Statement of the RNG State Secretary Espen Barth Eide During the GPH-NDF Peace Talks Opening 15 February 2011 in Oslo, Norway

Secretary Deles, State Secretary Eide, Honorouble Panel Chairpersons Alexander Padilla and Luis Jalandoni, members of the negotiating panels, distinguished colleagues, friends of the peace process, good morning and welcome! And really, my welcome is as warm, as our country is cold.

On behalf of the Government of Norway, it gives me great pleasure to open this first round of formal negotiations since 2004. We are very much looking forward to host both delegations and facilitate what we hope will be a cordial, constructive, and fruitful round of talks over the next week.

Reports from the informals in January tell me that you were able to build trust and confidence – and you decided on moving forward. You deserve all the assistance and support you can get, in this life important goal of yours, reaching for a just and lasting peace in the Philippines.

We hope then, that you will be able to make use of this opportunity to continue to build trust and also now address substantial issues on the peace agenda. We are content that you have decided to get down to the business of addressing the root causes of the armed conflict, and talk about basic social, economic and political reforms, and thereby work towards establishing a platform, a basis for a just and lasting peace.

There are many paths to peace, and a variety of approaches to deal with the great challenges of conflict and violence. We think that giving priority to military solutions is not one of them. Political problems, social problems, economic problems – have no ultimate military solutions. We have learned our lessons from engagements in peace and reconciliation processes around the world. One of them is that in the end, a stable and long lasting peace requires a political, negotiated solution. People must meet – face to face, around a table. Like what you are doing here.

Not only in this context, but also in other settings, Norway seeks to contribute to greater understanding across political systems, beliefs and positions, and between opposing parties to a conflict, using dialogue as a tool. And consistent with our strategy of being a soft actor is then our policy of promoting dialogue, both as a tool to solve conflicts, and also as a means to strengthen knowledge, defeat stereotypes, build networks in times of peace, so as to prevent more conflicts from occurring.

Some people have maintained that dialogue is a soft option for those who do not have the will, the courage or the ability to meet resistance with power. I disagree. One of the most dangerous features in the world today is the absence of dialogue.

You are showing courage by addressing contentious issues in a forum like this. Dialogue does not mean giving up fundamental values and principles. Dialogue is not acceptance – but an attempt to promote your own interests and values. The alternative is too often a monologue.

Dialogue should contribute to clarify what are the disagreements, and how to achieve practical solutions to handle, lower or remove the source of conflict. Engaging in dialogue, on the other hand, signifies confidence in your own values and principles.

Being willing to enter into a dialogue is thus not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, dialogue is based on values and principles; it is the strategy of the brave. Dialogue opens doors.
And again, that is why I am so pleased to see both parties here today, with the promise of making real progress in the peace talks.

Yes, we acknowledge the history of the conflict – more than 40 years of struggle, fighting, and violence. We know that this will not be easy. Moreover, we know that peace negotiations require political commitment and bold political decisions. A lot of pressure is put on you. A heavy responsibility is weighing on your shoulders.

At the end of the day, the responsibility for peace rests with the parties and the people in the Philippines. The conflict is yours. But we have faith in your leadership. And on behalf of the Government of Norway, I assure you that we will do our best in order to assist you in your efforts on the road to peace. I wish you the best of luck for the next few days.#


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