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newsofNorway / 5·03featureTheessenceof Norway?Yes, we love this country - the land of the midnight sun, the fjords, the mountain peaks – the oil, the fish and forestsdeep. Design and peace. Trolls and welfare. Ibsen and humanitarian efforts. And whales? And black metal music?by Birgitte HygenPlease take a minute to consider the following question: What isNorway? What are the Norwegian values? How is this countryportrayed abroad? Is Norway pictured in a way that will make thecountry remembered in a positive way?“In my travels around the U.S., I meet a lot of people who provideme with several different views on Norway and ‘Norwegianness,’”says Knut Vollebaek, Norway’s Ambassador to the United States.“They have an impressive knowledge of Norwegian history and traditions.Our challenge is to show that Norway is more than bunads,trolls, lutefisk and lefse.”According to the Foreign Policy Center in London, what Norwayneeds is a clear identity, a clear message to the outside world describingwhat Norway is all about. As part of a joint project with theMinistry of Foreign Affairs and the University of Oslo, the Centerrecently released its report Norwegian Public Diplomacy. The Centerargues that the Foreign Service needs a broader platform on which tooperate. A diplomat cannot properly understand a foreign country bytalking to heads of governments only. He or she needs to be undertaking“public diplomacy.” He or she has to understand, inform, influenceand build relationships with foreign publics and civil society. In workingthis way the diplomat creates a positive environment for the fulfillmentof Norwegian political and economic objectives. The Centerclaims that this is particularly important in relation to important milestonesin a country’s history. With the coming of Norway’s celebrationof 100 years of sovereignty in 2005, there is a need to agree on someclear messages by which the country can be portrayed. So what exactlyare these messages?The Norwegian Public Diplomacy report was released in June at aworkshop hosted by the Confederation of Norwegian Business andIndustry (NHO). The workshop offered an opportunity to voice anopinion on Norway’s image abroad for participants from the media,6PHOTO: NTRcultural institutions, the business community, marketing experts andthink tanks. In the report, four “Norwegian Stories” are outlined:The first suggests that Norway is a “Humanitarian superpower,”focusing on the country’s role in international development assistance,conflict resolution, peace-keeping and its active support of the UN andhumanitarian organizations.The second story views Norwegians as “Living with Nature,” highlightingthe stunning nature, environmental protection and explorationof nature. The third story is one of Norwegian values of “Equality,”both in the labor force and between genders. Lastly, the report suggeststhat the concepts of “Internationalist/Spirit of Adventure” may welldescribe Norwegians, a people of travelers, explorers and pioneers.The report has sparked a heated debate in the Norwegian media.Some feel this is a long-awaited project, perfect for patriotic but identity-confusedNorwegians. Others see the project as an ephemeral exerciseof “new kids on the block enthusiasts.”The supporters discover advantages of seeing Norway as “MoreScandinavian than others,” while the critics claim they are happy aboutthe image Norway already has. Isn’t Norway voted as the world’s bestcountry in which to live? Doesn’t Norway have strong industries infields of petroleum, shipping, fishing and forestry, to mention but afew? Don’t we have a welfare state envied by most nations, and don’twe have merits in the field of peace and international developmentworth being proud of? Not to forget, the nature: Who can argue that theblooming in Hardanger isn’t breathtaking? What may be more soothingfor the eyes than mountain peak reflections in the calm waters ofSognefjorden? The rugged coast, the deep forests, the flora, the fauna,and the forefathers who built our country – from our Viking ancestorsto Grieg, Munch and Ibsen. Why change a successful formula?State Secretary Thorild Widvey discusses in an article in theNorwegian newspaper Aftenposten why she believes a strong image

and a clear picture of modern Norway will have a positive impact inmany parts of the Norwegian society, in trade and industry, culture,politics and civil society. Can we afford to remain invisible and fragmented,she asks, when a strengthening of Norway’s international reputationwill have such an impact on so many parts of the Norwegiansociety?“Personally I want a profile of Norway that preserves the country’shistory, its traditions, the great artists and the brave explorers, but at thesame time contains the contemporary. We will all gain from a profilewhich gives room for the diversity, talent and uniqueness of modernNorway,” Widvey writes.The Norwegian Public Diplomacy Report suggests that by unitingthe whole of Norway under one umbrella, the country will have a muchclearer platform of identity on which Norwegians can stand and otherscan remember us by. A survey by the Norwegian Tourist Board revealssome interesting numbers: In six countries essential to Norwegiantourism, 64% of the population knows absolutely nothing aboutNorway. The few who do know something about Norway list keywords like beautiful nature, peace negotiations, expensive, cold and alittle boring when they hear Norway being mentioned.Marc Leonard of the Foreign Policy Institute is one of theauthors of theP u b l i cDiplomacy Report.Leonard is also PrimeMinister Tony Blair’sadvisor on Britain’s imageabroad and architect of themuch-discussed identitycampaign“CoolBritannia.” Leonardpoints to a number ofcampaigns in other countriesthat have been greatlysuccessful. Spain, acountry that in the late1970s suffered from post-Franco delusions andinternal unrest, is nowknown as the country with“everything under thesun.” In much the sameway Ireland has had amakeover: From being thepoor, strictly religious cornerof Europe, Ireland isnow known as the culturallyand economicallydynamic “Celtic Tiger.”The same, LeonardWhat is your opinion?You now have a chance of letting your voice beheard!Answer the three following questions and yourcontribution will be published on the new discussionforum on Is there a need for a clear conception ofNorway’s image abroad?2: Name three things that you associate withNorway.3: The Public Diplomacy Report suggests fourideas for promoting Norway abroad. Which one doyou prefer? Do you have any other suggestions?By the end of December the contributions will behanded in a revised collection to the Ministry ofForeign Affairs in Oslo in time for the 2004 summit.To participate in the discussion, please send nomore than 50 words in total by e-mail to: indicate your name, age, city/state and yourconnection to Norway.believes, can be done in Norway.According to Leonard, the message should be adjusted according tothe audience. Norwegian public diplomacy in the U.S. will differslightly from the public diplomacy exercised in other countries.Swedes, for instance, know a lot more about Norway than say, theJapanese. The latter may need some more background information ofwhat Norway is about. Still, finding one single concept in which allparts of the Norwegian society may unite, will, according to the report,help clarify the general perception of Norway.“Norway is a small country. Foreign people do not have space fortoo many images of Norway in their heads,” Ola Rosnæs, MarkUpConsulting told the newspaper Finansavisen.Whereas some marketing experts claim Norway’s anonymity andlack of clear identity stems from the lack of a clear image of Norwayabroad, others claim that the lack of one single clear image is due tothe nature of the plural nation. Einar Øverenget, Dean of Westerdahl’sSchool of Communication and former Boston College research fellow,is highly critical to using theories of branding when it comes tofeature newsofNorway / 5·03Can you name threethings about Norway?nations.“Branding theories are basedon portraying one single message.Nations consist of a set ofstories, a number of identities.Who is to decide which one to bethe most important? Black metalmusic, for instance, is one ofNorway’s biggest export articles.The idea of choosing one identityover the other collides fundamentallywith democratic principlesin a multicultural, pluralsociety,” Øverenget tells News ofNorway.“Norway consists of manycommodities and values. Norwayitself is not a commodity or anenterprise, which is to be sold ona market. A nation’s image isbuilt through our actions andproven values. It has to be realand trust-worthy, andnot created through afew marketing jingles,”Øverengetargues.Despite the disagreementsonmethodology and theconception of whatmay be the mostimportant asset ofNorway, few disagreethat a nation’s perceptionabroad is of ultimateimportance. Thatthis also is a centraltopic for the Bushadministration hasbeen made clear withthe recent release of astrategy report forU.S. public diplomacyin the Arab andMuslim world. TheNorwegian publicdiplomacy work willcontinue with a numberof fact-findingmissions in severalcountries, including the USA. Inan early 2004 summit theForeign Policy Center, theMinistry of Foreign Affairs andthe University of Oslo will againmeet with representatives ofNorwegian media, cultural institutions,the business community,marketing experts and thinktanks. Perhaps a little wiser, thereis a chance they may reach theirnear-impossible goal: To agreeon Norway’s image.Read the Public DiplomacyReport in English bullet point).Joan, from D.C.: “Fjords, goodlookingblond people, liberalism.”Rujun, from D.C.: “Nobel PeacePrize, beautiful country, socialbenefits.”Marc, from Tennessee: “Friendlypeople, sweeping landscapes,fish.”Lois, from D.C.: “Norway?What’s that?”Rachel, from Michigan: “Oil,blond people, free health care.”7

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