The Nordic countries make a difference in the Security Council

Small countries can achieve important results for the world when they build bridges and stand up for what they believe in. Sweden and Norway are both good examples of this, write Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. Credit: Astrid Sehl, MFA

During its membership of the UN Security Council, Sweden helped to ensure that life-saving assistance reached three million Syrians.

Norway has acted as a facilitator in several peace process, most recently in Colombia, where a historic peace agreement was signed in 2016. Sweden recently hosted talks on Yemen that culminated in the Stockholm Agreement.

This illustrates what small countries can achieve when they build bridges and stand up for what they believe in.

International rules and cooperation are more important than ever, not least for countries with open economies like Norway and Sweden.

Our prosperity depends on trade agreements and other binding international agreements. Peace, security and stability in the Nordic countries and the rest of Europe are based on respect for international law.

The UN needs the Nordic countries

Unfortunately, international cooperation to address common problems is under pressure. The Nordic countries speak with one voice in the UN in support of a rules-based international order, peaceful resolution of conflicts, respect for human rights, and the fight against poverty. The UN needs the active, united efforts of the Nordic countries more than ever.

We must shoulder our responsibility to maintain and further develop the international order that underpins our stability and prosperity. We must work to ensure that the international order functions as intended.

This applies not least within the framework of the UN Security Council. This is the only international body that has a mandate to adopt resolutions that are binding under international law on conflict resolution, peace operations, sanctions and the use of force.

Norway actively supported the Swedish candidature for a seat on the Security Council in 2017-2018. A Norwegian diplomat was posted to the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and we shared information about Norwegian peace and mediation efforts.

Now Sweden is promoting Norway’s candidature for the period 2021-2022 all over the world.

Why is it important for Norway to have a seat on the Security Council?

For several decades, Norway has been engaged in conflict resolution on several continents. As a member of the UN Security Council, Norway will be able to draw on its experience from these efforts and insights from developments on the ground in many places, such as the Middle East, Colombia, Myanmar and South Sudan.

In conflicts where Norwegian diplomats have insider knowledge, Norway should be able to influence the course for the Security Council’s response.

Norway has been inspired by Sweden’s example, which has shown that a Nordic country can make a difference as a member of the Security Council.

When the Security Council was in a deadlock and unable to agree on a political solution for the war in Syria, Swedish efforts helped to secure agreement on two important resolutions to allow humanitarian aid across the border into Syria. This made it possible to provide assistance to three million people.

In the Council’s discussions on Myanmar, Sweden made it very clear that the perpetrators of abuses against the Rohingya must be held accountable, and that the Rohingya people who had fled to Bangladesh must be ensured a safe return.

In the discussions on the DPRK, Sweden helped to maintain unity in the Security Council, not least through cooperation with the other elected members.

Climate change will have consequences for security

The Nordic countries’ common approach to global challenges runs like a thread through our policy, including in the Security Council.

Firstly, both Sweden and Norway believe that women’s participation in decision-making processes helps to bring about a more sustainable peace. Sweden ensured that references to women, peace and security were included in all the mandates for UN peacekeeping operations that were agreed on by the Security Council in 2017-2018. As a member of the Council, Norway will make use of its practical experience of mediation efforts to ensure that women have a place at the table in peace processes.

Secondly, both countries want to ensure the best possible protection of children in conflict situations and to safeguard their rights. The Security Council’s Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict was revitalised under Swedish leadership, and Norway will build on this work.

Thirdly, it is no longer possible to ignore the fact that climate change has consequences for security. For small island states, this is a matter of life and death. In some conflicts in Africa, drought is increasing tensions. Sweden has put the links between climate change and security on the agenda.

Addressing climate-related security issues will become increasingly important in the time ahead, and this will be a focus area for Norway.

International law is of fundamental importance

As was the case during Sweden’s membership of the Security Council, international law will be the foundation for Norway’s work as an elected member. A strong, principled Nordic voice in the Security Council is particularly important at a time when the principle of state sovereignty is being challenged on our own continent.

The Security Council has failed in many situations. The conflict in Syria has now lasted longer than the Second World War. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine remain an unresolved issue. The veto power of the five permanent members can paralyse the Council and prevent important decisions from being taken. Seeking to avoid this, Sweden cooperated with the other ten elected members to give this group a stronger voice. As a member of the Council, Norway will further strengthen this cooperation. This is important for the Security Council’s effectiveness and legitimacy.

Transparency and openness are important values for the Nordic countries. Sweden invited dignitaries and civil society representatives from the countries concerned to participate in discussions in the Council. Norway will do the same. It is important not just to talk about countries, but also to talk with countries.

An effective, reformed UN

Next year, the UN will celebrate its 75th anniversary. We will promote an effective, reformed UN, where the Security Council shoulders its responsibility for international peace and security.

Common solutions are needed the most when the problems and challenges facing the world are the greatest. Norway and Sweden are best served by a common approach. In fact, our two countries depend on it. We exercise responsibility on the basis of our own interests and the interests of the global community to safeguard our common future.