It started with the broadside from the Guardian, where the writer tore into Norway’s carefully crafted image as a goodie two shoe;
Four years ago, it promised to act as a “peace nation” to support a “more democratic world order” and human rights. Yet socialist-led Norway – still living on its benign image abroad – has instead become the home of four dirty little secrets.
And then he listed them up, like ducks in a row; investing money from our Petroleum Fund into companies and countries with the most scant regard for minor topics like human rights, the environment.
On oil he observed the following:
Even worse is policy on oil. Norway is the world’s third largest exporter of oil and gas, which provide more than a third of government revenues. Last year, when the doubling of world oil prices plunged millions of people in developing countries into poverty, oil revenues boosted government coffers by 17 times the value of Norway’s overseas aid. StatoilHydro, 67% owned by the government, operates in several countries accused of corruption and dire human rights records, such as Azerbaijan, Angola, Iran and Nigeria, and is eyeing up Iraq. Ministers have been speaking openly about reorienting Norwegian diplomacy to push into new oil markets such as Saudi Arabia.
whereas he he lambasts our failure to cut our own carbon emissions:
Yet with 0.1% of the world’s population, Norway emits 0.3% of greenhouse gas emissions; if oil exports are included, the figure may be about 2%. The government is committed to making Norway carbon neutral by 2050, yet this will partly be achieved by buying carbon reductions in other countries, not reducing to zero Norway’s own emissions.
before rubbing the final grain of salt deep into our wounds – our thriving arms export, which just keeps growing and growing.
But one negative article does not make much of a dent in the inflated self perception of the Norwegian elite, but they may have felt a pang of something (conscience?), when also the Norwegian Helsinki committee joined the chorus:
It is striking the extent to which Norwegian politicians fail to address human rights issues with the Turkmen authorities. All the visits made to the country has had the intention to facilitate the group’s operations, says information director Berit Lindeman in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee told VG Nett.
In the documentary ”Statoil’s new advisers” the journalist and filmmaker Erling Borgen highlights Statoil’s involvement in the Caspian region. In it, the human rights organization draws a gloomy picture of the situation in Turkmenistan. Lindeman characterizes the country as a repressive regime where political parties and trade unions are prohibited, and where there is no free press.
She emphasizes that the Helsinki Committee in principle agrees that Norwegian companies should be able to have activity even in non-democratic and where there are major challenges to human rights. However, she believes that Turkmenistan is in a unique position.
- It’s hard to imagine how foreign companies, including Statoil, should be able to live up to the principle to not be contributing to the violations of human rights, when the host country so clearly violates basic human rights, says Lindeman.
She also harshly criticizes the government for its lack of morals when it fails to address human rights concerns in countries where Norwegian companies have interests.
- It seems clear to us that human rights concerns are more likely to be discussed in countries where Norwegian commercial interests are limited, than in countries where Norwegian companies are heavily involved, says Lindeman.
The same VG article also mentions that other parliamentarians are unhappy with this situation, and mentions briefly the reservations expressed by Conservative MP Peter Gitmark. He thinks that
Statoil’s presence and interest in Turkmenistan is not in line with its corporate responsibility.
- The Turkmen government receives substantial revenues from oil production, and when Statoil contributes to this support, they also maintain the regime. In such cases, Statoil has a responsibility to make some tough choices, even if it were to collide with commercial considerations, he said.
Political advisor to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Ivar Vigdenes, does not accept this criticism and says;
There is no connection between Norwegian business interests and how the government addresses such issues with the authorities, says Vigdenes.
Incidentally, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has in a separate matter highlighted how the UN has criticized Norway for its serious breaches on human rights.
Finally, after all this, one would have thought that Norwegian politicians would reach the conclusion that the time to be a tad more humble may have come, but judging by the reactions after an oped by Alfred Nobel’s great grandchild, Michael Nobel, this seems hopelessly naive.
Nobel’s oped in Aftenposten severely criticizes the Norwegian Nobel Peace Price Committee and how it acts in contravention of the intentions of Nobel’s will. He says that the Norwegian Committee’s
disregard for the will and the implementation of its own “expanded concept of peace,” , is highly problematic and probably illegal. As long as there is still work for peace and disarmament in the world, the committee may not regard themselves as sovereign and disregard the will of the testator as it now has done. The Director of the Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, demonstrated thus contempt for the Nobel Peace’s vision when, in an article in Aftenposten 17 October 2007, wrote that “The environment and climate, similar to human rights, will soon prove to be a natural part of the analysis.”
Michael Nobel is also critical of the politicization of the Nobel Peace Price Committee:
It seems as though the Norwegian government has a double-edged attitude to the Nobel Peace Prize: It is routine for the Political Norway to line up to congratulate the prize winners. Meanwhile, these same politicians are keen to point out that the Committee is independent and not part of Norwegian foreign policy. Moreover, politicians are fighting for seats on the committee. Perhaps it is no wonder that the Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre finds it difficult to explain that the Nobel Prize does not represent official Norwegian policy?
The debate following Carl I. Hagen ‘s attempt to get into the committee, put no emphasis on skills related to international peace efforts - the most obvious qualification for a seat on the committee.
When Berit Reiss-Andersen was appointed as a new member, the Labour Party’s parliamentary leader, Helga Pedersen said: “she (Reiss-Andersen) has a clear foundation in Norwegian politics, which is an important qualification (…)qualifications beyond this are of course also of value (…) in addition, she has been involved in human rights issues ”.
In conclusion, he threatens that unless the Norwegian Nobel Price Committee can competently administer the task it is set to do, according to the strict guidelines of the Nobel Will, steps may be taken to put the Norwegian committee under supervision to ensure compliance.
As if any proof of the political rebellion of the Norwegian Nobel Committee was needed, the Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute had nothing but scathing sarcasm for Mr. Nobel’s legitimate concerns:
- We have heard this many times, and he has no influence on this, says Geir Lundestad to VG
No, we are not worried. The family has no influence on this anymore. Michael has had many views on many things in the past, but the family is also divided. It is not certain that this represents the family anyway, says Lundestad.