Sunday, September 23, 2007

Norway Losing Its Niche

The first official Norwegian delegation to arrive in Sri Lanka on the subject of facilitating in the ethnic conflict was on February 16, 2000. The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry announced this as an attempt to explore “the possibility of Norway assisting discussions to take place between the Sri Lanka Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) aimed at resolving the ethnic problem” (Jeyaraj). The statement further read that “Norway was willing to accept the task of initiating a dialogue between the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE aimed at resolving the ethnic problem” (Jeyaraj).

The Oslo Accord of 1993, brokered by Jan Egeland, gave Norway some credibility as an International Mediator. Norway’s interest as a Humanitarian Force was originally intended to gain access to the superpowers and to obtain crucial ‘political currency’. There was ‘a frenzy of Norwegian peace-making, or at least peace-trying, that has put peace somewhere alongside oil and timber as one of this country’s signature exports’ (Bruni)

Unlike many rich countries, Norway doesn’t have a powerful national identity. “It is clear from polls conducted over the last twenty years that Norway has consistently lacked a clear and widely recognised identity.” Norway’s engagement in peace-building emerged from the need for a more distinct national identity. “In the global battle for political influence, investment, trade and tourism, national image plays a critical determining role' (Leonard & Small).

In order to overcome this reality, Norway (and also Canada) has developed a strategy called ‘niche diplomacy’ to wage, not war but peace. Alan K. Henrikson describes niche diplomacy in the following way;

“The ability of a nation’s diplomacy to ‘generate returns’, primarily for the country itself, depends on very careful selection of the policy-product lines to be developed and also on an accurate reading of global political-market conditions…. To support ‘good’ works, to perform ‘good’ deeds, to use ‘good’ words, and to project ‘good’ images can pay off in terms of international prestige, and in even more practical expressions of others’ appreciation. A country can become known, admired, and also rewarded for its ‘goodness’—which becomes a kind of niche in itself.”

Unfortunately this ‘niche’ has been eluding Norway ever since the now faded glory of the Oslo Accord. Norway’s recent Mediations, including Sri Lanka and Eritrea have put significant strain on the realistic achievement of Norway’s proclaimed interests as an International Mediator.


Jeyaraj, D.B.S. 2000. A Norwegian Initiative. Frontline Magazine. Volume 17 - Issue 05, Mar. 04 – 17.

Frank Bruni, 21 December 2002 . ‘A Nation That Exports Oil, Herring and Peace’, The New York Times.

Leonard, M & Small, A. 2003. Norway's Public Diplomacy Strategy. Public Diplomacy @ 2003. P 01.

Henrikson, A.K. Niche Diplomacy in the World Public Arena. Available at


Anonymous said...

Norway has failed simply because it is primary objective has been to further its own interests.

The actual goal of achieving peace takes a back seat and is really a facade.

This can be seen in from the Israel/Palestine, Sri Lanka and Eritrean cases, which if a careful analysis and study is done on the failed process in these three locations one will note the failure is due to the aforementioned hidden interestes that Norway is covertly trying to achieve via a hidden bias favouring one side over another.

What are Norway's interest?

They are complex, multifaceted and intertwined.

In the first example -Israel/Palestine- the Norwegians were interested in appeasing the Muslims in the Middle East conflict zone so as to win the votes of Palestinian/Muslim refugees and citizens residing in Norway.

Also having an anti-Israel, pro Muslim stance would win them favour with the Arabs, potentially granting them access to the Middle Eastern oil reserves. All of this achieved by showing themselves to be anti Israel, thus the oil rich nations of the Middle East would give them the exploration and mining rights over pro-Israel America and American companies.

This bias slowly became evident. As the world knows the Israeli's are not to be taken for fools. They got a hint of bias in the whole "peace deal" very early resulting in it being scuttled before it even took off.

The second example, -Norway in Sri Lanka- the Norwegians had open favouritism to one party over the other. This favouritism has been excellently documented and proven. I only wish the Government of Sri Lanka and other institutions -specifically Sri Lanka's Independent Media- would make more noise about Norway's partiality in the Sri Lanka "peace process" and detail why Norway's shot at "peace" failed, along with citing examples since 1985 for the role of the LTTE in such failures of "peace talks", where the failure lies with the LTTE.

Sri Lanka must name and shame Norway to the whole world.

Norway's interests in Sri Lanka were once again for oil and also for fishing rights. It was a Norwegian company -with full backing from the Ranil Wickremasinghe Government- that surveyed Sri Lanka's oil deposits, and the rights for exploration and extraction would go to Norwegian companies. After what turned out to be another sell out in this oil survey deal the current (Mahinda Rajapaksa's) Government of Sri Lanka had to pay $10 million in order to buy back the data of its own oil reserves. While doing this, the Norwegian company in question decided to sell the data illegally to the whole world at a fraction of the cost the Government of Sri Lanka paid.
Furthermore Norway, just like with the Palestinians refugees, hoped to also win the votes of the Tamil refugees residing in Norway.

Norway's role in Eritrea is once more for oil, diamonds, various metal ores and "check" over the sea lanes in the horn of Africa.

By funding various groups and factions in the region Norway hopes to maintain the instability and uncertainty in the area for exploitation of the resources.

Sudan's oil and transport of it via the sea to buyers and investors in China is also part of this "check" process where movements, involvement and interests of China in Africa are being monitored. Such conduct benefits the entire Western world, as they too gain from a unstable Africa for exploitation of the continents natural resources as well as monitoring the activities of the emerging "threat" to Western hegemony, China.

Norway's interest in oil from other parts of the world, despite the fact they sit next to huge reserves in the North Sea, is simply due to the fact that after heavy mining and extraction of the North Sea oil, they now wish to preserve what is left (which is large quantities however) of their own resources and are going to other parts of the world - the developing world- to extract oil at far cheaper prices and lower initial investment costs, where then they would then sell the commodity back to the countries they extracted it from at an inflated price, furthering their own wealth and debt of the developing world and its people. Once the oil is drained out from these regions, they will then still have their own reserves which can also be sold to energy hungry nations at high prices due to the sacristy of the resource or the expense in extraction.

Internal or external conflicts within developing nations provide excellent opportunities for Norway, as they can take advantage of desperate war weary people. This is done through unconditionally supporting one side which would be more favourable to Norway as a result, and appearing to the other side, as well as those on the international scene, as "unbiased" peace makers. By strengthening and backing one side while weakening the other will make the latter more desperate and more willing to follow whatever dictates -coated in soothing diplomatic words- that are issued, eventually fulfilling Norway (or another Western country conducting similar activities) long term interests.

defenceAnalyst said...

This is a common fear with regard to the Norwegian facilitation, that they are impartial and aiding the enemy. From our understanding, it was a win-win situation for the government and the LTTE to select Norway. Norway is a militarily weak small-state (though somewhat rich) which has no leverage over the parties. for the government, Norwegians' military and political weakness in the world stage and lack of impunity, was a blessing in going after LTTE. Since India liked Norway more than a great-power intervention, it was again a useful facilitator, in terms of foreign policy. For LTTE, Norwegians provided credibility to their cause when the facilitator had to treat them as an equal party in the negotiations process. The Norwegians' military and political weakness allowed them to go after Military Intel sources since the signing of the CFA. But for Norway, whether they were duplicitous or not, failure to broker peace in recent times in Sri Lanka and Eritrea will backfire thus adversely affecting its national image as an International Mediator.

Anonymous said...

This sounds harsh, but I look forward to more Tiger Vs Tiger battles in Norway and Canada.

Let them learn the hard way what happens when they over feed their pets.

Tigers, bears and other large creatures can't be domesticated.

Solheim, Rock, do you hear of these people any more? NO! lol.

Solhiem slept with Tigers, made stupid pro-LTTE statements, and now he is bitten, bruised and gone into hiding becoming a political nobody.

Rock slept with Tigers, made stupid pro-LTTE statements, and now he is bitten, bruised and gone into hiding becoming a political nobody.

In the home front, similar fates have befallen Ranil and CBK, although they still haven't got the entire message, clinging onto dreams that ended long ago.

Anonymous said...


In my view Norway failed because they were never genuine about getting peace and/or they simply don't understand how peace works and the intricacies of getting two warring parties to accept a just peace based on circumstances affecting them. Using models of previous conflicts as a framework for bringing about peace and the potential stumbling block which may arise is a very flawed technique as every conflict is unique in its own way. Most importantly any "peace" and "solutions" have to be based on the ground realities of the present, not the past.

100% Impartiality on the facilitator is vital.

Forcing compromise on both parties to a conflict is vital.

One side can not just give and the other just take, as was the case with the Sri Lanka peace project of Norway. Norway should have been firm and shamed whichever side did not compromise or make better or sincere attempts at peace.

The Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) was biased and favourable to the LTTE (in fact it was written by Anton Balasingham) hence the reason the "peace process" was doomed to fail from the start.

We all know the flaws in the CFA and we all know how Norway sided with the LTTE, because Solheim's drinking pal Anton Bala had him and the whole world fooled that the LTTE was the stronger side militarily, plus political brownie points for Solhiem and Norway (current Norwegian government getting the Tamil block votes) if they favoured the LTTE, as well as any solution involving the LTTE would be worked along the lines of the LTTE's ISGA proposal, where by the sea and land resources of the North and East of our Island would be offered on a platter to Norway.

Also Norway is number 6 in the world for Armaments and Weapon exports. Interesting for a country that goes around "selling" peace.

In the end, as terrible as this sounds (again my apologies for such statements) peace is earned. The old saying " for peace there must be war" still holds true for all conflicts happening at this moment or about to begin anywhere in the world, regardless of what is proclaimed by peace merchant, various questionable NGOs and Western governments.

Cheating oneself or the nation and its people to peace via "peace talks" is nothing more than a short cut that will fail in the long term as you are only thinking in the short term.

Real peace is achieved when one side to a conflict is either destroyed or unconditionally surrenders and disarms, capitulating to the other. The two greatest examples of this can be seen in the World Wars of the last century.

defenceAnalyst said...

All mediators are motivated by personal interest. These are either domestic or international, political or economic. The thing that defines a good mediator is the mediators ability to leverage. Norway was not good at leverage. The other characteristic is the mediator's ability to demonstrate to the parties that war is costlier than peace. Another essential prerequisite is the existence of a 'mutually hurting stalemate'. In 2002, when the CFA was brokered, the Government was facing a hurting stalemate, but not the LTTE. They had just crippled the economy with a devastating attack on Katunayake and hence wanted to bargain from a position of relative strength. However, with Karuna's exit and the new militarily-capable present government, the tables have turned. In this scenario, the CFA and the weak Norwegian facilitators are disadvantageous to LTTE.

For conflicts like this, there isn't a 'final solution'. Peace, as you said, must be achieved and it must be achieved through a protracted process of addressing insurgency, terrorism, grievance and rights.

The CFA was an agreement signed between the two parties. Norway, quite rightly, wasn't provided any authority to police either side. They were allowed to observe the implementation through the SLMM. The agreement wasn't perfect. That is exactly why both sides signed it. As explained earlier, Norway couldn't take punitive action against either party due to limited authority provided in the agreement and the country's comparatively weak military and political muscle. This was attractive to both sides. They were a 'dog without teeth'.

The argument of waging war to achieve peace is well documented. 'Give War a Chance'by J.P O'Rourke is an interesting satirical read on the subject. However, these extreme right-wing theories come from the angle of superpowers and we are not such a superpower, hence the need for more subtle approaches.

NOLTTE=Peace said...

Thesnitch and Defence Analyst,

I like your debriefs.. spot on!

Sri Lanka has to deal with lot of scum when battling with the terrorism. Your contributions help a little in that battle.

Keep up the good work guys!

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