Norway 'underrepresented' at UN

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Norwegian diplomats think Norway should have more top posts at the United Nations. They intend to air their dissatisfaction with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when he arrives in Oslo at the end of the month.

Norway ranks as the world’s third-largest contributor of financial support for the UN, and has been among the most generous contributors on a per capita basis for years. At present, however, no Norwegians hold top jobs at the UN, and they first show up at what’s known as the sixth level of management within the UN Secretariat. The highest-ranking Norwegian is Hilde Frafjord Johnson, a former government minister from the Christian Democrats who is second-in-command of Unicef.

Newspaper Aftenposten reports there’s been some grumbling about this within Norway’s Foreign Ministry (Utenriksdepartementet, UD) . Only about 100 Norwegians in total work within the UN system, meaning diplomats view the country as “underrepresented” with just 13 middle-management posts.

“When we give as much money as we do, we should rather be over represented,” one diplomat at UD told Aftenposten . “We have many examples of proposing good candidates from Norway, but we feel we haven’t received good enough response.”

Lars Andersen of UD’s recruitment section confirms the problem. “It’s clear that a goal for us is to boost the number of Norwegians in senior positions,” he told Aftenposten .

Letting Ban know

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who’s faced lots of other criticism of late for not having a higher profile, will travel to Norway at the end of August and also visit Svalbard in the far north. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and the minister in charge of foreign aid and the environment, Erik Solheim, will all have meetings with Ban. Astrid Helle Ajamai, who leads the UN division within the foreign ministry, said it will be “natural” for Stoltenberg, Støre and Solheim to bring up the issue.

Several Norwegians have held top posts in recent years, including Gro Harlem Brundtland as head of the UN’s World Health Organisation and Jan Egeland as a deputy secretary general in charge of refugee programs. Egeland noted that some of the problem lies with the Norwegians.

“Many suffer the ‘Nordmarka syndrome,'” Egeland said, meaning they don’t want to trade their lifestyle in Oslo with easy access to the forests and hills called Nordmarka for several years in New York City. UD officials, according to the former diplomat who now heads the Norwegian foreign policy institute NUPI, could also do a better job of following up and promoting Norwegians who already work within the UN system.