Thank you Ruchira for inviting me to participate, and indeed for the initiative to have the “graduating five” together today. Our congratulations also on an extremely successful Presidency in a busy month, you are certainly leaving your time on the Council on a high note.
I will focus today on those areas we have had a particular impact on Council work in the last two years of our membership: DPRK where we Chair the 1718 Committee, Afghanistan on which we hold the pen, and also the Middle East Peace Process- which of course is a special priority for Norway, and me personally.
I will do my best to keep these points brief, to allow plenty of time for Q&A.
Chairing the 1718 Sanctions Committee on the DPRK has been a challenging task. During the last year we have seen a record number of ballistic missile launches including several intercontinental missiles.
The committee has also received reports from its Panel of Experts confirming that the DPRK continues to develop both nuclear weapons and their means of delivery- in clear violation of several Security Council resolutions.
We are pleased that the Committee has been able to expedite the processing of humanitarian exemptions. However, we remain concerned about the humanitarian situation in the DPRK. The border closing from January 2020, is still enforced. This has hampered the transport of international assistance, and access for the UN and other humanitarian actors - contributing to the further deterioration of an already very difficult humanitarian situation.
We have called for the DPRK to change its course and respond positively to the many attempts to re-establish a political dialogue.
And I hope the Council will be able to speak with a united voice on these issues in 2023.
I’m sure we all share the deep concern by the Taliban’s decision to close universities and high schools for women and girls. We are encouraged that the OIC, Qatar, the UAE and other Muslim countries, have clearly stated that this is not in accordance with Islam. We are currently working on a PRST for the Council to express a united position on this, as well as other core issues in Afghanistan.
During our tenure the situation in Afghanistan has changed dramatically, especially with the Taliban takeover in 2021. Yet the Council has adopted three Resolutions and agreed more than 20 press statements. So our experience is that it is possible, albeit challenging, to find common positions.
By agreeing to compromise, the Council can speak with one voice to support Afghanistan. And we do agree on a lot, which was demonstrated in March through the renewal of the UNAMA mandate.
It is indeed our view that all Council members need to demonstrate flexibility going forward to remain united in the face of a very difficult situation for the Afghan people. So we really wish to see the unity being there going forward in the very challenging year 2023.
Norway has been engaged on Afghanistan for many years, and we will continue our engagement and support for Afghanistan also when we leave the Council.
Middle East Peace Process
Turning to the Middle East Peace Process: The situation on the ground, especially in the West Bank, has deteriorated during the last two years. Tensions are high and violence is increasing. This year was the deadliest for Palestinians since 2005.
These developments are not sustainable. We need to establish a political horizon, and here the Council can and should play a key role. There is broad consensus in the Council about the conflict. It is thus very disappointing that we have not been able to take any action. Still, the two Council products that were issued in the last two years were important, and give an important signal to the parties.
If I may: it is with a heavy heart we are leaving the Council, with very little progress on this situation.
On Norway's tenure 2021-2022
It’s been a challenging two years for us, and for the Council. The war in Ukraine has put the functioning of the Council to the test in a truly existential way. The war has shaken the trust and confidence in the whole institution of the UN. We cannot let this trust erode further.
If we cannot prove the Council’s relevance, we will find ourselves in a deeply serious situation.
So far the Council has been able to continue to act. Including on the UNAMA mandate renewal, the continuation of the Syrian cross border humanitarian mechanism, and even, despite high odds, a PRST in support of the Secretary-General’s good offices in Ukraine.
But unity is becoming increasingly difficult to reach. On top of this, the world is rapidly changing, and along with it, the nature of the Council’s work.
We see this reflected even in our own national priorities on the Council: From the protection of civilians and WPS, to peace diplomacy, and Climate, Peace, and Security.
The threats the Council faces today are different than they were 20 or even 10 years ago- so the way the Council tackles them also needs to change.
In Norway’s view it is clear that the Council needs to take a broader view of threats to international peace and security, and hear from a diversity of those who are impacted. From civil society, human rights defenders, to regional actors, and especially other parts of the UN system.
Two years on; Norway remains humbled by the trust the broader membership placed in us to serve in the Council. Throughout our term we have stuck to our promises: to consult broadly, and speak to countries not about them. And this is certainly something we think the Council could, and should, do more of.
The Council will go into 2023 with significant hurdles ahead. Improving its transparency, effectiveness, accountability, and legitimacy must be an ongoing task. But we leave the Council with optimism that it can overcome the challenges it faces.
The world requires no less than this.
And while Norway’s seat in the Council will soon be filled by the incoming members - to which we wish every success - the Norwegian principles embedded in the design of the Chamber will persist. We hope Council members will continue to draw inspiration from them. From the horseshoe table which encourages open and equal dialogue. To the symbols in the tapestries that adorns walls of the Council Chamber: anchors of faith, hearts of charity and wheat sheaf of hope.