Conscription for all
Ine Eriksen Søreide
Minister of Defense
Parliament has passed the legislative changes necessary to introduce compulsory military service for males and females in Norway.
This is a historic decision. Conscription is an important principle of the social contract between citizens and the state, but only now can we say that all of the state’s citizens take part in this fully. Norway is now carrying out almost pioneering work internationally. We have every reason to be proud.
Conscription remains unchanged; there is major political consensus about this in Norway. This is because we believe that defending Norway is a responsibility that rests upon us all, as a principle. There are currently no logical arguments to keep conscription for just one half of the population. This is why we are extending it to apply to both sexes.
Conscription gives the Armed Forces a broad basis for recruiting the most suitable and motivated personnel. It is essential that the Military has the capability to recruit the skills necessary to fulfill its important public responsibilities. Extending conscription to include both genders means we increase the amount of available expertise twofold.
The Armed Forces of today have highly skilled personnel and conscripts. Meanwhile, new forms of expertise are needed. Our security policy environment is changing. This creates new challenges and assignments. We are in a difficult security situation in Europe, and see a complex global threat picture. Technological developments are accelerating parallel to this. This also affects the Military. We must ensure that we have a military that is best suited to solving the problems.
A key success factor for the future of defense will be the ability to recruit and retain the right personnel with the relevant skills, positive attitudes, and high ethical awareness. In this context, conscription is a good foundation. The government also believes that it is time for a thorough review of the actual capabilities of the conscription system, particularly with a view to modernizing and developing initial military service – which currently constitutes the mechanism by which the duty is carried out in accordance with the Armed Forces’ requirements. The introduction of military service for all is one means of modernizing the system, but other measures may be necessary.
The government has therefore appointed a committee to look at all aspects of the military service scheme. The committee will consider the military field, defense policy and social perspectives regarding conscription. The committee will also recommend a future national service scheme based on the needs of the Armed Forces.
The committee’s recommendations, together the Chief of Defense’s professional military advice that I have just requested, will be important contributions to the new long-term plan for the military.
Starting in 2015, all Norwegian women born in 1997 and later are to be conscripts. The first conscripted women will meet for service in the summer of 2016.
The Armed Forces are well underway in facilitating for taking in more women. Barracks are being prepared, and new uniforms and equipment adapted to women ordered. The Armed Forces must be prepared to accept all the conscripts when they come, both women and men.
The military’s ambition is that the proportion of women will increase in the future. The most important instrument for achieving this is making first-time military service as attractive as possible, so that most women themselves will want to serve in the military. My focus will be that it is the most suitable and most motivated who will be carrying out military service, regardless of gender. Nevertheless, the Armed Force’s skills requirements must be covered, if necessary by means of obligation.
The introduction of military service for all is in line with the principle of equal rights and duties for everyone in our society. It is also a necessary step for the Armed Forces to meet their skills needs. The legislative amendments that Parliament has adopted today are historic. The introduction of conscription for women brings us a major step forward in efforts to create a military for a new time containing new challenges.
This commentary was printed in the Oct. 14th edition of Aftenposten in Norwegian, and translated by the Foreigner.
It also appeared in the Oct. 24, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.