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Leader: The framework of freedom

Is Jan Egeland a threat to free research?


When Terje Tvedt received the Fritt Ord Award on Tuesday, the thank-you speech was strong evidence that he deserved it. The professor, dissident and intermediary are best known for their criticism of Norwegian aid policy. Tvedt succeeded in illustrating large parts of his project by pointing to one person as an example of the core of the problems of Norwegian aid policy.

He did not become foreign minister this time, but has been secretary of state for most of the 1990s. As a UN summit, he has long been among the world's most powerful men, and as Secretary General of the Norwegian Red Cross, he was one of the most important premise providers and practitioners of Norwegian aid policy. Jan Egeland is among the very few Norwegians who are over-qualified for almost any job. As the new director of the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute, Nupi, he appears as a warp.

But everyone who heard Terje Tvedt's speech understood that they should think longer. As a fearless critic of the "national goodness regime", Tvedt has devoted his time to digging out as much empire as possible about how the Southern political system works. He has found a system unable to criticize himself. When the links between politics, research, bureaucracy and organizational life are so close that the same people are left in top positions in the various arenas, no one becomes really independent. The same people make the policy, distribute the money, exercise the assistance and evaluate it themselves.

Jan Egeland has as stated project for Nupi to have a critical relationship with any government. He will "suggest how the policy can be improved and how it can be implemented". This is how Egeland presents a project on free and independent, critical research. But this is also illustrated by the problem that Nupi can become politically responsible for Norwegian foreign policy. Egeland continues as Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General, and he continues his political ambitions through his job at Nupi. The question Tvedt poses is whether Nupi can conduct critical research on Norwegian foreign policy at all, when they are supposed to express the same policy.

Of course, Tvedt doesn't think the problem is Egeland himself. As an individual, he cannot be blamed for the system, and it is pointless to moralize about the individuals who alternate between these jobs.

But board chairman Francis Sejersted summed up Tvedt's ethics simply: Less temperament ethics and more consequence ethics. It is not enough that an action is well-intentioned if it leads to harm and not to improvement. Therefore, it may not be enough that Egeland is both skilled and well-meaning.

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