On the occasion of Norway's National Day today, Viet Nam News features an article by the Norwegian Ambassador to Viet Nam, Stale Torstein Risa.
Today, on Norway's National Day, I extend my best wishes to all Norwegians and friends of Norway in Viet Nam. On May 17, Norwegians all around the world celebrate the adoption of Norway's Constitution of 1814, the democratic society that we have built since then, and the freedom and opportunities that we now enjoy.
On July 22 last year Norway experienced an abominable act of terror. It was a brutal attack; many lost their lives, others were severely injured, and families and friends were left grief-stricken. Still, Norwegians came together, making clear that the attack on our values had failed. Norwegian democracy grows stronger when under pressure, and our commitment to working for a better world, with our many partners, remains unwavering.
Our community of nations is experiencing much uncertainty after the severe financial crisis which continues to impact the global economy. Climate change, with includes a warming planet, rise in the sea level and an increase in extreme weather conditions, will also pose a challenge in the years to come.
I am, therefore, pleased to see co-operation between Norway and Viet Nam continuing to develop and strengthen. Our development co-operation today has an emphasis on technical assistance and institutional capacity building, with a focus on certain key areas such as natural resource management, clean energy, water and sanitation, climate issues and disaster risk management, humanitarian disarmament, as well as community support, primary education and healthcare.
Some 40 years after our first bilateral projects were put in place, a considerable portion of our funding is channelled through the many Norwegian NGOs that work in Viet Nam and UN agencies; and less through bilateral assistance. This shift in our way of funding also enables us to provide needed support for the UN reform process; and Viet Nam has proven to be a very dedicated and most successful pilot country for this important "Delivering as One" reform process.
We see a substantial increase in trade and commercial ties, although our bilateral trade figures are still relatively modest, totalling close to US$500 million annually.
I am encouraged by the number of Norwegian companies that have recently joined with local partners to strengthen trade and investment between our two countries.
Traditionally, enterprises within the maritime industry sector have dominated, but in recent years we have seen a growing interest in areas such as hydropower, oil and gas, aquaculture, information technology, and the environment.
We also now see expanding co-operation between our academic institutions.
This is an exciting development, with the most recent collaboration being a Masters Degree Program, in human rights protection between the University of Oslo and the National University in Ha Noi, launched just last year.
As our political, economic and academic relations have developed over the years, so too has the people-to-people contact between our two countries, through a vibrant cultural exchange. The project Transposition, which brings together 12 of our leading music institutions – seven Norwegian and five Vietnamese – and young musicians, is at the core of this co-operation.
I take this opportunity to thank all our friends in Viet Nam for the invaluable support which the embassy receives – helping us to enhance and further strengthen the bilateral ties between Norway and Viet Nam.