The 75th session of the UN General Assembly opened on 15 September 2020 at the UN Headquarters in New York. This year, delegates from capitals around the world will not be physically present for the week of high-level meetings . Attendance in the General Assembly Hall will be kept to a minimum, and Norway will be represented by its Permanent Mission to the UN in New York. Heads of state and government and other leaders from all countries of the world will participate virtually. Addresses and statements will largely be delivered in the form of pre-recorded videos. Norway’s participation will be led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
The UN General Assembly is the world’s most representative multilateral forum for dialogue and policy development. As such, it provides a unique arena for promoting Norwegian interests, for international cooperation, and for finding solutions to issues of key importance to Norway. The overall guidelines for Norwegian multilateral policy are set out in the white paper Norway’s Role and Interests in Multilateral Cooperation (Meld. St. 27 (2018-2019)).
The 75th session of the UN General Assembly opened on 15 September 2020 at the UN Headquarters in New York, and will begin with the inauguration of the new President, Mr Volkan Bozkir of Turkey. Mr Bozkir has chosen the following theme for the General Debate this year: ‘The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism – confronting Covid-19 through effective multilateral action’. This year, delegates from capitals around the world will not be physically present for the week of high-level meetings held in connection with the General Debate from 22-29 September. Attendance in the General Assembly Hall will be kept to a minimum, and Norway will be represented by its Permanent Mission to the UN in New York. Heads of state and government and other leaders from all countries of the world will participate virtually. Addresses and statements will largely be delivered in the form of pre-recorded videos. Norway’s participation will be led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg. The Norwegian delegation will participate virtually in the General Debate, and in high-level meetings and side events. Because of the special circumstances this year, the delegation will not include observers from the Storting or representatives of Norwegian civil society organisations. Many of the virtual meetings will be streamed online and will be accessible to everyone. Bilateral talks with other countries and organisations are not a priority for Norway during the high-level week this year due to the current situation.
The 75th session of the UN General Assembly lasts until September 2021. The negotiations in the General Assembly and its six main committees will continue throughout the session, and Norway will be represented by its Permanent Mission to the UN in New York and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant ministries in Oslo, who will participate virtually as far as is possible. Work in the committees will have to be carried out in accordance with any Covid-19 restrictions. Formal physical meetings are expected to be reduced to a minimum. Negotiations will primarily have to be conducted in a virtual format, as will interactive dialogues with mandate holders. Resolutions and decisions that are not put to a vote will be adopted under the silence procedure. Resolutions and decisions that require a vote will be put to a vote in physical meetings, where Norway will be represented by its Permanent Mission to the UN.
In addition to these instructions, a number of other documents are being drawn up that will set out detailed priorities and goals for the negotiations in the General Assembly’s various committees.
In parallel with the work in the General Assembly, Norway will participate in the UN Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc). Ecosoc is the UN’s main body for the formulation of development policy. Norway held the presidency of Ecosoc from July 2019 to July 2020. Norway will follow up its presidency of the Council and will seek to strengthen this key part of the multilateral system, which is so crucial for the UN’s work at country level.
The Covid-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the importance of digital solutions in all sectors. Norway participated in the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, whose work will be followed up by the Secretary-General’s office during the General Assembly. Norway, as champion of the Digital Public Goods Alliance, is expected to promote digital cooperation, with a view to reducing the digital gap between developed and developing countries, in line with the white paper Digital transformation and development policy (Meld. St. 11 (2019-2020)).
1. Lay the groundwork for Norway’s membership of the UN Security Council
Norway has been elected as a member of the UN Security Council for the period 2021-2022. The Security Council is the only body with responsibility for international peace and security that has a mandate to adopt binding resolutions. Through its work in the General Assembly and the Security Council, Norway will seek to safeguard its national and global interests by:
- strengthening the UN, international law and the multilateral order;
- helping to prevent, de-escalate and resolve wars and conflicts;
- shouldering responsibility and strengthening relations with other countries, both within and outside the Security Council.
In this work, Norway will focus in particular on four thematic areas:
- Peace diplomacy. Norway will use the knowledge it has gained from its engagement in peace processes to strengthen the UN’s conflict prevention and resolution efforts.
- Gender equality. Norway will work to ensure that women’s participation and rights are safeguarded in UN peace and security efforts.
- Protection of civilians. Norway will work to strengthen the protection of civilians, including children, and will use international humanitarian and human rights law as a basis for these efforts. Norway will give special priority to efforts to prevent and combat sexual and gender-based violence in conflict.
- Climate change and security. Norway will work to ensure that the UN discusses climate-related security threats and the impact of climate change on other issues on the UN’s agenda.
2. Be at the forefront of efforts to promote disarmament
The General Assembly is a key arena for the work on disarmament. Norway is working actively to promote disarmament and processes that can bring countries closer together on this issue and deliver results. Nuclear disarmament verification is essential for achieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons. The development of a credible multilateral verification regime is therefore vital for promoting disarmament. The delegation will ensure that Norway continues to play a leading role in the work to promote disarmament verification within the framework of the UN, in line with the Norwegian-sponsored resolution on nuclear disarmament verification adopted during the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will continue to be the cornerstone of the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime, and the UN General Assembly should seek to strengthen the NPT.
3. Promote binding international cooperation and safeguard the multilateral system
International cooperation is vital for Norway’s security, economy and welfare. We are seeing a tendency to move away from using multilateral organisations to address common challenges through compromise and cooperation. At the same time, the world is facing major global challenges that no country can solve alone. The UN must adapt to this situation. A key goal of the Government’s foreign policy is therefore to promote binding international cooperation and safeguard the multilateral system, so that we can improve our ability to deal with common challenges, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, and defend Norwegian and global interests.
- Norway will support the implementation of the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly on the reform of UN management, the reform of the UN peace and security pillar, and the reform of the UN development system. Norway will work to secure better financing for the UN, and the Norwegian delegation will work to promote system-wide coherence and ensure that the UN works effectively across its three pillars: peace and security, human rights, and development. Priority will therefore be given to the negotiations to be held in autumn 2020 on the General Assembly resolution on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of UN operational activities for development (QCPR). These negotiations take place once every four years.
- The Norwegian delegation will work to promote results-based management in UN institutions, and to ensure that the UN has the funding and flexibility it needs to fulfil its mandates. The delegation will also promote sound and effective management of UN resources.
- The delegation will promote effective cooperation across the traditional and regional divides of the General Assembly. It will seek to build bridges, listen, and use constructive diplomacy to facilitate solutions for the common good.
- The delegation will work to strengthen the relationship between the General Assembly, Ecosoc and the Security Council, and will actively promote Security Council reform and greater transparency in the work of the Council.
- The UN marks its 75th anniversary in 2020. The delegation will play its part in ensuring a fitting celebration of the anniversary.
4. Strengthen the UN’s capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts
Norway will seek to strengthen the UN’s capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts, with a view to promoting peaceful and sustainable development. In Norway’s view, the UN should focus its efforts on countries and areas with high levels of fragility. It is crucial that UN efforts are coordinated and coherent. Cooperation between the UN and other multilateral organisations, such as the World Bank and the regional development banks, is essential in order to achieve the best possible results. Regional organisations have an important role to play in maintaining international peace and security, as the UN Charter makes clear. The partnership between the UN and the African Union (AU) is particularly important. The Norwegian delegation will work actively to strengthen this partnership, especially in the field of peace and security.
- Norway’s broad involvement in peace and reconciliation efforts has given us important experience and a unique position in this area. The delegation will seek to foster dialogue between parties to conflict and other relevant actors.
- The delegation will participate actively in UN efforts to combat international terrorism and violent extremism. Priority will be given to following up the work of the Group of Friends on Preventing Violent Extremism, which was established by Norway in partnership with Jordan. A gender-sensitive approach is essential. Norway will give priority to securing the inclusion of women peacebuilders in peace processes in cooperation with i.a. the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL).
- Transnational organised crime is both a development policy and a security policy challenge. The activities of criminal networks are often a driving force behind – and an important source of funding in – conflicts and crises. The Norwegian delegation will promote the implementation of targeted measures to identify and combat these networks.
- Norway chairs the international donor group for Palestine (AHLC), whose main task is to develop the foundation for a future Palestinian state. The UN is a key partner in this work. The AHLC is the only international forum that brings together the parties to the conflict and the donors for regular meetings to discuss measures that could enhance the prospects of reaching a negotiated two-state solution. The Norwegian delegation will seek to ensure that this work is continued and strengthened.
- Norway gives high priority to efforts to promote the women, peace and security agenda. The delegation will work to increase the proportion of women participating at all levels of UN peace operations, as both civilian and military personnel. The delegation will work to strengthen women’s participation in peace processes and to ensure that the gender perspective is integrated into peace and security efforts, and will encourage countries to commit to concrete action in this area.
- The delegation will work, in particular in cooperation with small island states, to raise awareness of the significance of issues relating to the oceans and climate change for international peace and security.
- Norway is working to improve the effectiveness and coordination of UN peace operations. The Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative (A4P) is giving renewed impetus to efforts to implement the recommendations made by the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations in 2015. This year, too, the Norwegian delegation will actively support the initiative, including through the Group of Friends on UN Peace Operations.
- The delegation will seek to maintain the consensus reached that the reports issued by the relevant UN Group of Governmental Experts provide the framework for what can be considered to be responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. This framework is based on the application of existing international law in cyberspace, compliance with agreed voluntary norms, and confidence-building and capacity-building measures. Both current and future processes must adhere to this framework and must be based on consensus.
5. Promote the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, with a particular focus on supporting an integrated pandemic response, and on the areas of education, health, gender equality, the oceans, climate change, and financing for sustainable development
The 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the UN member states in 2015. The 2030 Agenda is a global roadmap for sustainable development designed to benefit all people, and the next decade will be critical. The 2030 Agenda is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it commits states to leave no one behind. Priority must therefore be given to development that benefits vulnerable and marginalised groups. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused serious setbacks in the efforts to reach the SDGs, including access to financing. Vulnerable and marginalised groups have been hit hard by both the pandemic and its socio-economic ramifications.
Norway is an important partner for the UN and for developing countries in the efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. The UN Secretary-General has given Prime Minister Erna Solberg a leading international role in this area as co-chair of the group of SDG Advocates. Norway is following up the Agenda by providing strong political support for UN development efforts, financial contributions to UN funds, programmes and specialised agencies, and core funding for multilateral development banks’ funds for the poorest countries, as well as by engaging in bilateral cooperation.
If we are to succeed in achieving all 17 SDGs, we must further develop global partnerships and strengthen cooperation with the private sector in order to mobilise more private capital for these efforts, particularly in developing countries. We must also enhance cooperation with civil society, and forge new partnerships with countries and other actors that we have not worked so closely with before. It will be essential to exploit the potential of digital technology and close the digital gap if we are to meet the SDGs.
- The delegation will work to ensure that the response to the Covid-19 pandemic is integrated into the UN’s work and contributes to the achievement of the SDGs as effectively as possible.
- Again this year, the delegation will work to ensure that human rights are integrated into efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, with a focus on the overall objectives of leaving no one behind and promoting women’s rights and participation. Priority will be given to addressing the needs of vulnerable groups, such as children, religious minorities, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and sexual minorities.
- The delegation will seek to inject new momentum into the efforts to implement the SDGs, by promoting political commitments, strategic priorities and constructive partnerships.
In particular, the delegation will work to secure good results in the following areas:
a) Education – which is essential for social and economic development
Norway will highlight the fundamental importance of high-quality, relevant education for all social and economic development. Priority is being given to promoting high-quality education, girls’ education, education in situations of crisis and conflict, vocational training, and investment in the education sector. Norway is playing a prominent role in promoting innovation and the use of technology as part of the efforts to ensure education for all. Norway is also co-chair of the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning. UN funds, programmes and organisations are important channels and partners for Norwegian aid to the education sector. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on education has been devastating.
- The Norwegian delegation will promote coordination between organisations, funds and programmes, with a view to maximising the effectiveness of aid for education.
- The delegation will work to ensure that education remains high on the UN agenda and that member states fulfil their commitments in this area. These include promoting access to education for all and domestic resource mobilisation for education.
- The delegation will work to improve coordination between humanitarian aid and long-term development efforts in the field of education. The delegation will highlight the importance of education in situations of crisis and conflict.
- The delegation will give priority to inclusive education, including education for children and young people with disabilities.
- The delegation will work to ensure that education efforts address the digital divide (access and expertise).
- The delegation will work to ensure that the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the education sector are given adequate consideration when measures are planned and implemented.
b) Good health – which is vital for sustainable development
The Covid-19 pandemic is having far-reaching social and economic ramifications and a major impact on security and development, and has highlighted the fact that health cannot be viewed in isolation from other sectors. Norway’s work to promote digital solutions in the field of health is now more relevant than ever. The UN’s normative role in this area is vital, and UN funds, programmes and specialised agencies are important channels and partners for Norwegian aid to the health sector. Other sectors have a key role to play in promoting good nutrition and food security. Marine resource management is an area where there is huge potential in this regard.
- The delegation will work to strengthen the multilateral response to the Covid-19 pandemic and improve health security and preparedness for future pandemics. There will be a particular focus on the needs of vulnerable groups in this context.
- The delegation will promote universal access to health services and equitable distribution of vaccines.
- The delegation will give priority to efforts to ensure that children and young people have access to health services, and measures that can reduce sexual violence and sexual harassment, particularly in humanitarian crises and conflict situations.
- The delegation will work across regional groups of countries to help establish international norms and standards, mobilise funding and protect global public goods.
c) Gender equality – which leads to greater freedom, welfare and democracy
For Norway, strengthening the rights of women and girls is a goal in itself. At the same time, Norway is working to enhance understanding of the ways in which promoting women’s and girls’ empowerment and influence benefits society. Norway will work to eliminate harmful practices such as child marriage, forced labour and all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls, as well as attempts to disempower women and girls and limit their self-determination. We must tap into the enormous potential that women and girls represent and promote their social and economic participation. At the international level, work to promote gender equality is increasingly regarded as one of the keys to addressing several of the greatest challenges the world is facing, including those relating to climate change, the economy and global health. At the same time, efforts to promote gender equality are meeting strong opposition in some countries, particularly when it comes to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Targeted efforts and proactive alliance building are therefore essential. Girls and women in poor countries have less access to what they need to participate successfully in the digital world. One of the SDGs is devoted to gender quality, and promoting gender equality is a priority for Norway.
- The delegation will seek to prevent women’s rights from being undermined. It is particularly important to protect women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- A high-level meeting will be convened to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Women’s Conference. Our aim will be to promote Norwegian priorities, support the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and strengthen alliances in the field of gender equality. The Norwegian delegation will contribute to these efforts.
- The delegation will work to improve women’s and girls’ access to education and health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, and to enhance protection against violence and harmful practices, including in areas affected by crisis and conflict.
- Norway’s delegation will give priority to the efforts to promote women’s participation in the labour market and in business, as well as in politics and governance.
d) Climate change – which is threatening our efforts to reduce poverty and build peaceful societies
The Climate Change Convention in 1992, and the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda in 2015 were all the result of international cooperation. Norway must make active use of the international framework provided by these agreements to promote global climate cooperation. Climate change affects the most vulnerable groups most severely, and is posing a threat to our efforts to reduce poverty. There is also growing recognition of the fact that climate change is a global security challenge and an underlying cause of conflict. A Biodiversity Summit will be held during the high-level week. The aim is to promote the development of a global biodiversity framework that can support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and help make it possible to realise the 2050 vision for biodiversity of ‘living in harmony with nature.’
- The delegation will work to put climate change adaptation and prevention of climate-related and natural disasters on the international agenda.
- The delegation will support the UN Secretary-General’s leadership on climate change.
- The delegation will work to strengthen efforts to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable food production.
e) Clean and healthy oceans – which are crucial to human survival
Promoting clean, healthy and productive oceans and sustainable management of marine resources is of vital importance to Norway. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provides the framework for international cooperation on conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources. Pressures on the oceans include climate change, overexploitation of resources, loss of biodiversity and pollution, including from marine litter and in particular plastics. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing) and certain forms of fisheries subsidies are resulting in overfishing. The negotiations on a new agreement, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction are a high priority for Norway. The same applies to the work to promote a global framework for combating marine litter. A sustainable ocean economy is vital for achieving a number of the SDGs, not only SDG 14 on life below water, and Norway considers it important to highlight the significance of the ocean economy for development.
- Norway’s delegation will seek to ensure that the recommendations of the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy are successfully integrated into the UN’s agenda. The High-level Panel will present its recommendations at the beginning of December.
- The delegation will seek to increase international recognition of the economic importance of the oceans, and of the need to promote sustainable use of marine resources and clean and healthy oceans as a source of value creation. It is important to ensure that women are given the same opportunities as men to contribute to, and to benefit from, the development of new industries.
- The delegation will seek to strengthen and further develop the Law of the Sea as the basis for sound ocean management and the sustainable use of resources.
f) Financing for sustainable development, in particular domestic resource mobilisation
There has been a sharp decline in financing for sustainable development as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This applies to all countries, but developing countries are most severely affected. There is a need to think along new lines and take critical decisions. It is estimated that close to 90 % of the financing needed to reach several of the key SDGs will have to come from domestic sources. If used wisely to promote domestic resource mobilisation, aid can dramatically increase domestic revenues, promote a greater sense of ownership at the national level and lead to more sustainable public financing. Norway is giving priority to cooperation that seeks to exploit the potential of digital technology to increase financing for development (for example in the context of national tax and procurement systems, and monitoring of cross-border financial flows).
If we are to succeed in fighting corruption and illicit financial flows, as well as in increasing tax revenues in poor countries, a coordinated global effort is needed to improve tax systems, combat money laundering and ensure that corruption cases are properly investigated and prosecuted. Norway will do its part to achieve this, for example by participating in the discussions on financing for development during the General Assembly.
- Norway’s delegation will promote the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, and will give priority to important issues such as illicit financial flows and the fight against corruption.
- The delegation will follow up the work of the The High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (FACTI Panel), which was established by Norway and Nigeria in 2019 in their respective roles as President of Ecosoc and UN General Assembly President.
- The delegation will emphasise the need for responsible borrowing and lending practices to prevent the risk of new debt problems undermining progress towards the SDGs.
- The delegation will also highlight women’s role in and contribution to delivering economic growth.
6. Strengthen human rights and the international legal order
The international legal order provides a clear and predictable framework for ensuring compliance with human rights obligations. The UN’s mandate and unique position in the world mean that it has a special responsibility to work to ensure that several decades of progress in the areas of democracy, human rights, development and multilateral cooperation are not reversed.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led many countries to introduce restrictions that undermine human rights and the rule of law. The situation for civil society representatives, journalists and human rights defenders is becoming increasingly difficult. As the pandemic continues, this is particularly affecting those who are working to safeguard people’s rights to health, freedom of expression and access to information.
Norway considers it vital to safeguard fundamental rights and freedoms, legal protection and the rule of law, particularly in times of crisis. It is essential that any restrictions on fundamental freedoms imposed as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic are necessary, proportionate, time-limited, non-discriminatory and set out in legislation. Human rights must be respected and integrated into the pandemic response and recovery efforts.
- The delegation will ensure that Norway continues to play a key role in UN efforts to further develop the normative framework for the protection and promotion of human rights.
- The delegation will continue Norway’s efforts to support and protect human rights defenders, promote women’s rights and gender equality as a cross-cutting issue, and combat discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, religion or belief or other minority status. The delegation will continue Norway’s efforts to protect and promote freedom of expression.
- Norway will be at the forefront of efforts to ensure that civil society actors are able to participate meaningfully in UN efforts and processes.
- The delegation will continue Norway’s efforts to ensure respect for international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, and promote the international legal order. It will support efforts to promote a world order based on international law, including the principles set out in the UN Charter. In particular, the delegation will
- work to combat impunity, and as in previous years, Norway will express its readiness to participate in discussions on a new convention on the criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission;
- continue efforts towards completion of the work on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism;
- participate actively in the discussions on universal jurisdiction, with a view to preventing the debate from being derailed or undermining our capacity to prevent and respond to the most serious crimes;
- support the International Law Commission’s work on crimes against humanity, as in previous years.
- The delegation will participate actively in discussions on issues relating to international humanitarian law (IHL), with a view to countering attempts to weaken or undermine existing IHL obligations.
7. Strengthen the UN’s capacity to prevent and respond to humanitarian crises, and promote international cooperation on refugees and migrants
Norway will promote compliance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence in its efforts to help and protect people affected by humanitarian crises.
- The delegation will work to strengthen humanitarian efforts in the light of the dramatic increase in humanitarian needs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The delegation will work to strengthen protection for people affected by crisis and conflict, with a particular focus on protection of children, on efforts to prevent and combat sexual and gender-based violence, on protection of refugees and internally displaced people, and on protection against mines and other explosives.
- The delegation will promote efforts to strengthen the UN humanitarian system, in line with the commitments made in the Grand Bargain, which was launched at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.
- The delegation will advocate closer cooperation between the UN and other multilateral institutions in order to improve coordination between humanitarian action, peacebuilding and long-term development efforts.
- The delegation will work to achieve a more effective and better coordinated refugee response, in line with the Refugee Convention and the Global Compact on Refugees, and will contribute to processes that seek to address the underlying causes of migration.
- The delegation will work to promote safe, orderly and regular migration and counter irregular migration, within the framework of the Global Compact for Migration.
- Norway will be a strong advocate in the UN of the need to improve protection for internally displaced people, and will do its part to find lasting solutions in this area. A High-level Panel on Internal Displacement has been established following an initiative from Norway. The delegation will follow up this work.
- The delegation will promote humanitarian innovation and new working methods that lead to a more effective response and better results for people affected by crisis. This includes efforts to increase the use of digital technology in situations where this can strengthen the humanitarian response.