A jubilant Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide view Norway’s election to the UN Security Council as a sign of international confidence in Norway, and support for its foreign policy. “We have worked very hard for this,” Solberg told reporters when the news broke late Wednesday night.
“People know what we stand for,” Søreide said as she and Solberg met reporters outside the foreign ministry on a warm and light summer evening. Søreide firmly believes that Norwegian foreign policy emphasizing international, multilateral cooperation and conflict resolution must have hit home with the 130 countries that cast ballots for Norway in the first round of voting that began at the UN on Wednesday.
Ireland was also voted in quickly, winning 128 votes, while Canada lost out as the three countries competed for two seats during Security Council terms that run from January 1, 2021 through the end of 2022. Norwegian officials have already promised ongoing cooperation with Canada, and congratulated both Mexico and India for also winning seats that will represent other regions of the world. An additional round of voting would determine whether Kenya or Djibouti would represent the African group on the council.
‘Convinced we can contribute’
Prime Minister Solberg was also in a celebratory mood, and relieved after a campaign for the seat that began as far back as 2007. Norway hasn’t had a seat on the Security Council since 2002, and is keen to “make a difference” on the council that has a stated goal of ensuring peace and security around the world.
“We are convinced we can contribute something at the UN,” Solberg told reporters. “We are supporters of international cooperation. We think it’s important that we also take on some responsibility for working to make sure it functions.” Norway plans to prioritize areas such as human rights, enhanced protection for civilians in areas of conflict, and securing women’s roles and participation in international peace and security efforts.
Norway’s election comes at a time when US President Donald Trump has been viewed as undermining international cooperation, from bashing or withdrawing from trade deals to being constantly critical of the NATO military alliance and, most recently, pulling thousands of US troops out of Germany even though the German bases have helped the US in its Middle East operations. At the same time, Russia and China have also been striving to become world powers, raising uncertainty over the global power balance and the future of democratic values.
Experience in ‘maneuvering’
Søreide has already said that Norway is accustomed to “maneuvering” among the world’s largest nations. Norway has always been a major supporter of the United Nations and is now keen to have a chance for much closer contact with all five permanent members of the Security Council: France, Great Britain, China, Russia and the US.
Critics of the campaign for a Security Council seat have warned that Norway will get caught in a squeeze given all the tensions and conflicts between the US and both China and Russia. Norway strives to remain on good terms with all three, while still consistently referring to the US as “our closest ally” despite huge political differences with the Trump administration.
“We won’t choose among countries,” Solberg said. “We will try to find good solutions for everyone.”
Reaction to Norway’s election was mostly positive, with opposition leader Jonas Gahr Støre of the Labour Party even thanking Solberg’s Conservatives-led government for leading the last six years of the Security Council campaign that began when Labour held government power.
“I want to praise those who have worked towards this for many years, and send a greeting to the prime minister and foreign minister, who have led the last lap,” said Støre, who served as Norway’s foreign minister himself in the former left-center government led by Jens Stoltenberg, who now leads NATO.
Støre stressed that countries achieve little on their own, “but Norway, as a small country with an open economy, has experience in finding solutions that can unite interests across differences.” The council “is all about peace and security,” he noted, but needs to pay more attention to all kinds of global issues to prevent conflicts instead of addressing them.
Audun Lysbakken, leader of the Socialist Left party (SV), stressed to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that Norway has now won “an important role in the world that carries great responsibility.” He wants Norway to “not just sit on the council, but try to make things happen.” Søreide’s agenda, meanwhile, is full of issues that run counter to Trump administration policies, and Lysbakken warned that Norway will be put to the test.
“Then it’s a matter of standing up for the values the government said it has stressed during the campaign, like international cooperation and human rights,” Lysbakken said.