By Ambassador Arne Walther, Secretary General, IEF (2003-2007)
It is a pleasure for me, on behalf of the IEF Secretariat and Embassy of Norway, to welcome you to our Secretariat Headquarters this evening. We are honoured to have with us the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Norwegian Parliament, H.E. Olav Akselsen, who will deliver the 3rd IEF Lecture. Mr Akselsen and his delegation are in Riyadh on official visit at the invitation of H.E. Dr Bandar, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Shoura.
Mr Akselsen has offered to share his perspectives on the links between foreign policy and energy policy at a point in time when energy security tops the political agenda worldwide. And when increasing attention is being paid to the interrelationship between energy, environment and economic development and links between energy and geo-politics in an interdependent world.
Mr Akselsen has a strong personal commitment to the political level dialogue in the IEF. He was here in Riyadh attending the 7th IEF Ministerial Meeting as Minister of Petroleum and Energy of Norway, when then Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, HRH Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud proposed the establishment of, and offered to host, a permanent Secretariat for the International Energy Forum. We are happy to have him visit us and to see first hand our premises that were officially inaugurated by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah in November 2005 and generously provided to us by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
We are looking forward to his perspectives on the need for international dialogue and co-operation in energy as he touches upon global issues such as energy security, environmental concern and energy poverty. He will also highlight the wide range of interests that Norway has as an industrialized country on the one hand and a substantial exporter of oil and natural gas on the other.
Mr Akselsen, a Member of Parliament for the Social Democratic Party since 1989, has unique experience in foreign and energy affairs. Before assuming his present position, he has also served as Chairman of the Energy and Environment Committee as well as Chairman of the Industry Committee of Parliament. He was Minister of Petroleum and Energy from March 2000 until October 2001.
The political dialogue dialogue in the IEF is receiving increasing attention internationally. Our 10th Ministerial Meeting, that took place in Doha, Qatar in April last year gathered 60 energy producing and consuming countries, both industrialized and developing countries and CEOs of the major national and international energy companies. This largest ever congregation of energy ministers discussed energy security as a 'shared responsibility'.
Later in the year G8 Heads of Government underlined at the very top of their St Petersburg Plan of Action on Global Energy Security the importance of the Ministerial level dialogue in the IEF and as well as the importance of the Joint Oil Data Initiative (JODI) that the Secretariat is coordinating with the support of APEC, the EU, the IEA, OLADE, OPEC and the UN.
And last November we hosted the 6th International JODI Conference here in Riyadh that was inaugurated by H.E. the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia. This unique transparency initiative, in which more than 90 countries, accounting for more than 90% of global oil production and consumption, participate.
The Secretariat has now entered its fourth year of activity. We are encouraged by the political and financial support of IEF countries to our efforts to provide continuity for and enhance global energy dialogue.
Work is already in progress for the 11th IEF Ministerial in Rome in 2008. The Informal Support Group of Countries will meet in April to develop themes for Ministerial discussion. This group is open for all countries that would want to play an active role in preparing the next Ministerial. Likewise our Joint Committee with representatives of leading national and international energy companies will meet in May to develop theme for the 3rd International Energy Business Forum that will take place back to back with the 11th IEF.
Next week we will be organising a regional JODI training session in Johannesburg for Sub Sahara African countries hosted by the Minister of Energy of South Africa and co-sponsored by Norway. We envisage later this year additional regional JODI training sessions, one for Middle East and North Africa countries and one for Caspian countries. Last year we held the first training session in Caracas for Latin-American countries.
Other activities will include facilitating the 2nd Roundtable of Asian Ministers on Regional Petroleum Co-operation that Saudi Arabia will host and Japan co-host in Riyadh later this year. It will gather Ministers of the principal East and South Asian petroleum-importing countries and Ministers of the West Asian (Gulf) petroleum-exporting countries.
The Secretariat would like to host more IEF Energy Lectures here at our headquarters. We offer this as a global platform from which Energy Ministers and other political leaders as well as CEOs can make broader policy speeches when visiting Saudi Arabia on official bilateral or other visits. Please mark in your calendars 6 March when the Secretary General of the Energy Charter, based in Brussels, will deliver the 4th IEF Energy Lecture. I hope you can all join us on that occasion as well.
Otherwise, we hope that you will read our quarterly Newsletter which carries special articles by IEF Ministers and gives updates on our activity. Our January issue has been distributed to you.
With these words, may I ask my co-host Ambassador Bugge-Mahrt to add his remarks before we give the floor to our honoured guest speaker Mr Akselsen.