Bondevik’s peace center loses support

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Several of Norway’s biggest companies are dropping their financial support for a peace and human rights center founded by Kjell Magne Bondevik, a former prime minister and head of the Christian Democrats party. Their refusal to renew their sponsorships has prompted Bondevik to apply for state funding that could amount to nearly half his annual budget.

Kjell Magne Bondevik needs to find new sources of funding for his Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights. PHOTO: WIkipedia Commons

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported Thursday that Bondevik, also a former foreign minister, is now asking Norway’s foreign ministry for NOK 4.5 million in general support over a three-year-period. The funding would come in addition to some specific project funding that Bondevik’s Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights already has secured from the state, including NOK 2 million late last year.

Bondevik denied he now was depending on state support. “We have several private donors, and it’s common for a center like ours to seek project funding,” Bondevik told DN.

The center has, however, lost six of its 15 major donor/sponsors, including Norway’s largest bank, DnB NOR, state oil company Statoil, and industrial firms Aker AS, Norsk Hydro and Orkla. Together they provided around NOK 6 million of the center’s NOK 13 million in revenues last year, according to DN, while two shipowning companies including Mosvold & Co have cut their support.

“It’s too early to say how big our revenue loss will be,” Bondevik told DN, adding that he therefore couldn’t release a new budget. He noted, however, that “it looks like we need more support to balance the budget.”

He stressed that he was “fully prepared” that some of his initial sponsors would feel they’ve given enough after five years of the center’s operations. Investor and businessman Bjørn Rune Gjelsten, who like former Aker partner Kjell Inge Røkke and Bondevik hail from Molde, confirmed Bondevik’s claim. “We wanted to help Bondevik during the start-up, but made it clear early that we didn’t see it as natural to continue with this for the long term,” Gjelsten told DN. Aker spokesman Atle Kigen agreed.

“Kjell Magne Bondevik has done some outstanding work and Aker is proud to have been among many supporters since the start-up in 2006,” Kigen said. “Aker entered into a five-year agreement to contribute one million kroner a year.” Now, however, Kigen said Aker has “chosen another direction” for its sponsorships, opting for those “we have the resources and capacity to follow up and where we can contribute with more than just capital.” Aker since has become a major sponsor of the Norwegian cross country ski team through the national organization Skiforbundet.

Bondevik and the center (external link) have been involved in a wide range of issues from urging more human rights in Iran to championing the release of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. The center will host its annual seminar next month, which will feature former presidents of South Africa Thabo Mbeki and Frederik Willem de Klerk appearing on a panel discussion at Oslo’s Opera House. Both will also meet members of the Norwegian government during their stay.

Bondevik’s former director at the center and party fellow Einar Steensnæs had made a point of saying the center wouldn’t be a burden on the taxpayers. Now that view has changed, but Bondevik is still hoping for more private donations to fund his worldwide travels and projects to promote peace, human rights and multi-cultural dialogue. The center was set up as an independent foundation, has a staff of eight persons and wants to diversify into conflict prevention and promotion of responsible leadership in vulnerable states and democracies.

“We’re in dialogue with several well-known and unknown names,” he told DN. “We are optimistic. It’s still only April.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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