Monday she will moderate Global Outlook where five international speakers are presenting how to make a sustainable business. Before that, we will ask her a few questions about the topic.
Why should people start their week at Arendalsuka with the Global Outlook conference?
- Its very important to start with the BIG PICTURE, to pay attention to the big trends that are shaping our lives. It is then logical to move from the macro to the micro trends that affect each and every sector of society. The macrocosm encompasses the variety of microcosms that exists in the world. We are often so caught up in our day to day living that we forget or fail to understand that the macro shifts affect each one of us in our daily lives - that the big trends of today impact us tomorrow.
You have a broad experience working as a journalist/writer/TV-reporter/documentarist for TIME Magazine, South Asia Bureau Chief for CNN, The Indian Express just to mention a few. Which story is your most marking?
- I have covered the conflict in Sri Lanka for 30 years so it was not just a story I covered, it was part of my life journey. I have learnt so much about life, death, peace, war, fault lines in society, evil, tragedy and the catastrophic decisions of leaders that destroy ordinary people’s lives. The causes of war are different but the consequences are the same in every part of the world. The most challenging for me however was reporting on the Taliban in Afghanistan. All the odds were stacked against me for just doing my job – women are not supposed to work – and I am interviewing people in their homes or offices or hospitals or streets and this is so noticeable and punishable by the Taliban. Women are supposed to be accompanied by their male family members. I was with the male crew of CNN – the sound engineer and cameraman, neither obviously related to me. The Taliban had banned television, and here I am with my CNN crew. Doing my job is a crime and it was a lawless time. The Taliban can shoot or kill or put me in jail – no questions asked. And I am a foreigner and the Taliban viewed the CNN as a CIA network so they were even more hostile as they consider journalists to be spies. And all this in the midst of a live hot war, with bombs, grenades, tank and artillery fire. So it was dangerous and difficult with many barriers to be a foreign, female, TV reporter.
You have covered all the major stories in the region including the nuclear tests, the ethnic war in Sri Lanka, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, conflicts in India's Kashmir and North East and reported extensively from the line of control between India and Pakistan. Was the first television journalist to report from the 22,000 ft Siachen Glacier, the highest battleground on earth, where Indian and Pakistani armies exchange fire almost daily. Have interviewed all the heads of nations in the region. What inspired you to focus on the big questions?
- Throughout my career I focused a lot on ordinary people – their triumphs and tragedies. The fact is the people’s lives are the best way to convey the big picture. People connect and relate to other human beings, no matter where they are or how different they are. My interest in the big questions was because its answers, its consequences were felt on the street, in the homes, in the factories, in the theatres. We don’t realize it, but the impact of big questions is experienced by us every day.
You have won lots of prizes for covering the Taliban takeover of Kabul and have received the Lifetime Award for Journalism in 2007. What is your drive?
- I have always seen myself as the face and voice of the faceless and voiceless people. People are so busy in their day to day living, struggling with so many problems and challenges. I felt it was my job to address the issues so that I could contribute to bringing some clarity, try to provide a better understanding, highlight what was going wrong so that authorities could take the right action. I am deeply committed to democracy and I believe in the power of journalism. Journalists do not play THE role in a democracy, they A role. Its an important role, it’s a vital role, but our job is to provide accurate information and analysis, without being partisan. If the media is an accurate mirror reflecting the goings on in society correctly, then the people in power – in politics or business or academics etc- can take corrective steps or introduce measures that are needed.
Where do you live now, and why did you choose to live there?
- I live in Oslo. Love brought me to Norway. Love makes me stay. My husband was Norway’s Ambassador to India when I was CNN’s South Asia Bureau Chief in New Delhi. I love Norway – Norwegians are embarrassed when I say this, but Norway is the closest to an ideal state. Agreed Norway is small and homogenous, but there is much for the world to learn from Norway.
What was you first impression of Norway? Do you think we are too introverted, and less interested in the rest of the world here in our rich country?
- My first impression was the quietness of Norway. The peace, the calm. I love nature and Norway’s landscape is picture perfect. Yes, Norwegians don’t talk much, tend to be introverted and are often shy. I find that charming, much to learn for us talkative Indians and Italians. Norwegians are more like the Japanese, don’t talk much, but what they say is absolutely to the point. Every country thinks they are the center of the universe and this is only natural. In every country, it is the local murder or political scandal that hogs headlines. In every country there are people who couldn’t care less what happened outside and there are people who are deeply engaged with what’s going on in the world.
What do you like best with Arendalsuka, and with Global Outlook?
- The title says it all – its Global and it gives you a good outlook to the big issues of our times.
Embedding sustainability in business is the name of this years Global Outlook. How can business lead to a more sustainable world?
Much of the problem is caused by big business – whether it is pollution or depletion of resources. Governments and the public want and hope the sustainable goals will be achieved, but it is the business that can deliver most of the goals. On other SDGs like health and education, which we think is more of Government’s responsibility, the business can play a big role in the solutions they can offer in terms of innovation, technology and skills.
So, as a conclusion, why do we need a conference like Global Outlook?
- We need a conference like Global Outlook to make sense of what’s going on around us, to get a better understanding of the confusing trends, to get clarity and new ideas to contribute to improving the world around us.