Official 17th of May speech by Ambassador Kikkan Haugen - Photo:(Photo:Terje Aass
17.maitog, Lilongwe (Photo:Terje Aass

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 more than 200 distinguished guests were gathered to the celebration of “Norway’s Birthday”.

Speech by Ambassador Kikkan Haugen 17th of May 2018 in Lilongwe


Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Henry Mussa, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues, all protocols observed.

Welcome! On behalf of Jen – who has unfortunately already left Malawi – my daughter Idun 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”!

The Norwegian celebration is a celebration where we value traditions. That includes repeating the old – and perhaps not always so good – jokes.  So, like last year, and the year before, and the year before that, 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!

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 it 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.

In 2016 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. I also spoke about love as a foundation for us as human beings, giving us direction, guidance and a reason for living. Last year I spoke about the future would and how the world now has a common agenda in the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030. That gives us hope and that gives us direction. Let us all stand together and work hard to ensure the goals are reached, knowing that the generation coming after us is watching us closely.

This year is a year of summing up. My four years in Malawi will be ending very soon, and it’s time to ask myself what did I and my team achieve during these four years? What are we leaving behind? What am I proud of?

Edward Heath: A diplomat is a man who thinks twice before he says nothing.
Despite this, I will point to three tings:

Firstly, I am proud of what we have achieved in the health and education sectors in Malawi. In a situation where budget support was no longer possible, we have supported these key sectors as closely aligned to Malawi’s own priorities and systems as possible. The strategic choices are yours. The priorities are yours. The institutions are yours. The human capital is yours. We support you and we strengthen your capacity. Together we reach important results. More children in school. Drop-out rates of girls in schools going down. Infant mortality going down, maternal mortality going down and fertility rates going down. These results are significant for Malawians, and I am proud of what we are achieving together.

Secondly, I am proud of what we are achieving in promoting the private sector being the engine for economic growth in Malawi. We all know that Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world, and we all share the vision that one day Malawi shall be self-sufficient and prosperous. When I came four years ago there was hardly any Norwegian businesses involved in Malawi. Now there are some – not many, but some – and moving from nothing to something is an achievement I am proud of. We all have to start somewhere! And, not to forget – we now have a regular supply of fresh Norwegian salmon in Lilongwe! Bent, Clayton, Finland.

Thirdly, I am proud of Norway being a long-term and predictable all-weather friend of Malawi. I believe we are quite recognisable! You know that we will challenge you when we think implementation of reform is too slow. When the poor are suffering unnecessarily. You know we will challenge you on issues and values like getting the priorities right, human rights, freedom of expression, democracy, transparency and corruption and the empowerment of women. That we will always be concerned about the rights of marginalised groups in society like the girl child, prisoners or sexual minorities. These are issues and values import to us as a nation, and they will always be reflected in our international relations.

I am proud of the way Norway has consistently pushed the issue of gender and the empowerment of women in Malawi. Evidence shows us that societies that manage to include women in the same way men are included are more prosperous, more stable and typically happier. It is basically a win-win situation. We know that women work two-thirds of Africa's working hours,  produce 70 per cent of its food, yet earn only 10 per cent of its income and own less than 1 per cent of its property. That is just not fair, is it? I would like to steal a quote from a previous colleague at the Embassy. He said: I would like to salute the workforce of Malawi. And their husbands.

But you will also – hopefully - recognise Norway for our support. We invest heavily in Malawi’s development. Malawi is consistently among the ten biggest recipients of Norwegian aid, and we are – by a good margin – the third biggest bilateral partner to Malawi. We invest in key sectors like health, education and agriculture, but we also work hard to broaden our partnerships to include investment, trade, the private sector, culture, institutional co-operation. And the friendship between the people of Norway and the people of Malawi. We are here to stay. That is evidenced by our Parliament adopting Malawi as a member of a rather exclusive group of partner countries for long-term social and economic development.

Norway is a candidate for one of the non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council from 2021. Malawi will know Norway as one of the nations of the world giving the most support to the UN system. As one of the nations of the world continuously stressing the importance of international rule of law. As a nation consistently supporting the strengthening of the African voice in the UN, including African representation on the UNSC. As a nation without a colonial past and as one of the strongest partners of the AU and the pan-African agenda. We have asked for Malawi’s support for our SC candidature, and we will continue to do so based on the support already communicated. Honourable minister, I rest my case.

So – after almost four years in the Warm Heart of Africa – what emotions do I leave Malawi with? In addition to a sense of pride over what we are achieving, there are two other emotions that are the most important.

The first is impatience. A sense of impatience on behalf of the poor in Malawi that development is not taking off that it way it should have. That reforms often are adopted but are slow in their implementation. That – at least sometimes – the elites seem to be more busy with their own interests than the interests of the nation. That affirmative action against corruption and the theft of resources from the poor is not consistently taken. That Malawi remains poor while its people deserve better. I know that this sense of impatience is one I share with many of you – both among my international friends and among my Malawian friends.

The other is love. A deep respect and love for Malawi and its people. For the struggles you are facing. A love for Malawi’s most beautiful scenery. For your openness, for your friendliness, for your warmth. On a more personal note – for the love I have found here. For becoming a father again at a tender young age. And again next month if all goes well. For all my three grown children having spent extended periods of time here and all having forged lasting bonds and friendships with Malawi. But most of all to you – Jen – for becoming my wife and the love of my life.

Malawi has, and will always be, the true warm heart of Africa for me. 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.