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Scandinavian Makes Bid For Afghanistan Envoy Role

Diplomacy: Another Scandinavian As Super Envoy In Afghanistan?

Scoop News: Candidates are beginning to appear for the vacant role of United Nations Special Envoy for Afghanistan after the collapse of the candidature of prominent British politician Lord Paddy Ashdown.

Norway’s Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels, Belgium, appears to be one of the leading candidates.

According to a report by Oslo’s newspaper Aftenposten, Ambassador Kai Eide, a former UN Envoy in Kosovo and a veteran diplomat with the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, has made the shortlist currently reviewed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban Ki-moon is required to make his final decision once consultations with all relevant partners have concluded – that includes the European Union, NATO and major contributors in the country.

“If an offer comes, it would be natural to discuss it first with my family, the foreign minister [Jonas Gahr Store] and others directly affected,” Ambassador Eide told Aftenposten in an interview.

Norway has been very active in Afghanistan and has been pushing for a much more active role of the international community since 2006.

Oslo first suggested a “super envoy” figure two years ago, to represent the entire international community in Kabul. The idea, however, started to be seriously considered only this past summer, as reports mounted of problems in Afghanistan.

The “super envoy” would be expected to become the main point of contact between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the international forces, the EU policing mission and the UN contingent, as well as co-ordinate reconstruction efforts and liaise with NATO. He [or she] would have to balance the need for implementing the so-called “Afghanization” process with that of combating the Taleban insurgency.

Other rumored candidates for the post are Jan Kubis, Foreign Minister of Slovakia; Hikmat Chetin, a senior Turkish diplomat with experience in Afghanistan; and Joschka Fischer, former German Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Norway, as well as other Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden – have historically been very active peacekeepers and envoys, in the tradition of former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and Finland’s Martti Ahtisaari.

Of all UN Envoys and Representative around the world, fifteen are from Scandinavia, including the top officials in Iraq, Darfur, Kosovo, and Lebanon. Quite an extraordinary achievement considering the amount of pressure and lobbying the United Nations and its Secretary-General have to sustain for such highly-coveted vacant post.

According to recent statistics, Norway and Sweden account for the largest number of UN Envoys/Representatives, a total of five each. Denmark has three, while Finland has two. At present, Iceland is the only Nordic country not represented with a UN Envoy/Representative.

The five Scandinavian nations have long been strong supporters of the United Nations, advancing their foreign policy goals through the UN Secretariat and actively backing the agendas of the UN specialized agencies.

“For countries with such small populations – collectively totaling no more than 24.8 million – they have influence far out of proportion to their size,” according to 2007 report published by Bnet.

The main reason, of course, is their enormous financial commitment to the UN.

According to the report, Denmark, Norway and Sweden devote at least 0.8 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to official development assistance (ODA).

Both Norway and Sweden give close to 1 percent, the highest in the entire UN system (outside of Scandinavia, the only other countries which approach this level of funding are the Netherlands and Luxembourg).

Iceland and Finland are not far behind. In terms of total UN contributions (both assessed and voluntary), Norway ranks number 8, Sweden 9 and Denmark 11.

The United States, the world's largest economy, gives only 0.16 percent of GDP to foreign assistance.

Ambassador Johan Løvald, Norway's Permanent Representative to the UN, said in the report: “With this amount of investment in the United Nations system, it's not surprising that we have a lot of influence. We use the UN to advance our common agenda, which is grounded in a multilateral approach to solving problems, the rule of law, building peace and security, advancing human rights, including women’s rights, reducing poverty, and tackling global environmental challenges, such as climate change.”

ENDS

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