Making a difference

Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre and Consul General in New York, Ambassador Sissel Breie enjoying Norwegian Shrimp at a rooftop reception. The Minister  visited the Norwegian Seamen's Church in New York City on June14 and spoke about his book "Å gjøre en forskjell" (Making a difference), which was published in 2008. Read an article next week about his visit to New York. Photo by Berit Hessen.

Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre (right) and Consul General in New York, Ambassador Sissel Breie enjoying Norwegian Shrimp at a rooftop reception at the Norwegian Seamen's Church after the book presentation. Photo by Berit Hessen.

More than 100 people showed up to listen to Jonas Gahr Støre, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, talk about his book, “Å gjøre en forskjell” (Making a difference) on June 14. The book presentation took place at The Norwegian Seamen’s Church in New York City.

By Berit Hessen -Norwegian American Weekly

To start off the evening the incredible talented Norwegian composer and pianist, Ola Gjeilo (31), who has been based in the Big Apple for the last five years, performed two songs from his new piano CD, “Stone Rose”. Gjeilo is actually mentioned in Støre’s book. The first time the Minister visited The Norwegian Seamen’s Church on 52nd Street was in September 2008, during the Church’s 135-year celebration. Here, Støre was introduced to Gjeilo and his music. He has been a fan ever since.

“Mr. Støre has an impressive capacity for achieving his goals,” said Norway’s Consul General in New York, Ambassador Sissel Breie. In between his day job, flying around the world from meeting to meeting with presidents and other dignitaries, Støre wrote “Å gjøre en forskjell”. In the book he shares his experiences and personal reflections on his role as Foreign Minister and gives a rare insight on how Norway’s foreign policy is shaped and practiced. Støre has a wide experience working with international issues. Before being appointed to his current position in 2005, he worked with several international organizations, including the World Health Organization and the Red Cross.

Despite having a extremely hectic schedule, it was a smiling and relaxed looking Minister who took the stage to be interviewed by VG’s correspondent in the U.S., Anders Giæver.  “How did you find time to write the book,” the interviewer wanted to know. “The book was written at airports, during early mornings last summer,” shared Støre. “For me writing is a way of unwinding,” he explained. “Writing ‘Å gjøre en forskjell’ was part of an ambition I had as Foreign Minister. I wanted to open up the debate on foreign policy in Norway,” he explained. We should have more “open doors”, and invite more [young] people to come into the arena for an open communication. It’s important to break away from the tradition that foreign policy should just be for the experts and the insiders, clarified Støre.

Ambassador Sissel Breie and Foreign Minster Jonas Gahr Støre outside Scandinavia House on Park Avenue. Photo by Berit Hessen.

With profound knowledge he spoke about the vital relationship between Norway and the United States. He emphasized that the “long-standing friendship” is stronger than ever, and the two countries are now working much closer on several issues. He applauded the Obama administration for looking at the climate issue as a “real challenge”, and for their approach on “creating opportunities” for solving problems. He also commended the Obama administration for respecting people with different backgrounds. This approach brings people together on many different levels, said Støre. In his book he talks about the challenges in the Middle East. He takes us along on journeys to the Arctic and Northern Norway, to show us the importance of the High North, and reflects on meetings with world leaders.

The base for the book is that Norway is not as “small” as people think. Norway is the World’s third largest financial contributor to the UN programs, second  largest exporter of gas, sixth largest exporter of oil, second largest exporter of fish, and Norway (with only 4.7 million inhabitants) has the second largest Pension Fund in the World. Size is not what matters, but what you accomplish!, explained the highly respected Minister.

On June 15, Støre held the opening remarks at the seminar “Corporate Social Responsibility in Times of Economic Recession” at Scandinavia House. The Norwegian Government recently launched its first national white paper on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a globalized economy. The discussion was moderated by Kristin Holth, Executive Vice President and General Manager of DnB NOR Bank ASA. The panelists were Luann Smith, President of Statoil Marketing and Trading (US) Inc., Ann E. Condon, GE’s Director and Counsel of EHS Programs, and Stephen L. Brown, Director and Corporate Governance of TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, College Retirement Equities Fund).

While in New York Støre also presented The 2009 Report of the Global Campaign for the Health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the United Nations. This report “shows the way forward in coping with serious health challenges for mothers and children in a time of economic crisis”. This important campaign was spearheaded by Norway. It was launched in New York (Sept. 2007) by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. A network of global leaders was formed at the invitation of Stoltenberg to provide political backing at the highest possible level.

This article was originally published in the Norwegian American Weekly on June 26, 2009. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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