Erik Solheim (born 18 January 1955 in Oslo, Norway) is a Norwegian politician for the Socialist Left Party (SV). He was appointed Minister of International Development in 2005 and also Minister of the Environment in 2007, and sat in both offices until 2012. Solheim was leader of the Socialist Youth from 1977 to 1981, party secretary from 1981 to 1985, and member of the Parliament of Norway from 1989 to 2001. He was party leader from 1987 to 1997. Until being appointed minister, he worked as a diplomat and a participant in the Norwegian delegation that unsuccessfully attempted to resolve the Sri Lankan Civil War before the outbreak of Eelam War IV. On November 2, 2012, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Erik Solheim would become the new Chair of the OECD DAC (Development Assistance Committee), taking over from Brian Atwood who will step down in December 2012.
Photo Johnny Leo Johansen(c)
Solheim went to high school at Oslo Cathedral School and after serving conscription for the Norwegian Air Force in Bodø(1974–75) he graduated from the University of Oslo in 1980 with a cand.mag. degree after studying history, sociology and political science. After 11 years in parliament he worked for five years for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs before being appointed Minister.
Solheim was the leader of Socialist Youth 1977–1980 and party secretary of the Socialist Left Party 1981–1985. In 1987, he became leader of the Socialist Left Party and rose quickly to become a popular figure in Norwegian politics. In the 1989 election he was elected to Parliament from Sør-Trøndelag in what was to then SVs best election, but was the following two elections (in 1993 and 1997 Solheim was elected from Oslo). He was controversial within his own party because he was considered to be too right-wing. In 1997, after ten years as party leader, he stepped down and was succeeded by Kristin Halvorsen. Through the 1990s Solheim became one of the most prominent figures in Norwegian politics, and lead his party through a period of rising popularity. In later years he has received criticism from some older party colleagues for moderating his views on the European Union and becoming a supporter of Norway’s membership in NATO.
International peace maker
2002 Truce in Sri Lanka
From the spring of 2000 he was granted a leave of absence from parliament to serve as special advisor to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka. He went on to become one of the most recognizable figures in the peace negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. The nation
Solheim helped negotiate a truce in 2002. On 17 October 2005, he continued his engagement with international affairs when he was appointed Minister of International Development in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. In this position, he was able to continue his work on the Sri Lanka issue.
Post 2006 activities
Solheim met with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister and U.S. Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns on 23 January 2006.
After meeting with the officials, Solheim told journalists in Colombo, “Everyone is worried with the present deteriorating security situation. It is hard to see the present situation continuing indefinitely. Sri Lanka is at a crossroads.”
After meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, Undersecretary Burns expressed hope that “the LTTE understands that it will have no relations with my country, and for that matter any effective relations with any country in the world, on the barrel of the gun.”
President Rajapakse and Solheim met the day after. Solheim then went north and met with Tamil Tiger rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and rebel negotiator Anton Balasingham. Dumeetha Luthra of BBC News said Solheim’s visit is seen as crucial to saving the truce.
2006 Peace talks
Solheim told BBC News officials that “Both parties have expressed willingness to come back to the table. We expect the violence will be stopped. The government has throughout its existence for 10 months repeatedly told us that they are ready for talks without any preconditions and the LTTE has today confirmed that they are ready for talks without any preconditions.”
Keheliya Rambukwella, a spokesman for the Sri Lankan government, acknowledged that the government was ready for talks, “but we did not agree on Oslo for unconditional peace talks.” Officials from the European Union, Japan, Norway and the United States, meeting in Brussels, Belgium to discuss the conflict, released a statement in support of the peace talks.
Government spokesman Rambukwella denied that the government agreed to unconditional negotiations, saying, “We will put forward our conditions.” Rambukwella criticized the Norwegian government for announcing the talks without consulting the Sri Lankan government, “The government has not been consulted on any future discussions. Norway, or anybody, can’t announce dates and venues. We will take it up very seriously. We are a sovereign state. They are only facilitators. We have not delegated any of our powers to them.”
The Sri Lankan Government’s chief negotiator, Nimal Siripala De Silva, filed an official complaint about Solheim’s announcement to the press to Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar when they met, along with Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary S. Palihakkara and Norwegian Embassy spokesman Eric Nurnberg, at the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. Minister De Silva said he hoped to discuss the “future role of the international community in the Sri Lankan Peace Process and the future course of action on the peace front” at this meeting. He also expressed a desire for a “sincere commitment to the process from the LTTE leader Prabakaran” to reporters.