Meld. St. 25 (2012-2013)

Sharing for prosperity

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1 Introduction

Figure 1.1 Seven of the world's ten fastest growing economies are in Africa, but poverty is not being reduced at the same pace.

Figure 1.1 Seven of the world's ten fastest growing economies are in Africa, but poverty is not being reduced at the same pace.

Photo: Georg Osodi/Panos/Felix Features.

It is not true that world poverty will disappear if only economic growth is strong enough. The world’s economy is five times the size it was fifty years ago, while there are only twice as many people. If this growth were fairly distributed, nobody would live in extreme poverty any more, but more than one billion people still do, while the world’s richest keep getting richer. Mahatma Gandhi’s words that the world has enough resources for “everybody’s need, but not everybody’s greed” are more relevant today than ever. It is important for the Government to challenge the idea that growth alone is sufficient to make a better world for everyone. The world needs political will to ensure fair distribution. Only then will economic growth benefit everyone.

Equality is good for social development. Respect for democracy and human rights results in good societies. Transparency promotes trust between people and their elected representatives, between employers and employees, between buyers and sellers and between partners that cooperate at all levels.

High levels of inequality, authoritarian governance and closed societies weaken trust between people and increase the risk of crime, violence and social unrest. Low levels of inequality, democracy, respect for human rights and transparency increase the chances for everyone to realise their potential, thus promoting development and diversity. This increases the level of trust in society. Trust between people is a fundamental precondition for economic growth and development.

Through this white paper, the Government is announcing a concerted effort to promote fair distribution and growth in poor countries. This will take the form of more targeted efforts to promote democracy, human rights and transparency, and to reduce inequality.

Textbox 1.1 The trickle-down theory examined

“Trickle-down economics, which holds that so long as the economy as a whole grows everyone benefits, has been repeatedly shown to be wrong.”

Nobel Laureate in Economics, Joseph Stiglitz

1.1 Disparities are increasing

Ever since the development aid was in its infancy 60 years ago, the international community has emphasised the inequitable distribution between rich and poor countries. The term “the Third World” arose in the bifurcated international power structure of the post-war era to describe the large, diverse group of countries that belonged neither to the Eastern bloc nor to the Western bloc, and that shared the characteristics of poverty and powerlessness.

Despite significant global changes over the past 50 years, the greatest inequality is still related to differences between countries. Three quarters of the inequality in the world would remain even if each country divided its national income equally between all its inhabitants.

Norway is at the forefront of the fight for more fair distribution between rich and poor countries. There are no plans to change this policy. However, this white paper highlights a topic that, so far, has not been as widely debated in the development policy context, namely the internal distribution of resources in individual countries.

The countries in the world with most poor people, or the highest proportion of poor people in their populations, belong to the groups classified by the World Bank as low- and middle-income countries.

Great changes have taken place within these groups in recent decades. In 1990, 93% of the world’s poorest people lived in low-income countries. Today, middle-income countries are home to more than 70% of the extremely poor. They have not moved, but the economic growth that has taken place in Asia, Africa and Latin America during the past 15 years has resulted in 27 former low-income countries being upgraded to middle-income status.

Figure 1.2 Where do the extremely poor live 1

Figure 1.2 Where do the extremely poor live 1

1 During the same period, the world’s population has increased by 1.4 billion.

Source Andy Sumner, Where do the Poor People Live: An Update (based on figures from the World Bank).

These figures show that economic growth has not reduced poverty to a sufficient extent. A large share of the growth has only benefited a minority of the population – and inequality has increased. A 2012 report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shows that the trend towards increasing income inequality, both within and between countries, has been consistent over the past 30 years, although differences between countries have decreased somewhat in recent years.

As a responsible development policy actor, Norway must endeavour to understand the complex reasons behind this development. Individual countries are always responsible for their own economic policy. However, the world’s aid donors and development actors appear to be supporting a kind of growth that contributes to greater inequality in low- and middle-income countries, thus resulting in a smaller reduction in poverty than could have been achieved with greater equality.

The Government believes that this must have consequences for our development policy and our dialogue with developing countries and multilateral partners. We must do more to ensure that our efforts to promote economic development in poor countries do not reinforce inequality.

Textbox 1.2 Definitions: Poverty, inequality and fair distribution

Internationally, poverty is most often measured in absolute terms. The World Bank defines living on less than USD 1.25 a day as extreme poverty. This is the poverty line on which the UN’s Millennium Development Goals are based.

The World Bank also uses a poverty line of USD 2 per day. Many people who emerge from extreme poverty still have less than USD 2 per day to live on, and are thus at risk of falling back into extreme poverty.

Given that different countries have different currencies and cost levels, attempts are made to determine what corresponds to a purchasing power of USD 1.25 and USD 2 in each country. Such calculations are controversial, and it has been proven that small adjustments in conversion factors can have major effects on the poverty figures. Moreover, many countries estimate poverty on the basis of national poverty lines.

For rich countries, a relative poverty line in the form of a percentage of average income is normally used. In this sense, poverty is not a question of meeting basic needs in order to survive, as it is in developing countries, but of being in a position to live a normal life based on national standards.

Inequality and distribution are often defined as inequality in income and the distribution of income. One reasons for this is that these factors are the easiest to measure. When the term inequality is used in this white paper in general, it primarily refers to inequality in income. Other dimensions of inequality, particularly inequality in terms of opportunities, power and influence, and in access to health services, education, natural resources and infrastructure, are also mentioned. It will be clear from the context what kind of inequality is meant.

The most commonly used measure of inequality is the Gini coefficient. The scale goes from 0 (everyone has the same income) to 1 (one person has all the income). Norway has a Gini coefficient of 0.24 (2008). Income inequality is normally deemed to be high when the value exceeds 0.4. The Gini coefficient is a measure of average differences, and different income distribution structures can produce the same value.

There is no clear definition of fair distribution. What is perceived as fair will vary between cultures and individuals, and, not least, between different political perspectives. Most people consider it fair that some people earn more than others if this is due to factors such as demand, educational level or willingness to take risks. However, there is a limit to how great the differences in income can be before they are perceived as being unfair. Most people see it as unfair that children starve and are denied access to education and health services in countries where even moderate tax increases would have been enough to end extreme poverty and provide universal public education and health services. Similarly, the global trade and financial systems have obvious unfair effects, for example when the vast majority of the population of countries that are rich in resources end up at least as poor as they were before after the national elite and international corporations have made a fortune from extracting these resources. Although the final goal is neither clearly defined nor universally agreed upon, there is more than enough that can be done to promote a more fair distribution within and between countries.

The trend whereby more and more low-income countries are achieving middle-income status is good news. It means that many developing countries are experiencing strong economic growth, in many cases higher growth rates than high-income countries. The distribution between countries is evening out. However, it is a major challenge for the international community that the growth is not more evenly distributed among the countries’ inhabitants. Increased inequality is a global trend. There is also a tendency towards greater differences between the rich and the poor in the traditional donor countries.

Most poor people now live in middle-income countries, and this must have consequences for development policy. It is important to support progressive programmes and initiatives that promote fair distribution also in countries that are experiencing strong economic growth. This does not mean that the Government will divert aid away from the poorest countries, but that we will take a more strategic approach in our cooperation with middle-income countries.

The trend whereby growth does little to reduce poverty and does more to increase inequality is also seen in the poorest countries. In poor countries like Malawi and Mozambique, growth appears to primarily increase inequality rather than combat poverty. A report on global risk factors produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows that increasing income disparity is deemed to be the risk that is most likely to materialise in the coming decade.1

Table 1.1 The World Bank's classification of the categories low-income and middle-income countries, gross national income (GNI) per capita in USD





Low-income countries

≤ 610

≤ 755

≤ 1 025

Middle-income countries

611–7 620

756–9 265

1 026–12 475

Source The World Bank

According to the World Bank, economic growth has lifted more than 660 million people out of extreme poverty during the past 20 years. There is no doubt that this is primarily the result of economic growth. However, the reduction could have been far greater if distribution had been fairer. The fight against poverty is both about economic growth and better distribution.

Research shows that, in the long term, a high level of inequality can impede growth and increase the risk of it coming to a halt. Poverty in itself appears to be an important obstacle to growth and development.

Textbox 1.3 The Miser Index

Economists Jo Thori Lind and Kalle Moene have developed the Miser Index, which is a way of calculating how much the rich would have to be taxed in order to eradicate poverty. The less it would take, the more miserly a society is. The world has become about 50% more miserly in recent years. In 1975, extreme poverty could have been eradicated globally by introducing a tax of about five per cent on the income of the rich. Thirty years later, this could have been achieved through a tax rate of well below two per cent. The countries with the highest Miser Index scores are large middle-income countries such as South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, China and the Philippines. Only one of the top countries is a low-income country, namely Zimbabwe.

Previous theories about the relationship between economic growth and inequality have been influenced by the ideas of economist Simon Kuznets. He claimed that inequality increases as income levels rise, and then decreases again. This claim was based on an empirical analysis of changes in income distribution in the USA. It is not difficult to find examples of mechanisms that can explain such a correlation, for example that “someone has to become rich first” and that inequality increases during periods of restructuring, and then decreases when others catch up.

However, studies of GNI per capita and the Gini coefficient for a large sample of countries show that this correlation is at best very weak, and that there is considerable variation in inequality for a given income level. There are very few examples of developing countries that have followed this curve over time.

China is the country that has been most successful in combining growth with lifting more people out of extreme poverty. More than 300 million Chinese have emerged from extreme poverty in the past 15 years, which means that, according to the World Bank, China accounts for an impressive 75% of the global reduction in poverty. Low population growth is an important cause of this. At the same time, China’s rich have become even richer and the country’s internal inequality has increased substantially. China has 251 dollar billionaires, while about 150 million Chinese live below the country’s national poverty line. China has gone from being one of the most egalitarian societies in the world to having the same level of inequality as the USA. This example clearly shows that there is not necessarily a connection between lifting people out of extreme poverty and reducing inequality.

Consequences for Norwegian development policy:

  1. In low-income countries that themselves are seeking to achieve social development with low levels of inequality, we can actively engage in direct dialogue with the authorities and use aid strategically to target concrete measures that will increase sustainable growth and improve distribution. This includes job creation, taxation systems and welfare policy. Experience shows that it is easier to establish the principles for better distribution while differences are relatively small than to wait until differences between people have become great. It is easier to distribute than to redistribute. At the same time, we will continue with many of the policies that we know contribute to combating poverty, for example strengthening the health and education sectors.

  2. In our dialogue with the governments of middle-income countries, we will draw more attention to the fact that these countries need to prepare for the time when they will no longer receive international aid. They will have to take greater responsibility for ensuring that their citizens receive the services and welfare they are entitled to. In countries with good economic growth, prioritised areas of support will be the promotion of decent work, social dialogue and civil society, which will contribute to growth benefiting the whole population. Some of these countries are rich in resources that can form the basis for economic development. Norway has unique experience, particularly in natural resource management, and this experience is in high demand in many countries that are experiencing rapid economic growth. The Government wishes to improve its capacity to offer this kind of aid to countries that take steps to promote a more rights-based development with an emphasis on transparency and democracy.

  3. In countries with authoritarian regimes where discrimination and secrecy are rife, it will be more difficult and problematic to cooperate with the authorities to ensure more fair distribution. In such countries, the Government will prioritise cooperation with agents of change in civil society.

  4. In the international arena, the Government will seek to draw greater international attention to the distribution issue and better enable UN agencies and multilateral financial institutions to promote good strategies.

Textbox 1.4 Distribution of global wealth

One third of the world’s population owns 97% of the world’s wealth, or, seen from the opposite perspective, two thirds of the world’s population own three per cent of global wealth.

Source Global Wealth Report 2011, Credit Suisse.

1.2 Who are the poor?

Being poor does not simply mean having a low income – it also means being unable to meet one’s fundamental needs. Poverty is linked to the lack of access to essential services and welfare goods, such as education, health services and proper nutrition.

Two regions are “centres” of extreme poverty: according to World Bank figures from 2008, 47.5% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa and 36% of the population of South Asia live in extreme poverty. Together, these two regions are home to approximately 45% of the population of developing countries, but they have a much higher percentage of poor people. Among other things, the regions account for the following proportions of poverty-related challenges:

  • 75% of the world’s income poverty

  • 63% of the world’s chronic hunger

  • 72% of the children outside the educational system in the world

  • 86% of all people living with HIV/Aids

  • 94% of the world’s malaria-related deaths

  • 84% of the world’s child mortality (under the age of 5)

  • 86% of the world’s maternal mortality.

Figure 1.3 Actual and expected development in the number of people who live on less than USD 1.25 per day by region.

Figure 1.3 Actual and expected development in the number of people who live on less than USD 1.25 per day by region.

Source Brookings Institution

Although there are more extremely poor people in South Asia than in sub-Saharan Africa, Africa’s poor are even poorer. The majority of people who have emerged from extreme poverty in recent years live in South Asia. In addition, poverty reduction is expected to be much greater in South Asia than in sub-Saharan Africa in the years ahead. That is why the Government will continue to prioritise aid to low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

In a 2012 report, Save the Children examined the prevalence of poverty in selected countries.2 This report clearly shows how poverty, and particularly child poverty, is influenced by factors such as ethnicity, language and gender. According to the report, inequality affects children more than adults. The report also shows that other indicators used to measure child poverty, such as education and health, are closely linked to geography, ethnicity and other disparities within countries.

Figure 1.4 Accessible jobs enable people with disabilities to participate in the labour market.

Figure 1.4 Accessible jobs enable people with disabilities to participate in the labour market.

Photo: Dieter Telemans/Panos/Felix Features.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank’s World report on disability from 2011 states that people with disabilities make up 15% of the world’s population and are among the poorest and most vulnerable groups in the world. Their average level of education is lower than that of the general population, and their labour market participation is below average. In addition, many of them have high health and rehabilitation expenses. The result is that many people with disabilities and their families live in poverty. This is manifested in a lack of food security, lack of access to clean water and sanitary facilities, and insufficient access to health services.

Extreme poverty is also associated with factors such as prolonged armed conflict and lack of stability in a country or region. The inhabitants of areas where there is a high risk of natural disasters such as floods, drought, earthquakes or hurricanes also have an increased risk of living in extreme poverty.

Cities cover two per cent of the earth’s surface, but consume 75% of its natural resources. Since 2008, the world’s urban population has been larger than the rural population. Globalisation has been an important cause of accelerated urbanisation, particularly in Africa and Asia. In 2050, two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities, and one in three people, i.e. three billion people, will live in slum areas. Poverty is being urbanised, and we can expect this to be increasingly reflected in international development policies in the years ahead. Most of the population growth in the future will take place in cities in developing countries.

Urbanisation takes many different forms. It is the medium-sized and small cities that are currently experiencing the fastest and most unregulated growth, without the necessary roads, water supply or health or educational institutions being in place. In some places, the urban population is decreasing. Asia is characterised by the emergence of satellite cities around large metropolises. In Africa, it is mostly the capital cities that are growing fastest, while in Latin America, the development is characterised by growth in small cities. Because of the demographic change, the effects of globalisation and the financial, food, energy and climate crises, the accelerating urbanisation processes will be increasingly relevant in the efforts to promote global sustainable development, including combating poverty. Effective urban planning will be far more important in the years ahead. This will require new forms of local and national governance that can contribute to empowering people and help to improve urban living conditions.

1.3 Power and powerlessness

The word democracy means rule by the people. In many countries, ordinary people do not have enough opportunities to hold the elected authorities accountable for their actions. Democracy is not sufficiently developed. There are no serious consequences for politicians who fail to represent the will of the people, and informal elites have more influence over the authorities than the people do. Such elites can go far in order to protect their interests and cultivate alliances with those who hold formal power. This creates fertile ground for corruption and the abuse of power. Power and financial advantages are not redistributed without a fight.

Elites can be national, for example big landowners or traditionally influential groups, or they can be foreign elites such as international corporations or other representatives of big business.

Managing public resources entails a lot of power. Aid funding also contributes to altering the balance of power between ministries and between the public, private and civil society sectors.

The forms taken by these formal and informal power networks vary greatly, not just between continents, but also from country to country. It is important that our embassies base their work on good analyses and assessments of the national power structures in each country in order to contribute to good dialogue with the authorities and ensure that Norwegian aid funds do not help to shift power away from the voters. The embassies must maintain close contact with social movements, the social partners and marginalised groups and communities that are not represented in formal forums.

Transparency is a precondition for holding elected representatives accountable to their voters. It is particularly important that there is transparency about tax rules, tax revenues and other sources of public income, and about the use and distribution of funds and the results of such use. It is important that this information is not just aimed at donors or other parties that fund individual measures, but that all such information is publicly accessible. A well-functioning free press is necessary in order to ensure that such information is made public. The internet and mobile phones make it easier to spread such information than before, and, not least, they make it easier to demand that information be made public. Active use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook makes it easier to mobilise the masses, as we saw during the Arab Spring or the anti-corruption marches in India. However, transparency must also apply to the global financial system. Tax havens, bank secrecy and shell companies make it possible to hide the proceeds of corruption, crime and tax evasion.

At the same time, there are many reasons why the poor do not claim their rights or a more active public distributive policy. The cause may be related to the prevailing political culture. Attitudes, norms and values, belief systems and people’s perceptions of reality and of their own role are all potential obstacles. We see this most clearly in poorly developed democracies where the population often do not perceive the state and society as separate spheres. The prevailing social norms can sometimes lead to people accepting that the countries’ leaders use their positions of power to further their private interests. This is particularly common in societies in which the leaders’ relations with the population are based on friendship, family, ethnic or tribal relations or geographical affiliation.

The reasons can also be found in the various coping strategies that societies have developed to ensure more informal forms of distribution. These can include anything from a religious obligation to give alms, enterprises deciding on their own initiative to provide health services for their employees, life-long employment relationships with rich people who cover the needs of the whole family to the even more traditional forms of distribution in extended families or threats of placing curses on people who fail to share as they should. The tradition of sharing everything with the extended family is an important safety net and bears witness to a traditional distribution culture. However, this practice also has some negative aspects when applied in a modern society. It can prevent small enterprises from growing by eliminating the incentive to generate profits or because the owners do not plough the profits back into the enterprise. It also provides fertile ground for corruption, since people who have secured a position are expected to exploit it for the benefit of their extended family. These forms of informal distribution may work for those who benefit from them, but they all involve a large element of uncertainty. There will always be large groups of people who are left out.

Access to resources, welfare, power and human development often differs between different groups. It is particularly important to identify and help groups that systematically end up in a position of powerlessness. The cause of this can be related to ethnicity, caste, functional impairment, gender, sexual orientation or other factors.

1.4 A rights-based approach to development

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The authorities of each country are responsible for ensuring that human rights are respected. The human rights conventions provide the world with an extensive set of regulations that enjoy wide support and carry considerable clout. They identify the obligations states have in relation to their citizens. Norwegian development policy shall be rights-based.

Textbox 1.5 Long-term fight against homophobia

When two men married in Malawi’s biggest city Blantyre in late 2009, it caused a stir far beyond their home country’s borders. An old colonial statute was activated, and the men were arrested and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment. There were few negative reactions to the conviction in Malawi, but international protests poured in. During a visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon a few weeks later, the president agreed to release the two men. This sparked a public debate that has led to substantial progress in just a few years, even though the vast majority of the country’s population still regard homosexual relationships to be repulsive.

When Joyce Banda took over as president in April 2012, one of her first tasks was to abolish laws introduced by her predecessor that could be used to limit fundamental freedoms. She did not propose the immediate repeal of the prohibition on homosexuality, but started a broad consultation process with the population on the issue. There was still massive opposition to legalising homosexuality. Any attempt to get the national assembly to change the law would be counter-productive. Instead of amending the law, she declared that no homosexuals were to be arrested under the law in question for as long as she remained in power.

Homophobia is strong in the country, bolstered by the influence of American evangelical churches, but that does not mean that no progress is being made on the issue. A topic that used to be taboo is now discussed in the media and at universities. Long-term efforts appear to be paying off. There are still very few homosexuals who dare to be open in public. There is a long way to go, but the country has started on the long road towards freedom and equality in this area.

A rights-based approach to development differs from a more charity-based approach in its recognition that the target group has rights that they can demand to have respected rather than having to humbly beg for help. This approach endeavours to both strengthen the authorities’ ability to fulfil citizens’ rights and to increase the citizens’ knowledge of their rights and their ability to demand that they be respected. This is very important to poor people, not least to vulnerable groups, particularly women, children, people with disabilities and minorities. The weak position of vulnerable groups is a particular challenge in connection with the efforts to promote more fair distribution.

Thematic rights enshrined in international conventions serve as a common normative framework for donor and recipient countries. Examples of thematic rights include the right to education and the right to the best possible health set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These rights are discussed in more detail in Chapter 6.3 on health and education. The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) fundamental conventions concerning freedom of association and collective bargaining, the elimination of discrimination and forced labour and the abolition of child labour, are other examples. They are discussed in more detail in Chapter 4.5.

In addition to thematic rights, the principles of non-discrimination, participation, empowerment, human dignity, transparency, rule of law and accountability are overarching principles of a rights-based approach in all sectors. By basing our work on these principles, we help to ensure that all groups and social classes are taken into consideration and given an opportunity to participate. At the same time, this improves access to information that makes it possible to hold the state and other actors accountable for their decisions.

The principle of non-discrimination and equality is particularly important in the efforts to promote fair distribution. Equality before the law and equal access to public services and welfare goods are fundamental preconditions for fair distribution. Knowledge and understanding of the causes and consequences of direct and indirect discrimination will play a key role in developing effective strategies to combat injustice and the unequal distribution of power and resources in society.

Figure 1.5 There is no age limit on the right to education.

Figure 1.5 There is no age limit on the right to education.

Photo: UN Photo/Christopher Herwig.

Among other things, the principle of non-discrimination is about reaching individuals in remote areas and people who live in societies and cultures with different views on rights and obligations. This is demanding work in terms of resources, but it reflects the fact that everyone has the same rights and is a cornerstone of the effort to achieve more fair distribution. This approach also produces more sustainable results and strengthens democratic development.

Although the principles have general applicability, they are also linked to specific rights in the human rights conventions. In principle, citizens should be able to bring matters relating to these rights before the national courts. Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights sets out a general rule concerning non-discrimination and equal protection of the law. In addition, the Covenant reiterates freedom of speech as well as freedom of organisation and assembly. These rights are also of crucial importance to a sustainable democracy, and they are discussed in more detail in Chapter 3.

The Government considers a rights-based approach to development to be a necessary, but not sufficient condition for achieving fair distribution.

Women and gender equality

Our experience from Norway shows that the work of individuals and organisations to promote women’s rights and equality, together with political will, has played a crucial role in the improvement of women’s position in Norway. Norwegian women’s labour market participation has increased from just under 50% in the early 1970s to more than 75% today. This is 16 percentage points above the average labour market participation rate for women in industrialised countries in the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). If Norwegian women’s labour market participation rate were to decrease to the OECD average, the resulting production loss would correspond to the value of our entire oil wealth. The World Bank’s World Development Report (WDR) for 2012 confirms that gender equality and improved access for women to rights, resources and influence contributes to economic growth as well as to poverty reduction. In a nutshell, it is smart economics to promote women’s rights.

Women have less power, less economic capital, fewer opportunities and less freedom than men. The role of women is to a large extent family-related, and labour market participation remains low in a global perspective. Globally, fewer than half of all women are in paid employment, compared with 80% of all men. Women earn considerably less than men, and this difference cannot be fully explained by their education, experience or the sector in which they work. One of the greatest injustices in the world is the unequal distribution of power, goods and opportunities between the genders. Women experience discrimination in all countries, although its form and extent vary. There are poor countries that have come far in terms of equality, and there are rich countries where gender equality still is far off.

Violence against women is a serious problem in all countries. This violence contributes to reinforcing and reproducing the power imbalance between the genders. Surveys show that societies that undergo rapid social and economic change also experience a rise in violence against women. When women challenge norms relating to social roles, this is all too often met with violence. The gender perspective is a fundamental consideration in a policy for fair distribution. The underlying social, economic, cultural and political structures that maintain inequality will vary from country to country.

Women’s rights are universal and recognised by most states in the world through membership of the UN and ratification of the general and more specific human rights conventions and instruments. All but six UN member states have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). However, many countries have ratified the convention subject to reservations, citing national historical, religious or cultural traditions as justifications for weakening the human rights of women. Such traditions do not exempt states from their responsibility for treating men and women equally and giving them the same rights and access to society’s resources. Human rights prohibit discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, gender and religious affiliation, among other things. Women’s rights are under pressure globally. Women and girls are discriminated against and harassed for being women and girls.

Gender equality and fair distribution between the genders are not dependent on a country reaching a certain stage of development. In fact, the opposite is the case – fair distribution from this perspective helps to promote growth and development. A state cannot evade its responsibility for ensuring fair and gender-neutral distribution by claiming that it “cannot afford it”. It cannot afford not to.

Women must take power and seize the opportunity to take their rightful place in development processes – on a par with men. Development depends on women’s resources and competence being fully utilised. In order to contribute to this, the Government will make the gender perspective a key element in its work to promote democracy, job creation and improved management of natural resources.

Figure 1.6 The topics of this white paper.

Figure 1.6 The topics of this white paper.

People with disabilities

Norwegian development policy is rights-based. While every country has a responsibility to safeguard the rights of its citizens, Norway’s development policy shall emphasise and support this work in national and international dialogue. Norway directly supports the efforts to promote the rights of people with disabilities, for example by supporting interest groups. Promoting the rights of people with disabilities will be a particular priority in relevant areas, such as support to the education sector, humanitarian aid, health sector support and support to gender equality and women’s rights.

The topics of this white paper

Some aid, both Norwegian and international, makes a substantial contribution to improving health, reducing maternal and child mortality rates, increasing life expectancy and improving the provision of education. Our aid and our development policy also help to make everyday life safer and better for people in many other areas, and put societies in a better position to take responsibility for their own development.

Report No 13 (2008–2009) to the Storting Climate, Conflict and Capital, cf. Recommendation No 269 (2008–2009) to the Storting sets out the framework for the overall development policy, while Report No 10 (2008–2009) to the Storting Corporate social responsibility in a global economy, cf. Recommendation No 200 (2008–2009) to the Storting, Report No 11 (2007–2008) to the Storting On Equal Terms: Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in International Development Policy, cf. Recommendation No 233 (2008–2009) to the Storting, Report No 14 (2010–2011) to the Storting Towards greener development, cf. Recommendation No 44 (2010–2011) to the Storting, Report No 11 (2011–2012) to the Storting Global health in foreign and development policy, cf. Recommendation No 300(2011–2012) to the Storting and Report No 33 (2011–2012) to the Storting Norway and the United Nations: Common Future, Common Solutions, cf. Recommendation No 200 (2012–2013) to the Storting, examine topics within this field in greater depth.

In this white paper, the Government announces a stronger focus on sustainable growth and fair distribution within countries. The objective is to more effectively combat poverty and reduce inequality. In order to achieve this objective, the Government will place greater emphasis on sustainable management of the environment and natural resources, job creation, fiscal and financial management, human rights, democracy, transparency and the fight against illicit financial flows and tax havens.

1.5 Financial and administrative consequences

This white paper does not replace Report No 13 (2008–2009) to the Storting Climate, Conflict and Capital, cf. Recommendation No 269 (2008–2009) to the Storting, which represents the overall development policy and principles that currently apply to Norway’s cooperation with developing countries. Within the broad analysis found in Report No 13 (2008–2009) to the Storting Climate, Conflict and Capital, the Government wishes in this white paper to highlight, specify and operationalise its policy for promoting fair distribution within countries.

The white paper signals a shift in how aid is allocated, a shift towards measures that promote sustainable economic growth and fair distribution within countries. All measures discussed in the report fall within the current budgetary framework. All Norwegian aid is administered in accordance with OECD-DAC (OECD’s Development Assistance Committee) guidelines.



World Economic Forum, Global Risks 2013.


Save the Children UK, Born Equal, November 2012.

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