Today, Tuesday 03.09.13, we were fortunate to have the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide, as a guest at Sandvika School. Around 200 students gathered in the big gymnasium for this special occasion. Amongst other things, Barth Eide talked about Norwegian foreign politics, and what role we play in global issues, such as the civil war in Syria.
The foreign minister told us a lot about the ongoing conflict in Syria. For instance he mentioned several oppositional groups’ fight against the government. He presented some facts and figures about the war in general, but also how the international society deals with this issue. For example how the members of the UN Security Council don’t seem to reach an agreement concerning whether they should support the opposition or the government. The question of whether the UN should intervene in the civil war in Syria is an example of how difficult it can be to reach a decision in the Security Council. After the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syria night to the 21 August, where hundreds of Syrians died, the UN had their chemical weapons inspection team collect samples. Nevertheless, the question of intervention still divides the Council.
As Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Barth Eide also focused on the part Norway plays in the conflict in Syria. After the use of Chemical weapons for the first time since the First World War, Norway thinks it is important for the Council to decide how to punish it. Despite having problems deciding what role they should play in the civil war in Syria, the UN Security Council can agree on the punishment.
Barth Eide also mentioned the probable fact of there having been used illegal chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. The CWC (Chemical Weapons Convention) was an agreement signed in 1993 that outlaws development, production, stockpiling, transfer as well as use of chemical weapons, and Syria is one of five states that haven’t signed it, and one of seven that hasn’t ratified it. It is not 100% certain that chemical weapons have actually been utilized, but many tests have been made of things like soil samples and bodily fluids. Several people have reported witnessing the use personally as well. Samples have been collected and tests are currently being made.
What role does Norway play in foreign/ global politics?
Our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide, answered our question with the following: “For us Norwegians, it is important to pay attention to the bigger picture, the global problems, and not just the toll areas in this country.” (Eide, 2012) Furthermore, he said that because we in Norway have such high living standards and more than enough jobs, we also have to think about other countries in the world. There comes responsibility with being a wealthy and stabile country, and one of those responsibilities do concern the current situation in Syria amongst other countries’ as well.
For instance in Syria, the Security Council doubt on whether chemical weapons have really been used. Now, Norway and many other countries are almost completely certain that such action has taken place, and what they’re currently doing is collecting anything that can prove this wrongdoing. In fact, just yesterday, our minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide and his fellow Nordic and Baltic colleagues were in a long conversation with the Russian minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, on working together on proving this. Sergey Lavrov had also been one of their collaborators when the foreign ministers were making the policy on the use of chemical weapons. Espen Barth Eide made it clear to us that he and his colleagues were trying to convince Sergey into taking action with them. Consequently, based on these statements, we learnt that as a strong but small nation in this world, it’s very important for us to pay attention to all activities in the world. We must do so, because we have to make decisions as to what is best for Norway, but also what is best for the country the subject revolves around. After all, Norway is one of the major contributing countries and one of the biggest humanitarian countries.
The fact that the Minister of Foreign of the country took time off to visit Sandvika Videregående Skole is important. Even though the parliamentary election is only seven days away, he chose to spend a couple of hours here. We learnt a lot about how the foreign politics work, and what role Norway plays in global politics. He addressed a very relevant subject (the Syria-conflict), and how Norway handles the situation. He emphasizes that the people of Norway have to think more about the foreigin politics, especially in these election-days. This is an important issue, and really made us as students think that politics in Norway affects more than just the people of Norway.
(This text is written in co-operation with 3 other students)