On 22 August 2014, Espen Barth Eide was appointed United Nations Special Adviser on Cyprus by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He continued in this capacity under current Secretary-General António Guterres until 14 August 2017, when he stepped down from his UN role in order to engage in the election campaign in Norway.
From 2014 to 2016 he served as a managing director at the World Economic Forum. He is currently co-chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on International Security.
Eide served as Norway's Minister of Defense in Stoltenberg's Second Cabinet from 11 November 2011 to 21 September 2012, and subsequently as Minister of Foreign Affairs until 16 October 2013. Since December 2013, Espen Barth Eide has served as a member of the Board of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) where he is currently Vice Chair of the Board and Chairman of the Operations Committee.. He is also member of the boards of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).
Eide is the son of the jurist, human rights expert, and author Asbjørn Eide (b. 1933) and Professor of nutritional physiology Wenche Barth Eide (b. Barth 1935). He attended the Oslo Cathedral School and graduated from the University of Oslo in 1993 with a cand.polit. degree. He also studied at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Eide joined the Labour Party in 1979 and in the 1980s held several positions in AUF (Labour Party Youth). He was secretary-general of the European Movement Norway in 1992 and had a key role in the campaign for Norwegian membership in the EU in 1994.
In 1993, Eide began working as a researcher in the United Nations Program at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). He became Head of this program in 1996, later working as an advisor for the panels on Threats, Challenges and Change and the Report on Integrated Missions. In 2002 he became the director NUPI's Department of International Politics., which he ran until 2005.
During Jens Stoltenberg's first term as Prime Minister, from 2000 to 2001, Eide served as a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. When the Stoltenberg's second cabinet took office after the 2005 elections, Eide became a Deputy Minister of Defense. In 2010 he again served as a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. On 11 November 2011, he was appointed to the post of Minister of Defense. On 21 September 2012, he was appointed to the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, succeeding Jonas Gahr Støre.
After the resignation of Jens Stoltenberg's Government in October 2013, following the September 2013 Parliamentary Elections he temporarily left Norwegian politics, but returned to Norway and was elected as a Labour Party Member of Parliament for Oslo in the 11 September 2017 Parliamentary Elections.
Since 2001 Eide has been a board member of the Party of European Socialists. In 2004, he directed policy review on integrated missions commissioned by the UN Secretariat. He also served as an adviser to the High-Level Panel on UN Reform, which concluded its work in 2005. He has also been active in the World Economic Forum since 2003.
Eide was appointed as defense minister by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on 11 November 2011. Eide described his new position as “a great responsibility” and said he would not make “revolutionary changes.”
In March 2012, Eide criticized NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussens for saying that he was open to the possibility of using information gained under torture. Eide pronounced this “unacceptable,” saying that it violated international conventions.
Eide expressed concern in April 2012 that Norway's purchase of fighter jets would affect elderly and transportation expenditures.
In June 2012, Eide made the opening remarks at a seminar in Oslo on “Masculinity and the Military,” saying that Norway was beginning the “final stage of the transformation of the armed forces,” taking “a fundamentally new approach to how we recruit, invest in and maintain a pool of highly qualified personnel.” In addition to “recruiting those who can run long distances and carry a heavy back pack,” he explained, the military would seek to "attract those who are especially skilled in new technologies. Young people who can make an impact on system and strategy thinking. Indeed we need women and men who are inclined to find cyberspace more fascinating than wildlife and hiking.”
On 11 September 2012, Eide delivered a speech marking the end of Norway's involvement in the war in Afghanistan.
On 14–15 September 2012, Eide visited Latvia, where he had meetings with his Latvian counterpart, Artis Pabriks, and took part in the annual Riga Conference.
Prime Minister Stoltenberg named Eide Minister of Foreign Affairs on 21 September 2012.
Eide gave an extensive interview to Der Spiegel in October 2012 about the responsible exploitation of Arctic resources.
Asked in December 2012 about the EU's growing economic crisis, Eide said, “I believe the answer is more Europe. Less Europe or some kind of disintegration is not just wrong, but it can in fact be quite dangerous.” If countries abandon the EU, he said, it cannot “bring peace in Europe or a visible Europe in the global arena.”
In December 2012, Eide urged the United Kingdom to remain in the EU. The next month, asked whether Britain would be better off in the EEA rather than in the EU, Eide underscored that it would be best for the EU if Britain left its status unchanged: “As a historic and current close ally of Norway, I think we see more advantages in Britain still being a part of the EU in the future, so that British pragmatism on many issues has a seat at the table when important issues are discussed.”
At an Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø in January 2013, Eide signed a Host Country Agreement between Norway and the Arctic Council, establishing a permanent secretariat for the council in that city.
At a joint press conference on 12 March 2013 in Washington, D.C., with newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Eide said that Norway was working “closely with the Syrian opposition,” by providing humanitarian aid and, “trying to help them to set up local council inside Syria.” But Norway, like the U.S., was not yet, “actively arming the rebels,” though it agreed with the U.S. that "President Assad has lost all credibility, he must go. We need to work with the Syrian opposition, we need to help them to unify, we need to help them to consolidate messages, and we need to make sure that the Security Council finally is able to come to a kind of joint position in this issue. And I think on these issues we are very much of the same approach.”
In March 2013, Eide addressed the first-ever governmental conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. “Time is not on our side,” he told the audience. “The technology exists, on more hands, and we know that more states and non-state groups are contemplating acquiring real weapons. On top of this, comes the risk of accidental detonation, for instance due to improper handling of nuclear weapons.”
In April 2013, Eide declared that a new wave of violence in the state of Rakhine in Burma should not be considered identical to earlier conflicts in that country, which resulted from government oppression. He expressed confidence that Burmese authorities were taking the situation seriously and were eager to establish reconciliation and peace.
Eide hailed the “historic agreement” between Serbia and Kosovo in April 2013 which resolved all outstanding questions between the two countries. Meeting with Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić in Belgrade, Eide said that even though Norway is not a member of the EU, it strongly supports Serbia’s EU pathway.
In December 2013, Eide joined the board of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), a private diplomacy organisation whose mission is to help mitigate armed violence through dialogue and mediation. He is currently Vice Chair of the Board and Chairman of the Operations Committee for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.
Mr. Eide is a member of the board of the Swedish International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) since 2017 as well as the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) (since 2014).
In 2014, he was appointed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser for Cyprus. Eide led the United Nations Good Offices Mission in Cyprus for three years. In 2016, after two years of intensified negotiations and liaison, he stated that both sides are strongly committed to the peace process and that settlement discussions are held without taboos on all issues. He was reappointed in this position by Secretary General António Guterres in 2017. An International Conference on Cyprus was inaugurated on 12 January 2017 in Geneva, but closed without having arrived at a final settlement at its last session in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, on 6 July 2017.
On 14 August 2017, he announced his resignation as UN special envoy to Cyprus in order to run for elected office in Norway.