5: Norwegian peace contributions
According to ebizdir, Norway has been involved in several well-known peace processes. In some it has gone better (for example in Colombia), in others it has gone worse (for example Sri Lanka). When we go through some of these, it is important to remember that we focus precisely on Norway and Norway’s efforts in the various peace processes. Other parties’ descriptions of these processes may not mention Norway at all. This does not mean that Norway’s role was unimportant, but that small third parties usually play a limited role.
Perhaps the most well-known peace process Norway has contributed to is the Oslo process , which led to the Oslo Accords. This was a secret negotiation between Israeli diplomats and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) , and Norwegian diplomats played a very central role in getting the negotiations started. The initiative had strong support from the Foreign Minister and was carried out by selected and persistent diplomats and supporters. The agreement has been criticized for being too vague, and that Israel, the strong party in the conflict, was given a lot of leeway compared to the Palestinians. Norway is said to have had an inability to pressure the parties to a solution, and the agreement signed in September 1993 outside the White House in Washington DC can be understood as a pre-agreement rather than a peace agreement. No key disagreements were resolved, and unfortunately the follow-up negotiations did not succeed in the years that followed.
In Guatemala fought a number of guerrilla groups against the state for decades, with hundreds of thousands dead and many more internally displaced. The Norwegian peace commitment started with a representative from Norwegian Church Aid with long experience in the country, Petter Skauen. He and his partners involved the Norwegian government early on and got the parties to Oslo in 1990 to discuss what a peace process could look like. As the process progressed, the UN took over the most important mediating role, and in 1996 the parties signed the final peace agreement. Twenty years after the agreement, however, Guatemala is still one of the world’s most violent countries. Although many of the issues addressed in the agreement are still unresolved, such as issues of socio-economic inequality, land distribution and human rights, it ensured the end of the armed conflict between the parties.
Norway’s contribution to the peace process in Sri Lanka began in 2000 when the government in the country engaged Norway as a broker. Despite a ceasefire agreement two years later, the process faced major challenges in the years ahead. It became especially difficult after the election of a president in 2006 who did not want to build on Norway’s peace commitment and who rather helped to increase the distance between the state and the other party, the Tamil Tigers. In 2009, the conflict ended when the government fought the uprisings militarily – not through negotiations. As a small player, Norway was not in a position to avert this sabotage alone, but has been criticized for not withdrawing from the process earlier. Today, there is no armed conflict in Sri Lanka, but peace has been built on the terms of one party, and the underlying conflict is still simmering.
The newest and perhaps best example of Norwegian peace work is Colombia . In Colombia, Norway’s most important contribution to the peace process was to build trust in the process with the Colombian authorities and the rebel group FARC. In the negotiations, patient diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs contributed to the actual implementation. Norway also contributed financially and secured international recognition. Colombia’s peace talks began in 2012, after two years of secret talks. A final agreement was signed in November 2016, the same year that President Juan Manuel Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize . The peace agreement is long and detailed, but nonetheless controversial. Some questions Colombians still disagree on are how FARC leaders should be punished and how they should participate in politics.The presidential election in June 2018 showed how divided Colombia still is on these issues.
6: Up to the players
Although the number of peace agreements seems to be falling, there have been many peace processes in the world in the three decades since the end of the Cold War. In such processes, third parties such as Norway can play a significant role. In Colombia, for example, Norway contributed to peace negotiations where the parties themselves took the initiative and moved the process forward.
Together, Norway has played a role in dozens of peace processes in recent decades, and in some of these a very important role. Like most peace processes, some have failed, some have stagnated, and others have reached the important milestone of a peace agreement.
This summer, Norway officially launched its candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council for the period 2021-2022 . A seat on the Security Council can give Norway an important voice in matters of international peace and security. To get a seat, Norway must get enough votes in the UN General Assembly, where all countries’ votes matter equally – whether it is giants like the United States or small states like Liechtenstein. To convince the other UN countries, Norway argues, among other things, that experiences from peace processes such as the one in Colombia can be useful for the Security Council .
At the same time as the commitment to peace can contribute to Norway’s candidacy, a possible position can also strengthen Norwegian peace work. For example, one will have closer contact with important actors and be able to influence the content of resolutions. This content can in turn have practical significance for peace and reconciliation work in countries in conflict.
For Norway, this can have a self-reinforcing effect and the “peace nation Norway” can become an even more important player in peace processes in the future. Nevertheless, Norway cannot solve the existential crisis for diplomacy alone. Many great powers and interests play far more important roles. This also applies in each individual conflict. Ultimately, after all, it is the armed actors’ own will for peace and reconciliation that matters most.