Report No. 40 to the Storting (2008-2009)

Norway’s Humanitarian Policy

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1 Summary

As an actor in the field of humanitarian policy and a financial donor, Norway is facing a number of large and complex challenges. In cooperation with others, we will:

  • ensure that people in need are given the necessary protection and assistance

  • fund humanitarian efforts on the basis of the international principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence

  • equip the international community to meet future global humanitarian challenges

  • prevent and respond to humanitarian crises and initiate reconstruction in their wake.

Humanitarian aid, peace-building and human rights are defined as a main pillar of the Government’s foreign policy and development policy.

In September 2008, the Government presented an overall humanitarian strategy for Norway (“Norway’s humanitarian policy”). The strategy sets out a vision for Norway’s role in the humanitarian arena and presents our main priorities for the five-year period leading up to 2013. The strategy forms the basis for this white paper.

The Government’s goal is for Norway to be one of the leading political and financial partners in the field of international humanitarian assistance and to contribute to the international community being as well equipped as possible to meet future challenges. Our principal focus is on ensuring a rapid, flexible and effective response to enable us to meet changing humanitarian needs in both acute and protracted crises.

New global challenges will have an impact on security and social development in many countries. We believe that these challenges will result in more, and more complex, humanitarian crises in the years ahead.

Norway’s humanitarian policy will be influenced by these developments, as will Norway’s foreign and development policy in general. While important reforms have resulted in certain necessary improvements, the international humanitarian system must be better equipped to meet these challenges.

Textbox 1.1 Interconnections in foreign policy

The Government has presented several white papers about various aspects of Norway’s foreign and development policy. The white paper Interests, Responsibilities and Opportunities: The main features of Norwegian foreign policy (Report No. 15 (2008-2009) to the Storting) and the white paper Climate, Conflict and Capital (Report No. 13 (2008-2009) to the Storting) are both of overriding importance in this context. Together with the white paper Norwegian policy on the prevention of humanitarian crises (Report No. 9 (2007-2008) to the Storting), the white paper Corporate social responsibility in a global economy (Report No. 10 (2008-2009) to the Storting) and the white paper On Equal Terms: Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in International Development Policy (Report No. 11 (2008-2009) to the Storting), and the present white paper on Norway’s humanitarian policy, they form an updated foreign policy programme for Norway.

The main goal of Norway’s foreign policy is to look after Norwegian interests. Foreign policy should promote the welfare, security and fundamental political values of Norwegian society. The focus on interests forms a basis on which choices and prioritisations can be made between alternative foreign policy solutions and strategies. Administering the substantial Norwegian aid funds in a good manner is also in Norway’s interests.

The main goal of Norway’s development policy is to help to combat poverty and promote human rights. Our efforts are directed at both international and regional framework conditions and at the possibilities that lie in each country and local community.

Globalisation and geopolitical change have dramatically changed the conditions for achieving political goals. International conflicts and crises, climate change, new security challenges, the spread of infectious diseases and the failure of financial markets affect everyone. Norway’s welfare and welfare in the rest of the world are more closely interlinked than before. This provides strong justification for active Norwegian engagement in the form of development policy, peace-building, humanitarian efforts and work to promote human rights and democracy. Expanded dialogue and cooperation with poor countries and emerging economies will become increasingly important to our own development and our future.

It is not national interests that underlie Norway’s humanitarian policy, but extensive humanitarian needs in the most vulnerable countries. The long-term crises – climate change, weakening of people’s means of livelihood and widespread poverty – are the greatest challenges facing the international community. Extensive national and international efforts in these areas are a precondition for preventing humanitarian disasters. But we must also succeed, through concerted efforts, in dealing with crises of a more temporary nature, such as the financial crisis and the food crisis, and, not least, in seizing the opportunities such crises provide for making lasting improvements.

Current global developments point in the wrong direction in terms of reducing the risk of humanitarian disasters and growing humanitarian needs. We are witnessing an increase in the global risk level, even if we take an optimistic climate scenario as our starting point. Any further increase in the risk of climate change will serve to reinforce the already very uneven distribution of risk, vulnerability and poverty.

While the white paper Norwegian policy on the prevention of humanitarian crises focused on measures aimed at preventing humanitarian disasters, this white paper emphasises humanitarian diplomacy and humanitarian assistance in addition to the need to strengthen the administration of humanitarian funds. The preventive aspect is discussed, however, primarily with a view to updating the Storting on Norway"s efforts in relation to adaptation to climate change. Otherwise, see the white paper Norwegian policy on the prevention of humanitarian crises for more detailed information about our preventive efforts.

The major global challenges, acute or long-term, cannot be solved by individual countries alone. They require greater international cooperation and better global organisation, and, not least, they require more donors. Norway wishes to contribute to an international policy that strengthens the global public goods, that builds a global framework of institutions and that safeguards the global rule of law – in our own best interests and in the interest of far more vulnerable countries. The Government wishes to pursue this goal through good coordination between various policy instruments within the overall framework of Norwegian foreign policy.

The core of humanitarian efforts consists of saving individual lives, alleviating suffering and ensuring human dignity, regardless of ethnic background, gender, age, religion or political affiliation. Pursuing these goals is a key part of Norway’s policy of engagement. It was the point of departure for the development of “the Norwegian model”, i.e. close cooperation – but also a clear division of roles – between the Norwegian authorities and the non-governmental humanitarian organisations (NGOs). A large proportion of Norwegian humanitarian funds is channelled through these organisations. Their expertise and comparative advantages will be very important in further development of the Norwegian model.

As an actor in the field of humanitarian policy, we take the side of the victims, civilians and vulnerable fellow human beings. The principle of neutrality that underlies humanitarian aid does not mean that we will remain silent about maltreatment or abuses of power. Defending and promoting human rights is paramount in humanitarian crises. Whether humanitarian diplomacy should be conducted out of the public eye or in full public view will be decided by what is the most effective means of helping the victims in each case.

Our engagement is not limited to safeguarding humanitarian rights and responding to humanitarian needs. Together with our partners, we wish to change the operating parameters for humanitarian efforts. Norway will contribute to far greater investments being made in prevention, climate change adaptation and humanitarian emergency preparedness than is currently the case. In these efforts, we will focus on those who are affected by humanitarian disasters – on their rights, their emergency preparedness and their response capacity.

Humanitarian crises require political solutions. Our peace and reconciliation efforts, our political dialogue with affected countries, our contribution to international peace operations, our development cooperation, the climate and forest initiative, our focus on humanitarian disarmament and work on strengthening human rights are all important contributions to preventing humanitarian suffering.

Rights, principles and values form the main basis for Norway’s humanitarian activities, but they should also be based on knowledge, expertise and robust administration. The administration of humanitarian funds should result in desired and quantifiable outcomes. In Document No. 3:2 (2008-2009), the Office of the Auditor General presented a performance audit of the effectiveness of Norwegian humanitarian assistance. While the audit gives considerable recognition to Norway’s efforts in the field, it also contains several critical remarks, for example on the administration of the assistance. The document was considered by the Storting on 23 March this year. The white paper discusses concrete measures intended to improve the effectiveness of Norwegian humanitarian assistance in accordance with the remarks made by the Office of the Auditor General and the Storting.

Norway’s humanitarian engagement is part of an overall foreign and development policy programme for peace and sustainable development as formulated in the white paper Climate, Conflict and Capital and the white paper Interests, Responsibilities and Opportunities . This white paper expands on Norway’s policy of humanitarian engagement, including our activities in conflict areas and in relation to the effects of global climate and environmental change.