We can learn from Norway in Peacemaking

On Monday the Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, will be hosted in this Parliament, and I think we have a lot to learn from him and the experience of his Government, particularly in the area of peacemaking.

Norway is a country that is roughly the same size as New Zealand with 4.5 million people, and it has made a huge contribution to peacemaking in many countries. Members will remember the Oslo Accords of 1993 between Israel and the Palestinians, and more recently Norway has been involved in the peace negotiations that led to a successful settlement in the southern Sudan.

The Norwegians are also very strongly involved in peacemaking in Sri Lanka, and in other conflicts such as that between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and in Somalia, Columbia, Haiti, the Philippines, the Balkans, and Guatemala.

Norway has specialised in peacemaking, despite being such a small country, and it has invested a lot of money in peacekeeping. I visited Norway last October and spoke to members of the peace and reconciliation section of their ministry of foreign affairs. They have a specialist section, and those specialists in peacemaking work closely with their embassies.

They have embassies in over a hundred countries, despite being a small nation. They also work in with non-governmental organisations, particularly those involved on the ground in the countries in which they are doing the peacemaking. They do have a lot of people on the ground.

Norway gives a much higher proportion of its gross national income to overseas development assistance than does New Zealand. For example, in 2003, 0.92 percent of Norway’s gross national income went to overseas aid, whereas in New Zealand it was one-quarter of that, just 0.23 percent of our gross national income.

One-third of the money that Norway puts in is delivered to the countries by Norwegian non-governmental organisations that are linked up with overseas NGOs, or Norwegian people out in the field doing the work. In fact, the work of non-governmental organisations is often the beginning of Norway getting involved in peace negotiations.

For example, in Guatemala, where there has been very successful peacemaking work, it was the Norwegian Church Aid people on the ground there who alerted the Norwegian Government to the possibilities for Norwegian peacemaking. In Sri Lanka, it was the specialists over there, like Mr Terje Roed-Larsen, who did the initial groundwork that was followed up later by the Norwegian Government.

They are doing tremendous work there, first of all, in establishing the ceasefire, which has lasted for over 3 years now, and in monitoring the ceasefire, along with other Nordic countries, and trying to get the peace negotiations going again. Of course, that is very important in Sri Lanka, because areas affected by war were also devastated by the tsunami – the coastal areas of the north and the east.

The same applies to tsunami devastated Aceh, where there is a need for peacemaking between people in Aceh and the Indonesian Government. It is important that we work to prevent a situation where war breaks out again in either Sri Lanka or Aceh.

Although I am saying New Zealand can learn a lot from Norway, of course we have our own very positive experiences in peacemaking in Bougainville. In fact, the solution in Bougainville – that is, to set up an interim situation of a Bougainville Government, with a strong degree of autonomy, putting off any decision or referendum on independence for some years, but leaving it open – is exactly what has been applied in the recent peace agreement in the southern Sudan. That agreement allows for a decision on possible independence for southern Sudan in a few years’ time.

The Norwegians talk not just about peacemaking, they also use the term “peace-building”. Peace-building has four components, which the Norwegians are all very actively involved in. One is the peacemaking I have talked about — the negotiations, the monitoring of ceasefire, and that sort of thing. Another is human rights and democracy-building – giving aid to institutions to empower the people to build civil society and to get good governance going. The third leg is development assistance itself to social and economic development, sustainability, and all those sorts of things that make a country viable. The fourth leg, particularly coming out of an armed conflict, is post-conflict work in disarmament, demobilisation and reconciliation.


Parliament, General Debate