Meld. St. 25 (2012-2013)

Sharing for prosperity

To table of content

3 Democracy

Figure 3.1 Aung San Suu Kyi – a lifelong struggle for democracy.

Figure 3.1 Aung San Suu Kyi – a lifelong struggle for democracy.

Photo: Pietro Masturzo/OnOff Picture. From the Nobel Peace Center's exhibition Mother Democracy.

There is a close link between the distribution of economic goods and the distribution of political power. The distribution of political power in a society over time will have a decisive effect on the distribution of economic goods, and a minimum distribution of economic assets is a precondition for democratic political organising. Democracy and human rights are also interdependent. Chapter 1.4 discusses rights-based development policy in more detail.

Historically, the emergence of democracy has been closely linked to two parallel developments: the reduction of hunger and extreme poverty and the growth of the middle class. The distribution of political power has taken place in step with the spread of prosperity and knowledge to increasingly large segments of the population. There is a clear link between economic resources and education and the democratic distribution of power. An authoritarian state has never become a democracy without the opposition having demanded a greater share of power through active political action. Such action requires resources in the form of political knowledge, organisation and funds.

3.1 More emphasis on democracy in the aid context

Textbox 3.1 The Arab Spring

“Democracy! Freedom! Dignity!” were the slogans shouted by the crowds that filled the streets and squares of Arab countries during the winter and spring of 2011. Young people and women led the protests. They mastered the new social media, and used Facebook and Twitter to coordinate and mobilise people and spread information about the protests. It wasn’t called “the world’s first Facebook revolution” for nothing.

The poor masses joined forces with middle-class youth. They were no longer willing to put up with authoritarian regimes, corruption, brutality and human rights violations, and they rebelled against an everyday life characterised by oppression, poverty, unemployment and hopelessness. They demanded what we take for granted – elected political leaders who are accountable to the people, democracy, freedom, dignity, hope. The Arab Spring also inspired people outside the Arab countries, and demonstrated the explosive power of people demanding their rights.

The ongoing processes of change in the Arab world are fundamental in nature, and they will take time. It is difficult to predict the end result. There are many forces at play, not least in connection with the many ongoing religious conflicts. There has been a strong focus on free elections. Strict religious parties have received many votes and become important political forces in many countries. Liberal and secular forces are increasingly worried that “their” revolution will have a different outcome than the one they have fought for. In any case, elections are just a beginning. Real democratisation is contingent on society changing in fundamental ways, particularly as regards education, economic opportunities, legal reform and institutional development. Constitutional reform is the most important issue in many countries right now, and an arena for confrontation between different values and interests. Women and minorities are in a particularly vulnerable position.

Although, historically, democracy has proven to form the best basis for stability and prosperity, the road to democracy is full of stumbling blocks and setbacks. The situation differs from country to country. Each country has its own history and conditions and must find its own form. Others must support the forces that are pulling in the right direction, support them on their own terms, with patience and a realistic attitude, while at the same time having clear expectations of respect for universal human rights and fundamental democratic values.

The connection between democracy and economic growth is debated. However, there is extensive research indicating that democracy promotes economic growth. This seems to be particularly true over longer periods. There is no empirical evidence to support the idea that authoritarian regimes in general grow faster than democracies, although China is often cited as an example. Democratic countries can experience lower economic growth than the fastest growing authoritarian economies, but their growth is usually more robust, and the democratic economies are better equipped to tackle economic crises. Research also indicates that there is a connection between more democracy, the protection of property rights and increased foreign investments in the least developed countries.

Once democracy takes root in a society, economic goods tend to be more evenly distributed than in autocracies. Democratic mechanisms in a functioning democracy mean that leaders who fail to live up to their voters’ expectations will have to relinquish power. In such situations, more segments of society will benefit than before. This is not automatically the case, however. There are examples of democracies where the distribution of economic goods is becoming increasingly unequal, and of autocracies where the distribution is relatively fair. However, democratic elections, a free press and a free civil society can contribute to putting an end to such unequal distribution.

The Government will use bilateral government-to-government cooperation to give priority to supporting countries that show a clear democratic development. Channelling aid to more democratic regimes will result in more development for the money spent.

The Government wishes to raise awareness of the risk of aid being used to maintain or intensify authoritarian trends. Good analyses of the state of democracy must be conducted in advance. The degree of democracy will therefore be given even more weight in the prioritisation of bilateral aid.

It is demanding to assess a country’s democratic development, as it is rarely linear, and even a prolonged positive trend will include the odd setback. Countries like Senegal, Malawi and Mali are examples of this. Assessments must be based on a long-term perspective, however. Stopping transfers as a result of temporary setbacks can have negative consequences and result in a country having a poorer starting point when democratic forces return to power. It is therefore important to adopt a long-term perspective when prioritising countries on the basis of democratic development in order to ensure that aid has the best possible effect. Moreover, some countries demonstrate good democratic and human rights practices in some areas, while being very authoritarian in other areas. The Government will base its work on an understanding of such nuances in individual countries. It is crucial that Norwegian embassies have the competence and capacity to assess democratic development over time and to analyse it in relation to the local context.

In countries where the trend is negative, it is important to support democratic forces in civil society, independent media and academia. Support for select government institutions can also be an option, if these institutions are deemed to be important in relation to reversing an authoritarian trend. The risk that aid can in practice further a negative or authoritarian trend must always be assessed. In general, the Government will be extremely cautious as regards engaging in government-to-government cooperation under such circumstances. In specific cases, however, targeted support may be provided for parts of the government administration, for example for human rights training for the police and judiciary, or for capacity-building for supreme audit institutions or other agencies that are deemed to be suited to promoting the rule of law, anti-corruption and human rights. To ensure further quality assurance, such support will be given in cooperation with other donors, often via multilateral channels.

Norwegian aid is part of the Government’s overall foreign policy. Norway’s involvement is not always limited to promoting democracy, it can also include, among other things, contributing to peace and reconciliation processes. In some cases, this could provide grounds for using aid in a way that might be in conflict with the principle of basing aid on a positive democratic trend.

What is democracy?

Figure 3.2 In some parts of the world, the opportunity to exercise democratic rights is not an everyday occurrence. Long queues, dignity and an atmosphere of solemnity marked the referendum on South Sudan's secession from Sudan in 2011.

Figure 3.2 In some parts of the world, the opportunity to exercise democratic rights is not an everyday occurrence. Long queues, dignity and an atmosphere of solemnity marked the referendum on South Sudan's secession from Sudan in 2011.

Photo: UN Photo/Tim McKulka.

Democracy means rule by the people. Various forms of organisation are used to create a system of representative rule on behalf of the people. There is no universally agreed definition of “democracy” that encompasses all the necessary constituent parts of such a political system. Democracy is a generic term for systems of governance that can function in different ways. They share certain characteristics, however, and fundamental human rights are a particularly important aspect. “Democracy” should be understood to mean a society in which individuals have equal rights and opportunities for political participation. This is more than mere “majority rule”, where it is possible for a numerical majority to force its priorities and politics on minorities. A robust democracy requires institutionalised guarantees for equal rights and opportunities to participate, particularly for groups that are traditionally at risk of being politically marginalised, such as women, ethnic and religious minorities and people with disabilities. Several institutions can be established to safeguard these principles. A well-functioning parliament is important, but other institutions must also be in place in order to realise the principle of inclusive political participation. Respect for human rights and upholding the principles of the rule of law are preconditions for democratic institutions.

Many elements influence the climate for democracy in different countries. What may be a positive trend in one country could have a negative effect in another. Economic growth, unemployment, the level of education, history and political culture, as well as the politics of the current government all play a role. Again, it is crucial to understand the local context.

Textbox 3.2 The rocky road to democracy

Malawi’s experience shows that, in African countries, the development of “rule by the people” does not follow an optimistic, linear path to full democracy. It goes forwards, digresses, goes in circles and encounters setbacks, before going forwards again.

Aid donors flocked to Malawi after the more than 90-year-old dictator Hastings “Kamuzu” Banda had to relinquish his iron grip on the country’s political life and economy and allow multi-party elections in 1994. Full freedom of expression and association were introduced, and the new elected government did a great deal to develop institutions based on the rule of law. Democracy blossomed. After a while, however, many of the new leaders started helping themselves from the “cookie jar”. A new elite emerged that found it difficult to relinquish the reins of power when their period in office came to an end and new elections were to be held in 2004. Pressure from media, the churches and NGOs was intense. The economy had stagnated, and the donors were pessimistic about the country’s future. Many of them scaled down their support or withdrew completely.

Despite this, the elections held in 2004 proved to be free and fair. The new president, Bingu wa Mutharika, broke with the old power elite and secured popular support by focusing on economic growth and food security. He won a landslide victory in the 2009 elections. By then, international aid to Malawi had increased significantly. But in his second term in office, the president and government were most concerned with securing their political positions and economic gains for the future, and their rule became increasingly authoritarian. Things came to a head in 2011, when 20 people were killed following demonstrations and riots. Donors withheld much of their aid. The country plunged into a political and economic crisis, which lasted until the president’s sudden death at April 2012.

The new president, Joyce Banda, repealed laws that threatened freedom of expression and strengthened the power of the police. She replaced the leadership of the police and declared war on corruption in the country. At the same time, she introduced extensive and necessary economic reforms. The international community gave her strong support, and budget support and other major aid-funded programmes were brought back on track.

Since Norway started giving aid to Malawi in the late 1990s, the promotion of democracy and human rights has been a key element in the cooperation. The embassy entered into a long-term collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that aimed to support the consolidation of democracy in the country. This programme has continued its efforts under changing governments, including periods when democracy has been under pressure. Evaluations show that these efforts have produced results over time, and that, in particular, they have helped ordinary people to become unafraid to demand their rights from the authorities.

At the same time, Norway has supported civil society and focused in particular on supporting the struggle for women’s rights and on protecting defenders of human rights during periods when they have been under pressure. Norway has also helped to safeguard people’s economic and social rights through cooperation on the development of the country’s health services, support for increased production and income for poor Malawian farmers and budget support.

Because of the lack of an agreed definition of the concept of “democracy”, no international agreement exists about exact criteria on which an assessment of the degree of democracy in a country should be based. Certain fundamental factors are included, however, in most attempts to measure how democratically a society is organised. The Government wishes to highlight the following factors:

  1. Real competition between individuals and organisations for political power

  2. Inclusive political participation for citizens in the form of free and fair elections and other mechanisms for popular participation and empowerment. Inclusive participation also encompasses potentially vulnerable or marginalised individuals and groups

  3. The upholding of civil and political human rights, including freedom of expression, assembly and association

  4. The upholding of the principles of the rule of law, i.e. that the state is governed in accordance with the law, that everyone is equal before the law and that citizens’ fundamental rights are legally protected.

Many underlying factors must be included when interpreting the contents of these dimensions. Real competition for political power is contingent on the existence of an organised opposition to the current government. The opposition must be free to communicate independent opinions to the population, and have a real possibility to potentially take over the reins of power in the country through regular elections. Inclusive participation also entails a right to be heard between elections. In practice, positive effects of freedom of expression are contingent on the existence of a minimum of independent media that are capable of getting information and opinions out to the people. A local civil society with organisational resources in the form of knowledge, funds and effective channels of communication is a precondition if freedom of assembly is to have positive effects. The rule of law is dependent on corruption being under control. That government agencies have sufficient capacity is also a precondition for upholding the rule of law and safeguarding human rights.

The situation is further complicated by factors such as time and whether decision-makers are interested in promoting democratic reforms. There are examples of countries where democratisation processes have started, but then stopped again, and where the state is governed by leaders who appear to alternate between being progressive and reactionary. There are also countries where the authorities consist of groups and individuals with widely differing interests and capacity to implement democratic reforms. Comparisons of the systems of government in different countries must take into consideration the differences in countries’ history, socio-economic development and political culture.

Figure 3.3 I’ve voted! An ink-stained finger is a symbol of the exercise of democratic rights in many developing countries.

Figure 3.3 I’ve voted! An ink-stained finger is a symbol of the exercise of democratic rights in many developing countries.

Photo: UN Photo/Staton Winter.

Given this complex picture, assessments of the state of democracy must build on an overall assessment of each individual case. Many different sources are available for use in the assessment of the state of democracy in different countries, including independent NGOs and actors such as the Brookings Institution, Freedom House, The Economist and others. State of democracy assessments carried out by multilateral organisations such as the UN Human Rights Council, the UN’s human rights treaty bodies, the World Bank, regional development banks, OECD, IDEA (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance), etc. are useful in this context. There are also independent academic presentations of the state of democracy in each country. Several regional institutes, including the Afrobarometer and Arab Barometer, also conduct opinion polls that provide a basis for country-by-country comparative studies of the people’s perception of economic and political development. All these sources must be used over time by Norway in its overall assessment of the state and development of democracy in individual countries.

Textbox 3.3 Mo Ibrahim – champion of good leadership and governance in Africa

In 2006, Sudanese-born British entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim established a foundation that works to improve leadership and governance on the African continent. The foundation has developed its own index, the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, to measure the quality of governance in African countries. The variables considered by the foundation include corruption, human rights, the rule of law, human development and economic opportunities. The index is published in an annual report in which 52 African countries are ranked and trends for various indicators are presented.

According to the 2012 report, countries with small populations have the highest score. The four highest scoring countries are Mauritius, Cape Verde, Botswana and the Seychelles. At the bottom of the scale we find Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad and Eritrea.

During the six years in which the index has been produced, four countries stand out due to the great change in their overall index. Three of these countries have experienced a positive development, namely Liberia (no 34), Angola (no 40) and Sierra Leone (no 30), while Madagascar (no 35) has seen a marked negative development.

The countries with which Norway has the most extensive development cooperation have all experienced positive, if smaller, changes in their overall index during the six-year period. Ghana is top among them, in seventh place. Tanzania has climbed steadily and was ranked no 10 in 2012. Malawi is in seventeenth place, Mozambique is number 21, and Ethiopia was ranked as number 33.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation also presents a prize for excellence in African leadership to former African heads of state or government who have left office in the last three years. The prize money includes an amount earmarked to enable the laureate to share his or her experience and expertise and continue to play a public role. The Ibrahim Prize has been awarded three times since 2007. The winners were former presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Festus Mogae of Botswana and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde. No prize was awarded in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Mo Ibrahim has emphasised that the prize will not be awarded unless there are candidates who meet all the criteria for excellence in leadership. It should be difficult to win and serve as an inspiration to African leaders.

Norway's support for democratic development

Democracy cannot be introduced from the outside, but foreign actors can lend support to democratic processes. Democracy is about changing a society’s political culture, and it is crucial that local actors are the driving forces pushing for fundamental democratic reforms at all times. Norwegian support for democracy must therefore take the form of political and material support for local actors. The Foreign Service’s most important task will be to develop a strong knowledge base about local conditions, primarily via the foreign service missions. On this basis, the Foreign Service will use the means available to it to support democratic development and counteract authoritarian forces.

The Government has many policy instruments at its disposal to support democratic development and democracy movements in different countries. Some of these instruments are purely political, while others include using aid funds. All policy instruments must be adapted to the local context.

  1. Political statements

    Signals given in the political dialogue with other countries, through the mass media and in relevant multilateral bodies can influence both governments and non-governmental political actors. For example, statements made in the UN and other multilateral forums can have an important supportive effect for local actors working for democracy and human rights. Norway has clear expectations of its partner countries in terms of their democratic values and ability to implement human rights. Political statements can be important in relation to countries of all types. In relation to more authoritarian regimes, political statements will be one of the main means of promoting democracy, given that the possibilities of using other instruments are limited.

  2. Support for local civil society

    A free and critical civil society is a fundamental good in all societies and is crucial if democracy is to take root. Local human rights defenders and democratic forces need political as well as material support. The political organisation of interest groups is an important precondition for democratic development. The conditions for such organisation vary greatly. Differences in legislation and practice, access to resources in civil society and a political culture for participation in public debate are decisive factors. It will vary from country to country which groups can and should be supported. Women’s rights organisations, trade unions, employers’ associations, foundations and youth organisations can differ in what kind of support they need, as well as in their ability and proclivity to move society in a democratic direction. Norwegian support for civil society shall be aimed in particular at agents of change that work to promote a more democratic development.

    Culture is also important to the development of civil society. A strong cultural sector can be a driving force for a more open and democratic society. The white paper on the Government’s international cultural efforts (Report No 19 (2012–2013) to the Storting)1 discusses this in more detail.

  3. Support for independent media

    Independent radio channels, newspapers and TV stations are important to ensure inclusive political participation. Civil society must have channels that actors can use to get their views across. The emergence of independent media requires the existence of a critical mass of journalists with a certain minimum of knowledge and training. It is also necessary that independent media have capacity in the form of organisation and resources. Norway will contribute to developing media by supporting international as well as local actors that provide training and education for journalists and strengthen independent media by supporting capacity-building.

  4. Support for strengthening of the principles of rule of law

    Democracies are dependent on there being a minimum level of trust between the authorities and citizens. This trust depends on public institutions clearly recognising citizens’ legitimate needs and concerns. It is even more important, however, that these institutions are governed on the basis of principles of fairness and equality before the law, respect for human rights and zero tolerance of corruption. In more reform-oriented states, the development of the rule of law may primarily be a question of capacity. In such countries, it can be an option to support the strengthening of government institutions such as human rights commissions, parliaments, supreme audit institutions, supervisory bodies and independent courts of law. In countries with more authoritarian regimes, targeted support measures can be initiated in certain cases, provided that such measures are deemed to improve the likelihood of democratic development.

3.2 Civil society and independent media – defenders of democracy

A diverse and dynamic civil society is an important supplement to elected structures and a prerequisite for democratic development. Civil society actors can play the role of interest groups, watchdogs and agents of change. Change can be pushed through if they succeed in mobilising strongly enough against those in power. Technological developments with increasing access to mobile phones, the internet and social media help to increase openness and the flow of information, thus providing more opportunities to influence and mobilise.

Textbox 3.4 What is civil society?

There is no clear definition of the term “civil society”, but it is generally understood to cover actors that are not public or commercial (non-governmental, non-profit). This includes voluntary organisations, support groups, religious communities, social movements, the labour movement etc. Academia can sometimes be included, but this sector is often subject to government control. The media will normally be commercial, but this is not always the case.

In countries with a democratic system of governance, the right to information, to free formation of opinions and to public communication enjoy strong legal protection and are safeguarded by many different institutions. Civil society and independent media are two key guarantors that the reality will live up to these ideals. Not only are civil society and the media important in shaping public opinion, and to criticism, debate and innovation, they also perform important control functions in political life, and act as a critical corrective to the abuse of power and lack of openness in all areas of society. Popular legitimacy and support are necessary if civil society actors are to be able to hold decision-makers accountable and influence them. It is important to use a broad definition of civil society in order to identify movements and actors with substantial local or national support.

However, civil society and the media’s political room for manoeuvre is often limited by the interests of the state and those in power. There is great tension in many countries between NGOs and independent media, on the one hand, and the political elite and their communication apparatus, including state-controlled media, on the other. This limits political participation and the efforts to promote a fair distribution of public goods.

Textbox 3.5 Farmers’ organisations

Farmers’ organisations can play an important role as spokespersons for farmers in relation to the authorities. In many countries, however, and especially in Africa, most farmers’ organisations are more involved in spreading knowledge about farming issues, and less in acting as interest groups presenting farmers’ demands to the authorities. More and more of these organisations are beginning to participate actively in the local political debate, however. One example is the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM). NASFAM has engaged in systematic dialogue with the authorities and has succeeded in having an export ban on soybeans lifted and in changing import taxes on agricultural equipment.

The establishment of farmer-owned organisations that cooperate on buying input goods and/or selling their products will help to strengthen the farmers’ position in the market, and thereby also their income potential. Individual smallholders will be in a weak market position, and cooperatives can help to secure sales of agricultural produce for the benefit of both farmers and consumers. Several farmers’ organisations are in the process of adopting this role, and will gain increased political importance with time. Their work is crucial in the efforts to ensure that the voices of smallholders are heard.

In authoritarian states, the possibility of supporting agents of change in civil society will in some cases be limited by arguments that such support represents a breach of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the state in question. In some countries, the authorities have prohibited NGOs from accepting support from abroad, and organisations that receive such support may risk accusations of espionage or treason.

The Government wishes to strengthen elements in civil society in the global South that have a real chance of acting as driving forces and agents of change, thereby contributing to the development of more open and democratic societies and fighting poverty. The policy instruments range from political influence on national framework conditions to individual measures and training at the individual level.

The rationale for this support is partly that an active civil society has inherent value, and therefore requires no further justification, and partly that such actors make significant contributions to fighting poverty and promoting fair distribution. It is nonetheless important that voluntary organisations’ role in providing services does not have a negative effect on the state’s ability and position as a service provider, but rather that it acts as a supplement.

The national authorities’ responsibility for promoting good working conditions for voluntary actors is highlighted in the partnership declaration signed by nearly all the countries in the world in Busan in December 2011.

Norway’s strategy for using civil society and media development in its efforts to combat poverty and oppression is based on the conditions in individual countries. Actors that work to promote development, democratisation and the redistribution of power, and that have a real chance of contributing to change, must be strengthened.

Through partnerships with local organisations, Norwegian actors are helping to increase competence and build alliances between different groups and interests that can lead to broad popular mobilisation against poverty and oppression. In some cases, this work takes place in cooperation with the national and local authorities, while, in other cases, the authorities are part of the problem.

Figure 3.4 Pakistani Malala Yousafzai is a powerful example of young people's commitment and the fight for young people's rights. Many world leaders have been inspired by her courage.

Figure 3.4 Pakistani Malala Yousafzai is a powerful example of young people's commitment and the fight for young people's rights. Many world leaders have been inspired by her courage.

Photo: UNESCO/Emilien Urbano.

Decision-makers usually give most consideration to what they perceive as strong pressure groups and interest groups. The political and civil rights of young people are often neglected. Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, they have a right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and to be heard in all matters that affect them. In practice, however, this group often has little political and economic power. At the same time, political decisions have a great impact on them. Active participation by youth is a sensible economic and political investment in the future. Engagement in civil society is often young people’s most important gateway into, and arena for, participation in democratic processes.

Democratic youth organisations are important in order to develop and maintain a thriving democracy. They represent a channel through which young people can formulate their own political demands and work for the realization of their human rights. Through mobilisation, knowledge-building, leadership training and organisational development, youth organisations help to ensure that the voices of young people are heard and that the authorities are held accountable. As a development actor, it is important to understand how such organisations can best be supported.

Education is an important means of enabling young people from different social backgrounds to participate on equal terms in the labour market as well as in democratic processes. The school system is intended to provide pupils with fundamental skills that are in demand in the labour market, democratic values and knowledge about democratic participation. Without such knowledge, it will be difficult for young people from poor or discriminated segments of the population to exercise their rights or participate in the labour market.

Textbox 3.6 New topics in the training of journalists

Norwegian support for training in economic journalism in Africa under the auspices of Thomson Reuters is an example of how new topics such as tax evasion, tax havens and economic crime are being placed on the media’s agenda. This highlights the necessity of being able to work internationally on cases that know no borders. Research shows that the media are a crucial factor if other sectors of society are to be able to deliver better goods and services. A clear correlation has been found between strengthening a country’s media sector and political stability, anti-corruption work and development impact.

Relations between the state and civil society and the possibilities of developing democratic relations differ from country to country. Important factors in this context include political and cultural norms and rules, the country’s history, the system of government and the state’s own experience of democratic governance.

International media support has changed significantly in a short space of time. Just a few years ago, ad hoc training in journalism was the predominant activity. Today, it accounts for less than half of the overall activity, while support for programme development, the development of media legislation, sector institutions, local radio stations, social media, security and, not least, internet freedom, has grown correspondingly. A free and independent press must be run in a sound and sustainable manner. Organisation, management, distribution and marketing are all important in this context.

The social media have already demonstrated their potential to facilitate broad political participation. One of the great advantages of social media is that they are non-discriminatory in the sense that groups that are not normally heard in public debate can be given a voice. One such group is women, who in some societies are subject to restrictions on public participation.

Textbox 3.7 Religious institutions as a force for change

In December 2007, a group of religious leaders from various religious communities were taken on a trip to the mining areas in northern Tanzania. The shock of seeing the poverty around the gold mines and the environmental problems caused by the mining operations made a lasting impression. The Anglican archbishop criticised the mining companies harshly in the Christmas service broadcast on TV that year. The Muslim and Christian councils later published a joint report describing how little tax these companies paid. This report was a direct contribution to a legislative process that subsequently resulted in an amendment increasing taxes for mining companies. Specialists from small organisations who had worked on environmental and human rights issues relating to the mining industry for years could now speak more openly, and the newspapers began to publish more critical stories. New possibilities had opened up. The work of the three councils is now organised through an interfaith committee, the Interfaith Standing Committee on Economic Justice and the Integrity of Creation.

The Arab Spring clearly demonstrated how social media can have an important function by uniting people with similar opinions and by serving as an information channel for opposition movements. Social media and new technology are to a large extent also the domain of the young, a domain where children and young people whose voices are not heard via the ballot box can freely express their opinions.

The media reality is changing rapidly all over the world. New technological solutions, products and business models can be out of date almost before they are launched. As a small actor in this context, Norway emphasises close collaboration with other donors and important specialist organisations on the development of freedom of expression and media. At the same time, many people still lack internet access. In rural areas in particular, the radio remains many people’s main source of information.

3.3 Corruption increases inequality

Corruption is a serious threat to the rule of law, and thereby also to democracy. Corruption at all levels promotes inequality and inequitable distribution. Corruption is defined as acts, or attempted acts, whereby someone requests or receives, accepts or offers a person an improper advantage, whether in the private or public sector. Corruption also takes place between private actors both in the private sector and in civil society.

Corruption prevents the efficient use of national resources, and hampers economic growth, in addition to undermining formal processes and the political system. The negative consequences of corruption are great, whether we are talking about small-scale bribes or large-scale illicit financial flows. Small-scale corruption in the form of bribes has a direct effect on individuals’ lives. Such corruption can prevent people from gaining access to health and education services and deny them their legal rights, and thereby reduce the opportunities poor people have to lay the foundations for a better life.

The consequences of large-scale corruption such as illicit financial flows have a destructive effect on society as a whole, cf. Chapter 8. Large-scale corruption deprives the state of substantial revenues, thus undermining the possibility of providing universal high-quality health and care services and education and of investing in projects like building roads and ensuring access to water and energy.

A high level of corruption weakens trust in democratic institutions and processes as well as in the institutions tasked with safeguarding people’s rights. In a society where corruption is rife, personal financial interests may lie behind seemingly democratic decisions. People’s opportunities to influence political decisions and the country’s authorities are also affected. When institutions charged with exercising scrutiny and control, such as supreme audit institutions, parliaments, ombudsmen and the justice and police systems are corrupt, the whole basis for democratic development is undermined. Consequently, the basis for reducing poverty and improving distribution is also weakened.

Norway endeavours to prevent, uncover and prosecute corruption. Anti-corruption efforts shall be part of the work to improve governance locally, nationally and globally. Norway is a driving force in the efforts to strengthen the work of multilateral organisations in this field. The UNDP is engaged in anti-corruption work in many countries and plays a unique role in this area.

Funds that the Storting allocates for development purposes must be used in accordance with the Storting’s intentions, the Norwegian Regulations on Financial Management in Central Government and agreements that are entered into. The Government practices zero tolerance for financial irregularities, including corruption. Financial irregularities must be prevented, uncovered, reported and dealt with.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs established the Foreign Service Control Unit in November 2007 as an independent control body for the administration of all funds under the ministry’s budget. The unit is a point of contact and adviser in cases where financial irregularities are suspected. The unit is also responsible for ensuring that the Foreign Service has expedient and satisfactory instructions, systems and procedures for its financial management and that financial management in the Foreign Service is carried out in accordance with the applicable regulations. The unit’s quarterly reports are published on the Government’s website at At the end of December 2012, the Foreign Service Control Unit had received 415 notifications of financial irregularities, of which 254 had been closed and 161 were still being processed. These figures also include cases that fall under the areas of responsibility of Norad, Fredskorpset and the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries (Norfund).

Textbox 3.8 Monitoring public expenditure in Tanzania

Public Expenditure Tracking Systems (PETS) is a method used to monitor how public funds are used locally by checking that money that is allocated is used as intended. The goal is to enable people in local communities to become active citizens who are in a better position to hold their leaders accountable, demand their rights and in this way improve public services and the use of public funds.

PETS takes the village assembly meeting, part of Tanzania’s administrative structure, as its point of departure. The meeting appoints a committee that is responsible for reviewing the financing of the public services a village decides to develop, for example building a health centre, school, water supply or similar. Norwegian Church Aid funds training for the PETS committees via local partners.

This has resulted in more active local communities with better information and a greater ability to influence the villages’ plans and their implementation, which in turn improves efficiency and ensures better value for money. In some cases, corruption has also been uncovered among local leaders and interests. Local committees of religious leaders are therefore being established. They support the village committees and can intervene if powerful local interests use dishonest methods to maintain their privileges.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption

By the end of 2012, the United Nations Convention against Corruption had been ratified by 164 countries. The Convention sets out a framework for transparency and accountability requirements for states that have ratified the Convention. It is an important tool for monitoring how countries meet their commitments and for assessing where professional and economic assistance is needed. Norway ratified the Convention in 2006, and follows the international process relating to it. Participation by civil society in following up the Convention’s implementation in individual countries is important. The main elements of the Convention are prevention, criminalisation and law enforcement, international cooperation, legal mechanisms for asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange.

Public access to information and transparency in public administration are necessary in order to hold the authorities accountable and subject political decisions and the use of public funds to scrutiny.

This is fully addressed by the UN convention. Through budget support, steps are taken to strengthen systems for public financial management and public procurements, which has improved transparency and public access to information. Some countries publish their national budgets online, but this information is often hard to access and difficult to understand. It can be difficult to compare expenditure figures with budgets, and it can be demanding for parties such as civil society, parliaments, the media and academia to interpret the information. The establishment of electronic public financial management systems puts the individual countries’ supreme audit institutions in a better position to carry out checks and audits.

The Government will:

  • place greater emphasis on the state, and the development, of human rights and democracy in recipient countries in its allocation of aid

  • give priority to government-to-government cooperation with countries that show a positive trend in terms of democracy and human rights over time

  • place greater emphasis on assessing the risk that the effect of aid could be to maintain or intensify authoritarian trends

  • place greater emphasis on applying a rights-based approach to development assistance, by, inter alia, preparing guidelines for use by embassies

  • support democratic forces and human rights defenders in civil society, academia and the media. Particular priority will be given to promoting women’s political participation

  • support civil society organisations and parliaments in developing countries in their efforts to monitor public expenditure

  • review on a regular basis the state, and the development, of democracy in particularly important partner countries

  • increase its support for democratic organisations and social movements for, and made up of, children and young people

  • further develop efforts at both national and international level to combat financial irregularities in line with our zero-tolerance principle

  • invite the Norwegian Children and Youth Council to take part in a strategic cooperation on further developing the Foreign Service’s expertise regarding youth and democratic participation.



Meld. St. 19 (2012–2013) Regjeringens internasjonale kulturinnsats

Go to front page