“There will be no development without peace,” said Børge Brende, Norway’s foreign minister, in an event this week hosted by Foreign Policy at Brookings to discuss his country’s approach to peace and reconciliation. Norway has been engaged in a number of peace and reconciliation efforts around the world, notably in the Middle East, South Sudan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Colombia. Brende spoke of the need to embrace peace and reconciliation as an “integral part of the foreign policy toolbox.”
Brende was introduced by Brookings President Strobe Talbott who said that the event’s topic was “poignantly appropriate” because peace and reconciliation “are two commodities that are in very short supply in some critical parts of the world where Norway has been taking a very constructive role against very tough odds.” Talbott said that “Norway has made promotion of peace and the ending of conflict a national vocation.”
Watch the foreign minister’s remarks in their entirety here:
Explaining the responsibility felt by Norway “as part of a globalized world to help to resolve prevent violent conflict,” Brende described “facts of radicalization, organized crime, and refugee streams caused by conflict and instability.” He suggested that “preventing and resolving violent conflict is a cost-efficient way of fostering development.”
Brende spoke of “a distinctive Norwegian approach” to Norway’s foreign policy over the last three decades, identifying five Norwegian principles on peace and reconciliation:
- Dialogue and negotiation. Brende spoke of Norway’s “fundamental belief that dialogue and negotiation is a key policy tool even in circumstances of strong disagreement.” He explained that “talking to the parties is essential in order to develop an understanding of the conflict and the various positions of key stakeholders.”
- Long-term perspective. “Norway is not a day trader in peace building.” Brende emphasized the necessity of “taking a long-term perspective.”
- The importance of regional and international partnerships. “Norway does not engage in a vacuum,” Brende said.
- Peace cannot be forced. Brende explained that, “in our role as facilitator or mediator, we do not attempt to pressure parties or force solutions” because “sustainable peace will always depend on parties [finding] common ground.” Instead of using political pressure, he said, Norway might “give advice, assist, encourage, and give a gentle nudge when we detect emerging willingness for parties to engage.”
- Inclusiveness. Brende highlighted the “importance of inclusiveness” and Norway’s position as a “consistent advocate for inclusion of local communities and civil societies and its critical role in ensuring sustainable peace.”
“Peace and reconciliation work is not clear cut but full of dilemmas,” he said, but finished by asking, “Can we afford not to try?”
Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon, director of research for Foreign Policy, moderated the discussion. The event marked the inauguration of the Alan and Jane Batkin International Leaders Forum Series, a new event series hosted by Foreign Policy at Brookings, which will bring global political, diplomatic, and thought leaders to Washington, D.C. for major policy addresses.
For the first time, a major economy is saying: We will be better off doing things by ourselves, and making our own decisions. And that's a bit of a shock to the system.