Nor­way has ap­pointed a ded­i­cated am­bas­sador to ASEAN. We talk to Morten Høglund in Jakarta.

A few months into the job, H.E. Am­bas­sador Morten Høglund finds time to speak to us. The first-time am­bas­sador is also the first ded­i­cated Nor­we­gian Am­bas­sador to the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN).

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - ANRIKE VISSER

Big­ger economies like Canada and the United States had ded­i­cated am­bas­sadors to ASEAN be­fore and so did the Euro­pean Union (EU), but no in­di­vid­ual EU coun­try.

The new am­bas­sador has an ex­ten­sive list of am­bi­tions in a broad range of ar­eas. In­cluded are peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, mar­itime co­op­er­a­tion, en­ergy, con­nec­tiv­ity, trade, pri­vate sec­tor de­vel­op­ment, cli­mate change, ed­u­ca­tion and cul­ture to name a few.

Luck­ily, Mr Høglund has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence with ASEAN. As state sec­re­tary, he was re­spon­si­ble for set­ting up the part­ner­ship with ASEAN in 2015. Be­fore the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, Mr Høglund was a mem­ber of the Nor­we­gian Par­lia­ment for 12 years.

Of course, every one of the ten ASEAN coun­tries al­ready has a Nor­we­gian am­bas­sador so why the need for an ad­di­tional am­bas­sador? “It’s very im­por­tant to talk with a body that sets the long-term goals, the di­rec­tion all of the ten coun­tries strive to­wards. It is quite ra­tio­nal to seek a com­mon set of un­der­stand­ing and agree­ment with all these ten coun­tries,” says Mr Høglund.

Dur­ing the last 50 years, there hasn’t been an in­ter­state war since ASEAN was es­tab­lished. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Høglund, that’s pretty as­ton­ish­ing. “It is quite dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a more di­verse group of coun­tries from com­mu­nist states to democ­ra­cies, au­thor­i­tar­ian states and king­doms. With that as a back­ground one can be im­pressed.”

There are ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties along the South­ern Thai bor­der, in Marawi in the Philip­pines and Myan­mar, but no in­ter­state wars. “We want to share our knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence for ex­am­ple on peace build­ing,” Mr Høglund shares. “That be­ing said, we’ve never de­nied we have a busi­ness in­ter­est in a sta­ble re­gion. Asia is the growth en­gine of the world. China’s growth is flat­ten­ing a bit and Europe is still grow­ing, but not with 5 to 7% like some coun­tries here.”

Mr Høglund’s pri­or­i­ties for the up­com­ing years are en­ergy, ed­u­ca­tion, busi­ness, peace and oceans mean­ing mar­itime, aqua­cul­ture and clean­ing up of the oceans. “The list might sound am­bi­tious and it is, but some can be com­bined like mar­itime and ed­u­ca­tion in an ed­u­ca­tional project in fish­ery in Viet­nam,” Mr Høglund ex­plains. At the mo­ment more than 20 projects are in the pipe­line.

An ex­am­ple of the knowl­edge Mr Høglund wants to share with ASEAN are the lessons learned from the suc­cess­ful peace process in Colom­bia. The ac­tiv­i­ties in the area of peace are not lim­ited to peace pro­cesses, but also de­rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and pre­ven­tion of radicalisation.

“Sta­bil­ity of ASEAN is im­por­tant for Nor­way and Europe, so we com­bat the growth of fun­da­men­tal­ism in the re­gion. Pre­ven­tion is now a global con­cern, that’s why we part­ner up with ASEAN in this is­sue.”

Marawi, for ex­am­ple, saw an in­flux of for­eign fight­ers from Syria and Iraq, but

PHOTO: THAI-NOR­WE­GIAN CHAM­BER OF COM­MERCE

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