“Nordic co-operation is about to undergo a renaissance and the time has come for new Nordic initiatives in the international arena,” the Norwegian UN Special Adviser Jan Egeland, told the assembled parliamentarians in a speech on war, conflict and refugees at the January meeting of the Nordic Council in Oslo on Tuesday.
Jan Egeland has devoted his entire career to working with people in need and to conflict resolution.
Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, was invited to address the Council before a debate on the Nordic Region's role in a world riven by wars and conflicts. He presented hard facts to his audience, starting with the number of displaced people: over 65 million at the end of 2015.
“In two or three months, new numbers will be published, and it will probably be over 70 million. I have never experienced a time like now in terms of humanitarian crises,” said Egeland, who has devoted his entire career to working with people in need and to conflict resolution.
Egeland is also an advisor to the Syrian peace talks. He reminded the Nordic Council of all the wars and conflicts around the world that are forcing people to flee, e.g. in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and especially Yemen – which has been almost completely ignored but where millions face starvation unless there is a massive increase in humanitarian aid.
Egeland’s speech was called Wars, crises and conflicts in a demanding and unstable world: Nordic co-operation under pressure? He emphasised strongly that the Nordic countries are on the cusp of a renaissance when it comes to international responsibility and called for them to take new initiatives.
“I believe in Nordic Initiatives, the same as in the 90s. Especially in the UN. We made a huge impact back then. The Nordic Region has great legitimacy in humanitarian aid and foreign affairs. The time has come for new Nordic initiatives.
What should we do? We should try, for example, to create opportunities and hope in the countries from which people are fleeing.” He even suggested a new Marshall Aid plan, like the one instigated by the United States in the aftermath of World War II.
Refugees are not adventurers. Hopelessness and fear are what drives them on. They are willing to risk drowning in the Mediterranean in the hope of a better life. At the moment, more people die in the Mediterranean per month than died at the Berlin Wall in a generation.
Egeland's speech led to a lively debate, during which the members of the Nordic Council aired multiple perspectives on trouble spots and the refugee issue.
The President of the Nordic Council, Britt Lundberg, also said that the Region has much to offer when it comes to conflict resolution, pointing out that the Council must take responsibility and get the governments to work together.
“We live in troubled times, and this means that the Nordic Council has an important role to play. The parliamentary dimension is becoming more and more important. Inter-parliamentary co-operation on foreign policy, security and defence policy, on the EU, on international relations and in international forums can make a positive impact,” she said, adding that she is glad that the Nordic Council of Ministers has launched a joint project on immigration and integration issues in the Nordic countries.