Theater of Cruelty

UD's many opinions

Debate: Minister for Development Aid Erik Solheim should be praised for answering in Ny Tid (8 September) some of the challenges in my comment «Foreign Ministry on wild roads» (1 September).


However, the post testifies to a contradiction between what the Foreign Ministry does and what Solheim claims to do.

My criticism had two elements. First: Norwegian peace diplomacy was supposed to create peace in the world, but the two main projects – the heavily criticized Oslo Accords and the Sri Lanka process – seem to have hurt worse. Since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs refuses to take self-criticism, it should be open to debate about the function of the "Norwegian model" when a new front is now opened in South America.

I have no doubt that Solheim would rather dance samba in Brazil than clean up after Norway in Sri Lanka, where he was active for a long time. But there is actually something good about extinguishing your own fires and realizing their limitations, as the tsunami should have learned from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As long as the Foreign Ministry refuses to investigate Norway's role in the Srebrenica massacre, where a Norwegian colonel had overall responsibility, the spread of the "Norwegian model" to another continent is set in a strange light.

Solheim now says that in Brazil he "was clear" that Norway can also learn from South America. But in the mandate of the working group, and in its report, there is no such thing.

Solheim writes that countries in South America "come to us" and ask for advice. I doubt it. On the Foreign Office papers, it looks more like Norway has come to Brazil and offered advice, and there is something completely different when economic interests are also taking shape. He then writes that Norway "answers when someone asks". But does that mean answering "yes" to all requests to clean up? Is it not possible to say no, and recommend others, to avert yet another piecemeal and divided effort?

My other critical comment was on the Foreign Ministry's debate "How to counteract conflicts when cultures meet?" Media coverage was just as damning as the issue suggested. Even Huntington and bin Laden do not define Al Qaeda terror as a "civil conflict". Foreign workers in the hall then stood up and protested against such banal enemy images.

It is nice that Solheim now says that it is not "the culture of a country or region that in itself creates war". But why then does the Foreign Ministry invite a big debate with the premise that one must "counter conflict when cultures meet"? I challenge the Foreign Ministry to give one example of such a cultural conflict.

Meanwhile, the rest of the ministry can learn from Solheim's new experiences, which were on Brazil's journey when the debate was held.

Dag Herbjørnsrud, development editor at Ny Tid.

Dag Herbjørnsrud
Dag Herbjørnsrud
Former editor of MODERN TIMES. Now head of the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas.

You may also like