Crown Prince Haakon has already kicked off the lobbying effort and now it will be followed up by one of Norway’s most internationally well-known diplomats: Mona Juul and the Norwegian government wll be working hard over the next two years to win a seat on the UN Security Council in 2021 and 2022.
The crown prince traveled to New York in June to launch Norway’s candidacy for a Security Council seat along with Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide. Now Juul will be carrying on the campaign after being formally appointed as Norway’s new ambassador to the UN earlier this month. She succeeds Tore Hattrem, who was named to the top administrative post at the Norwegian Foreign Ministry in Oslo.
Juul’s appointment as UN ambassador comes exactly 25 years after she played a key role in facilitating the Oslo Agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians in 1993. She and her fellow diplomat husband Terje Rød-Larsen made history in bringing the two sides together through secret negotiations in Norway. While it ultimately failed, it formed a basis for Norway’s role as a peace broker in various conflicts around the world.
Juul, age 59, has most recently been Norway’s ambassador to the UK, which has lately involved enormous work in following the Brexit negotiations. She’ll now move back to New York, where Rød-Larsen also has based his own think tank and International Peace Institute, to pick up her new tasks at the UN. She’s no stranger there, having earlier served as second-in-command of Norway’s delegation to the UN.
Norway hasn’t had a seat on the Security Council since 2002, when it finished up its fourth two-year term since 1949. Now it’s vying once again for one of the 10 seats held by rotating members. Only the US, France, Great Britain, Russia and China hold permanent seats and have veto rights, a reflection of how power was shared at the end of World War II.
The Norwegian government considers the UN Security Council to be “the world’s most powerful organ for interntional peace and security.” The government declared earlier this year that Norway “wants a place on the council to take care of our national and global interests, to contribute to peace and conflict resolution,” and to support the regulatory structure behind the world order “that has served us so well for more than 70 years.”
Norwegian officials point to how they’ve been “patient and impartial” facilitators of peace talks from the Middle East to Africa, South America and Asia, most recently in Colombia and the Philippines. The Norwegians also claim they’ll work to promote human rights and democratic institutions, and towards making the Security Council itself “more efficient, open and inclusive,” and to maintain its legitimacy.
The campaign ahead to the election of council members by the 193 UN countries in 2020 won’t be easy. Newspaper Aftenposten recently reported how earlier campaigns allegedly have involved attempted bribes by candidates, and countries that have lied about who they will vote for. Norway’s also up against some tough rivals, including its NATO ally Canada and Ireland, with the latter already inviting UN ambassadors to a concert in New York starring Ireland’s most famous band, U2.
While some candidates in the past have been known to lure voters by inviting them to visit their homelands with business-class airline tickets and five-star hotel stays, most of the campaigning is done through sheer diplomatic footwork. That can include champagne receptions but also conversations in hallways, dinners visits by royalty (like Crown Prince Haakon in June) and receptions at the ambassador’s residence. Mona Juul will be the hostess over the next few years.
Foreign Minister Søreide stresses, however, that today’s UN Security Council is quite different than the one Norway was part of 17 years ago. “We want to strengthen the UN itself as a multilateral organ,” she told Aftenposten. Norway wants influence, not least among the five permanent Security Council members. Being on the council together than provide that. She said the current two-year members have been cooperating much better amongst themselves: “We believe we can work well with both the permanent and non-permanent members, and find good solutions. Sweden has succeeded at that. Even though Russia vetoed several proposals regarding Syria, Sweden got them to open up for humanitarian access. We believe in that kind of dialog and that it’s possible to find solutions.”
Norway’s campaign for a seat will soon become more visible, starting in earnest over the next two weeks when national leaders converge on New York for the UN opening and General Assembly. One senior researcher at the Norwegian foreign policy institute NUPI, Niels Nagelhus Schia, wrote last month that there are three good reasons to justify the UN Security Council campaign: The prospects of increased influence, higher status within the UN and the fact that Norway has a lot of offer, with a solid track record of top UN posts and competence regarding the UN system. The Norwegian currently in charge of the UN Environment Programme, Erik Solheim, may have spoiled some of that given highly critical audits of his spending on extensive travel, but Norway has long been a major supporter of and heavy financial contributor to the UN. That might help.