Can art make a difference in the face of harsh realities, conflict and war? Can art - in all its forms - have a role in building sustainable peace?
There was certainly one Norwegian who would have answered ‘Yes!’ to these questions, even as he saw the world heading towards a terrible conflict, in the autumn of 1939. His name was Henrik Sørensen.
Not only was he a staunch believer in pacifism and the role an artist can play in the wider society, he spoke of a ‘Northern light’ - a Nordic way to peace, that he suggested could help overcome conflict and war.
I am very glad we have a distinguished art historian with us today to give us a deeper insight into the Sørensen’s vision and his artistic messages. On my part, I would like to highlight that in many ways Sørensen has inspired a Norwegian engagement in peace diplomacy and conflict resolution.
Norway continues to be engaged in peace processes and to lead efforts to promote reconciliation worldwide. Our role and approach has of course varied over the years, but some features of Norway’s engagement have been consistent. These include:
- Good relations with key international actors. We are a genuine ‘UN Champion’, a major contributor and strong supporter of the multilateral system.
- We are willing to broadly engage with the many parties to a conflict and we enjoy close cooperation with civil society. In many cases, this has been a central door opener.
- We insist that women participate at the negotiating table and in the broader peace process. This is absolutely essential to resolve conflicts and create lasting solutions.
- We provide development assistance and we support peace efforts based on a spirit of solidarity and a long-term perspective. This has been maintained by successive Norwegian governments.
Peace and reconciliation certainly does require a long-term perspective. In plain words: it takes patience. A lot of it. And we may not always succeed. But we continue to believe in the dictum of the Norwegian diplomat and humanitarian, Fridtjof Nansen, who insisted;
“The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes --- a little longer.”
Many of the global threats we face today are symptoms of unresolved political issues. In our efforts to address the causes, not just relieve the symptoms, we need everybody on board, from politicians to artists.
It is therefore a particular pleasure for me to co-host this event in which we focus one of Norway’s artistic contributions: The 56 square meters behind me - marked, I believe, with a ‘Nordic light’ - and with the ‘women of the five continents’ at the very top.
The mural encourages states to join forces to find durable solutions through multilateral, peaceful means - A message befitting the League of Nations almost a century ago, and a message that is AS relevant for the UN and the world today!