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Globe Editorial

Norway’s violence rips through a place of peace Add to ...

Follow Globe and Mail correspondent Doug Saunders as he reports live from Oslo.

A massive bomb shattered several buildings in Oslo on Friday, including the prime minister’s office, and a gunman dressed as a police officer went on a bloody rampage at a youth camp connected to the governing party. At least 16 people were killed and many others injured. The scenes of carnage could not be more at odds with the image of Norway, a staid country with a population of just five million, but also a major humanitarian power and force for good in the world.

Norway’s king presents the Nobel Prize for Peace, but in almost any year Norway’s diplomats could themselves be deserving recipients of the high honour. Norwegian negotiators have played a role in ending or seeking to end bloody wars from Sri Lanka to Colombia, the Philippines, Cyprus, Sudan and the Balkans. But nowhere has Norway’s leadership been more significant than the Middle East with the Oslo process, and Afghanistan, where it has soldiers and reconstruction teams.

In terms of per-capita foreign aid, Norway is often at or near the top of the list of donor countries. A 2008 study by OECD found Norway spent a higher percentage of its gross national income on aid than other OECD countries. It is one of only five countries to exceed the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, is exceptional in its scrupulous – though not necessarily infallible – selection of companies to invest in (or not invest in) on the basis of ethical standards. These ethical guidelines are primarily intended to promote sustainable development and, in particular, to minimize the risk of complicity in serious human rights violations, as well as not supporting armaments or tobacco companies.

In other words, it is hard to conceive of a less likely target for such bloodshed than a country aptly dubbed the “international capital of peace.” For decades Norway has done far more than its share in spreading goodwill around the world. That goodwill should be reciprocated, as it recovers from an apparently senseless attack, reportedly carried out by one of its own citizens. The world owes a debt of gratitude to Norway.

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