The Norwegian Defense Minister has appeared at the NGO Utsyn’s two last dialogue meetings. Utsyn Manager Hedda Bryn Langemyr believes that is a sign that the authorities want a better dialogue with the civilian population.
In order for the total defense of Norway to work, there has to be a high level of trust between central authorities and the civilian population. The total defense is a term describing the combination of civilian preparedness and the military defense of Norway.
‘Utsyn – Forum for Norwegian Foreign and Security Policy’ is a platform aiming to contribute to just that, strengthening contact and trust between key authorities and the civilian population. Utsyn aims to create a broader, more inclusive, and nuanced debate about Norwegian foreign and security policy. It consists of people with a background in the armed forces, diplomacy, journalism, research as well as the police.
Hedda Bryn Langemyr is the Manager of Utsyn and hopes that the platform she has created may be a place in which one finds solutions to challenges across opinions and views.
“We want to go in-depth on complex and difficult issues and create a safe and inclusive space for panelists. A space where we can meet with our guard down and not with an aim of holding back or ridiculing our opponents. The main goal for our domain is to reflect together on these demanding dilemmas we find ourselves in, and explain our perspectives, with a hope that we can find better solutions across views and opinions. An open conversation also provides a broader anchoring in the population for the decisions eventually made than they were to have if these conversations were taking place behind closed doors", Langemyr says.
Langemyr argues that trust between the authorities and the population must be strengthened. This trust has been challenged by major centralization processes, and she believes trust to be important in order to avoid vulnerable situations in which the Norwegian population may be exploited.
“One of the key elements for a country finding itself in the middle of major transformation processes, a country experiencing a strong and rather dramatic security policy change over time, is having a well-informed population”, she says and adds:
“I find that both when it comes to transparency in security politics as well as the need to inform better about the security policy situation in which we find ourselves, both authorities and the bureaucracy are more receptive now than they were perhaps only five years ago. I believe the reason for the Defense Minister’s appearing twice at our meetings within a short period of time is the fact that the authorities have acknowledged a need to make closer contact, perhaps when it comes to geographical areas far away from Oslo, and also establish closer contact with local communities that are more affected and marked by this security policy change.”
Both authorities and the bureaucracy are more receptive now than they were perhaps only five years ago
Håkon Haugsbø has been part of Utsyn since its inception in 2018. He moderated the two most recent dialogue meetings looking at the regional consequences of the security politics carried out in the High North.
Why are these meetings important, and what have you gained from them so far?
“After the two most recent meetings, I am left with an impression that there is a difference in description of reality and a difference in perception of reality between those living in Northern Norway and those who represent the so-called central authorities in Oslo. Even with a defense minister from Finnmark, formally registered in Tromsø, these stories are not quite parallel”, Haugsbø says and continues:
“Being the moderator, I try to contribute to reducing temperature in the debate, so that we can hear full and nuanced reasoning. In a more confrontational and polarized society, it is important for someone to break this ground and demonstrate that it is possible to discuss controversial, difficult and complex issues in a good way.”
Haugsbø says the total defense of Norway and its defense capacity in the High North is not just about those living in Northern Norway. It also concerns those living in the south.
“If we are to make this work, everybody in Norway has to understand the importance of this. The entire population plays a part in the total defense. What Utsyn is doing now, are two very good steps in the right direction”, he says in closing.
Recordings [in Norwegian] of the two most recent dialogue meetings are available below.
This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.