Fact Sheet: Norway as International Mediator

A recent Tactics Institute analysis by Dr Angelos Kaskanis looked at the roles played by certain countries in searching for diplomatic, rather than violent, resolutions to international disputes. Prominent among these countries is Norway. Here is a brief look at the Scandinavian country’s history of mediation and peace-seeking:

  • Norwegian peacemaking endeavours increased as the world adjusted to the post-Cold War era.
  • In the 1990s, Norway became renowned for leading efforts to end armed conflicts in the Middle East, Central America and Africa.
  • Most famously, the 1993 Oslo Accords were hoped to be a breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was the most prominent Norwegian intervention, although one that failed to correct longstanding injustices.
  • Norway’s role in ending complex and bloody civil wars in Mali (1995) and Guatemala (1996) are more widely hailed as successful.
  • In the 2010s, Norway, with months of secret diplomacy, helped bring the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas to the peace table, initially in Oslo. Norway had been involved in efforts towards peace in Colombia since 1999.

Why did Norway become a prominent peace broker?

  • Norway’s evolution as a goto diplomat in the state system developed organically rather than being sought by Oslo.
  • Norwegian activists and academics initially developed ideas and relationships that they took to their government aimed at bringing conflicting parties together.
  • Following the Oslo Accords and Guatemala peace accord, countries began to identify Norway as a reliable and honest broker.
  • The roots of Norway’s peace-seeking diplomacy date back to the early twentieth century.
  • Norway was a founding member of the League of Nations in 1920.
  • The country is the homeland of Fridtjof Nansen, the arctic explorer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for his pioneering work on behalf of World War One refugees.
  • The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Norway annually, boosting the nation’s peaceful, diplomatic image.
  • The Norwegian Trygve Lie was the United Nations’ first Secretary-General, 19461953.

The result of this century of diplomacy is the internationally recognised “Norwegian model” for mediating peace.

The Norwegian model emphasises several factors:

  • Commitment to long-term processes.
  • Close relations with diverse international actors.
  • A lack of self-interest in pursuing peace.
  • Ultimate responsibility always lies with the concerned parties.

Paradoxically, a key component of the Norwegian Model is that it is not always the same. Norway has shown robustness in utilising its contacts and influence to move towards its goals.

Despite the apparent selflessness of Norway’s endeavours, successive governments in Oslo have deemed its position as a prominent mediator important enough to seek to maintain it through financial and human resources.

Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains close relationships with both prominent statesmen and community-level NGOs, research centres and churches. This provides depth to the resources Norway can call upon when engaging in international diplomatic efforts.

But nothing in international relations is as clean-cut as Norway’s image:

  • Norway has been a close military partner of the United States, Britain and France as part of the NATO alliance.
  • In Libya, where Norwegian fighter jets flew 583 missions (of a NATO total of 6,493) and dropped 569 bombs.
  • Perceived failures in peace talks, in the cases of Sri Lanka and the Philippines, have also tempered enthusiasm about Norway’s peace-promoting capabilities.

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