Interview with Kjell Magne Bondevik, President of the Oslo Peace Centre, Norway
Kjell Magne Bondevik is a former Prime Minster of Norway and former Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the Horn of Africa
Q: Are you still Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the Horn of Africa?
No, that was some time ago. My mandate was extended twice, for a total duration of one and a half years, until the summer of 2007. What was important for me during my time in office was to contribute to the UN’s activities by avoiding a huge famine following a drought. I think that our joint forces gave us the chance to steer clear of a huge catastrophe because some 3 million people were saved. During the final six months, I also attempted to get a plan of action adopted so that these countries will be better prepared the next time they face a drought. We called that a road map for increased security involving six countries, which was under the overall responsibility of the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Q: Is the Oslo Peace Centre now fully operational?
Yes, we have three main objectives. One of them is inter-religious dialogue. The most important project we have is: Islam and the Western countries –– what can we do in order to reduce tensions? This is a project we are carrying out with the former President of Iran, His Excellency Mr Seyed Mohammad Khatami from the Iran Foundation, who remains an influential person. We have so far organized four events and we have prepared a common statement about politics and religion, extremism, gender and tolerance. This autumn, we will organize a conference in Iran.
The next priority we have in this field is that we collaborate with the National Democratic Institute originating in the United States with offices around the world –– among others, in Kenya. We visited this latter country several times together with people from the Institute in order to advise the local political parties on building a sustainable coalition. After the elections in December 2007, a widespread violent conflict emerged. Fortunately, they received assistance from Kofi Annan to build a coalition. I have been there twice since then, in complete agreement with Kofi Annan, who is extremely positive about what we are doing. The outcome was that the one who was perhaps elected president became Prime Minister and will share power with President Kibaki, who did not want to resign. They have only once before had a Prime Minister, at the very beginning of independence. So they needed advice on how to build up the position of Prime Minister. This is what we did with them during our last visit to the country. We have also established collaboration with the government in Somalia, which is not a party-based coalition but more based upon tribes.
Equally, we are also part of the Madrid Club, which is an association of former Presidents and Prime Ministers whose aim is to strengthen the position of female politicians in Africa. We have chosen three countries and examined human rights there.
I have also published a report on the human rights situation in DPR Korea and we are about to update this again. The new report should be ready in a few days.
We have also started to work on a report on Eritrea, which I visited three times when I was the UN Special Envoy. The human rights situation there is quite serious and we felt that we had to do something about it and discuss it.
We also work with Myanmar to see how we can to support the democratic movement there. We have met representatives of the government; we have made public appeals, etc.
Finally, we also work in favour of the freedom of religion. On this topic, we will visit Central Asia next year together with the Norwegian Helsingfors Committee.
Q: You mentioned Kofi Annan. Do you collaborate with the new organizations he has set up?
Yes, we are still in touch. At the end of August 2008, he paid us a visit at the Oslo Centre and met our committee, which includes Jan Egeland, Hans Blix and Kim Dae-jung, amongst others. Kofi Annan is also now on our board. He has, in fact, set up two organizations: one in Geneva –– Humanitarian Forum; and one in Ghana –– the Green Revolution. As I mentioned earlier, we do have a lot of contact, in particular on the Kenya case.