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Official visit to Korea: Lecture on peace and development

Students, Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for this opportunity to address this distinguished audience. Korea University is internationally recognised as a world-class university, and it is a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to speak to you today.

I would like to start by paying tribute to the strides that the Republic of Korea has made in the last few decades. Your economic and political development has been remarkable and has contributed towards creating a stable and durable democracy.

Peace and development are crucial prerequisites for preserving human dignity. I would therefore like to share with this forum some reflections on peace and development.

Let me start by saying a few words about Norway, and why we engage in challenging fields such as conflict prevention and poverty alleviation. I will consider Norway’s engagement in peace efforts, and then say a few words about development.

Having regained independence in 1905, in modern terms my country is a young state. Today, we have a population of 4.6 million. Our economy is small and open, and we continue to be dependent on natural resources. Fisheries remain an important sector in Norway’s economy, and we still export a lot of fish. However, technological innovation has shifted our priorities, and that in turn has changed my country’s international position.

Today, we are a large energy exporting nation. We produce and export hydropower, oil and gas. Norway is the sixth-largest producer of oil in the world, and the third-largest oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Norway has traditions for economic cooperation and trade with other countries. Korea is one of our major trading partners in Asia. One of the reasons why we are very happy to be visiting Korea is the significant potential which exists for further cooperation between our countries. The maritime industry has traditionally been the most important pillar in our economic relationship. But there is great potential for increased trade in areas such as energy, ICT and the marine sector.

In short, Norway is a small country rich in resources and rich in terms of revenue. And it is a society in which there is broad consensus on the value of sharing and the need for solidarity, both at home and abroad. This is why we engage in international development cooperation. This is why we engage in promoting peace.

Norway has not always been at peace. We have also experienced invasion and poverty. But it is a while ago now that our security was imminently threatened. I feel humble speaking to this audience about these issues, as you are still facing very concrete challenges with regard to peace and security on the Korean peninsula.

I am not here to speak about Korea or the Korean issue, where you are all better qualified than I am. But I would like to say this:

Norway’s experience is that peace is not created by isolation: peace is created through dialogue, peace is created through a policy of engagement. And the way in which the Republic of Korea has reached out to the north speaks volumes about the empathy and solidarity of the Koreans.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Some of the challenges facing the world today: Over the last 15 years the world has witnessed over 100 violent conflicts. More than 30 are active, and almost all are internal. Conflicts have produced 12 million refugees, and internally displaced another 25 million people. Again, you have your own bitter experiences from one of the most vicious military conflicts in recent history.

The world has one billion people living on less than a dollar a day. Around 20 000 people die every day because of poverty. The richest 20 per cent in the world receive 74 per cent of the world’s income, while the poorest 20 per cent receive around 2 per cent.

What does this have to do with you and me? Why should we care about people we don’t even know, and who might live far away from us? Why should we engage?

We engage simply because it is the right thing to do. We believe that we have a moral obligation to engage. Peace and dignity remain distant dreams for far too many people. Never before has the world been so rich in material terms. Or in new opportunities. We have both the possibility and a responsibility to act.

We engage because we are part of a greater whole.

And we engage because we believe that your security, and mine, are closely intertwined. By helping to preserve your dignity, I am simultaneously enhancing my own security. In an era of globalisation, international engagement in promoting peace has become part and parcel of Norway’s security policy. By helping others, we are helping ourselves.

In the last year, I have been visiting schools in Norway to talk about poverty, development and the importance of human dignity. I am often struck by the global awareness and perspectives of the students, and by their eagerness and even impatience to find sustainable solutions to the challenges facing the world. When we talk about development, they are also very much concerned about the implications of climate change. Many of the poor countries are especially vulnerable to the consequences that climate change can cause. I’ve seen with my own eyes how a poor area with vulnerable housing is affected when struck by a hurricane; people lose their homes and livelihoods.

Access to water is also an area of grave concern with changing weather patterns. We need to take climate change into account when we work to enhance human development.

I remain confident, however, that a better future for all is within our grasp, as long as we – that is the international community – show the courage and the leadership to create a more equitable world and face our challenges.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me turn to Norway’s peace building efforts.

Pursuing global peace has been a policy priority for successive Norwegian governments. This is why we have engaged directly in peace and reconciliation processes. In some cases Norway plays a prominent role, but this is always at the explicit request of the parties involved, and only where we believe that we can make a positive contribution. Our involvement in Sri Lanka, Sudan and the Middle East is well known. Some of you may also be familiar with Norway’s work in the Philippines, Colombia and Haiti.

But, more often than not, Norway seeks to promote peace by supporting other actors, such as the UN, regional organisations, NGOs and other governments, rather than by taking a leading role. And much of what Norway does is only possible thanks to international cooperation.

For Norway, the UN is the primary forum for questions of international peace and security. The UN has a role to play at all stages of a conflict, from before violence breaks out, via peace operations and support in the transition period following a peace agreement, to long-term development and institution-building with a view to ensuring lasting peace.

Our countries share a commitment to the United Nations. The first Secretary General of the UN, Trygve Lie, was Norwegian. His task was to establish the organisation, to make the vision of a world order based on the regulation of force – benefiting all countries large and small - a reality.

A direct line can be drawn from Trygve Lie to Ban Ki Moon. And one of the new Secretary General’s main tasks will be to reform the organisation, to ensure that the UN remains relevant, to ensure that the UN can fulfil its vision. Norway is confident that Mr. Ban Ki Moon will pursue this task wholeheartedly, and we will support him. We must not allow the situation to arise where those that support the UN the least set the agenda for how the UN should be developed.

All conflicts are different.

Countries have different historical legacies and geographical features. They are at different stages of economic development. They have different public policies and different patterns of internal interaction and international exposure. The variety of sources of violent conflict reflect this diversity and complexity. This is what makes every conflict unique.

On the other hand, Norway seeks to be consistent in its contribution to conflict management. The following are some of the features that make us a recognisable actor for peace:

Firstly, my country is willing to enter into long-term commitments. Norway has a consistent policy on peace efforts. We do our utmost to ensure that we are perceived as an effective and reliable actor. And there is broad domestic consensus on our policy for peace and reconciliation. Our engagement in Sri Lanka, for example, has been maintained through four Norwegian Governments of changing political colour.

Secondly, Norway believes that cooperation with non-state actors is important. Several processes are being handled jointly by the Norwegian Government and national and international NGOs.

Thirdly, our close relations with central actors in the international arena, and our transparent economic and political interests make us an acceptable third party in many situations.

And fourthly, we are aware of the vital interplay between humanitarian assistance, development cooperation and peace-building efforts.

When Norway accepts a third-party role in a particular peace process, it does so on the basis of solidarity, respect and impartiality. As I touched on earlier, our involvement is guided by our values. We are consistent in promoting respect for human rights. We uphold and defend the primacy of international humanitarian law. We are not neutral, as we take a clear stand on these important issues, but we always seek to be impartial in our role as peace facilitator.

Why are these values important?

In his Nobel Peace Prize lecture in Oslo on the 10th of December 2000, former President Kim Dae-Jung said: “In the decades of my struggle for democracy, I was constantly faced with the refutation that western-style democracy was not suitable for Asia, that Asia lacked the roots. This is far from true. In Asia, long before the west, the respect for human dignity was written into systems of thought, and intellectual traditions upholding the concept of ‘demos’ took root.”

The universal recognition of human rights has its roots in many civilisations. This recognition is a cornerstone in our efforts to build a society based on justice, equity and equal opportunities for all.

Without the rule of law, not only will power prevail over justice, but there will be no prospect of long-term peace and prosperity.

Mass violence is always a result of deliberate political decisions, which underscores the value of human rights and democracy. And in the context in which these decisions are made, two factors are important.

One is the distribution of economic, social and political resources within a society. Conflict is always rooted in manifest or perceived injustices.

The other is identity, the mobilisation of people based on race, religion, culture or language.

Clearly, poverty alone does not cause war. Nor is inequality in itself a sufficient explanation of conflict. But unequal distribution of power and resources to the detriment of groups that are also singled out negatively in other ways can fuel a perception of gross injustice or violation of ‘rights’. This is a particularly potent mix, which often ignites violent upheaval, not least when a group’s perceived identity appears to be threatened.

Identity is fundamental. Through it, we define who we are. It also defines who others perceive us to be.

Many contemporary political and social issues revolve around conflicting perceptions of disparate identities involving different groups. They are often argued along singular lines. This can be deadly, as we have seen in Rwanda, in the Balkans and in the Darfur province of Sudan. Likewise, polarisation into allegedly unique religious identities, even within the same religions, can be a central factor in fomenting sectarian confrontation – as in Somalia and the Middle East.

But identity is a complicated matter. Korea is a rather homogenous nation and you have managaged to maintain your own culture and national identity. But this is not necessarily the case in today’s globalised world. We all have multiple identities. I am Norwegian, but I also have recent ancestors from England, Sweden and Denmark. I am a Norwegian Crown Prince, but I am also a husband, a father and a friend.

Culture matters. However, the critical question is how it matters. To single out one factor as a basis for defining a person is counter-productive and dangerous. It is imperative that we gain a clearer understanding of the plurality of human identity. We must learn to appreciate that identities overlap and cut across each other.

Renewed or continued oppression fosters new conflict. Peace is impossible without a shared perception of justice.

In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela puts it this way: “…to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Poverty limits the freedom of more than one third of the world’s population.

At the threshold of this millennium, the world’s governments united to make a remarkable promise to the victims of global poverty. They solemnly committed to making the Millennium Development Goals a reality by 2015. These goals include halving extreme poverty, reducing child mortality, providing all of the world’s children with education, rolling back infectious disease, and forging a new global partnership that delivers results.

The goals are ambitious. They are fundamental. And they are universal in nature. They are benchmarks for what we want to achieve in development terms, and a vital statement of our – the international community’s – commitment to human rights and dignity for all.

Questions are sometimes raised as to whether we can afford to realise the Millennium Development Goals. My answer is that we cannot afford not to.

Increasing opportunities for poor people to lead healthy lives, to see their children survive and get an education – in short to escape poverty – will not diminish the well-being of those who are richer.

On the contrary, pursuing an effective pro-poor policy will help to build shared prosperity, and will reinforce our collective security.

A common future built on a foundation of mass poverty in the midst of plenty is economically inefficient, politically unsustainable and morally indefensible. As Professor Jeffery Sachs puts it, “…the lives we save may truly include our own and our children’s in some future turn of fortune.”

Today we have the resources to succeed. Our generation is the first with a realistic chance of ending extreme poverty. The UN Charter provides us with direction. The Millennium Development Goals spells out what needs to be done. And our endorsement of these goals demonstrates our commitment to action.

Development is about the future. When we – the international community – seek to resolve violent conflicts, we must address the underlying causes of poverty and inequity. And we must meet humanitarian needs. Stopping manifestations of violence is necessary, but never sufficient on its own.

Development operates at various levels. At the global level, governed by international rules and regulations, it deals with for instance trade, debt and the movement of people. At the national level, it deals with, for example, democratic governance and capacity-building, and at the local level it deals with issues such as health, education and economic progress.

Other development priorities include improving human rights protection and access to justice. Protection of human dignity and pro-poor governance require representative government assemblies and legal frameworks that are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.

I am not emphasising the primacy of democracy solely on ideological grounds. Rather, democratic participation is a prerequisite for a workable system for managing change, reform and conflicting interests. This means that we must assist in the development of norms, rules and institutions for dealing with conflicts of interest without resorting to violence.

In conclusion, we come back to the questions of engagement, dialogue and constructive interaction. We need to face the challenges, and we need to face them together.

In his recent book Cosmopolitanism, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah identifies two strands of thinking that intertwine in our societies. One is the notion of universalism, with values that are universally shared, and obligations to fellow human beings beyond kith and kin and countrymen. The second strand is that people are different, that differences are valuable, and that differences matter.

These principles – universal concern and respect for legitimate difference –frequently clash, and Cosmopolitanism presents the challenge as much as the solution. Appiah describes himself as “a philosopher by trade” and humbly – and in my opinion falsely – claims that “philosophers rarely write useful books”.

However, it is possible to draw at least one conclusion: The nature of our challenges gives us no real alternative to multilateralism. To be able to handle and enjoy the differences that exist, at the same time as we honour our common obligations, the international community must work together to create a world based on the rule of law and the sanctity of contract, where solidarity and social responsibility are not limited by national boundaries, but extend across borders, continents and generations.

In order to build globally integrated, open societies for the 21st century, we need to reinforce constructive dialogue between peoples and cultures based on the belief that global diversity is a precious asset. We need to enhance the recognition that tolerance of those who are different is a hallmark of civilisation.

Indeed, we need to impart an understanding that it is diversity that gives promise to humanity. The challenge is to find peaceful ways of handling it. And this is why we need a policy of engagement.


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