Altruism As
National Interest
No. 3 2005 July/September


2005 marks
the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Norway and
Russia, which were established following the denunciation of the
Swedish-Norwegian Union (1814-1905). However, the two countries
have been “neighbors for a thousand years,” as expressed in the
title of a joint cultural exhibition that opened in St. Petersburg
in April 2005. During all this time, our two nations have never
been at war. Even in times of tension, peace prevailed across our
common border in the north. Norway and the Soviet Union were allies
in the fight against Nazism and the Soviet army liberated the
county of Finnmark.


years ago, relations between Norway and Russia entered a new phase.
Economic, energy and environmental cooperation and cross-border
cultural and people-to-people relations are now as important as
military and political issues were in the period before 1990, when
they dominated our bilateral agenda. For several decades Norway and
Russia have jointly managed the fisheries resources in the Barents
Sea. The importance of the Barents Region and the northern areas as
a whole has increased. The increasing importance of the petroleum
denunciation of the Swedish-Norwegian Union resources in these
waters presents both Norway and Russia with new and promising
opportunities, and at the same time paves the way for bringing our
two countries closer together.


safety has become a major area of cooperation that also involves
other nations in the G-8 Global Partnership. Our cooperation on
nuclear safety and security in Northwestern Russia has become an
increasingly important part of our bilateral relations over the
last decade. During this period, Norway has provided some $160
million for these efforts. We intend to continue working with
Russia on reducing the risk of nuclear accidents and pollution from
nuclear facilities in Northwestern Russia, and on preventing
radioactive and fissile materials from falling into the wrong
hands. Norway will also give high priority to the bilateral
cooperation between supervisory and administrative authorities in
this field.


While our
two governments are working together to secure a clean environment
and the sound management of fish stocks and nuclear materials, a
growing number of companies in our two countries are forming links
through joint ventures, trade and investment. This is particularly
true of the petroleum sector, where we hope to see even closer
cooperation in Norwegian and Russian offshore fields in the north
in the near future. Norwegian companies, with 30 years of
experience of technologically challenging North Sea development,
have a lot to offer Russia. The development of the giant offshore
Shtokman gas field is a case in point.


Norway and
Russia are two of the world’s three largest oil exporters and the
main suppliers of natural gas to European energy markets. The
prominence of the issue of global energy security, partly as a
result of the instability in major oil-producing regions like the
Middle East and of the current high oil prices, means that
petroleum production in our northern areas has considerable
strategic and economic importance. At the same time, both countries
have important military, political and ecological interests in the
north that need to be taken into account. Norway therefore welcomes
closer and more comprehensive bilateral dialog with Russia in all
these areas.


agreement on a maritime delimitation line in accordance with
established international legal practice and principles will make
it possible for us to expand our cooperation to include what is
currently the disputed area. Norway is ready to continue
negotiations when Russia has concluded its internal administrative
review process.




One of the
most effective ways of promoting international peace and stability
is through regional and sub-regional cooperation structures. Norway
and Russia are active members of the Barents Council, the Arctic
Council and the Council of Baltic Sea States, where we work for
regional integration and cross-border cooperation in areas such as
health, environmental protection, migration and


political and military cooperation between NATO and Russia has
reached yet another milestone with Russia’s signature of the
Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement (PfP SOFA) at the
NATO-Russia Council meeting in Vilnius in April. Since the
establishment of the Council, NATO-Russia relations have undergone
a remarkable transformation and are now a central element in the
emerging Eurasian security architecture. This will strengthen our
ability to respond to the threats posed by terrorism, drug
trafficking and other challenges in and around Afghanistan, Central
Asia and the Caucasus region. We look forward to the Duma’s
ratification of the PfP SOFA agreement, which will pave the way for
intensified bilateral military cooperation between Norway and


Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the
Council of Europe also play important roles in promoting peace,
stability, democracy and human rights in the Eurasian area. Lately,
however, several CIS member states, including Russia, have
criticized the OSCE for taking an unbalanced approach by focusing
more on the human than on the politico-military and economic
dimensions, while Western members have criticized CIS states for
the opposite. Following the “tulip revolution” in Kyrgyzstan,
positive signals have come from both sides regarding the need to
reach agreement on the way forward. Norway will contribute to the
efforts to find balanced solutions that will ensure an effective
role for the OSCE in both the human and the security


There can
be no doubt about the need for international cooperation in order
to strengthen democratic institutions and human rights in the OSCE
area. There is simply no such thing as a trade-off between human
rights and security. On the contrary, measures to protect human
rights must go hand in hand with measures to improve security, in
the same way as peace diplomacy needs to be combined with
development cooperation. The two sets of measures are mutually
reinforcing: history has shown us that enhancing security at the
expense of democracy and human rights is doomed to


Chechen conflict has for years been a source of friction between
Russia and Western countries. The situation in Chechnya is complex
and difficult. Terrorists and extremist groups have committed
terrible atrocities, including the horrific Beslan massacre. No
cause can justify terrorist acts. Serious human rights violations
have been committed by all sides. This is unacceptable. So are the
attempts to support separatism or to change borders by force. Like
other OSCE states, Norway remains committed to the Helsinki Acts.
We fully support Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, in
the North Caucasus and elsewhere.


continues to advocate a peaceful, political solution to the
conflict, and to provide humanitarian aid to refugees in the North
Caucasus. We are involved in supporting the Russian Government’s
rehabilitation plans for the region, including the construction of
a new school in Beslan and the reconstruction of the educational
system in Chechnya. In these efforts we are co-operating with UN
agencies like OCHA, UNHCR and UNESCO, and with NGOs like the
Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Red Cross and Red
Crescent, and Médecins sans Frontières. These
organizations are doing a tremendous job under difficult conditions
to help people in the North Caucasus, and they need all the help
they can get from donors and from Russian federal and regional




Norway is among the largest donors to
international development cooperation, giving close to 1 percent of
its GNI, or roughly $2 billion, each year through UN agencies, NGOs
and bilateral cooperation. Norway’s role as a mediator and
facilitator in peace, reconciliation and conflict resolution
processes worldwide is an integral part of this picture.


Promoting peaceful relations and helping
to resolve conflicts between peoples and nations is a logical
foreign policy objective for small states like Norway. With our
open economy, we are vulnerable to events outside our borders. At
the same time, it is important for us to protect our significant
investments in development and human security in partner countries.
Just as it is true that poverty and lack of development increase
the risk of conflict, so it is equally true that conflict and the
absence of peace are an obstacle to sustainable development.


Our participation in peace processes
takes a number of different forms. It ranges from acting as
official facilitator of negotiations, as in Sri Lanka and the
Philippines; to sponsoring a back channel for secret negotiations,
as in the Middle East; to being a partner in an international
coalition, as in Sudan, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Somalia, Colombia and


Five years ago, Norway was asked by the
parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka to facilitate a peace process.
We were naturally willing to help, and in 2002 the Government and
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) entered into the
present cease-fire agreement. Three years of cease-fire is by far
the longest period without hostilities since the war began in 1983,
and it has probably saved thousands of lives.


At the moment direct negotiations
between the parties have been suspended. The delay in resuming
talks is partly due to the uncertain political and security
situation and the parties’ need to develop confidence in one
another as negotiating partners. However, the post-tsunami
situation has created an opportunity for implementing
confidence-building measures through the efforts to establish a
joint mechanism for channelling funds for rebuilding the
tsunami-affected areas in the north and east.


We hope agreement on a joint mechanism
will be reached shortly. The successful implementation of such a
mechanism would not only ensure the equitable distribution of
relief based on real needs and local priorities, but would
contribute greatly to creating a favorable climate for peace talks
in the longer term.

Three months ago a truly historic event
occurred in Africa: the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s
Liberation Movement (SPLM) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
in Nairobi. The agreement marks the end of one of Africa’s longest
and bloodiest civil wars.


On the other hand, the conflict in
Darfur has not yet been resolved, and continues to be a matter of
great concern. A workable solution will require a new form of
nation-building based on the sharing of power and wealth between
the center and the regions. It must also take into account a large
number of cultural, ethnic, religious and historical issues. The
peace agreement provides a blueprint for such a solution. Now it
needs to be applied to other regions in the country as well: the
sustainability of the peace will depend on this. Supporting the
implementation of the peace agreement is a key element of our Sudan


Norway’s political support to and
involvement in the Sudan peace process is the result of our
long-standing commitment to humanitarian assistance to Sudan, the
efforts of Norwegian NGOs in the country and many years of
cooperation between various academic institutions in Norway and


Through our humanitarian efforts we have
been involved with both parties to the conflict. Humanitarian
assistance to the war-affected areas in the south brought us in
particularly close contact with the SPLM/A, a relationship that
proved to be very valuable to the Government of Sudan during the
crucial last round of peace talks. It has also facilitated our
assistance to the parties, which took the form of communicating and
explaining their positions to each other.

Norway’s involvement in the peace
process in Sudan has been coordinated in an informal troika with
the U.S.A. and the UK. However, efforts to sustain peace and
development in Sudan must enjoy a wider support by other countries.
The first international donor conference for Sudan was a welcome
success in this regard. Representatives of more than 60 countries
and international organizations met in Oslo on 11-12 April, and
donors pledged more than $4.5 billion to Sudan for the period
2005-2007. This shows that there is international commitment to the
implementation of the peace agreement.


In the conflict between Israel and the
Palestinians, the prospects for a resumption of the peace process
are more promising than they have been for a long time. Israel’s
decision to withdraw from the settlements in Gaza and four
settlements on the West Bank is of vital importance: if
implemented, it could be a major step toward bringing the peace
process back on track. But the international community must be
resolute in insisting that the withdrawal is carried out in
accordance with the Road Map for Peace.


The Palestinian Authority must continue
its efforts to fully control all armed Palestinian groups. The
understanding reached in Egypt last month between the Palestinian
Authority and a majority of the Palestinian militant organizations,
first and foremost Hamas, was another significant step. So is
Hamas’ decision to take part in local and parliamentary elections.
Only political solutions can bring peace to the Middle East. The
terrorist infrastructure must be dismantled, and all weapons


The respective governments have to
overcome enormous challenges. They must deal with domestic
considerations and with opposition to the process on both sides:
there are still far too many who wish to stop or derail the
process. However, it is important that the parties refrain from
actions that will result in short-term political gain at the
expense of long-term progress.    


The international community must seize
this new opportunity and support the parties in their efforts to
revitalize the peace process. A concerted, targeted effort on the
part of the Quartet is needed to give it further momentum. Here
Russia, along with the other Quartet members – the U.S., the UN and
the EU – has a decisive role to play.


While important steps have been taken to
bring the process back on track, there are still significant
problems with regard to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The
construction of the wall on occupied Palestinian land and the
expansion of settlements could jeopardize the two-state solution.
Construction must stop before it undermines progress. A “Gaza
first, Gaza last” solution will never bring peace to the Middle
East. The developments in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must
therefore have top priority in the dialog between the international
community and Israel. 


The difficult economic and humanitarian
situation for the Palestinian population poses another threat to
the process, since poverty breeds extremism. Norway has been
heading the international donors’ efforts to support the
Palestinian community for more than a decade, efforts that have
been an essential part of the thrust for a peaceful solution.




Norway’s efforts are always part of a
broader setting: Norway’s role as a peace facilitator follows from
our long-standing support for the UN mandate for peace and
security. It is built on a tradition of engagement in humanitarian
assistance and development cooperation, and reinforces the success
and sustainability of these efforts.


We also tend to support other leading
actors rather than taking the lead ourselves. In certain cases
Norway does take a leading role, but this is always at the request
of the parties involved in the conflict.


Norway is also a patient facilitator.
There is broad and long-established political consensus in Norway
on our policy of promoting peace and reconciliation. One example is
our engagement in Sri Lanka, which has been maintained by three
different foreign ministers from three different political parties.

One particular area in which we have
been active is inter-religious dialog since in the past decade
religion has gained an increasingly important position on the
international political agenda. Religion is usually not the only or
the main reason for a conflict, but it is often exploited for
political purposes. Religion, like patriotism, is easy to misuse,
because people often express their anger, their desires, and even
their aims in religious terms. Religious sentiments can be used to
pave the way for peaceful, durable political solutions to
conflicts. Cooperation between religious leaders and religious
communities can be a powerful force for peace, and create more
understanding and cooperation within a country and between
countries and peoples. Thus, although religion is often regarded as
part of the problem, it can in fact be a valuable part of the


Another important factor is our emphasis
on cooperating with national and international NGOs. Norwegian NGOs
have decades of experience, gained from their activities in
different parts of the world. They have valuable networks and
hands-on knowledge of the various regions, and skills and expertise
that we are able to draw on.


Norway is regarded in many quarters as
being impartial. Norway has no colonial past, and is usually
perceived as having no hidden political or economic agenda. Since
it is difficult for a country to achieve success on its own, we
work together with other international actors. This means that we
can combine our own resources with those of others, and it ensures
the necessary support for the processes we are involved in.


Finally, an important aspect of Norway’s
involvement is that we regard ourselves as a peace facilitator, not
a peacemaker. As a facilitator we do our utmost to support the
parties, but at the end of the day the will to bring about peace
must come from the parties themselves.


As regards why we choose to be so
heavily involved, one reason is that, like many others, we feel we
have a moral obligation to contribute to the peaceful resolution of
conflicts and thus improve the lives of people in other parts of
the world.


But it is not altruism alone that drives
us. Contributing to peace in other parts of the world is in our own

Today there are fewer conflicts between
countries. On the other hand, we are witnessing an intensification
of internal, intra-state conflicts, which are the subject of
greater international attention.


Globalization has proved to be a
double-edged sword. On the one hand, it has had the positive effect
of bringing the countries of the world closer together through the
flow of trade, investments, information and ideas, providing new
opportunities for cooperation and joint endeavors. On the other
hand, instability and insecurity now spread more easily. Internal
conflicts have negative effects far beyond the actual site of the
conflict, through illegal migration, disease, environmental
degradation, organized crime and terrorism.


Internal conflicts have thus become a
global concern. Yesterday’s humanitarian situations are today’s
core security policy issues. Peace diplomacy is one instrument in
our quest for peace. But the quest for peace is also very much a
question of providing development assistance and ensuring good
governance and respect for human rights. It may also involve using
military means when the situation calls for it, but then as a
measure of last resort. No country can isolate itself from
globalization and its effects, either positive or negative. Norway,
like Russia and other nations, stands to gain overall from the
benefits of increased cross-border communication and interaction.
But greater intergovernmental cooperation is needed to exercise
democratic control. States must work together – nationally,
bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally – in order to more
effectively tackle these conflicts, and the related international
threats and challenges.


Norway’s experience of peace processes
and development assistance has shown us that people in poor or
conflict-prone parts of the world, without hope and without jobs,
are more easily recruited by groups or ideologies that advocate
violence and conflict. And we believe that eventually the
consequences of such conflicts will come home to haunt us, even in
our supposedly safe and prosperous part of the world. This is why,
in addition to more altruistic motives, we choose to provide
development assistance and support peace processes. By combating
poverty, pollution and disease we are also eliminating potential
breeding grounds for hatred, extremism and terrorism.


Of course, political and ethnic
grievances must be tackled, but this must be done by political and
peaceful means. Peace and stability must be built patiently, using
all the means at our disposal – diplomatic, political, and economic
– so as to ensure lasting, sustainable development. To achieve this
goal, we must work together. Norway and Russia should be partners
in this endeavor.