Can Norway create peace? Part I

By | October 20, 2021

For a number of years, Norway has profiled itself as a nation of peace and this year launched its candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council. But how important is Norwegian peace work and what are Norway’s limitations and strengths as a peace broker?

  • Why is it difficult to create peace?
  • Why does Norway want to contribute as a peace broker?
  • What peace processes has Norway contributed to?
  • Does Norway play any role in the big picture?

Diplomacy is an “existential crisis”, was claiming t on Oslo Forum 2018, one high-level conference organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue . It was no coincidence that UN chief Antonio Guterres, high-profile peace brokers and heads of state were gathered on Norwegian soil to discuss peace mediation. Norway has long had a self-image as a nation of peace , which is closely linked to our identity and self-understanding – it is and has been expected that Norway will play a role in conflict resolution in the world.

While we have previously looked at some of the many challenges after war , this time we will look at how wars end and why this can be so difficult. We will also look at some of the Norwegian contributions to conflict resolution in the world.

2: Why is it difficult to create peace?

It is a cliché that it is much easier to start a war than to end it. Nevertheless, this can be a good starting point for understanding the challenges of creating peace.

In principle, it does not take much for a war to break out. If one country or violent group attacks another, the other is likely to defend itself. In this sense, the first shot or attack is a decision a group can make on their own. One can say it is a unilateral decision. Creating peace, on the other hand, agreeing with the adversary to lay down arms and resolve underlying disagreements is a bilateral decision. The parties must agree.

There are several reasons why agreeing to lay down arms is difficult:

  • Belief in military victory:That the parties do not necessarily want it. This may be because they think they can win militarily and that one then does not have to compromise.
  • Lack of trust:That they do not believe the other party wants to lay down their arms, or because they do not trust that the other party will actually keep its promise.
  • Internal divisions:If only parts of the group are motivated to negotiate a solution, there is a risk that the groups will split and that the challenges of finding a peaceful solution will be even more difficult.
  • Own gain:That important actors and individuals benefit from the war continuing. Trafficking in illegal goods, such as drugs, is relatively easier to make money in a chaotic situation where no one enforces the law.
  • Deep wounds:That the war itself creates so much strife and revenge that one does not even consider talking to the other party.
  • High complexity:There are many actors, both international and national, in addition to many different interests.

3: Why has it become more difficult in recent years?

The crisis that diplomacy is said to be facing is aimed at a declining number of peace agreements. The number of peace agreements has fallen sharply in recent years compared with the two decades after the end of the Cold War.

Why? There are many factors that come into play and many ways to explain them. Here we go into four of them.

First , various interests of great powers in recent years have helped to make peace mediation more difficult again, as it was during the Cold War. The end of the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union made peace mediation easier, and in the 1990s there were more mediation attempts in the world than during the entire Cold War combined. But today we see again the tendencies of the Cold War, where strained relations and often conflicting interests between great powers such as the United States, Russia, China and the great powers of the Middle East Iran and Saudi Arabia make it even more complicated to negotiate.

This brings us to the second factor that makes peace agreements difficult, namely the number of actors. The warring parties and their supporters want different things, and it is difficult to find a center that everyone can agree on. The conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Yemen are some examples. Here one will not be able to resolve the conflict by entering into peace with one group, and including everyone at once with their different interests can make a peace agreement unattainable.

Thirdly , some believe that the decline in the number of peace agreements is due to the fact that the agreements entered into today are more thorough and of better quality than before. Peace agreements entered into in the 1990s and 2000s were often improvised, short, unsustainable and could hold the seeds for continued strife. Many of the countries that had several peace agreements are still not peaceful, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Fourthly , the way in which the parties to a conflict are described can also play a role in the decline in the number of peace agreements. Following the attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 and the ensuing “war on terror”, the stamp “terrorist” has increasingly been used about armed actors, who were previously considered to have legitimate political demands. Denying that a group has political goals often increases the distance between the parties and peace negotiations become more difficult to achieve. The terrorist stamp became more common as early as the 2000s, but has also been frequently used in the 2010s.

4: Why is Norway attractive?

According to directoryaah, one of the reasons why Norway plays and has played an important role as a peace broker is precisely the willingness to talk to all parties. But there are certain obvious limitations to the Norwegian peace initiative. A great power like the United States can threaten military intervention or military support from one of the parties. Norway, on the other hand, which is not a major military power, can to a small extent use military forces or threats to get parties to the negotiating table.

Precisely this is nevertheless one of Norway’s attractive sides as a peace mediator. Because Norway does not have major power interests, and in addition is not a member of the EU, it is considered a more neutral player. Norway is also recognized for being credible and discreet and can also contribute with the combination of diplomatic expertise, resources for the implementation of peace processes and a long-term commitment – regardless of change of government. The fact that foreign policy does not change to any great extent from one government to another is an important feature that builds on the predictability of Norway. Finally, even though Norway cannot use military force as a means of pressure, aid funds and investments can play a role. The only problem is that such “carrots” are often less effective military “whips”.

In an overview, the government refers to ten ongoing peace commitments , including in the Philippines, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan / South Sudan. However, the list is not complete. As Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreider says: “At the same time, we are involved in a large number of ‘quiet’ processes that require shielding. »These processes require shielding because the parties in secret can talk more freely to each other.

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