Statement at the launch of evaluation report on anti-corruption efforts in development policy

State Secretary Marianne Hagen’s statement at the launch of Norad’s evaluation report on anti-corruption efforts as part of its development policy and assistance.

Chair, colleagues and friends 

First of all, let me congratulate the Nordic Consulting Group team and the Evaluation Department in Norad on a job well done.

The team has produced a balanced report that gives us a lot of recognition and “thumbs up”, as well as a number of recommendations for improvement.

I believe the evaluation report is a timely and valuable input in our endeavours to strengthen Norway’s anti-corruption efforts.

The MFA will provide a formal, written plan of action as our response to the recommendations, after a thorough process in the coming weeks. So my response today is of a preliminary nature.   

The Ministry is challenged to formulate and adopt a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy and dedicate more resources to operationalise anti-corruption efforts across all four categories.

In accordance with the UN Convention against corruption (UNCAC), Norway and all other State Parties shall “develop, and implement or maintain effective coordinated anti-corruption policies”.

Although we have policies and positions regarding our international efforts to prevent and combat corruption, we still lack an overall anti-corruption strategy or policy. This gap has been highlighted before, and probably will be again in the upcoming UNCAC implementation review of Norway. I take this recommendation very seriously, and will initiate a process to respond to it. And I agree: the role of the private sector and the embassies may be enhanced.

Secondly, the MFA is recommended to strengthen the operationalisation of Norway’s zero tolerance policy (ZTP), making it more uniform and transparent across all aid delivery channels.

Important results have been achieved in improved anti-corruption policies, bodies and practices in NGOs and multilateral organisations managing Norwegian funds, partly as a consequence of our ZTP. But challenges remain, in particular since the ZTP may, incorrectly, seem to apply almost only to NGOs. 

The MFA has decided to establish a working group with a mandate to look into ways and means to improve the implementation of the ZTP, including in our cooperation with multilateral organisations.

The third recommendation pertains to anti-corruption as a cross-cutting issue.

Yes, we still face challenges in including anti-corruption as a key element in the risk-management approach at grant, sector and country levels. It seems that staff and partners at times are not sufficiently tuned in to the risk of corruption undermining the goal achievement in humanitarian assistance and long-term development co-operation. The “do-no-harm” approach was chosen in 2017 after  careful consideration of past experience with the very demanding “do-good” approach to cross-cutting issues. More training and increased leadership attention will, hopefully, make a difference.

The fourth recommendation pertains to anti-corruption as a distinct component.

The MFA is challenged to further promote anti-corruption efforts in partner countries, by combining support to local and global initiatives, co-operate with NGOs, strengthen the dialogue with governments, forge partnerships with other donors and adopt a result-based approach. 

Good governance and anti-corruption figure prominently in budget items as well as in many strategies for Norway’s cooperation with partner countries. We work closely with NGOs. However, I believe there is potential for a more systematic and strengthened approach to dialogues, cooperation with other donors and technical assistance. 

Finally, the MFA is recommended to continue to push for a more ambitious global anti-corruption advocacy agenda and promote a more regular dialogue with partner countries.

The report recognises Norway’s positive contributions to strengthening international norms and standards, in particular in the areas of grand corruption and illicit financial flows. UN resolutions, expert meetings, financial support to technical cooperation, and lately, The High Level Panel on financial accountability, transparency and integrity (the FACTI Panel) illustrate our approach. They demonstrate commitment, innovative ideas, strategic partnerships, perseverance and courage, - sometimes against all odds.

We will pursue an ambitious anti-corruption agenda, in particular in the preparations for the UN General Assembly Special Session on anti-corruption in 2021. More systematic and regular dialogues with partner countries may be very useful in that context.   

Improved tax systems, anti-corruption and fighting illicit financial flows have a huge potential in mobilising resources for the implementation of the sustainable development goals. 

This has become even more important in the current context of Covid-19 and its devastating socioeconomic consequences.

We will carefully study the evaluation report and Norad’s recommendations for follow-up. I cannot promise that we are in full agreement with all findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Nordic Consulting Group team. But the report is an important input in our deliberations to further develop and refine our comprehensive approach to anti-corruption. We will work closely with other ministries and with Norad in accordance with the division of work established between us.