4 Methodology and process for preparation of this review

Picture of a group of people crossing a bridge together

Photo: David González/Scream Media for Norad

4.1 Key changes/lessons learned

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the coordinating body of Norway’s first VNR from 2016. For Norway’s second VNR, the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation has been the coordinating body. This change affirms that national ownership and implementation lie at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.
  • A whole-of-government approach to this VNR-process ensured that all line ministries made a greater contribution to this review than Norway’s first VNR.
  • One of the challenges in performing Norway’s first VNR, was the lack of stakeholder involvement. For this VNR, stakeholders have written several chapters or sub-chapters, providing new perspectives and relevant examples. Norwegian civil society has performed an assessment of the progress on all the SDGs.
  • Implementation of the SDGs in a regional and local context is a key component of this review. This is achieved through close cooperation with the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities.
  • In a country-level peer dialogue, the governments of Denmark and Indonesia commented on the draft version of the VNR and provided valuable recommendations for its finalisation.

4.2 Preparation of the VNR

The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been responsible for the preparation and coordination of this second VNR of Norway.

The State Secretaries’ committee for the sustainable development goals was established in April 2020. The committee is responsible for making strategic decisions in the area of sustainable development. In February 2021, a working group led by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation was established, with overall responsibility for the review and facilitating the writing process. The Office of the Prime Minister, all ministries and a number of government agencies have contributed to the review. The report follows the UN voluntary common reporting guidelines for VNRs and is inspired by the Finnish VNR from 2020.

Norway submitted its first VNR in 2016. Similar to the 2016-review, this report is based on existing data and recently published studies and reports. In the preparation for this review, we took a closer look at five challenges in achieving the SDGs in Norway, as identified in our 2016-review. The challenges were: 1) the lack of comprehensive data, 2) more involvement from stakeholders and civil society, 3) Norway’s advancement towards the goals, 4) more in-depth knowledge about work on the SDGs locally, and 5) the lack of peer reviews.

Access to high-quality data is essential for advancing the work on the SDGs. We have therefore included a report on the global indicators in the annex of this review. The statistical overview is created by Statistics Norway in collaboration with several government agencies.

To better incorporate the views and recommendations from stakeholders and civil society in this second review, the working group established contact with three key stakeholders and gave them responsibility for coordinating with other stakeholders. The Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM) was responsible for coordinating feedback on Norway’s progress on all 17 SDGs from their network of 50 organisations working on development, environment, peace and human rights, as well as other civil society organisations working on issues related to one or several of the SDGs. The insight is presented in Chapter 6.2. UN Global Compact Norway was responsible for coordinating feedback from the industrial sector and businesses. SDG Norway contributed views and recommendations from the school- and academic sectors. The working group held extensive discussions with ForUM, UN Global Compact Norway and SDG Norway throughout this process in order to channel their knowledge into the report. The stakeholders also provided valuable input for the draft of this review.

Relevant information about Norway’s performance on the SDGs on a national level will be found in the draft of the Government White Paper on the sustainable development goals, which will be published by the end of summer. As the White paper and the VNR-report were both coordinated by the same ministry, information sharing and cooperation were easily facilitated. In the process of writing the White Paper, a public hearing was held, civil society actors were invited to share their views on how the global goals could be implemented in a national context. The responses provided valuable insights for this review.

To address the challenge of knowledge about SDG implementation in Norwegian municipalities and regions, the working group reached out to KS early in the VNR-process. KS represents all municipalities and county councils in Norway. A formalised agreement for cooperation was reached at an early stage. This ensured that this review had a clear focus on SDG implementation in municipalities and regions.

In parallel with contributing to this VNR, KS is preparing its own Voluntary Subnational review (VSR). The VSR relies on various data sources, including two surveys that were sent out to all municipalities and regional authorities, and was completed in March 2021. Thematically, the surveys were based on the ‘Policy and Enabling Environment’ chapter in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)’s Global Guiding Elements for Voluntary Local Reviews of SDG implementation, with some adjustment to fit the local and regional context in Norway. In total, 33 per cent of the municipalities (118 out of 356) and 73 per cent of the regional authorities (8 out of 11) responded to the survey. Overall, the municipality sample has a good variation across geography, size and centrality, although the sample is not representative for the national basis. The VSR will be presented at the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2021. Chapter 7 presents a summary of the VSR, which includes recommendations to the Government.

One of the biggest regrets from Norway’s VNR-process in 2016 was the absence of close cooperation with other countries. Norway has therefore cooperated with Denmark and Indonesia this time to ensure a more inclusive and peer-reviewed report. The peer dialogue was key to share ideas and exchange experiences and best practices. In addition, Norway exchanged experiences from the VNR-process at a workshop organised by the Nordic Council, as well as in various UN-fora, particularly the workshops organised by UNDESA.

4.3 Main messages from the Peer Dialogue

Norway conducted a peer review with the Governments of Denmark and Indonesia. The peer review was done based on a draft report. As a result, Norway received several recommendations and questions that were taken into account in the finalisation of the report.

4.3.1 Denmark’s main message from the Peer Dialogue

The following text is written by the Danish Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Denmark greatly appreciates the opportunity to conduct a VNR peer review with Norway, and we are grateful to be involved in meaningful peer learning with a close partner. One of the main lessons learned from our VNR preparations is how the exchange of knowledge, best practices, and mutual learning are essential aspects in advancing the overall 2030 Agenda and accelerating the implementation of the SDGs.

It should be noted that the following comments are based on the first draft of the report.

  • Norway’s second VNR is very well-structured and provides a comprehensive overview of the Norwegian progress with the SDGs. The report discloses noteworthy leadership and ownership at all levels of society with broad support in the population. The change of the coordinating body from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation shows that Norway prioritises shared national and local responsibility for SDG implementation. Norway recognises the need to further address policy coherence, which would be a beneficial addition to the next VNR.
  • We would like to applaud how Norway addresses the main challenges in relation to SDG implementation. The report includes a clear explanation of assessments of the Norwegian progress on the SDGs with both main achievements and main challenges related to each goal. Priorities are transparent, coinciding with the SDGs, highlighted in lessons learned, and thoroughly described in terms of ambitions for the next period. This emphasises the Norwegian commitment and shows valuable insight and explicit paths to follow.
  • While challenges are thoroughly described, future work could focus on an elaboration of or closer link between the challenges and the main policy initiatives related to the assessment of the progress on each goal.
  • Norway has successfully increased cooperation with stakeholders through various contributions in the report. Meaningful stakeholder engagement of civil society is particularly evident in the assessment of the progress on each goal. The role of academic institutions would be interesting to incorporate as well.
  • Norway includes a chapter on Leaving no one behind (LNOB) with a strong focus on actions, disaggregated data, and identification of the most important single factors that can result in being left behind. An interesting addition would be to link the progress on the SDGs to the LNOB agenda where relevant, showing how the agenda is mainstreamed in the implementation of the SDGs.
  • We commend how the effects of COVID-19 are extensively reflected throughout the report: Issues are highlighted, resources are described, specific goals are set, and important considerations are made about adverse effects on vulnerable groups relevant for the LNOB agenda.
  • The report provides a brief, yet thorough overview of Norway’s commitment to the SDGs when it comes to development cooperation, but also with regards to foreign, security and trade policy as well as European, Nordic and Baltic cooperation. In addition, the aspect of global responsibility is highlighted in each separate SDG chapter, which shows a strong understanding of the interdependence of SDG implementation on both national and international level.

Denmark would like to congratulate Norway on a comprehensive and successful VNR process.

4.3.2 Indonesia’s main message from the Peer Dialogue

The following text is written by the Indonesian National SDGs Secretariat.

  • Data remains to be the focus of VNRs, therefore we suggest a display of data trends (maybe on the annex), especially data trends of pre-pandemic and post-pandemic to see better the changes happening amid the pandemic.
  • It was mentioned that SDGs targets being the main direction for national (government period of 2013–2017 and the current government period of 2017–2021) and regional planning, are there any supporting documents in which states Norway’s SDGs’ achievement targets until the year of 2030?
  • It was explained the businesses which have incorporated sustainability strategies in their business processes, and that this remains a challenge as Norway continue to encourage more businesses to be more sustainable and heading towards a more circular economy. Can it be further elaborated on how these businesses report their sustainability practices or the mechanism in which Norway ensures their compliance?
  • The VNR 2021 centers on the COVID-19 pandemic, and the draft also includes a small section describing Norway’s effort in handling the pandemic. We suggest there is a specific section describing Norway’s effort in handling the pandemic at the beginning, as well as the country’s efforts and measures in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and maybe the rolling out of the vaccines.
  • In this VNR draft it was mentioned the involvement of non-state actors, such as businesses and civil societies, are youth organisations, elderly, people with disability a part of the SDGs stakeholders? If so, we suggest that it could be stated in more details on their participation and contribution. Specifically, how is SDGs transformed and/or integrated within companies?
  • How is SDGs financed in Norway? Is it financed solely by the government or are other stakeholders also participating in SDGs financing?
  • The theme for the VNR 2021 centers on the pandemic and the reporting of 9 main goals (SDG1, SDG2, SDG3, SDG8, SDG10, SDG12, SDG13, SDG16 and SDG17). Based on Norway’s policies, are there any further analysis on the interlinkages between these goals?
  • Norway could present and elaborate more on the effort to support developing countries in coping the COVID-19 pandemic through ODA. What actions were taken despite the pandemic. A ‘story’ in the box will be striking for the readers.
  • Indonesia would like to take lesson from further analysis on how Norway government responds to Civil Societies Assessment to present that the VNR is country led report and both government and civil societies assessment are being considered by the Norway government as a whole and integrated country report, and how the country tackle the challenges together, since first VNR to the 2021 VNR.

Indonesia is very honored to review Norway’s 2021 VNR and we do hope our inputs are valuable for improving the quality of Norway’s 2021 VNR.

4.4 Sámediggi’s message to the Government

The following text is coordinated by the Sámediggi (the Sami Parliament).

In decision 008/19: Climate change and sustainable development, the Sámediggi deals with issues relevant for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Sámediggi recognises that climate policy must be pursued to stop climate change that threatens all life on earth. The Sami people must contribute in line with other peoples in the world. Our homeland, Sápmi, and our culture must prepare themselves to become more resilient to climate change. Our traditional knowledge must be used actively in all climate work.

It is important that climate justice is assessed before measures in indigenous areas are planned. Indigenous peoples have not created the climate crisis, so it is reasonable that developments for renewable energy in their areas are not implemented by states or others until the affected indigenous peoples have given their free and informed prior consent.

Sami values such as community, solidarity and co-operation must be emphasised in work on climate adaptation in Sami areas. Values in the Sami languages, Sami culture, Sami industries, equality, respect for one’s own and others’ culture must find their natural place when adapting strategies.

Business and new industry in Sápmi must undertake due diligence assessments of Sami culture for their activity. Standards and ethical guidelines for achieving the SDGs and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples must be followed. The Sami Parliament reminds everyone that human rights are the first of 10 principles in the UN Global Compact, which is the world’s largest initiative for corporate social responsibility.

The Sámediggi is initiating work to have its own business certified as an Eco-lighthouse. At the same time, the Sámediggi encourages its grant recipients to do the same. The Sámediggi will help ensure that the grant recipients are motivated to become an Eco-lighthouse.

The Sámediggi will take the initiative to prepare a report that specifies what climate change will mean for sami culture, reindeer husbandry, outfield use, business and community life. Recommendations related to climate adaptation, increased resilience for sami communities, árbediehtu / sami knowledge and climate financing will be included in the report. Sami research and knowledge communities will be involved in the work on such a climate report.

4.5 Message to the Government from the university sector

The following text is coordinated by the National Committee for the 2030 Agenda in the Higher ­Education Sector (SDG Norway).

The Norwegian university sector’s main messages to the Government are as follows:

  • The global networks of universities should be utilised, and policy processes should be based on knowledge at local, national, regional and global levels.
  • When academic knowledge is utilised for policy development, it is important to apply the full range of academic disciplines and that the whole spectre of subjects and fields is considered.
  • The interdisciplinarity and flexibility of the global university sector is unique and is critical in the development of new knowledge to push for the transformational shift that is needed to achieve the SDGs.
  • Science advice mechanisms and science-to-policy methodologies are not fully developed, and governments need to place a special focus on strengthening and reinforcing the ecosystems for such mechanisms and method­ologies to evolve.

The Norwegian university sector and the SDGs

The universities are key actors in realising the transformative shift that the 2030 Agenda calls for. Given the consensus about the way forward, expressed as SDGs, new knowledge about how to develop means for achieving these goals is an important precondition for their realisation. To make a difference, the role of academic knowledge in the knowledge/policy interface needs to be strengthened at all levels, from the local level to the UN system.

In Norway, the universities, as institutions for research and higher education and based on their strong commitment to academic freedom and disciplinary flexibility, adopted at an early stage an active role as actors working with problems and challenges emerging from the SDGs. The National Committee for the 2030 Agenda in the Higher Education Sector was created in 2018 and consists of members from the five major Norwegian universities, as well as a representative from Universities Norway (UHR) and from the National Union of Students in Norway (NSO). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) also act as observers in the committee.

The committee is a bottom-up initiative from the universities, aimed at strengthening the universities’ role as a relevant player in the global debate on the societal challenges identified by the 2030 Agenda, both nationally and internationally. The committee aims to secure independent research-based knowledge and dialogues across sectors in the work for sustainable development and the social and economic transformations needed.

To strengthen its role as a promoter of the work with the SDGs, the National Committee fosters cooperation within the sector. This cooperation needs to be supported and promoted to give enough momentum to the voice of knowledge in the policy/knowledge nexus on which the 2030 Agenda seeks to build.

The global nature and integrated whole of the SDGs show the interconnectedness between fields of knowledge that only the university sector with its variety of research topics and disciplines can meet. There is a need to better utilise existing expert knowledge, but also to jointly develop new overarching disciplines crossing the human-nature science divide, and to promote activities in academia that strengthen the systems understanding that will be needed to achieve sustainability transitions.

In 2018, the National Committee organised the first national conference on the role of universities in the work with the Sustainable Development Goals; SDG Conference Bergen. Since then, the conference has been held annually, with the aim of establishing dialogue across sectors to build broad social involvement and dialogue on the challenges of sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda.

A database is being developed to register and disseminate new initiatives, new ideas and experiences with SDG-relevant teaching, courses, cross-disciplinarity, including cross-faculty cooperation, throughout the sector. This sharing of ideas and best practice initiative paves the way for a broad cooperation between universities and the spread of SDG-relevant teaching activities.

In cooperation with UNESCO, the National Committee has initiated a committee to ‘fast-track’ the debate on how universities can facilitate a transformation to better education and make research more relevant to the ‘transformative shift’ that the SDGs demand. The committee will in particular focus on:

  • The role of inter- and trans-disciplinarity for curriculum development and research programmes.
  • How to build on and promote knowledge that comprises a diverse range of traditions, institutions and epistemologies to promote a truly global knowledge base for the SDGs.
  • How to strengthen the role of universities as partners with private, public and civil society actors in the work with the SDGs.

The collaboration between universities in Norway grew out of the idea that the strength of the universities as institutions – and not only their experts – is needed in the work with the SDGs. The ‘knowledge/policy’ interface, which is important for the shaping of the SDGs, made the universities aware from the start that they must promote themselves as strong(er) partners in the dialogue with all levels of politics, from the local to the global. The national SDG Conference Bergen has served as a link between the levels of government and knowledge, with input from different parts of the world.

4.6 Message to the Government from the private sector

The following text is coordinated by UN Global Compact (UNGC).

Challenges and opportunities in the future of business

The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) identifies four main opportunities for the future of Norwegian business:

  1. Shifting to a green economy, with clean energy as a main contributor as well as circular economy principles.
  2. Leveraging the possibilities within a digital economy, through utilising the value of data, automatisation and the potential for new business models.
  3. Scaling the service-based economy to more effectively meet demands in different sectors both nationally and internationally.
  4. Internationalising the Norwegian economy further, engaging with the world and contributing to innovation both at home and abroad.

CASE: Green shipping industry

As one of Norway’s largest industries, the shipping industry is a vital contributor to the achievement of the SDG 2030 Agenda in Norway and beyond. The necessary solutions do not yet exist in a form or scale that can be applied to large commercial ships, especially those engaged in deep-sea shipping. Norwegian shipping companies, represented by the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association (NSA), have set clear goals to cut emissions. The NSA climate strategy aims to make the entire Norwegian foreign fleet climate neutral by 2050, and to order vessels with zero emission technology by 2030. The entire industry, in collaboration with authorities, both nationally and internationally, must engage in developing new and profitable green technology (Norwegian Shipowners’ Association).

Scaling of sustainable business models and public-private cooperation

Innovation, implementation and scaling of new zero and low emission technologies in many industries and sectors are limited by access to necessary capital. This includes both knowledge capital and financial capital. Start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses struggle to secure the funds needed to scale their solutions, requiring more competence among investors in relation to sustainable projects. Investors cite capital risk and lack of projects as the main reasons for not investing, and disregard claims of lack of competence. Businesses and investors cite lack of clear political strategies for sustainable solutions and framework for risk aversion in investing (EY for UNGC).

CASE: Green electrical value chains

Building ‘green electrical value chains’ involves developing the advantages that Norwegian business and industry has in renewable energy in dialogue with the industry. Historically, Norway has had a high degree of electrification and taken the lead in the use of electric cars and ferries. In addition, changes in the energy system are driven by strong trends towards a more digital, distributed and efficient energy system. Electrification in all parts of the energy system is an important tool for being able to use renewable energy sources efficiently where needed. For Norwegian business and industry, green electrical value chains represent an investment in global renewable players, the supply chain for offshore wind, batteries, hydrogen, the maritime sector and the optimisation of power systems (NHO).

Circular economy and financing the green shift

According to the partly disputed Circularity Gap Report, Norway is only 2.4 per cent circular, highlighting the need for a clear policy framework to accelerate the move towards circular solutions. This move will require more partnerships across industries and sectors, in which innovation and development of technologies as well as knowledge, tools and new markets would be key outputs (UNGC Circularity Report).

Green sovereign bonds intended to finance sustainable solutions, such as alternatives to fossil-fuelled transport or energy production is another possibility. The Norwegian research institute CICERO is the world’s largest provider of independent assessments of green bonds and the Oslo stock exchange was the first to list green bonds, making such implementation a natural step for Norway.

Harnessing the power of SMEs, reporting and due-diligence processes

Ninety-nine per cent of all companies in Norway are SMEs. Today, too few of them have implemented non-financial reporting frameworks, and there is still a need to harness the power of SMEs towards the SDGs. Today there is little data on SMEs’ contribution to sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility in Norway, and this is definitely an area that needs to be analysed in order to identify bottlenecks and opportunities.

A recent policy proposal for reporting and due diligence processes for finance actors building on the EU Taxonomy is a promising development. Another is a policy proposal on transparency regarding human rights and working condition standards, building on the UN Guiding Principles and the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. With regard to the ‘Transparency Law’, securing sufficient resources for the Consumer Authority is necessary to enable a thorough follow-up of the content of the transparency law.

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