The place of the oceans in Nor way’s foreign and development policy. Meld. St. 22 (2016–2017). Report to the Storting (white paper)

The place of the oceans in Nor way’s foreign and development policy. Meld. St. 22 (2016–2017). Report to the Storting (white paper)

This  is  the  first  time  a  Norwegian  government  has  presented  a  white  paper  on  the  place  of  the  seas  and  oceans  in  the  country’s  foreign  and  development  policy.  Its  aim  is  to  highlight  the  opportunities  the  oceans  offer  for  Norway  and  the  challenges  we  will  need  to  deal  with,  and  to  describe how Norwegian foreign and development policy can be used to safeguard Norway’s ocean interests and promote the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The oceans are not only crucial to our understanding of the past; they also hold an important key to the future – in Norway as in the rest of the world.  The  Norwegian  Government  is  actively  promoting  a  transition  to  a greener Norwegian economy. If we are to succeed, we must safeguard biodiversity for current and future generations. At the same time, we must make  the  most  of  opportunities  for  economic  development  in  maritime  areas,  and  promote  production  and  consumption  patterns  that  have  less  negative impact on the climate and marine environment than is the case today. The importance of this was made clear in 2015 when world leaders adopted  the  17  SDGs,  including  one  specifically  concerning  the  oceans:  SDG  14,  to  conserve  and  sustainably  use  the  oceans, seas  and  marine  resources for sustainable development.

The oceans offer huge potential for human development. According to the UN, the world’s population is set to reach 9.7 billion in 2050. Most of the growth will be in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia. All  these  people  will  need  food  and  energy,  and  population  growth  will  drive  an  expansion  of  trade  and  maritime  transport.  Shipping  has  a  key  role to play in promoting global trade and growth.

The  UN  Convention  on  the  Law  of  the  Sea,  often  referred  to  as  the  ‘constitution  of  the  oceans’,  is  of  key  importance  in  this  context.  Just  as  a  country’s  constitution  ensures  predictability  and  stability  at  the  national level, the Law of the Sea promotes peaceful international cooperation and conservation and sustainable use of the world’s oceans. The Convention  regulates  the  rights  and  obligations  of  states  as  regards  use  of  the  seas and oceans, utilisation of marine resources and conservation of the marine environment. This ensures a predictable framework and stability for investments and economic activity. The Convention is vital for Norway, with  its  strong  environmental,  energy,  seafood  and  shipping  interests.  Together with other international legal instruments, it provides the legal framework  for  Norway’s  cooperation  with  other  countries  on  conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources at the global, regional and bilateral levels.

The SDGs provide a global framework for the international community’s efforts to promote development that meets the needs of the present without  compromising  the  ability  of  future  generations  to  meet  their  own  needs. SDG 14 requires us to include the oceans in this concerted global effort. Achieving SDG 14 is important in itself, and will also have positive ripple effects in other strategically important areas that are vital to peace, stability and security. With its extensive experience and knowledge of ocean-based activities, Nor way is well placed to make an important contribution in this area.

This white paper makes it plain that the oceans are a key focus area in Norwegian  foreign  and  development  policy,  and  highlights  three  priority  areas: sustainable use and value creation, clean and healthy oceans, and the role of the blue economy in development policy. Together with the Government’s ocean strategy, the integrated management plans for Norwegian sea areas and other important policy documents, the white paper will promote a clear and integrated Norwegian approach to ocean issues.