The International Day of Democracy was celebrated on October 15 and the International Day of Peace on October 21. Emphasis was given to cooperation policies and reduction of inequalities. We are on the way out of the corona pandemic, which has led to increased inequalities. Climate change and environmental issues cause inequality, and so does the overall unequal international economic system, which, among other things, leads to increased immigration and refugee crises, and to suffering, conflicts and wars. Living conditions in developing countries must be improved for ordinary people. In future, we must address these issues more vigorously.
At this week’s United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York, the American President Joe Biden and many other leaders emphasised the importance of cooperation to solve world problems. As for climate issues, the UN COP26 meeting in Glasgow in early November, will help show the way ahead. In many countries in Europe, and in Canada, there are important elections this autumn. One common denominator is that the political parties seem to be more open to cooperate in coalition governments, also because more political parties play key roles, and we no longer just have two main parties, one in power and one in opposition. In our region, in Pakistan and Afghanistan, we can learn from the European trends and encourage old and new political parties and interest groups to work together.
The incoming Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of the social democratic Labour Party needs to cooperate with the Centre Party and the Socialist Party, or at least one of them, to be able to set up a new coalition government. He is a man who emphasises the importance of cooperation, not only working for getting all that is possible for his own party. In one of his books, he has said that in order to develop a basis for cooperation one must find out what it is that is essential for oneself and also try to understand what the other partners consider important. This is obvious, one might say, but he could also go further; he could have said that the largest party may not be right in all fields, and that a coalition government would become better when they borrow ideas and policies from other parties. I believe that should be a key understanding when establishing cooperation agreements in general, and especially at political level. It is important for the largest party to be seen, but it is also important to allow the other parties to shine.
To realise this is now up to the incoming Norwegian PM and his partners; they have just begun to discuss and negotiate issues so that they can eventually hammer out a cooperation agreement and a government platform. None of them will get all, but all will get something; yet, they must agree on a common direction and vision for where to take the country in the next four-year parliamentary term and beyond. In the current Norwegian situation that means to end the centralisation policies of the outgoing Conservative government led by Erna Solberg, who has been PM for eight years, also having done well in many fields, indeed the handling of the pandemic. Now the left-centre politicians want greater equality among people in the economic fields. And they will focus on environmental and climate change issues, and develop a more sustainable economy. This is certainly a challenge to the Norwegians because it depends to a major extent on oil and gas production, and it is one of the ten largest exporters in those fields; but now the 50-year era is coming to an end and new renewable industries must be developed.
The challenges and opportunities for the Norwegians are not entirely different from those of other countries. I believe they are quite similar for creating a green economy, but also developing greater equality among people as regards class, geography, gender, age, and in other fields. European countries will in future have more old people than before, and they will also have a high number of immigrants and refugees.
The issues related to inequality must be addressed vigorously, and inequality and greater differences among people have developed over several decades. The Scandinavian development model emphasises small differences among people; also in our time, research and common knowledge agree that the private sector becomes more productive and innovative when differences are small in salaries and otherwise. Even in the government sector, leaders have in recent years been allowed to take very high salaries, using the old argument that the candidates otherwise would not take such jobs. At the same time, salaries for ordinary workers have stagnated in many sectors, especially in the social sectors. The incoming Norwegian government must give attention to re-strengthening the Scandinavian model of equality.
Furthermore, as the largest economic, social and psychological differences are found between those who have a job and those who are jobless, living on long-term or permanent social benefits, indeed immigrants and refugees, their deep inequalities must be addressed. Sometimes, the Norwegians talk about poverty, yes, even in one of the world’s richest countries, with up to one hundred thousand children statistically growing up in a relatively deprived situation. Many are immigrants since it often takes a long time for newcomers to qualify for jobs, not mastering the Norwegian language well enough and for other reasons. It is known that if a person and family end up in unemployment for a long time, or even just a few years, it is difficult to get back into employment. The incoming Norwegian government must address these issues in new ways to avoid some people becoming long-term unemployed and excluded outsiders, with difficulties joining mainstream society.
In Norway’s closest neighbour, Sweden, the crime rate among outsiders is worryingly high with the development of criminal gangs. More police and stiffer sentences cannot solve the situation. It is only inclusion and participation that can do that. In Sweden, which has had several spells of higher influxes of immigrants than Norway has had, it will take time and radical approaches to reduce the crime rate. It is important that Norway implements preventive measures early as immigrants and other youth groups at risk also have a right to be included fully in society. The incoming Norwegian government must prioritize these issues and see them as a democratic right.
In our region, we say that the new leaders in Afghanistan must cooperate with groups outside the Taliban. Let us hope that will happen. I believe that democracy in the future requires cooperation between different parties and groups, as I have stressed in this article, and that coalition governments are actually stronger and better than single-party governments. A generation ago, many developing countries were single-party states; now they have moved towards multi-parties, yet, often with one or two parties dominating and staying in power longer than they should. In future, we must realise that coalition governments will be better equipped to solve development problems, and we should draw lessons from recent European experiences.