Norway – a Nation of Peace? Part I

Norway – a Nation of Peace? Part I

In a longer lecture in the spring of 2006, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre addressed the issue of “Norway as a nation of peace – myth or reality?” In his speech, he emphasized that “Norway is a nation that wants peace”, and that “Norwegians want peace, for themselves and for others”. But the idea of ​​peace for Støre is not limited to a pious wish, it also has a moral dimension: “Norway has all the prerequisites to be a nation of peace. From our point of view, we have nothing but a clear responsibility to be a nation for peace. ”

  • Where does this perception come from?
  • What does it mean for Norwegian foreign policy?
  • What is the basis for the Norwegian commitment to peace?

2: Norwegian tradition and further development

With its interpretation of Norway as a nation of peace and Norwegians’ moral responsibility to contribute to creating peace in the world, Støre places itself in a long Norwegian tradition. When Foreign Minister Halvard Lange presented foreign policy in January 1949, in the midst of the broad debate on Norwegian membership of NATO, he emphasized that “Norway’s predominant interest is peace”, and that “Norway’s entire foreign policy tradition clearly makes it clear that we have no other desire with our participation in international politics than to make the contribution we can to that there can be peace, tolerance and cooperation between the states and the peoples ».

Foreign Minister Halvdan Koht, who had already in 1902 described the peace work as a task, a vocation or a mission for Norway, called in 1936 for action in the following way: “We are a small people, and our vote did not go far; but we still always shout, almost as loud as we can, shout this that we will and must work for peace. It is our desire, for we want peace and want there to be peace in the world. ” In today’s celebratory speech, this peace tradition is especially invoked with reference to Nansen, and sometimes Bjørnson.

Støre also seems to be in good pace with the Norwegian population in the 21st century. In a poll conducted by the Centenary – Norway 2005 in 2004–05, 92% of those surveyed said they fully or partially agreed with the description of Norway as «A rich nation that shares its resources with others through humanitarian activity and peace work».

Common to those quoted is that peace means something more than the absence of war . The desire for peace also includes thoughts about peaceful development – opportunities to create more welfare and a better everyday life for the individual. However, the content of the specific peace work has varied:

  • One hundred years ago, the idea was state neutrality, free trade and the development of international law.
  • Around 1950, the focus was on improvement through the UN.
  • Liberalized (more open) international trade, strengthening of international law and multilateral efforts through the UN are still key features of the Norwegian approach to peace and development.
  • In addition, after the Cold War, we have seen a significant Norwegian effort with facilitation and mediation in peace processes.

It is with this effort as a backdrop that the idea of ​​Norway as a nation of peace has gone from being an almost subconscious matter of course to becoming a regular and high-priority element in foreign policy and the foreign policy discourse.

3: Why Norway?

According to, the Norwegian peace tradition can be traced back more than 100 years, but with varying reasons. An underlying explanatory factor for many has been the biological – Norwegians are simply more peaceful than others. Gahr Støre rejected this explanation in his peace speech.

He instead emphasized a number of the other traditional explanatory factors. As early as the 1890s, it was emphasized that Norway was in a special position as a small country , with a well-developed democracy , a strong civil society and a modern history without wars of conquest and imperialism . In the Norwegian self-perception, it was also central that Norway was a country that was on the fringes of the European state system, and that could thus enter this system from the outside and change it for the better.

If we follow the argument in the seams, however, we find that the most common is to justify the Norwegian peace commitment on the grounds that there is a Norwegian peace tradition. Perhaps the most precise thing is to say that Norway is a nation of peace because we have a tradition of having a peace tradition – to look at ourselves as a nation of peace. Our stories about Norway are stories that emphasize peace efforts and the will to peace, not military traditions and self-will.

4: The organizational basis

When the certainty of a Norwegian peace tradition has been able to persist for over a hundred years, this has to do with the fact that strong currents and movements in Norwegian society have been central to the design and development of the tradition. This certainty has been linked to one of the most positively charged concepts in Norwegian discourse – “the people”.

When the peace tradition was clearly formulated in the 1890s, it was linked to the popular-democratic and liberal Left-wing movement , which dominated politics, with a pronounced link between the terms “people” and “peace”. The idea was – in line with liberal traditions in other countries – that peace should be achieved through free trade, enlightenment, international organization and the expansion of international law.

The liberal tradition (point 1) was then gradually further developed and expanded in the social democratic direction. This built on international solidarity,which has characterized the labor movement from the beginning. In addition to international law, there was international justice , concretized through aid and development work.

Alongside these main currents, we also find the strong Christian charity tradition , which has been reflected in peace, development and relief work, and which during Bondevik’s reign became increasingly clear part of the general perception of Norway as a nation of peace.

We find clear elements of all these three main currents in the presentation of today’s Norwegian peace tradition. The labor movement and the various Christian currents have nevertheless had a clearer impact on the voluntary organizations than the liberal tradition. These non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have in turn played important roles in where Norway has been involved in peace work in recent decades, and in what way the involvement has developed.

Norwegian vehicle caught fire during an attack