Miljøpartiet De Grønne : Semesteroppgave 2014

I disse valgtider,  hvor Miljøpartiet De Grønne gjør seg mer gjeldende tenkte jeg at min semesteroppgave fra 2014 kunne være morsomt å publisere her på bloggen, og være interessant for flere. Søsterpartiene til MDG i Sverige og Tyskland har hatt sterke posisjoner i flere år, hvorfor har ikke det samme vært tilfelle i Norge? I min semesteroppgave ved Høgskolen i Østfold (HiØ) sammenlignet jeg Miljøpartiet De Grønne med søsterpartiet Miljöpartiet De Gröna (Sverige).

Skulle du være interessert i tematikken, er det mye interessant lesing i litteraturlisten på slutten.

NB:  Formateringen ble litt rar her på bloggen, men jeg skal prøve å fikse det.

The swedish green party

The norwegian greens

A comparison

 

 

Contents

  1. Introduction

The Norwegian Greens (Miljøpartiet De Grønne) and environmental concerns have had a stronger influence and presence lately in Norwegian politics. This has been especially evident in the election campaign before the Parliamentary election in September of 2013. The stronger presence of the Norwegian Greens can be illustrated by number of mentions in the newspaper database Atekst. A search for “Miljøpartiet De Grønne” retrieves 1206 results if you search by the year 2012. If searching by the year 2013, the same search retrieves 4343 articles, most of them from the months of August and September (Atekst Retriever). However, the presence and influence of the Norwegian Greens is not as strong as its counterpart in Sweden, the Swedish Green Party (Miljöpartiet De Gröna), who has been represented in the Swedish Parliament for two decades.

With an historical perspective, I will examine some superficial similarities and differences between the environmental movements of Norway and Sweden. I will go on comparing the Swedish and the Norwegian Greens. I will start by outlining the historical background and the circumstances affecting the situation of the environmental movement in Norway and Sweden. After presenting and comparing the historical backgrounds of both countries, I will compare the Green parties, focusing on their experiences in terms of being in opposition versus position.

Norway and Sweden is interesting in a comparative perspective, because although both countries are highly developed and have basic and extensive similarities, the experience and influence of the environmental movements and political parties have been quite different. The central questions asked in this paper are the following; why has the environmental movement held a stronger position in Sweden than in Norway? To what does the Swedish Green Party owe its success?

  1. Definitions and delimitations

In this research and term paper, I focus particularly on how environmentalism and ‘green’ politics and values in Norway and Sweden are manifested and represented in political parties, how this manifestation plays out in the Swedish and Norwegian Greens respectively, and the history and influence of these two parties.

Green politics and values can be vague, and used by different political parties for very different agendas. This can make green politics and values seem a bit confusing, and difficult to set apart from others. According to Seippel (1999) however, there are mainly four themes that are recurrent in “the environment-democracy nexus” (Seippel 1999 p. 50). Firstly there is a basic theme of community, as community is viewed as an important precondition for a well-functioning democracy. Secondly, there is a dilemma in the political process, as environmental concerns has to be dealt with in the same manner as other political issues and be put aside for the benefit of other issues if the people so prefer. A third aspect is referred to as “the misfit between the environmental issue as a social or political problem and factual environmental problems”. Environmental problems may very well, and often do, affect regions, not simply one nation. A huge issue in environmental politics is just this fact that areas affected by environmental problems often do not correspond to the social institutions that have been established to deal with them (Seippel 1999 p. 51). The final theme is the question of which values should be underpinning the political environmentalism.

These aspects are also present in the environmental discourse in Norway and Sweden, as well as a part of the challenges the Norwegian and Swedish greens face in their political work. No doubt then, that both parties are a part of the “environment-democracy nexus” as presented by Seippel as the emphasis on community is present in the political programs of both parties. In addition, both parties are a part of the green political movement in Europe, and have many basic similarities across borders. The green movement of Europe is a child of the postindustrial crisis according to Michael O’Neill, and the Greens have displayed durability, but not enjoyed the levels of support that “public empathy” with their message might suggest (O’Neill 1997 p. 51). This is a dilemma for both the Norwegian Greens and the Swedish Green Party. Despite their different levels of success, both parties have to balance their green ideologies up against the possibilities in the political system.

  1. Delimitations: Norway and Sweden

Traditionally three parties in Norway have fronted green politics; the Socialist Left Party of Norway (Sosialistisk Venstreparti), the Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Centre Party (Senterpartiet). The Norwegian Greens (Miljøpartiet De Grønne) has made its mark in Norwegian politics, and given voters who find environmental politics important yet another possible choice. The party’s presence has been especially noted since 2011, when the Norwegian Greens had their breakthrough in the local elections, their national breakthrough following two years later giving them one Member of Parliament. All the above-mentioned parties are surely to be mentioned again, as I outline the historical background for green politics in Norway. However, to make comparison easier and more worthwhile, the Norwegian Greens will be the main concern of this paper.

The Swedish Green Party was founded in 1981, while its Norwegian counterpart was founded in 1988. In addition to comparing the historical backgrounds and circumstances of the two parties, I will present their core political areas, as listed on their respective web pages and elaborated on in their party programs. This will help highlight any major differences or similarities between the Swedish Green Party and The Norwegian Greens.

The Norwegian Greens has listed the quite general topics of quality of life, climate smart transport and renewable future as core topics on their website (Miljøpartiet De Grønne 2014). The Swedish Green Party has listed three different core topics on their website, the general and wide topic of climate, secondly school and education followed by new jobs (Miljöpartiet de Gröna 2014). This will be elaborated on later on.

  1. Outline: Norway

According to Dryzek et al “environmental concern” has been represented by “centralized, policy-oriented organizations such as the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature, and recreational organizations” for a long time in Norway (Dryzek et al 2003 p. 21). Norwegian environmental groups also operate in close co-operation with government, and to some extent rely on government because of the funding operated by it (Dryzek et al 2003 p. 24). However, the authors also point out that some areas have been excepted from this co-operative rule. These areas include dams, hydropower, and free flowing rivers. The environmental protests experienced in Norway has been in connection with large dam proposals, and occurred in the 1970s (Dryzek et al 2003 p. 25). The expansive corporatism of Norway even in environmental cases, and the fact two parties with sympathies for the environmental agenda already existed (the Socialist Left Party of Norway (Sosialistisk Venstreparti), The Liberal Party (Venstre)) created a situation in which it was difficult for the new green party to operate, find a niche, and secure a support base. Not surprisingly then, the Norwegian Greens were not able to win any seats in the election of 1989 (Dryzek et al 2003 p. 27).

In addition to corporatism and the previous existence of two parties with environmental sympathies, Bernt Aardal points out in Green Politics: A Norwegian Experience, Norway has had a low exposure to environmental problems, and nuclear power has not been much of an issue (Aardal 1990 p. 4). In fact, the level of concern for the environment in Norway has never been higher than the levels measured in 1989 according to the survey Norsk Monitor. The radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 led to contamination in Norway and affected the public opinion on environmental issues resulting in a peak in environmental concern not since reached in the survey mentioned (Hellevik 2008 p. 235). Apart from this instance, nuclear power or fallout has not been much of an issue in Norway and this fact has been reflected by a 35% decline in respondents viewing the environmental situation as grave and in need of immediate measures in the time period between 1989 and 2003 (Hellevik 2008 p. 235).

  1. Outline: Sweden

The situation in Sweden is quite different from Norway; nuclear power has been a huge issue with a big influence on the environmentalism of the country. According to Jamison et al, environmentalism has in fact been a “more significant political force in Sweden than it has been in many other countries” (1990 p. 13). However, the Swedish corporatism, and consequently the difficulties in developing “autonomous” social movements, are the same problems as the environmental movements in Norway have struggled with. Still, the environmental movement can be said to have had a stronger political influence in Sweden than in Norway despite both having faced these issues. The Swedish Green Party made its first appearance in the Swedish Parliament in 1988 (Blom 2006), and in the parliamentary election of 2010, the party received 7, 34% of the votes. The vote share of 7, 34% in 2010 made the Swedish Greens the third largest party in parliament at the time (Jupskås 2013 p. 132). However, their vote share went down 0,45 % in the 2014 election, and they won 25 seats with a vote share of 6,89 % (Valmyndigheten 2014 p. 1).

In comparison, its Norwegian counterpart received 2,8% of the votes in the most recent general election in Norway held in 2013, winning 1 seat (Kommunal- og moderniseringsdepartementet 2013). Although that result is a big change and definitely an improvement from 2009, when the party won zero seats, it is still a long way to go before the Norwegian Greens hold the same position as the Swedish Green Party.

  1. Political systems and context

The electoral systems present an interesting difference between Norway and Sweden in general, and an interesting perspective on the experiences of the Green parties specifically. Norway is characterized as an open system, while Sweden in a Scandinavian context seems to represent an extreme according to Aardal (1990). The Swedish Green Party was the “first new party to enter Parliament in about seventy years” (Aardal 1990 p. 149), when the party won twenty seats in the general election of 1988 (Statistics Sweden 1989 p. 8). Even though the Swedish system can be characterized as more closed than its Norwegian counterpart, the Swedish Green Party has done well after it breached the threshold, enjoying continuous representation in the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) since 1994 (Jupskås 2013 p. 132). Furthermore, the success of the Swedish Greens seemed to be linked to “a lack of political alternatives” (Aardal 1990 p. 150), whereas the same was not the case in Norway.

Two Norwegian Parties had an environmental profile when The Norwegian Greens emerged in 1988. As a result, the Norwegian Greens had to compete with parties already well established in the political system. Ravik Jupskås (2013) elaborates on this issue – to what extent does a “political space” exist for the Norwegian Greens to fill? His conclusion before the election of 2013 stated that although the room to fill seemed small, the Norwegian Greens had created a room in civic movements and profiled leaders in the party were members of various organizations making it easier to mobilize support and votes, as well as creating an “ownership” to environmental causes. Jupskås therefore found it likely that the Norwegian Greens could get a mandate from Oslo in the parliamentary election of 2013 (Jupskås 2013 p. 141), and this was indeed the result.

  1. Catching all?

Although both the Swedish Green Party and the Norwegian Greens originate from the same green tradition in Europe, their positions and context in Sweden and Norway respectively are quite different as touched upon in the previous sections.

Their different positions and influence in the political process is illustrated by the core topics of the parties. The Swedish Green Party has listed three core topics on their website, the general and wide topic of climate, secondly school and education followed by new jobs (Miljöpartiet de Gröna 2014). The Norwegian Greens has listed three different topics; quality of life, climate smart transport and renewable future as core topics on their website (Miljøpartiet De Grønne 2014). The Swedish Green Party does not only focus on climate or environmental concerns in its core topics, whereas the Norwegian Greens seem to do so, although many different aspects are intertwined in their broad core topics. One reason behind this might be the fact that as a party with only one seat, their strength and focus has been on their oppositional stand in relation to the well-established political parties in order to gain more votes and power.

Both parties criticize the traditional left-right scale in politics, and both parties can be said to have taken a clear stand against the current political structure. However, as the Swedish Green Party has had a stronger influence with a higher number of representatives than its Norwegian counterpart, the Swedish Green party has been somewhat forced to value cooperation and common ground as opposed to put too much value on their oppositional stand in order to gain power in the decision making process (Blom, 2006, p. 28).

This can be seen as a part of a process that Otto Kirchheimer formulated. This “catch- all thesis” was based on the backdrop of the Second World War, and Kirchheimer did not present his theory in a formalized thesis (Randall 2003 p. 354). Attempts at formalizing this thesis have been made, and might make it more applicable to more recent developments in politics. One attempt is made by Wolinetz (1979) and from his perspective, the political parties change and make an effort to represent topics that will appeal to a wider electoral audience, shifting away from a focus on ideologies – the latter as a result of the electorate in affluent societies being less motivated by ideologies (Randall 2003 p. 355).

In the case of Sweden, there is no doubt that environmental topics appeal to the electorate because of their experience with environmental topics such as nuclear power. From one perspective, the catch-all thesis as presented by Wolinetz might provide a reasoning behind the success of the Swedish Green Party, as their focus on topics such as nuclear power has had a great appeal and in some instances individual cases does more for the mobilization of the electorate than the underlying ideology. On the other hand, The Swedish Green Party is based on the tradition and ideologies of green parties across Europe, and has kept a focus on ideology.

In fact, both the Swedish Green Party and the Norwegian Greens make sure to emphasize that they are a part of a global movement in their party programmes as well as on their websites. Then one could say that their focus on individual cases, such as nuclear power in Sweden and recently in Norway, the investment policies of the Government Pension Fund Global fit with the catch-all thesis. However, their strong focus on the green ideology and being a part of a global social movement is the opposite of the shift away from ideologies that should take place in such a Catch All transformation. In any case, the Swedish Green Party is best fitting this transformation model as the party being in position as opposed to opposition has made them focus more on cooperation and gaining more power than pure ideological concerns as mentioned earlier.

According to Jon Burchell the Swedish Green Party has over time, as a result of growth and the development of its parliamentary role come to accept that it cannot function in isolation and it has been more open to alliances and coalitions, as this presents the party with possibilities and larger influence (Burchell 2001 p. 248). Burchell also pinpoints an important part of the experience of not only the Swedish Green Party, but in general other green parties in Europe as well. All green parties hoping to gain influence have to balance their ideological green objectives and their opposition to the traditional left-right dimensions with the pressures and possibilities presented within the systems when they breach the electoral threshold (Burchell 2001 p. 252).

In general, green political parties gain popularity and grow in post-industrialized societies where “post-material” attitudes are widespread, and in addition deemed important when casting a vote (Jupskås 2013 p. 132). The analysis Jupskås presented in his article implied that in terms of the attitudes and priorities held by voters before the parliamentary election of 2013 in Norway, the Norwegian Greens focus on environmental issues, equality and global justice would be in the party’s favor (Jupskås 2013 p. 135). Seeing as the Norwegian Greens only won one seat in parliament last year, and consequently has not had the same width or depth of experience as its Swedish counterpart, the party is at a different phase. In addition, having two parties possibly in the way of its success can be damaging. Balancing the green objectives and the possibilities in parliament, leaning too much one way or the other may both cost them voters, either of the new or loyal kind.

  1. Conclusion

In conclusion, although similar and often used to form a comparative perspective on various issues, the history of Sweden and Norway has led to a quite different context for the environmental movement, in both organizations and political parties. This context within which the environmental movement, and the green parties specifically operate within, has impacted at what times the green parties were established as well as in what time they enjoyed success. This context has also led to various degrees of success for the Swedish Green Party and the Norwegian Greens. The parties were founded seven years apart, and during the time in which both parties excited, the Swedish Green Party has no doubt been more successful. This is illustrated by the party’s continuous representation in the Riksdag since 1994 (Jupskås 2013 p. 132), all the while The Norwegian Greens only last year (2013) won one seat in the parliamentary election.

There seems to be mainly two aspects which have made an important impact and led to the context being quite different for the two green parties in Norway and Sweden; namely the political context in terms of already existing parties, and secondly the countries’ experience with environmental issues. Nuclear power has been a huge concern in the electorate in Sweden, whereas nuclear power or other environmental issues has had low to no impact on the Norwegian population and consequently, the impact of a party mainly focusing on environmental issues and its green profile has been low in the Norwegian electorate. Environmentalism has had a more significant impact in Sweden than in other countries, Norway included, (Jamison et al 1990 p. 13) and this fact has played a part in the success of the Swedish Green Party.

The corporative aspect is much the same in both countries, however, the electoral system and in the case of the Norwegian Greens, already existing parties with an environmental profile made it difficult to breach the electoral threshold and win seats. As previously stated the opposite was the case in Sweden, where voters were lacking in political alternatives with an environmental focus (Aardal 1990 p. 150).

  1. Bibliography

Aardal, Bernt. (1990). “Green Politics: A Norwegian Experience 1”. Scandinavian Political Studies 13.2: 147-164.

Atekst Retriever. Search term: “Miljøpartiet De Grønne”. Database URL: https://ezproxy.hiof.no/login?url=http://ret-web05.int.retriever.no/services/archive.html

Blom, Rickard. (2006). “Miljöpartiet de Gröna – Från antiparti till stödparti”. Lund University. Department of Political Science. URL: http://lup.lub.lu.se/student-papers/record/1327087

Burchell, Jon. (2001). “‘Small Steps’ or ‘Great Leaps’: How the Swedish Greens Are Learning the Lessons of Government Participation”. Scandinavian Political Studies 24.3: 239-254.

Dryzek, John S., David Downes et al. (2003). Green States and Social Movements: Environmentalism in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Norway. Oxford University Press.

Hellevik, Ottar. (2008). Jakten på den norske lykken. Universitetsforlaget.

Jamison, Andrew, Ron Eyerman et al. (1990). The Making of the New Environmental Consciousness: A Comparative Study of the Environmental Movements in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Jupskås, Anders R. (2013). “Miljøpartiet de grønne og det ‘politiske rommet’”. Norsk Statsvitenskapelig Tidsskrift 29.2: 131-143.

Kommunal- og moderniseringsdepartementet. (2013). Landsoversikt – Stortingsvalget. URL: http://www.regjeringen.no/krd/html/valg2013/bs5.html (Read: 17. October 2014)

Miljöpartiet de Gröna. (2014). “Vår politik”. URL: http://www.mp.se/politik (Read: 2. September 2014)

Miljøpartiet De Grønne. (2014). “Våre hovedtema”. URL: http://www.mdg.no/politikk/ (Read: 2. September 2014)

O’Neill, Michael (1997). “New Politics, Old Predicaments: The Case of the European Greens”. The Political Quarterly 68.1 (1997): 50-67. URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-923X.00065

Randall, Vicky. (2003). “Catch-All”- Tesen. Teori og metode i statsvitenskap. Larsen, Stein Ugelvik (ed). Bergen : Fagbokforlaget.

Statistics Sweden. (1989). General Elections 1988. Vol 1: The election to the Riksdag in 1988. URL: http://www.scb.se/Grupp/Hitta_statistik/Historisk_statistik/_Dokument/Valstatistiken/Valstatistik%20Allmanna%20valen%201988%20Del%201%20Riksdagsvalet.pdf

Valmyndigheten. (2014). Beslut resultat val till riksdagen 2014. URL: http://www.val.se/val/val2014/slutresultat/R/rike/index.html (Read: 17. October 2014)

Public spending a hot topic in South Africa

One of the modules I study at NMMU is Public Resource Management, and what a relevant subject this spring! Of course in a country like South Africa, struggling with poverty, corruption and worsening unemployment,  public spending is always highly relevant. However, both on local and national level, public spending has been given a lot of attention lately, for various reasons.

theherald
The Herald, 12.03.2014

In local news, ANC’s wish to spend R5 m on the 20 Years of Freedom Events stirred some pots. The opposition did not agree to R5 m, but they ended up reluctantly agreeing to R1.4 m. The following quote illustrates the clashing view of the opposition towards ANC’s budget proposition for the events.

“We agreed on R1.4-million, no more. This is not only an irregular expenditure but, in my view, gross wasteful expenditure” - DA councillor Angelo Dashwood

On national level the budget has of course been an important headline. The national budget of South Africa, the budget speech as well as other documents related to it can be found on the National Treasury website. The budget has been described as pragmatic and poignant.

Other public expenditures are not so easily praised. I am guessing most of my readers have heard about the criticism president Zuma face after spending public funds on his private home.  The Public Protector made stinging criticism of the president and ministers who have been involved, in her report (the Nkandla report is available on the Public Protector website).  According to the Public Protector, the Nkandla project was handled in an ‘appalling’ manner, and ‘state funds were abused’. Opposition parties have pressed criminal charges against the president and want to initiate impeachment.

Poems are also being written about this case. This one I stumbled across at the Times iLive page, written by a user called ‘The Lone Groover ZA’, titled ‘My President‘.

My president is a fool,
he has no understanding
of the difference
between
serve and rule.

My president is a liar,
he lines his pockets
and he lights the fire
giggling
over his objects
of desire.

My president is a thief,
rotten to the core
way beyond belief
living in the past
and thinking like a chief.

The election is coming up in May, so we have yet to see how this case will affect ANC turnout . Speculators say that ANC will win with a reduced majority, and in the meantime, there is a lot written about damage control and war of words inside the party.

South Africa

IMG_0109
Picture from Tsitsikamma National Park

Where to start? I am in South Africa! Time has been flying by, and so much has happened since I arrived in South Africa!
All international students kicked off our stay in South Africa with a weekend orientation trip to Tsitsikamma on the 31st of January, arranged by The International  Office at NMMU.

 

 

During this trip I got to know the other international students and  the study abroad coordinators. Activities included a trip to the Tsitsikamma National Park, and zip lining across the Kruis River DSCF9681. The higest points were 50 m above the water, and I won’t lie, I was a bit scared and hesitant… But I ended up doing it nonetheless!

The week following the weekend orientation, the weeklong orientation started, with registration, campus tours and sessions about topics ranging from medical aid to homesickness. With its six campuses and over 27 000 students, NMMU is really a comprehensive and big university from my perspective.

The main building at South, 19 stories high.
The main building at South, 19(?) stories high.

After studying at ØUC for two and a half years, being faced with the massive (compared to ØUC at least) NMMU South campus was somewhat overwhelming. Despite having a map in my hand nearly at all times, and asking other students for directions, I constantly got lost in the beginning. Another noticeable difference between ØUC and NMMU is the fact that NMMU South campus is situated on a nature reserve, and monkeys are a normal sight at both North and South campus.

 

There is also a difference in assessment methods. I had my first experience with multiple choice tests last week. Quite different from the assesment methods I am used to from the modules at ØUC. The student-professor relationship is also evidently different here at NMMU. The contact is more formal than at home, not only in written communication but also in face to face interaction. Of course, not all professors or courses in Norway are as informal as what I am used to, but nonetheless it’s a big difference from my experience at ØUC. However, the courses are both interesting and demanding, and I hope to do my very best and obtain good grades despite the sometimes challenging differences.

By now, I have had lectures for over a month, and in three weeks I am already done with half of the semester. In the end of March,  the mid-semester break is upon us! In a strange way, time is flying by, and passing slowly at the same time.  I am really looking forward to getting a visit from my boyfriend during the break, and showing him PE and experiencing both familiar and unfamiliar destinations in PE and surroundings with him!

Problems with the internet connection is a weekly, if not sometimes a daily occurence, so updates are sporadic and I am not sharing many pictures on twitter, facebook or here at the blog (or on flickr as you can see in the sidebar). However, I am sure I will share more pictures and experiences from my semester abroad here later. In the meantime you can follow me on twitter to get my somewhat frequent updates and snippets of thoughts.

 

Student Election 2014

settspor

This week has been dedicated to the student election at Østfold University College. When not attending the seminar, working on my term papers or working in other ways, I have been at our election stand. Together with the other members of the Student Council and the Student Parliament, I have been on stand to get students interested and engaged in the student election. On our stand we had ‘election computers’ the students could log on to and vote, and we also had some goodies available for those who did.

We had a big ambition of beating last year’s voter turnout, but unfortunately we did not. However, our big ambition was not unfounded, as Østfold University College has had the best voter turnout in the country during the student elections the previous three years. The voter turnout for the Student Election 2013 at ØUC was 34%. Although we did not beat our previous record, the final result this year wasn’t all that bad; the voter turnout percentage was 28,8 %.

1450097_603044866425257_1256616002_n
Kristina (behind a balloon), Maria, Berge and me after the polls closed at 12:00 p.m.

Thank you to everyone who voted, and everyone from the Student Council and Student Parliament at ØUC dedicating time and a lot of effort to the election!

Voter turnout per faculty, and who got elected as permanent/substitute representatives for the Student Parliament and Council can be found here. Good luck to all our ‘old’ and new representatives!

Politisk ukultur og demokratisering i Halden

(This post will be in Norwegian, as all sources referred to are in Norwegian. However, I might publish a translated version later if I have the time.)

Dette blir et innlegg som ikke har et like positivt fortegn som forrige innlegg om #Halden. Etter en granskning av byggesaksleder i Halden, en gransking ledet av Alexandra Bech Gjørv har det nemlig (med rette) kommet kritiske stemmer til og debattert og uttrykt misnøye med kommunen. Ikke bare fra granskningen, men også fra andre slik som hovedtillitsvalgt i Fagforbundet i Halden (HA-intervjuet med hovedtillitsvalgt Kirsti Rørmyr kan leses her).

Ytringsfrihet og rettsikkerhet er blant de viktigse og avgjørende trekkene ved et demokrati. Det er nettopp forhold som angår dette kommunen har fått kritikk for.  I granskings-rapporten avgitt 24.10.2013 fremgår det av sammendraget at granskerne ‘deler Sivilombudsmannen bekymring for at tilliten til kommunen er ‘utsatt for sterk slitasje” (side 44). Hele granskings-rapporten kan leses her.  Sivilombudsmannen tok nemlig til orde for uavhengige granskninger i 2010, og skrev

‘Problemet i Halden, slik jeg ser det, er at det synes å være manglende tiltro blant et ikke uvesentlig antall innbyggerne og folkevalgte til at de etablerte kontrollfunksjonene har den effekten lovgiver har forutsatt.’ (Henstilling til Halden kommune om undersøkelser av mulige misligheter, 2010).

Opposisjonen i Halden har også tatt til orde for gransking. I 2009 skrev opposisjonspartiene den gang (Høyre, Frp, Miljøpartiet De Grønne, Sp, Pensjonistpartiet) under på krav om granskning av ukulturen i Halden.  Selv om posisjonen og opposisjonen ikke er den samme i dag er ikke problemet borte. Dette var noe tillitsvalgt i Fagforbundet også påpekte, at frykten for represalier var der uansett politisk flertall i kommunen (se HA-artikkelen over).

haldengransking
Tynnslitt tillit og represalier – langt fra positiv omtale av Halden i media. Faksimile fra Kommunal Rapport og NRK.

På lederplass i Kommunal Rapport denne uken står det at ‘Halden må ha bistand’ slik at kommunen får bukt med ukulturen. Det er viktig med en velfungerende varslingskanal og at det opprettholdes et klart skille mellom politikk og administrasjon. Videre står det at kommunen må ta grep for å bygge tillit i de politiske fora. Faktisk har situasjonen i Halden fått ganske ‘god’ om enn ikke positiv dekning i Kommunal Rapport. Oversikt over Kommunal Rapport sine artikler om Halden-granskingen kan du finne her.

Ordfører i Halden Thor Edquist (H) skriver på sin blogg Glad i Halden i dag (5 november 2013) at dette er en situasjon som skal snu. Edquist skriver også at han tok kontakt med redaktør i Kommunal Rapport og  sa at demokratiseringsprosessen ‘var godt i gang i Halden’ og at den ble påbegynt for to år siden.  Allikevel, rapporten kom nå i oktober, etter fem måneders arbeid, med ganske krass kritikk og den malte et veldig lite flatterende bilde av situasjonen i Halden. Så selv etter to år med demokratiseringsprosessen  ‘godt i gang’ er det fortsatt ikke godt nok. Halden har et tillitsproblem som det må gjøres noe med. Synet kommune-Norge nå har på Halden skal ‘endres for godt’ skriver Edquist. Hvordan? Hvilke tiltak skal iverksettes i denne snuoperasjonen?

Ordføreren avslutter med ‘Heretter skal omtalen av byen vår skje med positivt fortegn. Vi fortjener det nå.’ Gjør vi det? Hvilke tiltak ligger bak dette, hva har blitt gjort som gjør at kommunen fortjener positiv omtale nå? Her burde ordfører komme med eksempler. Skal lokalavis såvel som landsdekkende avis(er) omtale Halden med positivt fortegn må kommunen gjøre sitt for at det er positive tiltak og resultater å skrive om, og eventuelt være flinke til å selv promotere disse.

Kilder nevnt:
Bech Gjørv, Alexandra og Andreas Stang Lund.Gransking i Halden kommune. 24 oktober 2013. Tilgjengelig på <http://multimedia.api.no/www.ha-halden.no/archive/05158/Sluttrapport_-_sla_5158513a.pdf>

Thor Edquist. ‘Halden og demokratisering’. Glad i Halden. 5 november 2013. <http://gladihalden.no/post/66077544479/halden-og-demokratisering>

Halden Arbeiderblad. “-Denne frykten har jeg visst om i 13 år”.  26 oktober 2013. <http://www.ha-halden.no/nyheter/article6943971.ece>

Kommunal Rapport. ‘Halden må ha bistand’. 31 oktober 2013.

Kommunal Rapport. ‘Krever gransking av ukultur i Halden’. 22 mai 2009.

Sivilombudsmannen. Henstilling til Halden kommune om undersøkelser av mulige misligheter, 2010. <https://www.sivilombudsmannen.no/uttalelser/henstilling-til-halden-kommune-om-undersoekelser-av-mulige-misligheter-article1865-114.html>

Hashtag Halden

#halden_logo_blaaLast month I was at Brygga Kultursal for Anne Kat’s show ‘Jakten på ærligheten’, and on the very first day of this month I was at a concert with singer/songwriter Thomas Dybdahl. From November 23 and until the 24th  there will be a Christmas Market at Fredriksten fortress. On November 28 the street Christmas lights will be turned on in Halden town and the city centre and its small and big shops will be ready for the festive season. This is just a taste of events coming up here in Halden, in between the big happenings, there is many small events and gatherings. A lot of different gatherings are taking place at or in collaboration with Halden volunteer center, local  teams and associations are having meetings and competitions, there are exhibitions at galleries, theater shows etc. You can view an open calendar (where everyone can post their event) on the website of the local newspaper here (Norwegian) and a calendar operated by Halden Tourist here (English).

The conference – ‘Haldenskolen’

#Halden is an initiative with roots in the business community, with the aim of making residents proud of their town, as well as showing tourists what Halden has to offer. In order to promote #Halden, and all the good things happening here, this initiative has had its own kick-off conference and Omni Produksjon has made #Halden videos with residents announcing what they will do to contribute to their town Halden.  This coming Wednesday there will be a conference about Halden, its reputation and the hashtag initiative. It’s an open conference, so everyone can come (program in Norwegian). You can sign up for the conference here.

I find this to be a great initiative, and try to remember to hashtag Halden as well as hashtag/mention the concert venue, cafè or shop where the experience takes place when I tweet. As a student ambassador for Østold University College, using twitter as part of the job, I might find this social media initiative more fun and exciting than others. However, I do believe others could find joy in it too. Writing about a cosy little shop, your favorite restaurant or cyclingroute or sharing another great experience you’ve had in your town can be really fun.

It is fun to share these things and communicate with others experiencing the same, and you might even inspire someone to check out your favorite cyclingroute or drop by for a hot drink at your regular cafè. Maybe your sharing will lead to other people sharing some great suggestions with you? It’s always nice to learn something new about and experience something different in the town you thought you new every nook and cranny of (and if you really do know all there is to know about Halden, feel free to share your best suggestions in the comments below!).

So, if you should happen to be an active twitter user, or maybe an enthusiastic facebook sharer; include #Halden in your tweet or post next time you experience something in Halden!

I got accepted!

CIMG2247I got back from a lovely trip to Gothenburg this past Sunday, and the week is now in full swing. For the vigilant reader, it might have been pretty obvious that I got accepted to NMMU after my last post. I wrote about getting some documents ready for the visa application, and that is because I got my acceptance letter!

Actually I got my acceptance letter very early, on the 4th of October. I thought I would not get it until the end of November. However, I am glad I got it early.  There has been a lot to do lately with two exams due and the process of applying for accommodation, financial support from the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund, booking my flight, and getting a general checkup and getting an x-ray taken etc. It’s nice to have the opportunity to get all of this out of the way early on, instead of having to do it all during a much shorter time period later.

Now I only have the visa application left, so I have to get my insurance through Ansa, and a couple of documents printed before I can visit the South African Embassy in Oslo.

At this point, my module selection looks like this:

Contemporary SA Politics and Policy SLP102 6
Introduction to Negotiation SLC201 10
Sociology: An Introduction SLC201 10
Community Service CSL100
Cultural Studies – Contemporary Society LMC210 10
Media Studies – Media and Society LMC203 10
Popular Literature and Subversion LLE202 10

I will soon mail my module selection to International Office here at ØUC for confirmation, and International Office will send my selection to NMMU for confirmation on the availability of the courses. I am now reading through the Pre-Arrival Handbook, and reading through some links the coordinator here sent me after our meeting today.

Crossing fingers and looking forward to my exchange semester! :D

Week 43 through the lens

1 Rainy autumn days here at Østfold University College in Halden. Winter is coming….On Monday I had an appointment with my general practitioner so he could give me a check-up and fill out the documents needed for the South African visa application. 3 Hard at work on my research essay for the American pluralism course – mine is on Italian-Americans and political participation. 4 The school library is getting ready for Halloween with a skeleton and some scary books.  5  Karrieresenter Østfold had a very useful course on ØUC about career and finding your key characteristics on Tuesday. The pamphlet reads ‘Many paths. Your future.’ 6 This week we are trying our best to convince students to run for election, either for the student council or the student parliament. If you should happen to be a student at ØUC, don’t hesitate to join in on the fun and the opportunity to influence our student life and our school! If you are thinking ‘why join the student democracy’ and want a list of reasons, you can find one hereThe construction work is now done, and the new knowledge center/office building across the road from ØUC is ready for use. Read more about it here (Norwegian) 8 Tomorrow, my boyfriend and I will be celebrating his 23rd birthday and our two years together with a (long) weekend getaway to Gothenburg. Can’t wait! We will travel by train both ways, stay at an hotel (we’re staying at Rica Hotel no 25, fingers crossed), walk around, drink hot beverages at cafes, check out some restaurants & sights and just relax. We’ll be back on Sunday.

To-do list: exchange student edition

CIMG2213My application is sent to NMMU, and I have started the preparations. You have to start early with vaccines and other things in order to get it done in time.

I have checked that I am up to date on routine vaccinations, and I have got the vaccines needed for long-time foreign travel. I have renewed my passport and made sure to apply for the scholarship offered by ØUC for students exchanging three months or more. I have not yet decided on which modules to take, but I have a certain idea. I find these modules quite interesting, and if Community Service is offered in semester 1, I want to get involded in that too (or maybe instead of one of the modules listed below).

Contemporary SA Politics and Policy SLP102 6
Introduction to Negotiation SLC201 10
Sociology: An Introduction SLC201 10
Contemporary/Comparative Literature LE439 25
Cultural Studies – Contemporary Society LMC210 10
Media Studies – Media and Society LMC203 10

The tasks remaining on my to-do list is mostly things I have to take care of if I get accepted, like applying for a visa and applying for financial support for foreign students from Lånekassen. A thorough medical examination is also needed before the exchange, because of the visa, but I think I would have found it necessary even if it was not required .

I applied to NNMU in South Africa, which is a partner institution of Østfold University College. ØUC have a lot of other partner institutions in different parts of the world from Iceland to Spain. You can view a list of partner institutions by country here. I am so excited, and hope to get accepted to NMMU! International Office at ØUC will probably be notified of the outcome of my application in November.

Read and compare constitutions

Just a quick post before I’m heading to a presentation. (Norwegian Library Association is celebrating its 100 years with a presentation, cake and coffee at the school library today).

constituteGoogle launched a new website today, Constitute, featuring an archive of 160 constitutions. You can search by country and/or by constitutional topic (citizenship, foreign policy, minority rights etc).

This site can be a great tool for teachers and students of political science! It is definitely interesting for students like me. It can be a useful resource for lessons in comparative governments or just to satisfy your curiosity, as you can use the site to compare countries and different parts of their constitution.

Google and the Comparative Constitutions Project wants to digitalize all the world’s constitutions and make them searchable to everyone. What do you think of this project?