UN leader in Oslo, ‘listens to critics’

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was back in Oslo on Monday as part of a Nordic tour that, in Norway, included the launch of a new energy accessibility initiative, a session on financing climate measures and a tribute to the late explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen. Ban also told an Oslo-based newspaper before he left New York that he’s listening to “constructive criticism” of his leadership style.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was back in Oslo on Monday, and another energy conference was on the agenda. PHOTO: Trond Viken/Utenriksdepartementet

“I am very pleased that the secretary general of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon, is with us here today,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said when opening a conference entitled “Energy for all: Financing access for the poor.” “We share a deep sense of urgency.”

Stoltenberg noted how his government and the International Energy Agency had invited partners “from all over the world” to take part in a “new initiative to provide energy for all and about how to finance it.” The conference was attended by Stoltenberg’s partner in trying to finance climate measures, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and Kenyan Prime Minister Railo Odinga in addition to Ban, with Crown Prince Haakon also in the audience along with ministers from 20 countries.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has been working on climate issues with the UN for years. PHOTO: Trond Viken/Utenriksdepartementet

The goal, according to Stoltenberg, is to provide affordable energy to the roughly 1.3 billion people in the world who still don’t have electricity and the 2.7 billion without safe and clean cooking fuel. Stoltenberg urges putting a price on carbon to reduce carbon emissions, raise revenue for climate action and promote the development of sustainable and clean energy sources. “Today we’re launching Energy+, an international energy and climate initiative (external link) for access to energy services, renewable energy and low carbon development,” Stoltenberg said, adding that it should demonstrate “how we can mobilize private capital. Through smart use of public funds and attractive policy framework we can attract private investment.” The program involves increased development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in developing countries.

Ban said he welcomed the initiative and had a bilateral talk with Stoltenberg before lunch at the prime minister’s residence with Meles, Odinga and Iraq’s deputy prime minister. Ban has been in Oslo several times before, most notably, perhaps, in 2009 when he arrived just after a Norwegian diplomat’s highly critical report on his leadership style had been leaked to newspaper Aftenposten. Norway’s ambassador to the UN, Mona Juul, had claimed Ban was difficult to cooperate with and prone to temper tantrums. He’s also been a target of criticism from, among others, a top Swedish official at the UN, Inga-Britt Ahlenius.

Ban told Aftenposten over the weekend that he was open to constructive criticism, because it “can make my work better,” but noted that there is no such thing as a universal leadership style. Some of the criticism put forward, he said, ” is fair, some is unfair,” adding that all leaders are subject to criticism. Still, he stressed, 193 member nations of the UN have re-elected him.

The member countries can’t all be wrong in unanimously re-electing him to a new period, he said. “I will continue to be open to criticism and constructive ideas,” he told Aftenposten. His Nordic tour this week is in part a recognition of the countries like Norway that are major contributors to the UN and political allies in a variety of areas including climate issues, the recent Libyan military action, the Middle East and the state of the global economy.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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