Official 17th of May speech by Ambassador Kikkan Haugen

On May 17, Ambassador Kikkan Haugen held a speech at the official celebration of the Norwegian Constitution Day in Lilongwe. Norwegian citizens in Malawi and over 300 distinguished guests was gathered to the celebration of “Norway’s Birthday”.

Speech by Ambassador Kikkan Haugen - 17th of May 2017 in Lilongwe:


Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs Francis Kasaila, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues, all protocol observed.

Welcome! On behalf of Jen and myself, I would like to welcome you to this celebration of the Norwegian Constitution Day in Lilongwe. It is extremely nice to see you all here; thank you all for joining us in our celebration of “Norway’s Birthday”!

We have some traditions that we do not break. So, like last year, and the year before, I will start with a piece of bad news. Tonight there will be plenty of music. There will be plenty of food and drinks. There will be plenty of nice company. But the speeches will be few. And they will be short. Sorry about that!

On that note, let me start with a vote of thanks. To my fantastic team at the Embassy. And the job you have done. Without you, this celebration would not have been possible. Let’s give them a big hand before the party starts!

Greetings to my Malawian friends: Zikomo nonse. Ndakulandirani kunyumba kwanga. Khalani osangalala

Greetings to my Norwegian speaking friends: «Jeg takker for hyggelig hilsen i anledning 17. mai og sender mine beste ønsker for dagen til alle som er samlet til feiring i Lilongwe. Harald R».

In 2015, I spoke about the reasons for celebrating Norway’s Constitution Day. And how this is celebrated. With children eating ice cream and waving the Norwegian flag in colourful processions rather than military parades. A way to celebrate we Norwegians are very proud of and one that forms an important part of our identity. A way to celebrate that reflects who we are and which values we have. As an open, democratic and inclusive nation. Our King Harald V, who will be celebrating his 80th birthday in July this year, said the following in his new year’s speech: “One of my greatest wishes is that we shall all continue meeting each other in freedom, without fear, without barriers that create unnecessary distance. That is one of the most important values in our Norwegian, open society”.

Last year I spoke about foundations. About the Norwegian constitution, which is the oldest living constitution in Europe, as a foundation for our society. It was the work of pioneers. In many ways, seen to be radical and progressive for its time, granting citizens liberties under the state. But I also spoke about love as a foundation for us as human beings, giving us direction, guidance and a reason for living. I am very privileged and humbled having a life so full of love. I don’t take that for granted.

This year I would like to say a few words about the future. Let me start with a very philosophical question – what is the meaning of life!? The answer to that will be different to all of us, depending on our backgrounds, our beliefs or where we are in our journeys of life. But I suspect that most of us will agree that one important meaning of life is to create a better future for those who come after us.

This year is 30th anniversary of the Brundtland report Our Common Future. This was the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, headed by Gro Harlem Brundland, Norway’s first woman prime minister. And at the time, popularly seen as the global minister for the environment. The report introduced the term sustainable development. The principle of promoting a development that does not deplete the resources and ecosystems that future generations are dependent on. A principle firmly confirmed and expanded when the general assembly of the United Nations adopted the sustainable development goals and the 2030 Agenda in 2015.

The world has a common agenda for the future. That gives us hope and it gives us direction. But it is an agenda that is threatened from so many sides. By growing nationalism and growing extremism. By narrow self-interests becoming the political mainstream rather than the common good of mankind. By authoritarian regimes that ignore the principles of democracy, human rights and freedom. And by a change in the climate that carries the potential of throwing our whole eco-system off balance and create chaos and disorder.

This – I must admit – makes me deeply worried. But I insist on remaining an optimist. I choose to believe that the good forces will continue joining hands and together do what is needed. That my children, and their children, and all the children of the world, will be able to enjoy lives of more freedom, more prosperity and greater happiness. Let us all continue working for that!

So, what does the future between Norway and Malawi look like? The short reply to that is “not bad”! Just a few weeks ago, the Norwegian government presented to Parliament the white paper “Joint responsibility for common future”. It gives the principles and directions for our continued development co-operation, and defines three categories of partner countries; countries for long-term development, countries in conflict and countries for  strategic interventions. The white paper does not give a list of countries, but Malawi is a firm member of the group of partner countries for long-term development. My prediction is that Norway will continue being the third biggest bilateral contributor to Malawi’s development also in the foreseeable future. But my prediction is also that this will depend on what happens on the Malawian side.

Firstly, for us to continue investing in Malawi’s development, we need to see continued and documented good results. The recent Health and Demographic Survey documents excellent results in areas like fertility rates, child mortality and the number of women who give birth at health facilities. But it also documents huge challenges in other areas, for instance teenage pregnancies. Secondly, we need to see continued reform in Malawi. Many reforms have been initiated – public service, decentralisation, land reform and electoral reform – just to mention a few – but they all have a way go before being fully implemented. And some reforms are still outstanding, like the reforms in the agricultural markets making them more predictable and investor friendly.

Malawi is a country where, compared to many other countries, the respect for human rights and the rule of law is held high. We look forward to continue working with you on these crucial issues, and hope and expect them to be continued to be honoured as the country edges towards the next elections. Finally – as one of the very poorest countries of the world – Malawi needs to boost its economic development and its private sector. As it is now, state dominance, widespread corruption and lack of legislative reform are some of the bottlenecks that prevent Malawi from achieving the investment friendly climate the country so desperately needs and deserves.

Norway is committed to Malawi. We will continue being a partner and investor in key sectors like education, health, agriculture and human rights. We will continue to work hard to bring private sector investment to Malawi. And we will continue to be a professional handler of visas on behalf of 16 Schengen countries.

As I said, I insist on being an optimist. An optimist on the behalf of the future of our children and our children’s children. An optimist on behalf of Malawi and what the future will bring to this beautiful country. And an optimist on the continued excellent relationships and friendship between our two countries.

On that happy note - I now ask you to join me in raising your glasses in a toast to His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, the President of the Republic of Malawi, and to the Malawian people.