Democratic Accountability and the Use of Force in International Law

By Charlotte Ku; Harold K. Jacobson | Go to book overview
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7 Norway: political consensus and the
problem of accountability

Knut G. Nustad and Henrik Thune

When Norway's first minister of foreign affairs, Jørgen Løvland, in 1905 delivered Norway's first official statement on foreign policy, he famously stated that “our foreign policy is to have none.” The attitude behind this statement has proved durable. Despite Norway's reputation as an advocate of a foreign policy based on humanist values, its foreign policy cannot be understood by reference to authentic values and a specific national culture. Rather, Norwegian foreign policy generally, and decisions to deploy military personnel in international operations specifically, is best understood by analogy to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's concept of the social person, for whom motivations for actions are rooted in a concern with other people's judgments.1 The result is a constant adaptation to dominant international norms and ideas. Norway, a small country with limited resources, is dependent on converting its role in “low political” issue-areas through involvement in international peace operations to “high political” gains.

Norway has, since the Second World War, ordered its international contacts in two closely connected and mutually coherent arenas: NATO and the UN. From 1949 until the early 1990s, engagement in these two fora was to a large extent justified with reference to an underlying argument in support of an international legal order. Involvement in international military operations has historically been an important expression of a commitment to this order.2 From a population of 4 million, more than 50,000 Norwegians have taken part in international operations, almost all of them under UN leadership. At the end of the 1990s, however, there was a departure from the long-standing consensus on the necessity of a UN mandate for taking part in international operations (primarily from the UN Security Council or alternatively from the UN General Assembly when the Council is blocked). As a result, a discrepancy arose between practice and the political and legal justification of that practice.

1 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discours sur l'origine et les fondemens de l'inegalite parmi les hommes
(Editions Flammarion, 1996 [1755]), p. 269.

2 See Appendix B, “Country participation in international operations, 1945–2000,” for
information on Norway's contribution.


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