Message at the occasion of Norway’s Constitution Day 17 May 2017

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Today, Norwegians all over the world are in a particularly festive mood. Our celebration on 17 May is one of the world’s oldest continuous traditions of marking a country’s national day. We celebrate our Constitution and independence not with military parades, but with parading children, in what is a happy and unique celebration of freedom and peace.

Norway’s Constitution of 17 May 1814 embodies the principles of separation of powers, the safeguarding of civil rights and the sovereignty of the people. These are all cornerstones of modern democracies. Looking around the world today, we know that such values should not be taken for granted. Together we must continue to promote these values on the globally.

At the very day of our celebration, it is appropriate to highlight some key aspects of the close partnership between Norway and Japan.

Political partners

Norway and Japan share fundamental political aims and values. We are strong supporters of human rights, democracy and free trade.

The bilateral ties between Norway and Japan are strong and have been strengthened over the last year through a series of bilateral visits at many levels. The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice and Public Security and the Minister of Trade and Industry have all conducted highly successful visits to Japan. More political visits are being planned. Topics such as trade, maritime collaboration, science and technology and gender equality were some of the issues touched upon during the meetings. Foreign Minister Brende also visited Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Park where he paid his respect to the victims of the atomic bomb of 1945.

Business partners

The ocean is binding Norway and Japan together. We have common interest in the sustainable management of the resources and in strong international frameworks and regimes. We are happy that Japanese people like salmon as topping on their sushi and the Norwegian mackerel. High quality seafood is Norway’s most important export to Japan.

Both Norway and Japan also have strong maritime traditions, and the maritime and shipping sector forms another backbone of the business relations between our two countries. The maritime business in both Norway and Japan sees the need for developing and investing in maritime technology that stimulate green growth for the maritime industry, such as the use of environmental friendly technology and green fuels.

In addition, we see new business relations developing. Financial technology and health technology and medicine are becoming important areas of cooperation. There is also a growing interest in Japan for Norwegian furniture, design, fashion and music. The potential is great to build even stronger business-to-business relations in these fields.

Partners in science and higher education

Another backbone in our bilateral relations is the collaboration within science, research and higher education. As a result of close collaboration over many years, Norwegian and Japanese research and academic institutions have developed solid partnerships. Increased research collaboration, including mobility between Norwegian higher education and research institutions and partners abroad is a high priority for Norway.

We want our future work force to be prepared for the globalized labor market and we want our researchers to contribute in finding solutions to present and future challenges. Japan, with its strength on innovation, science and technology, is an important partner in finding sustainable solutions to the multitude of global challenges we are facing. I strongly believe that more collaboration in this field will benefit both our countries.

Partners for equality

Many Japanese approach the Norwegian Embassy to learn more about our experiences with gender equality. As talent is distributed equally among men and women opportunities must be equal too. This is about making use of all of our talent and human resources, regardless of age, background or gender. This is good for economic development and welfare. However, gender equality is not only instrumental in an economic sense. It is also a basic human rights issue. All humans, men and women, have the right to be treated equally, irrespective of gender. The big question is then: How to achieve this? As in business and politics in general, we need to share best practices, challenges and possible solutions. Only in this way, can we continue to move forward. Together with other European colleagues, I took pride in participating in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade last week. LGBTI rights are human rights that transcend borders. The Embassy is happy to support the LGBTI community. Together we are moving towards more openness and tolerance – in accordance with the Norwegian Constitution that we celebrate today!

By Erling Rimestad Norway’s Ambassador to Japan