‘Environmental and Human Security in the Arctic’

I have been writing a short review on the book “Environmental and Human Security in the Arctic” (Hoogensen et al, eds, Routledge: 2014), when a news item about President Putin’s address to the FSB personnel in connection with the “Day of Chekists” has caught my eye. Nothing new in the address (it was quite an… Read more »

‘The Arctic: Region of Cooperation and Development’

The conference in Moscow on “The Arctic: Region of Cooperation and Development” organized by the Russian International Affairs Council with IMEMO and CSIS as key partners had a nice venue in the Lotte Hotel and many important quests, including Deputy Foreign Minister Titov and Deputy Secretary of the Security Council Nazarkin (both in the picture)…. Read more »

The Promise and Perils of ‘Disaster Drones’

The dire humanitarian consequences of the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) in conflict have become all too familiar. In contrast, there has been much less public discussion about the potential humanitarian uses of drones. So-called ‘disaster drones’ offer humanitarian agencies a range of possibilities in relation to crisis mapping, search and rescue and (some way off in the future) cargo transport and relief drops.

Read more in the blog post by Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (PRIO) and Kjersti Lohne (UiO) at the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies, November 1 2013.

Putin’s “green” awareness

It is certainly very good news that the Greenpeace activists one after another are going out of the prison cells on bail, but the case is by no means closed. This photo taken by Arkady Babchenko and published in his very sharp article on Colta.ru about the striking contrast between the Arctic Sunrise and the… Read more »

The Russian Geographic Society

This wonderful map is created by the National Geographic showing the impact of melting ice. The Russsian Geographic Society, in the meanwhile, is far more interested in partnering with the Navy. It is hardly surprising, since Sergei Shoigu after assuming the position of Defence Minister a year ago, has retained his leadership in the RGS…. Read more »

The growth of conflict potential

This picture of captured Arctic Sunrise provides an illustration to the remarkable document prepared by the Russian Ministry for Regional Development. It is a draft proposal for the program on social and economic development of Russia’s Arctic zone published on the Ministry’s website. In the depth of this draft, there are firm assessments about the growth… Read more »

On Distance and Proximity

On July 22nd 2011, I was home from work when I heard a loud blast. It sounded like thunder. Strange that I had not seen any lightning, with a sound this loud, I thought before carrying on with household chores. Half an hour later I took a break, logging onto Facebook. ‘Explosion in Oslo, it’s on TV2!’, a friend’s status said. The TV images seemed unreal. There were familiar images of places I frequently passed, shred into the unrecognizable. The police was asking journalists and others to evacuate the area – in my language, not a foreign language spoken by people far away.

Two years later, and I am studying Norwegian society’s response to the attacks of July 22nd. Our project is studying a constantly evolving phenomenon – from the public debates straight after the attacks, through the so-called Gjørv Report concluding that the attacks could have been prevented, the trial where the perpetrator was convicted, and the memorial ceremonies one year and two years after the attacks… The themes discussed, and the way they are discussed, are constantly changing. And I am here to witness it all, as are most of my colleagues on the project.

The physical and emotional proximity to our field of study has made me wary, knowing that the people I am communicating my research to will also have their own memories and stories of the events of that day. This recognition has been a helpful reminder of the potential emotional sensitivity among those I will be interacting with throughout the project period. More than ever I am realizing how we as researchers run the risk of overlooking this potential when approaching a post-crisis community from a distance. Keeping this potential sensitivity in mind while trying to create the necessary distance in order to see patterns and connections will be a continuous challenge, but also key, in striving for a balance between distance and proximity.

The Ethics in Free Speech

This is moralism‘, we were told after having published an op-ed in one of the largest Norwegian newspapers, Aftenposten, in June 2013. This reaction made us even more curious about whether ethics is of any relevance to citizens’ freedom of expression. In our view, the critique is due to the confusion between what is normally understood as the ‘ethical’ and the ‘moral’. If so addressed, our claim is that the practice of the Norwegian free speech law should be supplemented by ethics, which we take to be rather the opposite of ‘moralism’. Nevertheless, in order to find out more about this problem, we will conduct our research by investigating the on-going public discourse on free speech in Norway after 22/7.

So far, our empirical findings point out three viewpoints in the debate. The ‘liberal’ view claims that the current free speech law is well-founded, while the ‘harm’ view holds that it should be regulated. Additionally, we have identified a third outlook, namely what can be described as a ‘middle way’ between the first two. Supporters of this view argue that free speech needs to be practiced in a more responsible manner than what is the case today.

In our research, we also wish to elaborate on this ‘responsibility argument’ by way of introducing a set of ethical guidelines with regard to the public use of free speech, which fully uphold a broad and liberal freedom of speech, yet specify reasonable ethical expectations. By doing so, we also attempt to shed more light not only on what ‘ethics’ is all about but also its relationship to law and values. With the help of the abovementioned distinction between ethical norms in the public on the one hand, and moral values in the private sphere on the other, we wish to argue that it is in fact a close relationship between ethics and law, a viewpoint which we take to avoid the accusation of ‘moralism’.

– Odin Lysaker and Henrik Syse

Diplomatic and Real Realities in the Israel-Palestine Conflict


Over the last few years I have encountered a number of professional Western diplomats who express their disbelief in any serious Israeli intention of achieving peace with the Palestinians. To be sure, these diplomats also fault the Palestinian leadership for their ability to bungle almost any initiative and opportunity they encounter. But unlike the refrain in much of Western media and public opinion, they do not view Israel and the Palestinians as two equal parties with equal blame for the stalled peace process. They recognize that the onus is on Israel to achieve progress, and that while most Israeli politicians and citizens live quite happily with the current situation, Palestinians suffer daily, both physically and mentally.

Read more in the blog post published by Jacob Høigilt (PRIO) at the New Middle East Blog October 25 2013

Reforming the Security Council: the Question that won’t go Away

Last week Saudi Arabia took the unprecedented step of turning down the offer of a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, accusing the body of having failed in its “duties and … responsibilities in keeping world peace.” Saudi Arabia may have had the deadlock over Syria in mind, but it had the “work mechanisms and double standards” of the Security Council (UNSC) very firmly in its sights.

Read more in Simon Reid-Henry’s (PRIO) blog post at the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies.