Secretary-General’s special envoys on climate change.
The Kyoto Protocol is just a first step. A more ambitious global climate agreement is needed that includes more comprehensive emissions commitments and wider participation. We must bring on board as many as possible of the countries that have not undertaken commitments under the protocol. This applies to the US. And it applies to the major developing countries.
The Prime Minister and I will take part in several events relating to health and development, and health and foreign policy in connection with the opening of this year’s session of the General Assembly.
MDG 4 sets the target of reducing child mortality by two-thirds, and MDG 5 sets the target of reducing the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters. By 2015. But if the rate of development since 2000 continues, we will not reach these targets. Some countries are making good progress, but the overall picture is not encouraging.
Norway is committed to achieving all eight MDGs, but the Government has decided to make a particular effort in relation to MDGs 4 and 5, mentioned above.
What exactly is Norway doing here? I would like to mention briefly the following.
We have launched focused efforts in three countries – India, Pakistan and Tanzania. Moreover, together with other countries and international NGOs, we are in the process of completing a global business plan for MDGs 4 and 5. This will be presented in New York on 26 September by Prime Minister Stoltenberg (and others).
The business plan is part of a broader international framework that we are developing together with the UK, Canada, the Gates Foundation and others that are seeking to strengthen health systems and improve access to health services in the world’s poorest countries. Jens Stoltenberg and his colleague Gordon Brown share a strong commitment in this area and they will present a proposal prior to the General Assembly. They are meeting in London next week.
Health and development are closely linked to peace. In Burundi, where we are involved in peacebuilding efforts, life expectancy is 44. How can we build peace and create development when people are dying at their most productive age?
Infectious, but curable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis are claiming a shocking number of lives. The spread of HIV/Aids is draining societies of resources.
The most vulnerable countries are also affected by war and violence. Lasting peace depends on development. Health is a decisive factor. This is another priority area for Norway, in close cooperation with the UN and other actors.
Here we will contribute not only resources, but also policy. We will, to a greater extent, ensure that our foreign policy takes global health perspectives into account, including diplomatic efforts where needed. We can reduce conflict and achieve other foreign policy targets through health efforts. Key words in this context are: bird flu, foot and mouth disease and SARS. We are following up the initiative I took within a group of seven countries that met in New York during last year’s General Assembly to link health and foreign policy more closely. The new French Foreign Minister with his background in humanitarian efforts will be a key colleague in this effort.
I will soon “come in for landing”. It is now nearly 20 years since the last whitepaper on the main lines in Norway’s foreign policy was presented. It highlighted that the UN is a cornerstone – indeed the cornerstone – of Norwegian foreign policy. And it is still. But the world is changing, and I have initiated the project Refleks - globalisation and national interests. We are going to test our reflexes, challenge ourselves and strengthen the debate on how Norway should meet globalisation and changes in the international power constellations. This applies to our security policy, our High North policy and many other areas where reflexes are important, but reflection is even more so.
Here too, the UN and our own UN policy take centre stage. I am looking forward to this debate and to your participation in it. A new whitepaper will be drawn up. We are currently carrying out studies and will shortly produce a baseline report. I am inviting you all to take part, visit our web pages, and send in short memos.