The Norwegian government’s push for a seat on the UN Security Council is neither in Norway's best interests, nor worth the effort, Norwegian Nobel Committee researcher Asle Toje maintains. On the contrary, it may put the country in a pinch.
“Norway can have its disagreements with the US, but we can’t be rebels on important issues,” Toje told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv. “Taking a seat on the Security Council is like asking for a beating if the EU, China or the US are standing in their own corners of the boxing ring”.
According to Toje, Norway's participation in the UN Security Council will be anything but fruitful, as the UN is past its prime as an organisation.
“I can’t see how it’s a good idea to invest so much money and foreign ministry capacity on an organisation that has seen better days,” he said. “And I don’t think [Norway’s] political leadership sees the dangers of seeking such an assertive profile”.
Toje contended that returning to the UN Security Council for the first time since Norway’s two-year term in 2001-2002 could stir up a feeling that Norway is “more important than we actually are”.
Norway's Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg, her party mate Ine Eriksen Søreide and veteran diplomat Mona Juul, who now serves as Norway’s ambassador to the UN, have been campaigning hard for a UN Security Council seat, launching what has been described as a “charm offensive” at the ongoing UN General Assembly in New York.
Incidentally, Juul's own husband, fellow career diplomat and president of the International Peace Institute Terje Rød-Larsen, wrote in 2012 that Nordic countries have a lot to lose from council membership due to their image as moralising know-it-alls.
Juul admitted earlier this week that Norway, very much like its Nordic peers, has been viewed as a “wealthy moralising country”, but suggested that there's less of it now. According to Juul, Norway stands better than Canada, its primary rival in the quest for the seat, in the Arab world, due to its negotiating efforts in the Palestine-Israeli conflict. Juul and Rød-Larsen themselves helped broker the 1993 Oslo Accords that created a Palestinian Authority tasked with limited self-governance of parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
So far, Norway has spent NOK 23 million ($2.6 million) directly on the election campaign, according to a document published by the Foreign Ministry.
Foreign Minister Søreide strongly suggested that UN is “far from irrelevant” and contended that it’s “absolutely in Norway’s interests” to win a seat in the council. According to her, Norway wants to “strengthen international law, direct attention to the links between climate change and conflict, and be clear about women’s rights, peace and security,” as well as contribute to “a more open Security Council and reform of the UN” while being solutions-oriented and pragmatic.
The UN Security Council has five permanent members, the US, China, Russia, Great Britain and France. The other 10 members are selected by the UN General Assembly for a two-year period. Norway needs support from two-thirds of the General Assembly at an election to be held in June.