Norway and Sri Lanka have developed strong bilateral relations over many years based on mutual respect and cooperation. Our two countries share democratic values and interests, and are strong supporters of multilateral cooperation, international law, including human rights law, and a strong United Nations system. The oceans are of great importance to the past and future of both countries.
Norway’s bilateral relations with Sri Lanka focus on the following:
1. Strengthening political cooperation on issues of mutual interests
2. Sustainable development with a focus on economic development, including technical cooperation
3. Private sector cooperation
4. Contributing to lasting peace, justice, good governance, reconciliation and human rights
Development projects in Sri Lanka
Norwegian support and assistance to Sri Lanka started in 1965. According to statistics from Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), from 1965 up to 2017, Norway has contributed more than 5,000 million NOK to Sri Lanka in development assistance. In 2017, Norwegian development aid to Sri Lanka amounted to approx. 70 million NOK.
Since Sri Lanka has become an upper middle-income country, development aid has been reduced. However, Norway continues the assistance where we have special capacity and expertise and where there are special needs in Sri Lanka. Since 2009, Norway has assisted Sri Lanka in the work of national reconciliation, democratization and strengthening of human rights. Norway’s assistance focused on reconstruction and resettlement in the conflict-affected areas in the north and east, support for reconciliation, good governance, democratization, women and gender equality and technical assistance.
Since 2015, more than 5000 vulnerable families in conflict-affected areas in the north have received support from Norway via UNDP and ILO to establish viable livelihoods. Norway also supports a number of local NGOs and civil society organizations for their work on anti-corruption, good governance, free press, the right to information, legal counseling for women, increased political participation of women, and prevention of violence against women and other marginalized communities as well as economic cooperation. The Embassy supports a cooperation between ICT Norway and the Sri Lankan company Slasscom working on increasing the business opportunities within the ICT sector. Moreover, the cooperation facilitates the program “Kids can code”, teaching children from all around Sri Lanka basic coding skills.
There is also increased cooperation on fisheries by providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Fisheries for commercialization of the aquaculture sector, and technical cooperation between Norway’s Institute of Marine Research and NARA (National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency). The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) cooperates with the National Building Research Organization (NBRO) on warning systems and mapping of landslides and sinkholes.
Business development is also a priority in Norway’s relations with Sri Lanka. The Embassy assists Norwegian companies that want to invest in Sri Lanka with advices and by linking them up with local actors.
Norway and the peace process
On the invitation of the Sri Lankan authorities and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Norway played the role of neutral facilitator of the negotiations between the parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka from 1999 to 2006. Norway's mandate was to facilitate the peace process between the authorities and the LTTE.
Norway helped broker a ceasefire agreement between the parties in 2002, which opened the way for six rounds of peace talks. Norway led the Nordic Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), a civilian mission that monitored the implementation of the agreement until the Sri Lankan Government officially withdrew from the agreement in 2008.
During 2006 and 2007 it became clear that the Sri Lankan authorities and the LTTE were choosing war, rather than a negotiated solution to the conflict. Norway made it clear to the parties that the facilitation of a peace process was impossible in the absence of the necessary political will. In the last phase of the war, Norway engaged in active diplomacy together with the UN and other actors with a view to limiting civilian suffering and ensuring that the parties to the conflict complied with international law.
Today Norway has no special facilitator role in Sri Lanka, but together with the rest of the international community it is supporting the government and civil society’s efforts to implement the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 on transnational justice and reconciliation from 2015, which was prolonged in 2019 through Resolution 40/1.
Political visits recent years
In the recent years, there has been renewed commitment between Sri Lanka and Norway to revitalize the bilateral relationship that spans close to seventy years. There has been a number of high-level visits between the two countries. In March 2019, the State Minister of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Marianne Hagen visited Sri Lanka. She met with both high official representatives from the Sri Lankan government and several civil society organizations in Colombo and Jaffna. The State Minister announced Norway’s contribution of NOK 60 million for mine action in Sri Lanka. Hagen also signed a letter of intent with the Sri Lankan company SLASSCOM.
In June 2018, the State Minister of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jens Frølich Holte visited Sri Lanka. His visit also coincided with the arrival of the Norwegian research vessel Dr. Fridtjof Nansen to Sri Lanka at the request of the Government of Sri Lanka. The focus of the visit of the Nansen vessel was to assist Sri Lankan authorities with resource mapping and data analysis of fisheries statistics. In October 2018, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe went on a 3-day official visit to Norway with the Minister of Fisheries Wijith Wijayamuni Zoysa and several Members of Parliament. In August 2016, the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg visited Sri Lanka. She was the first sitting Prime Minister of Norway to visit Sri Lanka. Same year, the then Foreign Minister of Norway Børge Brende and Norway’s State Secretary Tore Hattrem visited Sri Lanka in January and May-June respectively. The then Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera made a return visit to Oslo in June 2016.