6 Progress on Goals and targets

Illustration showing the icons for all 17 SDG goals

6.1 Current state and key changes 2016–2021

Norway generally ranks high in many international indexes that measure welfare and development, e.g. the Human Development Index (HDI). In the SDG Index, Norway is currently ranked at number 6. Norway often has a high ranking because of our strong economy, universal welfare system, well-functioning legal and democratic institutions, and a high level of trust in the government.

According to the SDG Index, Norway’s performance is particularly high for SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals). However, significant improvement is needed in relation to several SDG targets. This includes targets 6.5 and 6.6 on water management and restoring degraded water ecosystems, target 9.1 on sustainable infrastructure, and targets 12.2 and 12.5 on sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources and reducing waste generation.

Like many other Western countries, Norway is among the top 30 countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita. In the SDG Index, Norway’s performance is lowest when it comes to SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and SDG 13 (climate action). Norway did not meet any of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets set for 2020, thereby failing to achieve the international biodiversity goals.

6.2 Progress in SDGs

The following progress report reflects the overall status and progress in the SDGs since Norway’s first Voluntary National Review (VNR) in 2016. The assessment is based on available data. Civil society has performed a separate assessment. A detailed progress report on the status and progress in the global indicators is found in the annex. The structure of the report on each SDG is inspired by Finland’s VNR in 2020.

The government assessments are illustrated using the following:

Smiling face

Norway has met the target

Neutral face

Norway has not met the target, but is close

Unhappy face

Norway has not met the target

Arrow up

The progress is positive

Arrow sideways

The progress is small, but slow

Arrow down

The progress is negative or has stagnated

The civil society assessments uses the following symbols to indicate performance:

Arrow up

Norway has made positive progress towards achieving the goal

Arrow sideways

Norway’s progress towards achieving the goal has stagnated

Arrow down

Norway’s progress towards achieving the goal has slowed down

1 No poverty

End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Government assessment


Due to universal welfare schemes, no one in Norway is living in extreme poverty.


The proportion of persons living in low-income households has gradually increased from 8.1 per cent to 10.1 per cent in the last ten years. The risk of poverty due to lack of basic material needs remains at a stable and low level.


Norway has a well-developed public welfare system, and offers comprehensive social security covering to the whole population.


The entire population has equal rights and access to economic resources, financial services, and basic welfare services, such as health care and education.


The National Insurance Scheme provides income in the event of sickness, unemployment, disability, loss of breadwinner and old age, and parental and child benefits.


General status: From an international perspective, inequalities in income and the incidence of poverty in Norway are low. A minority of the population has a persistently low income. The persistent at-risk-of-poverty rate has increased somewhat in the last ten years. In recent years, the real income growth has weakened, and the income increase in the lowest income group has been weaker than in the rest of the population. The risk of poverty due to lack of basic material needs remains at a stable and low level.

Figure 6.1 Population living with a persistent low income 1997–2019 (EU scale 60 per cent below median income, three-year consecutive years)

Graph showing the percentage of the population living with persistent low income between 1997 and 2019.

Source: Statistics Norway

Main achievements: High labour market participation and policies to promote economic growth have reduced the extent and severity of poverty. Universal welfare schemes and a comprehensive welfare state have improved general living conditions, especially for low-income and vulnerable groups. Low income among elderly people has been significantly reduced over time.

Norway’s main challenge is to maintain equal income distribution, increase participation of vulnerable groups in the labour market and prevent the intergenerational transmission of poverty. The increase in child poverty, especially among families with immigrant backgrounds, is of particular concern due to the negative consequences of poverty on children’s quality of life and life prospects.

Global responsibility: Norway’s objective is to eradicate extreme poverty. A high priority is given to the least developed countries. Norway has launched a development program to combat modern slavery and a strategy against harmful practices. A strategy for inclusion of persons with disabilities is currently being developed.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021
  • Reinforced the youth effort to improve employment and activity of persons under age 30 (2017).
  • Nationwide labour market inclusion effort (2018).
  • White paper on the Government’s strategy to counteract inequality (2019).
  • Integration measures to improve language skills, job skills and employment of the immigrant population.
  • National Strategy to Reduce Child Poverty (2015–2017) followed by a Strategy for Children and Youth in Low-income Families (2020–2023).
  • Increased the universal child benefit.
  • Measures to give children in low-income families’ equal opportunities to participate in social and learning activities.
  • Increased the national grant scheme for the inclusion of children and youth in leisure and holiday activities and introduced a national pilot scheme with leisure cards for children aged 6–18 years to cover participation fees for sports, cultural or leisure activities.
  • Discount schemes for children from low-income families in kindergarten. 20 hours per week of free kindergarten care for children in low-income families. A discount scheme for before and after-school programme fees has also been established.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: UNICEF Norway, Strømme Foundation, the Salvation Army Norway, the Development Fund Norway, YGlobal, SOS Children’s Villages Norway and the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM).

Trend: Negative

Norway has succeeded in that poverty levels remain low in Norway. Extreme poverty is virtually non-existent. In 2018, the estimated ratio of people in Norway living on less than PPP $1.90 a day was 0.3 per cent. However, challenges remain pertaining to relative, multi-dimensional poverty.

Internationally, Norway has maintained Official Development Assistance (ODA) levels at a commendable yearly average of around 1.04 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) in the 2016–2020 period, surpassing the 0.7 per cent ODA/GNI target. In 2020, ODA peaked at a record 1.11 per cent of GNI. The share of Norwegian ODA targeting least developed and low-income countries has grown from 48 per cent (2016) to 56 per cent (2020).

Norway’s challenge is that too many people in Norway still suffer adverse health and social outcomes related to economic, social and material deprivation, including social exclusion and psychological trauma. In 2019, 24 per cent of people aged 16 and over reported not being able to afford an unexpected expense of approximately $2,045 (NOK 18,000). Five per cent reported not being able to afford dental care.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation for the poor, and has substantially increased the number of people at risk of poverty. Norway has had a steady increase in the proportion of children growing up in households with persistently low incomes. From a rate of around 7.7 per cent in 2011, the rate increased to 11.7 per cent in 2019. This is particularly troubling, seeing as deprivation in childhood not only threatens children’s rights, but may feed a cycle of poverty, affecting individuals’ future health and well-being. There were 115,000 children living in low-income households in 2019. Over half of these children had immigrant backgrounds. Statistics Norway highlights weak attachment to the labour market as the main risk factor for households.

Unemployment rates more than doubled when the pandemic hit. Subsequently, unemployment has decreased to around 205,800 persons registered in mid-March 2021. This translates to approximately 7 per cent of the workforce; an increase compared to 2016, when the rate was approximately 4.8 per cent. At-risk groups (e.g. persons with immigrant backgrounds) are overrepresented. A total of 9.2 per cent of immigrants were registered as unemployed in Q4 2020.

Even if Norwegian ODA is contributing cross-sectorally to combating poverty, the share of development assistance aimed at protecting the most vulnerable against future shocks through climate adaptation is still relatively low, despite ambitious plans.

Norway must:
  • re-integrate and include more people in the labour market, including persons with immigrant backgrounds;
  • strengthen comprehensive, inclusive and universal social protection and welfare systems for all inhabitants, minimising geographical and other disparities;
  • expand child-sensitive social protection programmes, including universal cash benefits for children. Child benefits should be index-linked, and should not entail deductions from other necessary welfare benefits for recipients;
  • maintain support for significant and enhanced ODA commitments to accelerate implementation of the 2030 agenda. Norway must continue to commit at least 1 per cent of GNI to ODA, and should commit to further ODA increases in light of post-pandemic challenges;
  • through development policies, promote universal welfare solutions that reach everyone, including universal health coverage and education;
  • enhance post-pandemic efforts to support resilient livelihoods for the extremely poor and those most vulnerable to conflicts, climate change and natural resource depletion.

2 Zero hunger

End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Government assessment


Norway has ensured that everyone has access to enough healthy and safe food that meets nutritional needs and food preferences, all year round.


No significant malnutrition exists in the Norwegian population. Nutritional challenges are primarily related to overweight and obesity, and risk of malnutrion among older frailty persons.


There are well-developed institutions in both the agricultural and maritime sector that provide equal access to knowledge, financial services, technology and other productive resources.


Land suitable for arable crops is limited in Norway, but we have a variety of fisheries, grasslands and cultural landscapes that are managed for food production. Land degradation is of little concern in Norway, however we have targets to limit the conversion of cropland to other uses and these have been met in recent years. Climate change and other environmental change challenge food production. There is a continuous need for adaptation to such change and to address environmental pressures and enable co-benefits that arise.


Cultivated plants are maintained in a joint Nordic gene bank and national clone archives, and livestock worthy of preservation through conservation herds and subsidy schemes.


General status: Food security in general is good in Norway as a result of a combination of political ambitions at national level and international cooperation and regulations to ensure safe food through international trade. However, lack of physical activity and unhealthy diets that trigger obesity remain a challenge. People in general consume too much salt, added sugar and saturated fat, and not enough fruit, berries, vegetables, whole grains and fish.

Figure 6.2 Agricultural area transferred to non-agricultural uses under the provision of the Land Act and The Planning and Building Act

Graph showing agricultural area transferred to non-agricultural uses between 2005 and 2019.

Source: Statistics Norway

Main achievements: The overall good status of national food security is based on the following three pillars: sustainable management of resources for food production, continuous production of safe food from land and sea, and trade. The Norwegian fisheries and agriculture sectors are amongst the highest value-creating primary industries in the world. Both sectors have well-developed institutions that provide access to knowledge, capital, technology and other production resources. Reindeer husbandry is an important industry in some parts of the country. Norway has established the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, in which 1,081,026 seed samples from 87 gene banks are securely stored.

Main challenges: With global environmental change, food production in our latitudes may become more important. For such production to last, we must manage resources long-term and ensure recruitment and income for households involved in food production. Climate change and other environmental change challenge food production in Norway. Agricultural production has to adapt to changing climatic conditions, and soil resources have to be protected to ensure food production. Mapping protecting soils have generated comprehensive knowledge of Norwegian soil resources. As a result, soil health has been given priority in agricultural policy. Maintaining the good status of animal and plant conditions is a challenge given that climate change is a risk factor. Securing sustainable reindeer husbandry depends on adequate grazing land. The availability of grazing land is increasingly challenged by external elements, such as the land use of other sectors.

Global responsibility: Ending hunger is a high priority in Norway’s foreign and development policy. Norway’s Action Plan for Sustainable Food Systems is designed to assist low-income countries in feeding their own population by focusing on 1) increased sustainable climate-resilient food production, 2) higher sustainable value-creation and improved markets, 3) healthier nutrition and diets and 4) better policy and governance. Norway supports more than 50 projects and programs in developing countries in the implementation of the Action Plan. The main result is increased food security for millions of poor people.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 11 (2016–2017) Change and development – agricultural production for the future.
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 32 (2016–2017) on the current policies for reindeer husbandry.
  • The Government’s cross-sectorial Action Plan for Healthier and Better Diets (2017–2021).
  • National Strategy, Securing the Gene Pool for Future Agriculture and Food production, for conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture (2019).
  • National Strategy on Protection of Agricultural, latest revision 2021.
  • Norway’s Action Plan on Sustainable Food Systems 2019–2023.
  • National Strategy for Urban Farming (2021).
  • Norway’s Strategy on Climate Adaption, Prevention of Climate­-Related Disasters and Fighting Hunger (2021).
  • Norway’s Climate Action Plan for 2021–2030.
  • The Government’s cross-sectoral strategy to develop Norway as a ‘Food Nation’.
  • National strategy on pollination.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: the Norwegian Agrarian Association, Caritas Norway, FIAN Norway, the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM), the Norwegian Grandparents Climate Campaign, the Royal Norwegian Society for Development, Norwegian Church Aid (member of ACT Alliance), Spire and the Development Fund Norway.

Trend: Stagnant

Norway has already succeeded in securing food for many generations, and hunger is eradicated in Norway. The farmers’ unions and the Government have signed agreements to secure the multi-functionality in agriculture. Norway has committed to implementing the 4 per 1000 Initiative in order to increase the soil carbon stocks. Farmers’ organisations have made plans to cut GHG emissions. Norway has increased the political focus on the importance of small-scale food producers (farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, gatherers) as key actors for ensuring food security (food from agriculture and sea, fresh waters) in development policy. Together with developing countries, Norway holds and promotes a clear and strong position on farmers’ rights to seeds in order to ensure food security and climate adaptation. Norway supports research on sustainable food production systems both nationally and internationally. The Government, farmers’ organisations and the food industry have made an agreement to reduce food loss. Production of biogas from food waste is increasing.

Norway’s challenges include that a third of elderly people in Norwegian hospitals and municipal health-care services are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. Meanwhile, the obesity rate for children in Norway is 15 to 20 per cent, and Norway has the most obese population among the Nordic countries. The self-sufficiency ratio for food produced in Norway is only 40 per cent. The grocery retail market is dominated by only three grocery retail chains, which in combination hold a 98 per cent market share. In relation to Norway’s contribution to SDG 2 internationally, the country’s main challenge is to follow up its Action Plan for Sustainable Food Systems with an increase in Norwegian development aid to support food security and agriculture. Only 6 per cent (2017) of the Norwegian development aid is used to support these areas. Small-scale food producers need predictable support and long-term perspectives. A key challenge is to raise the discussion on food in relation to other SDGs and how these are influenced by what we eat, how food is produced, where it is produced and how it is used (food loss).

Norway must:
  • develop a plan for each municipality for the realisation of rights to food and health according to the concluding observations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
  • mitigate risks stemming from the limited number of food retail chains (3) in Norway;
  • promote sustainable food systems that address control over feed and food production and natural resources, increase self-sufficiency and the population’s need for a healthy and sustainable diet, fair trade and investments;
  • shift subsidy schemes from volume production to area production in order to safeguard self-sufficiency, the social mission of agriculture, cultural landscape and the world’s resource base;
  • support the genetic diversity of plants and seeds and local communities’ rights to harvest and share these in international fora and through own trade agreements;
  • increase support for small-scale producers, through improved access to financial support and support for cooperatives and extension services;
  • double foreign development aid in food security and agriculture (excluding humanitarian assistance) and recalibrate the support in response to COVID-19;
  • acknowledge that the Paris Agreement defines support for climate adaptation in developing countries to protect the most vulnerable, which is equally important to mitigating efforts, and increase Norway’s support for adaptation to 50 per cent of all climate finance;
  • promote and finance a human rights approach that takes into account minimum living conditions. A useful tool is the Human Rights Measurement Initiative;
  • provide information and background for relevant discussions and decision-making processes connected to food in a global perspective.

3 Good health and well-being

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Government assessment


Norway has a very low maternal mortality rate and safe maternity care with a high level of skilled personnel.


The mortality rate for infants and children under 5 years is less than 3 per 1,000. Risk births are followed closely.


There is a low level of deaths by communicable diseases, and hardly any water-borne diseases. A vaccination programme has reduced chlamydia among young people.


Non-communicable diseases represent the biggest burden of disease in Norway. Challenges are linked to risk factors like decreasing physical activity, unhealthy diets and smoking. These are related to social inequity. Mental health problems are important and increasing among younger people. The suicide rate is too high.


Harmful alcohol consumption has gone down, but alcohol use is still an important health risk. Treatment for substance abuse is improving, but the number of overdoses is stable.


Deaths and injuries in road accidents have fallen significantly.


Universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services is very good for all, not dependent on gender, age, ethnicity or sexual orientation.


The level of universal health coverage is very good, with limits on out-of-pocket payments. Dental care coverage is limited to some groups.


Deaths and illnesses from pollution and contamination are few, but air pollution is a health risk in some areas.


General status: Norway has a well-developed system of universal health coverage and access to quality health care for all. Life expectancy is high and increasing; in 2020 it was 85 years for women and 81.5 years for men. However, non-communicable diseases and social inequities are still public health challenges. Women and men with a short education (primary/lower secondary level) can expect to live about five years less than those with a long education.

Figure 6.3 Suicide mortality rate

Graph showing suicide mortality rate.

Source: Norwegian Institute of Public Health

Main achievements: Life expectancy and healthy life years are going up for both men and women. The reduction in smoking and better medical interventions have significantly brought down the number of premature deaths from cardio-vascular disease and cancer in the last ten years. Norway has a well-developed health system, with universal health coverage, and most health services are financially accessible to all. Access to sexual and reproductive health services is very good for all, not dependent on gender, age ethnicity or sexual orientation. Preventive programs for HIV- risk groups have been introduced. The level of air pollution is decreasing.

Main challenges: Decreasing physical activity as well as obesity and unhealthy diets are a public health challenge. Despite a drop in the number of daily smokers, smoking is still the main contributor to illness and premature death, and is significant for social inequality in health. Mental health issues are increasing. Suicides account for an important part of premature deaths in men. Alcohol use is a risk factor in the loss of healthy life years. The death rate from overdoses of illegal drugs is relatively high in Norway. Social inequalities persist as a major risk factor for inequities in health.

Global responsibility: Financial support has been increased considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic, including for mobilising resources for access to vaccines, testing and other COVID-19 tools. Norway’s contribution to the ACT Accelerator is in excess of USD 500 million. Norway provides substantial financial support to Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, WHO, UNAIDS and the Global Financing Facility in their work. Additionally, Norway support institutional collaboration at bilateral level to strengthen public health and health systems. A strategy on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has been launched, which includes a focus on mental health. Norway endorses the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021  
  • National Action Plan for Better Nutrition (2017–2021).
  • Strategy for Sexual Health 2017–2022: Talk about it!
  • Strategy for Good Mental Health 2017–2022, followed by an Action Plan for Mental Health in Children and Youths (2019–2024).
  • National Programme for an Age-friendly Norway (2019–2023).
  • National Alcohol Strategy (2020–2025).
  • Dementia Plan 2020 and Dementia Plan 2025.
  • The Government’s Action plan for Physical Activity (2020–2029) ’Together for physically active lives’.
  • White Paper No. 19 (2018–2019) Public Health Report – A Good Life in a Safe Society.
  • Better Health, Better lives. Combating Non-Communicable Diseases in the Context of Norwegian Development Policy (2020–2024).

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: FORUT – Campaign for Development and Solidarity, the Norwegian Medical Students´ Association (NMSA-Norway), SOS Children’s Villages Norway, UNICEF, Save the Children Norway, IPPF-Norway, the Norwegian Association for Outdoor Organisations, the Norwegian Trekking Association, the Norwegian Cancer Society, Unio (the Confederation of Unions for Professionals and Poly Norway.

Trend: Stagnant

Norway has succeeded in having a well-developed health system and a population in general good health. The goal of reducing premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 25 per cent by 2025 has been achieved, and was adjusted to a reduction by a third by 2030. Important factors are recognising voluntary work as an important role in good public health, as well as maintaining one of the world’s strictest tobacco policies.

Norway has succeeded in playing a leading role within global health. Norway has contributed heavily in financial terms to GAVI, CEPI and COVAX. Norway’s development policy has advocated for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and has helped raise awareness of harmful traditional practices.

Norway’s challenge is the lack of political follow-up of goals and measures, especially goals related to physical activity, diet, overweight and obesity, and social inequalities in health. The UN has criticised Norway for not giving the same health rights to undocumented migrants. Higher education adds 5–6 years to a person’s life, compared to those with low levels of education. The mortality rate of drug-related deaths is high compared to other countries. Access to services connected to SRHR in Norway is undemocratic and unequal, especially when it comes to the Sáami population and other minorities. Sex workers are also excluded from universal sexual and reproductive health-care services, especially in the wake of COVID.Norway’s challenge is that studies by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health show levels of heavy metals, arsenic and mineral manganese, measured in maternal blood during pregnancy, associated with increased risk of ADHD and/or autism. Diseases caused by climate change, environmental toxins and antibiotic resistance are in danger of increasing and must be monitored.

Norway has launched an NCD strategy and an action plan, in which mental health has been included as a factor for early death for the first time. However, Norway has yet to prioritise NCDs in Norwegian development policies even though they represent one of the greatest threats to achieving the SDGs.

Norway must:
  • implement economic incentives on health-damaging products such as alcohol, various foods, tobacco and drugs;
  • make health-promoting goods more available for the whole population;
  • involve the voluntary sector as a key player in preventive and health-promoting work;
  • introduce one hour of daily physical activity in schools, and ensure good-quality outdoor areas in school, pre-school and nursery facilities;
  • give nature a higher priority in spatial planning and introduce a national goal of a maximum of 500 metres to the nearest walking trail or nature area;
  • recognise nature as a tool in preventing mental health issues, and prioritise health-promoting work related to mental health and well-being;
  • in line with UN drug conventions, focus on prevention, holistic treatment and rehabilitation programmes to replace incarceration and fines as a reaction to minor drug offences;
  • implement an equitable health system that includes dignified follow-up for asylum seekers and stateless persons;
  • lead the international effort to integrate NCDs into the development agenda, especially in relation to mental health, and include civil society in its implementation;
  • increase its support for the SAFER initiative to assist low- to middle-income countries;
  • take the international lead to shape and coordinate an improved system for pandemic preparedness and response, including fair and equitable development of medicines and vaccines.

4 Quality education

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Government assessment


Primary and secondary education is free and accessible for all. Completion rates for secondary education remain a challenge.


All children have access to pre-primary education.


Tertiary education in Norway is free for all and maintains a good quality.


Measures have been taken to raise the status of vocational subjects and reduce the high dropout rate.


Gendered differences in learning outcomes still persist in the Norwegian educational system.


Ten per cent of the Norwegian population has poor reading skills, about 15 per cent has a poor understanding of numbers.


Sustainable development is one of three interdisciplinary topics in the new curricula for primary school.


General status: Norway can demonstrate solid results and progress on many SDG 4 indicators. Education in Norway maintains a good quality and is accessible to all. However, some challenges remain. Over 20 per cent of pupils fail to complete secondary education. Gendered differences in learning outcomes and higher education enrolment is another area in need of improvement. The last few years have seen several educational reforms.

Figure 6.4 Proportion of pupils at the end of lower secondary school (year 10) achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics

Graph showing proportion of pupils at the end of lower secondary school achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics.

Source: UN Global Database, OECD, Ministry of Education and Research

Main achievements: 
  • In 2019, 98 per cent of children aged five attended kindergarten.
  • All children have a right and an obligation to attend primary and lower secondary education. Nighty-eight per cent continued into upper secondary education in 2019.
  • Schooling and higher education are mainly free, which is why Norway scores high on the SDGs regarding access to education.
  • Norwegian 15-year-olds perform slightly above the OECD average in reading and mathematics, and equal to the OECD average in science.
  • Norway has a relatively high proportion of people with primary and lower secondary education.
Main challenges: 
  • Completion rates in upper secondary education remain a challenge. Of the cohort that started in 2013, 78.1 per cent completed within five or six years, up 6 percentage points compared to the cohort starting in 2006.
  • Boys consistently score lower than girls in reading and most other subjects throughout primary and secondary education.
  • Gender differences are reflected in higher education enrolment. Fifty-eight per cent of women aged 25–34 had a higher education or a higher vocational education in 2019, compared to 40 per cent of men.
  • Sixty-four per cent of students with physical disabilities do not complete their education.

Global responsibility: Quality education for all is a priority area in Norway’s development policy. About two-thirds of Norway’s aid for education is channelled through multilateral partners such as UNICEF, the Global Partnership for Education, Education Cannot Wait and UNESCO. Programmes funded by Norway focus on quality and inclusion and many of them have a component of teacher training. Norway has focused its aid on low-income countries, and countries affected by crisis and conflict. Inclusion of girls and marginalised groups, including children with disabilities, is a key priority. Norway also focuses on quality education in emergencies.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021  
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 4 (2018–2019) Long-term plan for research and higher education 2019–2028.
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 6 (2019–2020) Early intervention and inclusive education in kindergartens, schools and out-of-school-hours care.
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 14 (2019–2020) Skills Reform.
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 21 (2020–2021) Completion reform in upper secondary education.
  • Fagfornyelsen: renewal and implementation of core curriculum and subject curricula in 2020.
  • Measures to improve opportunities for young people after the pandemic, including: measures to ensure employment for apprentices, funding for more student places and student jobs.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: the United Nations Association of Norway, UNICEF Norway, Junior Achievement, the Strømme Foundation, the Norwegian Library Association, ADRA Norway, SAIH, the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) Norway, the Norwegian Association for Outdoor Organisations, Save the Children Norway, the Salvation Army, IPPF Norway, the Norwegian Guide and Scout Association, CISV, the Norwegian Forum of Disabled Peoples’ Organisations SAFO, Dyslexia Norway, the National Union of Students in Norway, NITO, CCL, the RORG network, Unio (the Confederation of Unions for Professionals and SOS Children’s Villages.

Trend: Stagnant

Norway has succeeded in building a very good and robust educational system, which guarantees all children equal access to free, standardised education. In 2020, Norway integrated Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into the general curriculum by creating three cross-disciplinary school subjects; ‘Sustainable Development’, ‘Democracy and Citizenship’ and ‘Public Health and Life Skills’.

Internationally, Norway has increased education aid for low-income countries and strengthened the Tax for Development programme that enables development countries to improve domestic financing for education. Norway also participates in various student exchange programmes with universities across the world.

Norway’s challenge is a shortage of qualified school teachers and kindergarten employees. While sustainable development is anchored in the new curriculum, teacher education programmes do not include specific training for teaching sustainable development. Without proper training on social, economic and environmental sustainability, teachers could not be expected to take ownership of ESD. This would, in turn, limit the momentum of the new curriculum. The teacher education programmes also lack sufficient training in Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE). As we see more nationalist and isolationist sentiments across Europe, more focus is also needed on global citizenship education.

The PISA 2018 survey shows that one in five Norwegian 15-year-olds are ‘low-performing’ readers. Systematic use of school libraries in education would have a positive impact. It is also important to identify reading difficulties at an earlier stage, especially among ethnic minorities. Translating and adapting teaching material to Sámi languages is still a challenge. The extent to which pupils with disabilities are included in schools is not satisfactory. This challenge increases with age, and at present, only 30 per cent continue to upper secondary school alongside their peers. Another challenge is the high percentage of dropouts at the upper secondary school level, which is worst among boys and in vocational training programmes.

Norway must:
  • integrate ESD as part of the teachers’ education and provide schools with the necessary tools to ensure active-based learning for all pupils so they acquire the knowledge and skills needed for sustainable development;
  • implement valid indicators for measuring, evaluating and reporting on target 4.7, that includes non-formal sectors;
  • strengthen the efforts to recover learning losses and physical as well as psychological impacts of COVID-19 nationally and globally;
  • introduce more inclusive, formal and non-formal child and youth-centred quality education with a focus on individuality, diverse practices, creative activities and a more flexible transition from lower to upper secondary school;
  • ensure satisfactory outdoor areas for daily physical activities and outdoor teaching;
  • use laws, regulations and earmarked funds to ensure the full inclusion of pupils with disabilities at all levels of their education;
  • strengthen anti-bullying efforts, especially regarding cyber-bullying;
  • provide flexible digital learning nationally, and extend these same opportunities globally;
  • earmark 15 per cent of development aid to education and increase support to relevant education funds and partnerships, UN organisations and civil society actors. Stop all ODA funding to for-profit schools. Providing free, inclusive, public, quality education should be the cornerstone of Norwegian development aid, in line with human rights, SDG 4 and our domestic education policy;
  • continue its global leadership role for the right to quality education, systematically promoting equality and accessibility in quality education, and safe schools, globally and at home.

5 Gender equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Government assessment


The gender equality situation is very good, but there is still room for improvement.


Norway still has a problem with violence against women, but has several local and national initiatives to mitigate this.


Harmful practices are prohibited by law, but challenges still remain.


The public services and social rights in Norway ensure equal opportunities to work and raise a family. The parental leave period has been divided into three equal parts.


There is gender equality in politics and the public sector, but there are still challenges in the private sector.


Everyone in Norway has access to good sexual and reproductive health care. Comprehensive sexual education, birth control and safe abortions are easily accessible.


General status: Norway has a high degree of gender equality. The employment rate is nearly as high for women as for men. There are good parental benefits, extensive flexible work arrangements, a statutory right to leave to care for sick children and an entitlement to part-time work in connection with the care of children under 12. Parents of young children have a statutory right to day care with a price cap, and day care is offered to young schoolchildren outside school hours.

Figure 6.5 Proportion of seats held by women in local government, per election year

Graph showing the proportion of seats held by women in local government between 1979 and 2019.

Source: Statistics Norway

Main achievements:
  • Norway is ranked 2nd out of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2020. This is due to political agreement over decades that initiatives to promote gender equality are necessary, good legal protection against discrimination and a low-threshold system for enforcing the protection against discrimination.
  • An increasing number of women complete previously male-dominated higher education, such as medicine, law, economics and engineering.
  • The long trend shows a reduction in the gender wage gap. In 2020, women’s wages were on average 87.5 per cent of men’s wages.
  • Never before have fathers taken out so many days of parental leave as in 2020.
  • Equal representation in politics and at management level in the public sector.
Main challenges:
  • Norway has challenges relating to violence against women. This includes domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, social control, honour-related violence and forced marriages.
  • Women are still vastly underrepresented in positions where financial decisions are made in the private sector.
  • Among the CEOs of the 200 largest companies in Norway, 14 per cent are women (2020).

Global responsibility: Promoting women’s rights and gender equality are fundamental in Norway’s foreign and development policy, both through targeted initiatives and as a cross-cutting issue. Giving priority to women’s political participation and economic empowerment is crucial. Promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights is a main priority. Norway has stepped up its efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises and has intensified its focus on eliminating harmful practices such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, and son preference. Likewise, ensuring women’s participation in peace and reconciliation processes is a key Norwegian priority.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021  
  • White paper, Meld. St. 7 (2015–2016) Equality in practice – Equal opportunities for women and men.
  • Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Foreign and Development Policy (2016–2020).
  • Action Plan to Combat Negative Social Control, Forced Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (2017–2020).
  • Escalation Plan to Fight Violence and Abuse (2017–2021).
  • Action Plan for Female Entrepreneurship (2019).
  • Norway’s International Strategy to Eliminate Harmful Practices (2019–2023).
  • Norway’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (2019–2022).
  • National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Rape (2019–2022).
  • Action Plan to Combat Negative Social Control and Honour-related Violence (2021).
  • Action Plan against Domestic Violence (2021).

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: IPPF Norway, Bibi Amka Woman Wake Up, FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development, FRI, KFUK-KFUM Global, KUN Centre for Equality and Diversity, the Centre for Equality, LO Norway – the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, the Royal Norwegian Society for Development, the Norwegian Guide and Scout Association, Plan International Norway, Poly Norway, Save the Children, the Sámi Women’s Network, the Norwegian Youth Network for Sexual Politics, the Centre for Gender and Equality, Sex and Society, Unio (the Confederation of Unions for Professionals and Soroptimist Norway).

Trend: Stagnant

Norway has succeeded in strengthening active equality efforts, and as of 2020, employers must make systematic efforts to promote gender equality and prevent discrimination. A legislative update on hate crime from 2021 is also now providing necessary legal protection for trans women. The Action Plan to Combat Negative Social Control, Forced Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation was launched in 2017.

Norway is a strong international advocate for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), with a particular focus on eliminating harmful practices. Norway has actively contributed to putting sexual violence in humanitarian crises on the international agenda. A development programme against modern slavery was established in 2020.

Norway’s challenges are systematic inequalities between men and women in economy, politics and business. In employment, the gender-segregated labour market, part-time working and the gender pay gap are all still issues. Minority women are especially vulnerable. Shrinking civic space, hate speech, discrimination and online harassment are barriers to girls’ and women’s free speech and democratic participation. The new Norwegian Climate Action Plan is gender blind, even though climate change has clear gendered effects.

Access to SRHR services in Norway is undemocratic and unequal, partly because of geographical distances. In 2019, the Norwegian abortion law was tightened, and foetal reduction in cases of multiple pregnancies now needs approval as opposed to being ‘on demand’. Pupils are calling for more comprehensive sexuality education. Increased competence on gender equality, diversity and norm-critical pedagogy in kindergartens and schools is needed. Police, education and health institutions do not use existing knowledge from minority and Sáami communities. Direct cooperation with the communities, Sámi Parliament and scholars is needed to make information and services available in all relevant languages.

At a global level, the COVID-19 pandemic has serious negative effects on women’s rights and gender equality. Violence against women has increased. Economic uncertainty and unemployment are hitting women hard, especially women in rural areas.

Norway must:
  • continue nationally and internationally to strengthen efforts to combat all forms of violence against women and girls, including digital forms;
  • follow up the Istanbul Convention;
  • launch a new action plan against domestic violence;
  • prohibit sexual actions without consent in criminal law;
  • ratify the ILO Convention against Violence and Harassment and adopt ILO recommendation no. 206;
  • ensure a strong gender perspective in post-pandemic politics, nationally and internationally, including an active policy to create new jobs, ensuring strong workers’ rights and reducing income inequalities;
  • strengthen the intersectional approach in all work to achieve gender equality, and not limit gender equality policies and efforts to a binary model;
  • follow up the Norwegian Official Report NOU 2019: 19 on gender equality challenges for children and youth, including substantial investments to counteract the gender divide in the choice of educational programmes and vocational training;
  • fulfil the commitment to increase bilateral development assistance that has women’s rights and gender equality as a primary or significant goal to 50 per cent;
  • develop a feminist foreign policy, for Norwegian development aid to truly become gender transformative.

6 Clean water and sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Government assessment


Norwegians enjoy universal access to safe and affordable drinking water, adequate and equitable sanitation and sewerage for all.


Norwegians enjoy universal access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation.


The general water quality is good, but there are challenges linked to wastewater and pollution.


The supply of fresh water is good, but upgrades and adaptation of the water and wastewater system are needed.


The goal is to a large extent achieved for integrated water management and transboundary waters.


There are still improvements needed, especially for forest protection. Peatland, wetland and river restoration need to continue.


General status: Norwegians enjoy universal access to safe and affordable drinking water, and adequate and equitable sanitation for all. The disinfection of drinking water at water treatment plants in Norway has improved over the last 20–30 years, partly as an effect of the National Programme for Water Supply. Figure 6.6 shows that the number of waterworks that distribute uninfected surface water has been severely reduced since 1994.

Figure 6.6 Trend – the number of water works (subject to approval)/persons supplied with non-disinfected ­surface water

Graph showing the trend in the number of waterworks and persons supplied with non-disinfected surface water.

Source: The Norwegian Public Health Institute

Main achievements: 
  • Almost 100 per cent of the Norwegian population have access to treated drinking water from waterworks that meet high quality standards.
  • Most wastewater is treated, and the majority of the population is connected to municipal wastewater systems.
  • Norway is working towards integrated water resources management implementation through implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive.
  • Norway has protected many areas that are important for water-related ecosystems, and a concept is being developed for a comprehensive management plan for wetlands. New cultivation of bogs has been illegal since June 2020.
  • Norway has established funding for the restoration of rivers and improved joint management of transboundary waters with neighbouring countries.
Main challenges: 
  • A significant part of the Norwegian pipeline network is old, and the low rate of replacement of deteriorating pipelines is a challenge. On average, 30 per cent of the water leaks out before it reaches the consumer.
  • Parts of today’s water and sanitation systems are not adapted to climate change. Increased precipitation, floods and rising sea levels will in the future be a challenge in many municipalities.
  • There is insufficient information about private wells and other small water plants that do not require approval. These supply water to approximately 525,000 inhabitants.
  • Coordination across sectors and levels of government still poses some challenges.

Global responsibility: In 2020, Norway spent approximately 100 million NOK on water and sanitation in developing countries. Through the Norwegian Church Aid, Norway has provided WASH services for an estimated 1,443,247 women, men, boys and girls affected by crises in 12 countries. In Somalia, Norway is supporting a programme to assess the potential for deep ground water, which potentially could help to alleviate the long-term water crisis in the country. Water and sanitation is also a component of Norway’s humanitarian support (6,3 billion NOK budgeted in 2021).

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021
  • The revised Norwegian National goals for Water and Health (2017).
  • The emergency advisory service unit for waterworks (2017).
  • Plan for the restoration of wetlands in Norway (2021–2025).
  • Strategy for the Restoration of watercourses related to the UN-Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030).

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: UNICEF Norway, Sabima, the Norwegian Association for Outdoor Organisations, the Norwegian Hunters’ and Anglers’ Association, WWF Norway, the Norwegian Trekking Association, Friends of the Earth Norway.

Trend: Stagnant

Norway has succeeded in providing safe drinking water and good sanitary conditions domestically.

Norway is on the right path in terms of implementing integrated water management through implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive. This ensures a higher degree of public participation and a transparent process. The work has improved the level of knowledge on the management of freshwater and coastal resources, and is receiving more attention and resources from the Government, albeit at a very slow pace. A small but important improvement for protecting freshwater ecosystems is the recent prohibition of agricultural conversion of mires and boglands.

Norway’s challenges include insufficient investment in the maintenance of drinking water and sewage network. Leakage from the drinking water supply system is estimated to be 30 per cent. This is not just a waste of clean water and energy, but also poses a risk of contaminating the drinking water supply.

Integrated water management goes beyond preventing water ecosystems from deterioration, and also encompasses ecological restoration of degraded lakes, rivers and wetlands. Implementation of integrated water management is slow, underfinanced and characterised by strong sectoral division. Norway has a long way to go to fully meet its obligations under the EU Water Framework Directive. Norway is not investing enough in restoring contaminated or physically degraded freshwater ecosystems. Thirty-five per cent of the lake and river water bodies are subject to various types of degradation and in need of environmental measures, while 12 per cent of the freshwater water bodies are categorised as heavily modified and will not meet general environmental objectives. In general, the surveillance of chemical water and the quality of freshwater resources are weak.

The municipalities play a critical role in Norwegian water management, but often lack the necessary resources and competence. Norwegian legislation gives municipalities a large margin of discretion to exempt projects from rules that are meant to preclude environmental degradation. Hence, Norwegian freshwater ecosystems are under threat from the phenomenon known as ‘piecemeal degradation’, where allowances are given without reference to the accumulated and often synergetic ecosystem degradation.

Norway’s negative footprint on aquatic ecosystems globally should be reduced. This includes the ‘outsourced’ environmental impact on water ecosystems, such as water use, ecotoxicity, eutrophication as well as physical degradation of water bodies. Assessing Norway’s total water footprint would allow a holistic systemic approach to developing and implementing more responsible regulations and policies in accordance with SDGs 8 and 12.

While UN-Water has called for increases in aid commitments to meet growing demands and extend WASH services to the most vulnerable populations, Norway’s commitments earmarked for this sector have remained at around 0.4 per cent of the annual ODA budget.

Norway must:
  • increase its efforts to meet its goal of restoring 15 per cent of degraded ecosystems by 2025, including water-related ecosystems. If more effort is not made, Norway is unlikely to meet this 2025 target, as was also the case for the target set for 2020;
  • strengthen the implementation and the transparency of the Government Pension Fund Global’s expectation document on water management and introduce exclusion criteria based on excessive water consumption;
  • set numerical requirements for more efficient water use for Norwegian companies operating in water-intensive sectors, and in countries where access to water is limited. Companies must report on water footprint and measures for water efficiency in their annual reports;
  • introduce labelling of imported goods’ water usage;
  • increase aid commitments and strengthen investment in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) humanitarian work.

7 Affordable and clean energy

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Government assessment


In Norway we have universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services for all.


Norway has a very high proportion of renewable energy in the energy mix and almost all electricity production comes from renewable energy sources.


In Norway energy intensity is low and continues to steadily improve.


General status: Securing an efficient, climate-friendly energy supply requires assessing supply security, climate change and economic development together. Norway has universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services for all, so virtually all SDG 7 targets on energy have been met at the national level. Compared to other countries, Norway has a very high proportion of renewable energy in its energy mix.

Figure 6.7 Renewable energy share in the total final energy consumption

Graph showing the share of renewable energy in the total energy consumption.

Source: Statistics Norway

Main achievements: Almost all electricity production comes from renewable energy sources, mainly flexible hydropower. Wind power is also an increasing part of Norway’s electricity production. The share of renewable energy in Norway’s total energy consumption is around 73 per cent, calculated according to the definition in the EU Renewable Energy Directive. Norway safeguard universal access to affordable and sustainable energy through a well-functioning and efficient energy system. This provides consumers with security of supply and helps keep electricity prices down. In a normal year, Norway has surplus electricity production. Norway is expected to have surplus electricity production in the coming years, and major investments are being made to strengthen the power grid. The energy intensity is low, which implies that Norway is one of the countries that uses least energy for each unit produced. Energy intensity has fallen over the last 30 years, measured in relation to GDP, and Norway has had a stable improvement in energy intensity. The Government has a goal of improving energy intensity by 30 per cent by 2030 compared with 2015. Norway has a number of policies and instruments that contribute to energy efficiency.

Main challenges: In the coming years electricity consumption is expected to increase in several sectors and in new areas of application, especially due to the electrification of industry and transport, as well as new electricity-intensive industries. Norway has a surplus of electricity, but massive electrification can cause some challenges linked to the demand for power and transmission capacity in some regions. Continued efforts to improve energy efficiency will be important for the transition to a more sustainable society.

Global responsibility: Norway supports access to affordable, sustainable and clean energy in many developing countries, both bilaterally and through multilateral partners. These efforts will also contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries (Norfund) is one of the main instruments for investments in, inter alia, energy production in low and middle-income countries. Norfund’s largest business priority sector is clean energy with a committed portfolio of NOK 11.9 billion (USD 1.4 billion) by the end of 2019 – almost half of Norfund’s total portfolio. Investments in renewable power plants by Norfund reduced CO2 emissions by 4.6 million tonnes in 2019.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021  
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 25 (2015–2016) Power for change – an energy policy towards 2030.
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 28 (2019–2020) Land-based wind power.
  • The Norwegian Hydrogen Strategy (2020).

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: Friends of the Earth Norway, WWF Norway and the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM).

Trend: Stagnant

Norway has succeeded in developing an electricity sector fully based on renewable energy (except for offshore industry and on the archipelago of Svalbard). Norway has taken important steps in electrification. Fossil fuels have been phased out in the building sector/space heating and are currently being phased out in the transport sector. More than 50 per cent of all new cars are electric and only electric cars will be sold from 2025. The Government has announced steep increases in the CO2 tax level to 200 EUR/tonne in 2030.

Norway has universal access to modern, reliable and affordable energy and practically no energy poverty.

Norway’s development aid for energy has been reduced since earlier periods but is still at a high level due to investment in renewable energy. The Government Pension Fund Global has made its first investment in renewable energy infrastructure in Europe.

Norway’s challenge is its high per capita energy consumption. Despite a high share of renewable energy in mainland Norway’s energy consumption, the total share of renewable energy use, including energy use in offshore oil and gas production, is only 51 per cent. Almost 100 per cent of Norway’s electricity production is renewable. The most significant renewable sources: hydropower and wind power, have a negative influence on nature, and further development will undermine other SDGs, including SDGs 14 and 15.

Norway’s prospecting for new oil and gas reserves will increase emissions from production as well as the need for renewable energy for electrification of offshore installations (diverting renewable energy from other uses), and will add to the already too high consumption of fossil fuels worldwide.

Norway continues to develop transport infrastructure facilitating high speed and increased use of passenger cars and freight trucks, without regard for the increase in energy consumption that will follow.

Norway’s existing building stock has huge potential for efficiency gains. There are no action plan or measures in place to meet the efficiency target for the sector set by the Government. Energy efficiency is often highlighted as the most important measure to reach SDG 7 without compromising SDGs 13, 14 and 15. Norway’s efforts to meet target 7.3 to double the improvement rate of energy efficiency have slowed down, and Norway has no comprehensive policy in place to address the energy efficiency target.

Norway must:
  • set an energy efficiency target and develop strategies to meet target 7.3 on energy efficiency;
  • stop new licences for oil and gas drilling and phase out the use of fossil energy by 2040, cf. the IPCC’s call for a 90 per cent reduction in oil production by 2050;
  • increase the focus on basic access to modern, reliable and affordable energy services for households in development aid and international cooperation;
  • use the most environmentally friendly measures for new renewable energy production, which is positive for the phasing out of fossil energy use, for the climate and biodiversity;
  • assess current and future energy production no longer only on the basis of economic profitability, jobs, market interests and isolated climate gains, but to a much greater extent build on the real importance and value of intact ecosystem services, rich biodiversity, and large contiguous land areas for society as a whole;
  • utilise the energy we already produce in a more efficient way before we consider new area-intensive energy developments. Among other things, it is crucial to increase financial support for energy efficiency in buildings;
  • realise energy and climate measures that safeguard ecosystems, such as wetlands, as the most cost-effective solution for storing and increasing carbon uptake.

8 Decent work and economic growth

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Government assessment 


Norway’s GDP per capita is among the highest in the world.


Norway’s productivity level is among the highest in the world.


The business sector in Norway has a strong innovation performance, and has increased relative to that of the EU.


Emissions of greenhouse gas per unit of GDP have decreased significantly in recent decades. Since 1990, emissions per unit of GDP have roughly halved.


Notwithstanding a setback during the pandemic, Norway has had comparatively high employment and low unemployment in recent decades.


Norway’s NEET rate is relatively low compared to other countries, but is nevertheless challenging.


Norway has joined Alliance 8.7 to end forced labour, modern slavery and trafficking. Compared with other countries, this is not a major challenge in Norway, but we still have work to do.


Norwegian employers are responsible for ensuring that the workplace environment is safe and sound. The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority reported 28 work injury deaths in 2020, so we still have work to do.


Norway provides education and certification for sustainable destinations.


Norway supports the International Labour Organization’s work to obtain decent work and social justice for all.


General status: In recent decades, Norway has had high economic growth and low unemployment. GDP per capita is high compared to other advanced economies. Productivity levels are among the highest in the world, although its growth has slowed in recent decades and in particular since the global financial crisis. Sound macroeconomic management, open and flexible markets with high labour force participation have contributed to this development.

The outbreak of COVID-19 and the measures that have been implemented to limit the spread of the virus have negatively impacted on the Norwegian economy and the labour market. The long-term effects of the crisis remain uncertain.

Main achievements: Norway has succeeded in promoting development-oriented policies that support entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2019, 65,600 companies were established, which is a 40 per cent increase since 2011.

The Norwegian labour model and Norwegian legislation protect workers’ rights and ensure a safe working environment for all. In comparison with other countries, Norway has a relatively high employment rate. In 2019, an average of 76.5 per cent of those between 20 and 66 years of age were employed. However, in the last few years, developments in the employment rate have been weaker than in several other European countries as a result of the oil-driven economic downturn that hit Norway in the period 2014–2016.

Main challenges: Norway faces skills and changes related to population ageing. The old age dependency ratio is set to increase markedly over the coming decades. This will burden public finances and could dampen productivity growth. It is necessary to increase employment rates among certain groups, including people with disabilities or discontinuous work experience, certain immigrant groups and young people who have not completed their education.

Global responsibility: Norwegian funding for Aid for Trade is focused on the least developed countries, including the Enhanced Integrated Framework. Norway promotes the UN Guidelines for Business and Human Rights and is working to establish a national law that will require companies to report on human rights, decent work and due diligence in their value chains. Norway has strengthened its efforts towards vulnerable groups, including the launch of a separate development programme against modern slavery in 2020. Norway also supports the International Labour Organization’s efforts to obtain decent work and social justice for all and to achieve the objectives of the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work (2019).

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021
  • Measures to motivate young people who drop out of school or working life to engage in work, education or other activities (2017).
  • Strategy on work-related crime (2015). Updated 2017, 2019 and 2021.
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 5 (2019–2020) Living communities for the future.
  • White Paper Meld. St. 19 (2016–2017) Experience Norway – a unique adventure.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (Forum), the Salvation Army Norway, Lightup Norway, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, the Christian Council of Norway, the Royal Norwegian Society for Development, Norwegian People’s Aid, Plan International Norway, Unio (the Confederation of Unions for Professionals and Save the Children Norway.

Trend: Stagnant

Norway has succeeded in proposing a due diligence law that would require all larger companies to disclose information about their due diligence assessments to prevent negative impacts on human and workers’ rights. The proposal also suggests companies disclose information on incidents and about their value chains on request. If implemented, the proposed law would give Norway one of the strongest due diligence frameworks in the world.

In general, Norway has a strong framework for workers and several government agencies to ensure workers’ rights are not violated. However, vulnerable groups such as immigrant workers often face the risk of exploitation due to low unionisation rates and lack of coverage in the labour welfare system and collective agreements.

Norway’s challenge is the lack of coherence between different policies related to SDG 8. For instance, Norway has created an aid programme to combat anti-slavery, but it does not include any measures to combat sexual exploitation. There is also great concern that human rights, workers’ rights and environmental rights repeatedly lose out to trade interests when Norway negotiates trade agreements with countries where these rights are at serious risk.

Nationally, there are vulnerable groups in Norwegian society who face exploitation in the job market. Government agencies have limited resources to supervise businesses or regulate the market, creating opportunities for rogue actors to violate workers’ rights in order to maximise profits. The risk has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a strong rise in unemployment in Norway, increasing the risk of exploitation of vulnerable groups.

Norway must:
  • strengthen its focus on the economic empowerment of marginalised youth, especially young women, in its development policies. Gender equality and inclusion of minority groups, the freedom of association, collective negotiations and living wages must form an integral part of Norwegian development assistance to private sector development and job creation;
  • be a driving force in promoting a strategy for the prevention of digital sexual exploitation of vulnerable children and young people internationally;
  • enact ambitious corporate responsibility legislation with due diligence in mandatory and gender-responsive human rights. Due diligence legislation should also include environmental risks, and the duty to inform consumers and any other enquirers on value chains and production sites;
  • implement specific, long-term measures to prevent sexual exploitation, including digital forms of exploitation, and include youth, women and faith-based actors in this work;
  • ensure protection, legal rights and remedies for survivors of sexual exploitation;
  • enact appropriate requirements for employers to ensure that all employees, including foreign workers, enjoy Norwegian standards of workers’ rights;
  • employ concrete measures to increase the unionisation rate of workers, such as increasing the union fee tax deduction and strengthening the regulatory framework in order to restrict exploitative and anti-union work practices;
  • increase funding of governmental agencies, such as the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, to ensure that workers’ rights are respected and prevent worker exploitation;
  • implement stricter sustainability requirements for the Government Pension Fund Global’s investment policy, ensuring that companies breaching core ILO conventions are excluded from the fund;
  • include environmental sustainability standards and adherence to ILO core conventions in trade treaties.

9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Government assessment 


Norway has a well-developed infrastructure and large investments in communications infrastructure.


Norwegian industry and business have for many years adjusted in a more sustainable direction.


The Norwegian capital market is largely well-functioning and firms’ access to capital from banks and securities markets is good.


Norway has a well-regarded set of measures for research and development (R&D) and innovation activities in the business sector. Sustainability issues are high on the agenda.


Public research funding has increased in recent years. The challenge is to stimulate a sustainable, innovative and competitive private sector that contributes to the green shift.


General status: Norway has a reliable and well-developed infrastructure, and investments in communications infrastructure are higher than ever. The current government has made transportation one of its main priorities. A key objective is to implement the highly ambitious National Transport Plan 2018–2029 and to introduce an equally ambitious and realistic National Transport Plan for the period 2022–2033 aiming for an efficient, sustainable and safe transport system in 2050.

Regulation of the Norwegian financial sector and capital markets is aimed at providing access to sound financial services for all types of economic units. The Norwegian capital market is largely well-functioning and firms’ access to capital from banks and securities markets is currently good.

Norwegian business and industry has generally good adaptability. Public research efforts have increased in recent years, and are aimed at technologies and research that contribute to increased value creation within a sustainable framework.

Figure 6.8 Research and development expenditure as a proportion of GDP

Graph showing the research and development expenditure as a proportion of GDP.

Source: Statistics Norway

Main achievements: Norway has succeeded in developing a solid infrastructure for electronic services, including financial services, mobile communications and broadband networks. Close to 100 per cent mobile coverage has been achieved for 4G, and the first 5G network opened in March 2020.

Technology and knowledge play a key role in facilitating the transition to a low-emission society. The Government promotes expanded use of clean and environmentally sound technology and industrial processes by strengthening its focus on relevant research and development (R&D). As a share of GDP, R&D expenditures in Norway amounted to 2.06 per cent in 2018, which is an increase from 2.04 per cent in 2016.

Main challenges: One of the greatest challenges is to make Norwegian industries more sustainable. Even though Norwegian businesses are used to adapt, there is a need for industry and businesses to facilitate more climate-friendly operations and reduce their emissions. The main source of greenhouse gas emissions in Norway are oil and gas extraction, industry and transport. Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions are declining. Norway aims to be a low-emission society by 2050, with an 90–95 per cent reduction in emissions compared to 1990.

Global responsibility: Through solid and multi-year contributions to the UN and the multilateral development banks, Norway supports investments in necessary infrastructure such as roads, railways, ports, industrialisation and digital infrastructure. The emphasis is on the most marginalised countries in Africa and significant efforts to promote intra-regional trade. Norway has taken a leading role in the global Digital Public Goods Alliance, which contributes to the availability of digital solutions for developing countries. The Alliance supports selected pathfinding countries that help to develop, pilot and adapt digital common goods at the national level.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021 
  • Strategy for the Norwegian Bioeconomy (2016).
  • National Transportation Plan 2018–2029 and 2022–2033 aiming for an efficient, sustainable and safe transport system in 2050.
  • Forum for cooperation in the processing industry (Process21) and a top management forum for digitisation in the industry.
  • Partnership with the World Bank, contributing to the goal of providing the entire population of Africa with access to information and communications technology (2019).
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 4 (2018–2019) Long-term plan for research and higher education 2019–2028.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: Attac Norway, the Norwegian Medical Association (NMA), the Norwegian Seafarer’s Union, the Norwegian Union of Railway Workers (NJF) and Norwegian Church Aid (member of ACT Alliance).

Trend: Stagnant

Norway has succeeded in launching a white paper on digitalisation in development policy, recognising the digital divide and the importance of digitalisation in societal development. Grant schemes facilitating business engagement in innovation and development projects are a positive initiative for engaging businesses in the 2030 Agenda.

Norway’s challenge is that the long-term transportation plan proposed by the Government, NasjonalTransportplan (NTP), lacks focus on building a sustainable transportation sector – both when it comes to building the infrastructure in itself and how the new infrastructure affects the transport patterns in Norway. To reduce climate change and the destruction of nature, it is vitally important to make a modal shift from road to sea or railway in freight transport in Norway. Investment in existing harbours could make sea freight more efficient and reduce the need to build new roads. Improving railways and terminals would enable freight transport capacity on the rail system to be increased by 40 per cent without building new tracks.

Norway is dependent on importing medical specialists. One in five newly approved specialists in Norway has received their specialty training in other Nordic countries or the EU. This is not sustainable in the long run, and Norway should take greater responsibility in educating the medical specialists we need. Norway is highly dependent on importing essential medical supplies from foreign medical companies in emergencies, and lacks adequate production capacity to help meet the current need for increased vaccine production. There is also a need for more focus on medical research, innovation and investment in addressing women’s health.

Internationally, Norway does not support regulations that facilitate technology transfer in the e-commerce negotiations currently taking place in the WTO. Depriving countries in the global south of the opportunity to transfer knowledge and technology from the multi-national technology companies operating in these countries impedes the development of poor countries’ own digital industry.

Grant schemes financing innovation projects for sustainable development should not be used as a tool for promoting Norwegian business abroad, but rather place emphasis on promoting innovation and transfer of competence to developing countries. Strict commercial requirements for Norwegian businesses in these schemes are a barrier to engaging companies in projects with considerable socio-economic benefits in developing countries.

Norway must:
  • change mode of freight transport from road to sea or rail by investing in the existing rail infrastructure and existing harbours to increase the capacity for freight transport and make it more efficient;
  • increase support to programmes developing new ships that are fully electric, hybrid or have hydrogen propulsion with strongly reduced climate emissions;
  • ensure better framework conditions for medical research and professional development, to ensure better quality and safety in the health services provided;
  • build competence and domestic production capacity of critical medicines, infection control equipment and medical equipment, as well as strengthen Nordic and international cooperation to ensure better access;
  • focus on exporting the infrastructure and expertise we can offer to help the world’s poorest countries to benefit from new technology, such as broadband, cloud storage and server capacity, as well as supporting regional data centres;
  • support regulations in international trade agreements that facilitate technology transfers to developing countries. Countries should have access to demand local storage of data collected domestically and leeway for regulation of their digital development;
  • adapt grant schemes for innovation and development projects to facilitate businesses’ engagement in sustainable development projects in partnership with NGOs.

10 Reduced inequalities

Reduce inequality within and among countries

Government assessment


Income inequality levels are lower in Norway than in most other countries. Since 1992, the income growth of the bottom 40 per cent has been close to the median.


Norway has a high degree of gender equality. Challenges in racism and discrimination remain.


The principles of equal opportunity and social mobility underpin the Norwegian welfare system.


Redistribution through taxes and transfers has been stable since 1992. Taxes and fees help to finance public services that also have an equalising effect.


Norwegian financial market regulation is largely based on international standards and recommendations. Since 2008, regulation and supervision has improved significantly.


Norway has supported enhanced representation of developing countries in decision-making in international economic and financial institutions.


Norway has a well-functioning migration governance system, which continuously strives to respond and adapt adequately to evolving migration challenges.


General status: Economic inequalities between countries have decreased in recent decades, but inequalities within many countries, including Norway, have increased. Even so, Norway still has relatively small income differences and a high living standard. The Norwegian welfare model provides social mobility and opportunities for all. Discrimination is prohibited by law.

Figure 6.9 Redistributive impact of fiscal policy (prefiscal income and postfiscal disposable income), Gini index

Graph showing the redistributive impact of fiscal policy.

Source: UN Global Database / OECD / Statistics Norway

Main achievements: Good macroeconomic management, an active labour market policy and coordinated wage formation contribute to high labour market participation and low unemployment. The tax and transfer systems provide substantial income redistribution. The welfare benefits system provides compensation for loss of income due to illness, old age, unemployment etc. Citizens have free universal access to education and health services, and low-cost access to nursing and care services.

Main challenges: Although the employment rate in Norway is high, the proportion of people who are out of work as a result of illness or reduced working capacity is also relatively high. The percentage of the population living in low income households has increased. To reduce inequality, Norway’s educational system must give children and young people appropriate skills. Norway must also ensure that the labour market works efficiently. Both the tax system and benefit schemes must encourage value creation and high labour force participation.

Global responsibility: Inequality is a systemic issue. Norway works to promote responsibility in the private and public sectors, including gender equality, respect for workers’ rights, payment of taxes and zero tolerance for corruption. Norway works to promote fairer international trade, tax rules and regulations and support the construction of better tax systems and welfare societeties in developing countries. Targeted efforts are supported with a view to reaching the most vulnerable groups.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021 
  • White Paper on inequality stating that the Government’s policy for a lasting reduction in economic inequality focuses on employment, education and integration (2019).
  • In 2018, the Equality and Anti-discrimination Act entered into force and the Discrimination Tribunal was established. In 2020, a low-threshold service was established for dealing with cases of sexual harassment. The activity and reporting duties in the Equality and Anti-discrimination Act were strengthened at the same time.
  • The Government has presented several action plans and strategies as part of the work for equality and against discrimination. In 2021, the Government aims to present an Action Plan on Universal Design, a new Action Plan on LGBTIQ Equality and a Strategy on Gender Equality in Education and Working Life.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM), Norwegian People’s Aid, Unio (the Confederation of Unions for Professionals), YGlobal, Norwegian Medical Students’ Association, Salvation Army Norway, LO Norway, Norwegian Library Association and the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations.

Trend: Negative

Norway has succeeded in being among the top countries in the world when it comes to economic and social equality. Norway is one of the highest achievers in reducing income inequality, which is linked to its high unionisation rate and largely coordinated wage formation. There are fewer inequalities among certain groups in Norway compared to other countries, and recent research has also shown greater social mobility.

Norway has increased funding for the Tax for Development programme, which is an important contribution to strengthening the capacity of tax administrations in developing countries. Norway has also doubled its global support to strengthen national universal primary education systems in developing countries.

Norway’s challenge is that social and economic inequalities in Norway have increased since the 1980s. Despite having a national universal health-care system, Norway has greater social inequalities in health than many other European countries, and this is particularly reflected in the attainment gap and the gender gap. The poverty level among children is also worrying, with currently 11.7 per cent of Norwegian children living below the national poverty line.

The current pandemic has intensified inequalities. The risk of long-term unemployment and exclusion from employment has increased, a higher proportion of the population is at risk of a persistent low income and a whole generation of youth have lost education and employment opportunities. Concurrently, the economic space for curbing inequalities has become more restricted. Over the last 10 years, real earnings in certain sectors with a low unionisation rate have remained at a standstill, while the general increase elsewhere is 10–15 per cent. In the same parts of the labour market, the learning opportunities and job security are weaker than elsewhere. In addition, social mobility related to education attainment is less than economic mobility across generations.

At the global level, the pandemic has revealed a need for urgent action to curb global inequality and ensure effective in-country redistribution systems. Financial secrecy, tax havens and weak international regulations are among the drivers of economic, social and political inequality in the world. Most industrialised countries have reduced corporate taxation since 2007, which has led to an increased tax burden on individual citizens.

Norway must:
  • protect and enhance crucial institutions in the Nordic model, such as coordinated wage formation, universal welfare and a high unionisation rate. The social dialogue between the Government, employers’ organisations and trade unions must be strengthened locally, regionally and nationally;
  • integrate the inequality dimension in all major policy areas;
  • strengthen universal welfare services in education and health care, and increase the universal child benefit;
  • continuously strengthen and secure access to libraries to enable all citizens to empower themselves through free access to information, cultural integration and social inclusion;
  • disabled persons must have the same opportunities as others to choose their place of residence, where they live and with whom;
  • increase support for the decent work agenda globally, and the capacity, establishment and protection of trade unions;
  • take a leading role in pushing for the implementation of the recommendations of the FACTI report, including working for a UN tax convention, an intergovernmental tax body under the UN and a global minimum corporate tax;
  • support country-by-country reporting (ECBCR), which will be an important contribution to tackling strategic tax planning and tax havens;
  • Norway should actively fight discrimination based on gender, disability, caste or sexual, religious or other minority status, and support groups who promote equal rights.

11 Sustainable cities and communities

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Government assessment


Almost all housing in Norway is adequate, and the number of homeless persons is very low and decreasing.


There are few traffic fatalities and serious traffic accidents, and the numbers are decreasing.


The Planning and Building Act needs to be supplemented with new implementing tools to meet the ambitious goals on climate change, nature management and social challenges.


There are well-functioning management systems for cultural and natural heritage, but changes in land use and climate change put pressure on these resources.


There are relatively few deaths in Norway due to disasters, but the financial cost is relatively high and is expected to increase due to climate change.


Ambient air quality in the main cities has been significantly improved in the past few years, but is still a challenge.


The share of safe, open spaces for public use for all is relatively high.


General status: About 80 per cent of Norwegians live in cities and communities. More than 80 per cent own their own home, and the number of homeless persons is very low. Most Norwegians have a high standard of living, with access to basic services, waste management, transport systems, good air quality and green and safe public spaces. However, people with disabilities have more limited access to these services than the general population.

Figure 6.10 Annual mean levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Norwegian municipalities, by inhabitants per municipality

Graph showing annual mean levels of fine particulate matter in Norwegian municipalities.

Source: The Norwegian Meteorological Institute

Main achievements: Comprehensive urban growth agreements have helped reduce the growth in car traffic and have provided a clear direction for transport and land use policy in urban areas. Over 50 per cent of private cars purchased in 2020 were electric. Norway has a low level of air pollution, and local air quality has improved over the last decade. The number of premature deaths due to road traffic emissions is among the lowest in Europe. There are few traffic fatalities and serious traffic accidents, and the numbers are decreasing, even though the number of cars is increasing.

Main challenges: Increasing risk of flooding, landslides and heatwaves is already affecting infrastructure and land use. Green areas for outdoor life and recreation are under pressure when cities and towns densify and expand. More remote areas are experiencing a population decline coupled with a rising elderly population. Securing affordable, adequate and accessible housing for low-income groups, the elderly and people with disabilities is a challenge, particularly in the larger cities. Local air pollution is a challenge in some Norwegian cities. Some of the larger cities have areas with high rates of multiple socio-economic problems.

Global responsibility: On the international level, Norwegian support has been channelled through UN-Habitat, which focuses on support to governments and local authorities to identify and implement laws that regulate land use, urban planning, taxation, housing, infrastructure and safety. Norway also supports efforts to reduce ambient and household air pollution in developing countries. Norway endorsed the New Urban Agenda in 2016 and is an active participant and contributor at the World Urban Forum. Norway also supports capacity building and conservation of natural and cultural heritage internationally through various instruments.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021
  • Norway is a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee 2017–2021.
  • National Expectations for Regional and Local Planning (2019).
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 16 (2019–2020) New Goals for Norway’s Cultural Environment Policy – Involvement, Sustainability and Diversity.
  • National Strategy for Social Housing Policy 2021–2024.
  • National Action Plan for Outdoor Life.
  • Integrated area-based urban regeneration programmes.
  • Urban growth agreements and reward schemes for public transport in urban areas.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: Spire, the Norwegian Forum of Disabled Peoples’ Organizations SAFO, the Norwegian Association for Outdoor Organisations, the Norwegian Federation of Cultural Heritage Organisations, Sustainable Living Norway and the Church of Norway.

Trend: Negative

Norway has succeeded in customising the SDGs to a local context in some cities. Examples are Oslo with cycle paths, public transport and efforts regarding a circular economy, and Hurdal, which developed an urban eco-village. Norway has also succeeded in the use of digital tools to make it easier for people (including children) to participate in urban planning processes.

Norway’s challenges are related to divided sectors both at the national and local levels. There is no holistic approach and a lack of understanding of the connection between the different SDGs. The Government has recently delegated a number of tasks to the municipalities without sufficient funding or guidance. This has, inter alia, contributed to the degradation of nature, outdoor areas and green structures in and around the cities. There is also a need to strengthen the efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.

The Government recently presented the national transport plan for the period 2022–2033, but there is a lack of investment in sustainable transport systems and public transportation despite the benefits this would bring for the local and global environment, people’s health and mobility.

Social and economic inequalities within cities is another challenge in Norway. An inaccessible and unregulated housing market (both for ownership and renting) with prohibitively expensive housing of poor quality or insufficient space (SSB 2020) is one such example. This reinforces social and economic inequalities. Housing is built without access to, for example, green areas or without proper bedrooms. There are also barriers in the built environment that exclude disabled people from being fully included in society.

Furthermore, Norway is neglecting the urban challenges and projects in international aid programmes. The two last deposit reports do not even mention urbanisation, and only about 5 per cent of development aid is directed towards urban areas. The global aspect is also overlooked at the local level, as municipalities are not sufficiently aware of the global implications of how their actions influence social and environmental aspects.

Norway must:
  • ensure sufficient investments in more sustainable transport systems and public transport;
  • strengthen the municipalities’ knowledge of nature values. This can be done by developing ecosystem accounting for the municipalities;
  • ensure better access to green spaces and meet target 11.7;
  • support cities in implementing holistic strategies based on a circular economy (like a doughnut economy) to create sustainable cities to secure good lives for their inhabitants within the earth’s limitations;
  • increase the efforts to protect natural and cultural heritage;
  • support urban development projects, and direct more aid funds toward urban areas;
  • support Neighbourhood Houses, which creates local social meeting arenas across social groups;
  • support a third housing sector, giving more people access to decent accommodation;
  • include all social groups in urban planning and real participation processes;
  • specify clear deadlines for universal design in laws and regulations. Sanctions for non-fulfilment of obligations must be included.

12 Responsible consumption and production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Government assessment


Norway is part of the 10 YFP and will present a national strategy on a circular economy in 2021.


Material (natural resource) consumption per capita above the global and the European average.


Agreement to reduce food waste by 50 per cent by 2030 and this applies to the entire food value chain, from primary production to consumers.


One substance banned globally and two more nominated under the Stockholm Convention, contributed to the restriction of several substances at the European level.


The Government is working on legislation to increase recycling rates.


All enterprises are expected to follow international guidelines for responsible business practices and the Government is working on a law proposal for a due diligence law on human rights in international supply chains.


Legislative and administrative frameworks related to green and innovative public procurement are in place, including guidance for public procurers.


Sustainable development is integrated into all levels of education.


General status: Norway is a wealthy society with one of the highest consumption rates in the world, and the trend is still increasing. The Government considers it important to develop a green, circular economy, and will present a national strategy to support a transition to a circular economy in 2021.

Figure 6.11 Hazardous waste, proportion treated, by type of treatment

Graph showing how hazardous waste is treated.

Source: Statistics Norway

Main achievements: In 2017, five Norwegian ministries and 12 food industry organisations signed an agreement to halve food waste in Norway by 2030. From 2015 to 2019, food waste was reduced by 12 per cent per inhabitant. The impact of chemicals and waste on health and the environment is being reduced. Waste continues to grow in step with GDP growth. Hazardous waste is collected and treated separately, in accordance with environmentally sound management. Public entities are obliged by law to pursue green public procurement strategies. Materials recovery has increased dramatically in recent decades, thus reducing the environmental footprint of waste. Enterprises are expected to be familiar with and follow OECD Guidelines and UNGP. Companies where the state has direct ownership interests are expected to be at the forefront of responsible business practices sustainable practices.

Main challenges: In Norway, targets 12.2, 12.3, 12.5 and 12.6 have been singled out as particularly challenging and notably the transition from relative to absolute decoupling, i.e. from improved efficiency in the use of materials (natural resources) to an absolute reduction. Food and food waste are of concern in the national implementation of SDG 12, as well of SDGs 2 and 14. Waste generation is growing. In 2019, the average Norwegian disposed of 776kg of municipal waste, which is substantially higher than the European mean of 502kg.

Global responsibility: Norway supports international measures to reform subsidies for fossil fuel consumption, and supports international environmental agreements aimed at increasing professional capacity and strengthening institutions’ development of strategies for green growth and economic development. The support to six research institutes in Sub-Saharan Africa has yielded ground-breaking research. Research has been carried out into innovative cultivation methods without pesticides that prevent pests whilst increasing crops, food security and income. Research has also resulted in new and sustainable ways of rehabilitating land degraded by coal mining.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021  
  • Low Emission Strategy/Climate Plan 2030.
  • National strategy to support a transition to a circular economy.
  • Updated national target on waste management to increase material recovery.
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 22 (2018–2019) Public Procurement.
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 8 (2019–2020) The state’s direct ownership of companies – sustainable value creation.
  • In April 2021, the Government proposed a new act concerning enterprises’ transparency and work in fundamental human rights and decent working conditions.
  • Amendments to the Accounting Act, section 3-3 c – requirement to report on social responsibility.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM), the Norwegian Grandparents Climate Campaign, the Norwegian Consumer Council, the Salvation Army Norway, the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature, the Royal Norwegian Society for Development and Spire.

Trend: Negative

Norway has succeeded in recycling a high share of metals, glass and brown paper, and has achieved a good collection rate of plastic bottles and cans. This is a good starting point for increased circularity of plastic and metal use. Furthermore, Norway has managed to reduce food waste through voluntary commitments by actors across the food value chain. However, our assessment is that the ‘low hanging fruits’ may already have been picked, and in order to reach the 50 per cent target, we need legally binding measures. Additionally, Norway has so far chosen a minimum level response to the EU’s single use plastics directive.

Norway is at the forefront in Europe when it comes to regulatory changes and restrictions in the use of the most harmful chemicals. However, the only consumer-facing information site, erdetfarlig.no, was taken down in 2019, with no alternative source of official information on chemicals in everyday products put in place.

Norway’s main challenge is that we have one of the world’s highest consumptions per capita, consuming 44 tonnes of natural resources each year. Norway’s overshoot day this year was 12 April, meaning that it would take 3.2 Earths if everyone had the same consumption as Norwegians.

Scientists at SINTEF conclude that the main cause of our high and growing consumption is that we replace products long before their technical lifetime is over. Norway lacks policies that ensure the right to repair, access to spare parts and to easily accessible and affordable repair services. This also applies to policies to incentivise second-hand markets and improve the utilisation of resources that have already entered the economy, such as leasing and renting.

Additionally, Norway is lagging far behind in the process towards a more circular economy, where resources are repaired, reused and recycled. According to the Circularity Gap Report, Norway’s circularity is 2.4 per cent, which means Norway has one of the lowest circularities in Europe.

Finally, the political focus in Norway is almost exclusively on reducing national emissions, and a holistic strategy to addressing imported emissions and established consumption patterns is lacking.

Norway must:
  • prepare a concrete and holistic plan for transitioning from a linear to a circular economy. Policy measures that ensure change in consumption patterns must be an integral part of such a plan;
  • account for consumption-based emissions, through relevant indicators to be adopted alongside more traditional economic indicators such as the GDP;
  • move from voluntary to legally binding measures to reduce food waste;
  • ensure that consumer information is provided on chemicals in consumer products;
  • review the tax system to see how taxes can be used in a fair and efficient way to make a shift towards more circular consumption;
  • phase out subsidies that encourage overconsumption and subsidise businesses that extend product lifetime;
  • strengthen consumer rights by demanding that companies produce higher quality products with an extended product lifetime, including the right to repair;
  • promote public procurement practices that are sustainable in a social, economic and environmental perspective.

13 Climate action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Government assessment


Norway is relatively resilient and has good capacity to adapt to climate-related hazards and natural disasters, but adapting to future climate changes will be a challenge, and the cost are expected to increase.


Measures to combat climate change are integrated into national policies and strategies. The Government recently presented a new White Paper on how it intends to meet the climate target for 2030. Norway has a comprehensive set of measures covering almost all emissions of greenhouse gases as well as removals. A large proportion of emissions in Norway is covered by economic measures. Green taxes and quotas (EU ETS) cover more than 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, some emissions are regulated through the Pollution Control Act, standards, agreements and grants for emission reduction measures.


The Government is working to make society less vulnerable to climate change, including facilitating knowledge for use by municipal authorities and others. The Klimatilpasning.no website is an example of how we contribute to disseminating knowledge and guidance on climate change and climate adaptation.


General status: In February 2020 Norway submitted an enhanced climate target (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. The 2030 target was strengthened from 40 per cent emission reduction to at least 50 and up towards 55 per cent compared to 1990 levels. Norway’s long-term target is to be a low emission society by 2050. This means a society with low emissions in all sectors and emission reductions in the order of 90–95 per cent compared to 1990.

Figure 6.12 Total greenhouse gas emissions per year

Graph showing total greenhouse gas emissions per year.

Source: Statistics Norway

*Preliminary figure

Main achievements: Preliminary figures show that the total Norwegian emission of greenhouse gases in 2020 were 50 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents. This is the lowest level since 1993, 12 per cent below the peak level in 2007 and a reduction of 1.5 million tonnes since 1990. Emissions from Norway have remained fairly stable since the 1990s despite strong growth in the economy – about 85 per cent since 1990. The Government presented a White Paper in 2021 describing its Action Plan for the Transformation of Norwegian Society as a Whole by 2030. The main emphasis of the plan is on emissions that are not included in the Emissions Trading System, known as non-ETS emissions. This Action Plan will enable us to exceed Norway’s assigned target from the EU for non-ETS emissions, which is 40 per cent, and we plan to achieve this through domestic emission cuts.

Main challenges: The biggest challenges for Norway are meeting our 2030 targets and becoming a low-emission society by 2050. Climate policy cannot be seen in isolation, but as the sum of policies in several areas. Good coordination and a comprehensive policy for sustainable development in all sectors are necessary to achieve the climate goals and to reduce Norway’s vulnerability. Climate change is already affecting Norwegian nature and society in various ways. We are expecting more storms, heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides.

Global responsibility: Support for climate action is a high priority in Norwegian development policy. Our climate funding for developing countries in 2019 was NOK 6.3 billion. The largest single programme is Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, which supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. Support is also channeled through multilateral, regional and bilateral partners, including the Green Climate Fund. Norway has strengthened its support for climate adaptation and building climate resilience with a focus on climate vulnerable countries and groups. Cooperation on mitigation efforts will also remain important.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021
  • The Climate Change Act.
  • White paper on Climate Action Plan.
  • New national guidelines for climate and energy planning and climate change adaption.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: the Norwegian Medical Students Association, WWF Norway, Sustainable Living Norway, the Norwegian Grandparents Climate Campaign, the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM), Norwegian Church Aid (member of ACT Alliance), Spire, Caritas Norway, Save the Children Norway, the Development Fund Norway, Friends of the Earth Norway and Unio (the Confederation of Unions for Professionals).

Trend: Stagnant

Norway has succeeded in raising CO2taxes and creating some incentives for the public to make green choices, like significant tax discounts and other advantages for electric vehicles and recycling systems. Climate targets have been upgraded and enshrined in the Climate Change Act. Public funding for organisations that are working to implement SDG 13 increases the opportunities for civil society to influence and strengthen policies.

Norway’s challenge is to have coherent policies. As a significant producer and exporter of oil and gas, Norway is a major contributor to climate change, with both high domestic and exported emissions. With emissions reduced just 2.4 per cent since 1990, the 50–55 per cent emissions reduction target for 2030 remains a long way off. To succeed in cutting emissions, an action plan is needed for rapidly phasing out the oil and gas industry in a manner that safeguards jobs, pensions and the welfare state.

There is a need to create a child-friendly version of the Norwegian action plan for the SDGs. Children and youth need to be empowered to take action on climate change. Children will bear the burden of climate change and must be acknowledged as equal stakeholders and be given opportunities to exercise their right to meaningful participation at all levels.

Natural solutions must be applied in an eco-friendly way. Natural capture must not be at the expense of undisturbed nature and utilisation of Norway’s natural resources. A larger share of the national budget and Norway’s sovereign wealth fund must be allocated to investments in sustainable development. Climate finance should include mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage in accordance with the Paris Agreement. The transition to a low-emission society must be just and coherent, and not be detrimental to other SDGs.

Norway must:
  • meet the 2030 emission target through real domestic emission reductions, and not emissions trading, while also pledging Norway’s fair share of support for climate action in countries in the global South;
  • increase climate finance to low-income countries to a fair level, given Norway’s oil and gas-based wealth and disproportionately high historical contribution to global warming;
  • incorporate climate change and sustainability awareness and innovation into education at all levels;
  • introduce an annual climate budget, quantifying the state budget’s impact on national emissions;
  • introduce a goal for increased natural carbon capture in the climate law, securing the carbon stock and uptake in ecosystems additional to forests. This carbon capture must be counted as zero in the climate law;
  • promote new and sustainable industries. Investments must be moved from oil and gas to renewable energy and energy efficiency;
  • immediately stop oil and gas exploration and change the gas and oil tax system. Generous subsidies and tax exemptions that incentivise the opening of unprofitable oil and gas fields must be reviewed immediately;
  • change the food production system and consumption practices in order to lower emissions and reduce other environmental impacts in Norway and globally;
  • increase investments in public transport, and rail infrastructure in particular must be scaled up.

14 Life below water

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Government assessment


Norway is putting in place measures to prevent and reduce marine plastic litter and microplastics from land-based sources, but data remains limited. The levels of pollution are reported to be stable or declining in the Norwegian seas.


Norway has implemented an integrated approach to marine and coastal management that will promote conservation and sustainable use of marine ecosystems and underpin a sustainable ocean economy.


Ocean acidification is monitored in Norwegian waters, and results show acidification in some ocean areas.


Fish stocks targeted directly by commercial fishing are all within safe biological limits.


Norway has recently started to develop a more systematic approach to marine conservation measures and will continue to work on this in relation to integrated ocean management.


No subsidies contribute to IUU.


Norway supports Small Island Developing States implementing UNCLOS, building ocean governance capacity, fighting IUU and adapting to climate changes.


General status: The ecological quality of Norwegian coastal waters is good. Integrated ocean management is implemented through integrated management plans for three Large Marine Ecosystems. Coastal areas are managed with the objective of achieving good ecological and chemical status for all water bodies by 2021. To this end, 11 regional water management plans have been adopted. Monitoring of the ecological and chemical status of coastal waters has been substantially increased.

Main achievements: The Norwegian Government continues to develop additional measures to prevent and reduce marine litter and microplastics from identified sources. A national competence centre has been established. Forty-four per cent of all areas under Norwegian fisheries’ jurisdiction is subject to effective area-based management measures. A reform of fisheries control has been initiated including utilisation of new digital technologies. Nine new marine protected areas were established in Norwegian coastal waters in 2020. Norway is investing heavily in research, infrastructure, mapping and monitoring.

Main challenges: In some marine areas challenges remain due to the impacts of eutrophication, unsatisfactory status for certain species and the spread of alien species. Data remains limited on the presence and impact of plastic litter and microplastics on ecosystems and species in Norway.

Global responsibility: Norway contributes to a sustainable and inclusive ocean economy both nationally and internationally, including through capacity-building programmes in fisheries and ocean management. In 2018, Norway established a development aid fund to combat marine litter and microplastics that will run for six years. Norway contributes to the UN Decade on Ocean Science, and is a member of the Ocean Decade Alliance, of which the Norwegian Prime Minister is patron.

In 2020, Norway entered into a four-year agreement with DOALOS on cooperation on capacity-developing activities in the Caribbean, Pacific and African regions.

In 2018, Norway initiated an international declaration against transnational organised crime in the global fishing industry and launched the Blue Justice Initiative in 2019.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021 
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 22 (2016–2017) The place of the oceans in Norway’s foreign and development policy.
  • In 2018 Prime Minister Solberg initiated the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The 14 member states have now committed to a transformational action agenda for a sustainable ocean economy, at the core of which is the commitment to sustainably manage 100 per cent of our national ocean territories by 2025.
  • Norway hosted the Our Ocean Conference in 2019. New commitments were presented by the participants.
  • An updated governmental ocean strategy was released in 2019.
  • In 2020, updates of Norway’s three integrated ocean management plans were presented together, with new knowledge and a harmonised goal structure.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: Friends of the Earth Norway, WWF Norway, the Norwegian Biodiversity Network (Sabima) and Spire.

Trend: Negative

Norway has succeeded in developing ocean management plans for the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea, and has identified important areas for biodiversity (SVO). Several of the commercially exploited fish stocks in Norwegian waters are sustainably managed. Internationally, Norway plays an important role in the work to create a global agreement on marine litter, as well as support for initiatives to clean up ocean debris. The Fish for Development Programme and the support for SIDS Norway, makes a substantial contribution to knowledge transfer between Norway and selected developing countries. Norway has ratified the Nagoya protocol and will be implementing it soon.

Norway’s challenges include the insufficient integration of biodiversity and ecosystem values into development strategies, both at national and local levels. Ocean management plans are not ecosystem-based and rely on sector-based management measures prioritising commercial species. There are no national plans or significant initiatives to restore damaged coastal or marine habitats, and there is limited knowledge of the relationship between species (especially non-commercial) and their habitats. Bycatch in fisheries, including endangered species, is a major challenge. Norway lacks a protection plan for seabirds and has not met the national target for sustainable and robust seabird populations.

Norway lacks a legal instrument for establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPA) within the EEZ outside 12 nm. MPAs make up well below the 2020 target of 10 per cent (3.7 per cent within 12nm, and 0.5 per cent within EEZ). MPAs are not representative, nor fully protected (from bottom trawling). There are virtually no no-fishing zones. Norway has over-reported the protection achieved in its MPAs. Only a small proportion of known coral reefs have any kind of protection, and only from bottom-trawling. The important and biologically valuable ice edge zone has been opened to petroleum activities.

Harmful subsidies, for example, in the petroleum and forest industries, harm coastal and marine ecosystems. Pollution of coastal waters from industry, transport and urban areas remains a major challenge. Despite several measures, nutrient run-off from agriculture remains a challenge. There is limited control of the aquaculture industry and its negative impacts on the marine environment remain significant, with the continuously increasing discharge of nutrients and use of chemical pesticides to tackle salmon lice. Fisheries and aquaculture remain major sources of plastic pollution. Large-scale dumping of tiles and waste from mining has been authorised in several Norwegian fjords in recent years, destroying benthic ecosystems and increasing local marine pollution. Norway remains positive to deep-sea mining.

Norway must:
  • revise its Nature Diversity Act to enable designation of MPAs and protection of SVOs within the EEZ outside 12 nm;
  • ensure the advice of environmental experts is used in management decisions;
  • strengthen the capacity and competence of municipalities in assessing nature risk;
  • increase restoration of destroyed and degraded marine and coastal nature;
  • phase out subsidies that are detrimental to the marine and coastal environment;
  • prioritise implementation of a national marine protection plan to meet the new target of 30 per cent by 2030, and ensure that currently planned/proposed MPAs are quickly finalised and enforced;
  • develop and implement a nature-based spatial accounting system for coastal and marine areas;
  • halt the current opening of deep seabed mining on the Norwegian continental shelf and Norwegian support for deep-sea mining internationally.

15 Life on land

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Government assessment


17,5 per cent of Norway’s mainland area is legally protected. Plans for conservation are on track, as well as plans for restauration of freshwater ecosystems. Criteria for sustainability and actions for restauration of other ecosystems are being developed.


37 per cent of Norway’s land area is covered by forests whereof nearly 100 per cent is certified by global forest management certification systems. Action is being taken to reduce deforestation.


Norway has a national strategy for the protection of agricultural areas, and the loss has been within national targets in recent years.


34 per cent of Norway’s mountain ecosystems are protected areas, and a quality standard for wild reindeer has been established.


Nature protection legislation is in place and action has been taken. More measures and plans have still to be put into effect.


National regulations to enable the fair/equitable distribution has been put out to public consultation. Norway contributes annually to the Benefit-sharing Fund.


National, EU and international law is implemented to end poaching and trafficking of protected species, e.g. in keeping with the CITES.


Regulation on introduction of alien species in place and adoption of action plan to combat invasive alien species.


Biodiversity values are integrated into relevant legislation.


General status: Norway’s management of ecosystems on land is based on knowledge, goals and laws on sustainability. There are policies for most of those targets and those targets will be met when they are fully implemented.

Main achievements: Comprehensive legislation for sustainable use and conservation of nature is in place through the Planning and Building Act, regulations on environmental impact assessment, the Nature Diversity Act, and sector laws like the Water resources Act and Forestry Act. Protection of Norway’s mainland is up from 17 per cent in 2016 to 17,5 per cent in 2020, including the protection of forests within legally established protected areas (IUCN I-IV) up from 4 per cent to 5,1 per cent. In total, 25 per cent of Norway’s land area is protected. Nearly 100 per cent of the forest area is certified by global forest certification systems. A total of 390 watercourses are protected. Integrated ecosystem management plans are in place for all watercourses. A comprehensive national biodiversity Action Plan was decided on by the Norwegian Parliament in 2016.

Main challenges: Land-use and land-use change are the biggest threats to protection and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems nationally, along with climate change, invasive alien species and pollution. Safeguarding threatened species and habitats is challenging. Of the 21000 assessed species in Norway, 2355 are under threat of extinction. 66 of the 211 assessed habitat types are considered under threat. Meeting the target for invasive alien species is also difficult (target 15.8, indicator 15.8.1) as only a few are currently controlled or eradicated. The negative effects of climate change on biodiversity will increase these challenges. Valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services is also challenging.

Global responsibility: Over the last decade Norway has more than doubled the biodiversity related to international financial resource flows to developing countries. Norway has taken a leadership role in halting and reversing deforestation and forest degradation in tropical countries through Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, which works with forest countries, civil society, multilateral institutions, the private sector and other actors. Reducing the loss of forests is pivotal to halting the loss of biodiversity. Norway also supports other initiatives such as the BIOFIN initiative of UNDP, which assists developing countries into incorporating biodiversity comprehensively into their national development planning and financial strategies, including their NBSAPs.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021
  • National Biodiversity Action Plan.
  • A specific goal on protection of 10 per cent of Norway’s forests.
  • Establishing cross-sectoral targets for ecological status of terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Action Plan for Threatened Nature.
  • Action Plan for Management of Protected Areas.
  • Action Plan for Alien Organisms.
  • A national ban on peatland conversion to agriculture.
  • Strengthened environmental concerns in forestry.
  • A White Paper on environmental crime.
  • National Strategy for Conservation and Sustainable use of Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: Friends of the Earth Norway, the Rainforest Foundation Norway, WWF Norway, the Norwegian Biodiversity Network (Sabima), Spire, the Norwegian Trekking Association and the Norwegian Association for Outdoor Organisations.

Trend: Negative

Norway’s successes include some progress on protecting land areas, although these are not representative and often not enforced in accordance with international agreements. There is now more knowledge available about species and ecosystems than before, and some good strategy documents have been developed. Norway has maintained its commitment to and financing for international rainforest protection.

Norway’s challenges include a failure to prioritise biodiversity and ecosystems ahead of resource exploitation. Norway has failed to meet the SDG restoration targets and is not on track for meeting them. Furthermore, the target of ecosystem protection is far from met, and the ecosystem components that do have some degree of protection are not representative.

The Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which are the basis for several of the SDG 15 targets, expired in 2020. Hence, several of the targets under this goal should already have been met. However, as the report State of the Nature 2020 revealed, Norway had not met any of the Aichi targets by 2020.

Sustainable use of nature and integration of biodiversity and ecosystem values into all sectors of society is another area in which Norway has failed. Several current policies are harmful to nature and ecosystems, including subsidies to harmful practices in the forestry sector. Furthermore, the authorities have been criticised for not taking biodiversity and ecosystems into account when planning infrastructure development and for weakening the legal framework in connection with such development.

Norway must:
  • let the consideration for nature and biodiversity weigh significantly heavier than is currently the case;
  • avoid large-scale infrastructure development in intact nature. Where such projects in nature are deemed absolutely necessary, land use neutrality principles must apply (i.e. restoration of habitat of at least the same size and quality);
  • ensure sufficient funding for the implementation of national strategies and international obligations for nature and biodiversity protection;
  • ensure that Norwegian legislation safeguards nature and recreational values in a satisfactory manner, making it possible to meet the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and achieve the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity to which Norway has committed. Existing legislation must therefore be tightened and strengthened in several areas, not liberalised and weakened;
  • ensure that there is sufficient funding for appropriate environmental expertise and capacity in the municipalities. This is a prerequisite for being able to make local plans that safeguard nature;
  • develop and introduce national, regional and municipal spatial accounting systems. It is important to know what we have and what we are destroying, losing or diminishing;
  • ensure sufficient and representative protection of Norway’s land areas, in line with the proposed 30 per cent target from the UN;
  • manage, protect and facilitate nature-based solutions for climate adaptation in the face of the more extreme weather conditions expected due to climate change, to prevent loss and damage of species and habitats;
  • prioritise and expedite the process of meeting the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets and SDG targets;
  • ensure that species conservation in Norway follows international commitments and national legislation, and is driven by solid scientific principles rather than short-term political decisions (for example regarding large carnivore management);
  • step up funding for the Norwegian Climate and Forest Initiative, which is Norway’s most important climate and nature initiative internationally;
  • ensure that indigenous peoples and environmental defenders become a central target group in Norwegian development aid policies and practices, as they are crucial for protecting vulnerable nature and ecosystems;
  • ensure that Norway is tropical deforestation free by 2025.

16 Peace, justice, and strong institutions

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Government assessment


Norway has a very low homicide and violence rate, but a challenge exists with intimate partner homicides and domestic violence.


Abuse, trafficking and violence against children is relatively low, however digital arenas may be concealing a greater problem.


The Norwegian society is based on rule of law and access to justice.


The fight against illicit financial flows continues.


Corruption and bribery are not considered to be a major problem in Norway. In the annual Corruption Perceptions Index from Transparency International, Norway is reported as having a low prevalence of corruption.

16.6– 16.7

Norway scores high on the democracy indexes.


Norway promotes inclusive participation by governments and other stakeholders in institutions of global governance.


Birth registration and legal identity are regulated by law.


Access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms are secured in both the Constitution and in statutory law.


General status: Norway is a comparatively peaceful society with a low and decreasing prevalence of crime. Enshrined in the Constitution are the principles of popular sovereignty, separation of powers, parliamentarism and human rights. This secures the foundation for a well-governed democracy adhering to the rule of law. The state institutions are accountable, transparent and open, subjected to constraint on powers. Norwegian courts ensure that the state respects and secures human rights and freedoms, including equality of the law and non-discrimination. Norway has a relatively high participation rate in both local and national elections. Legislation safeguard transparency, predictability and participation in public decision-making.

Figure 6.13 Number of victims of intentional homicide, by sex (persons)

Graph showing the number of victims of intentional homicide by sex between 2004 and 2019.

Source: Statistics Norway

Main achievements: To facilitate for a more effective fight against corruption and money laundering Norway enacted a law on beneficial ownership in 2019. Norway continues to make complementary regulations, including a beneficial ownership register, which is intended to enter into force soon.

Several legislatory works are in progress with a view to strengthening and securing the rule of law. A reform to streamline and strengthen courts’ competency will be legally enacted in 2021. A new public administration act has been under development since 2015. To improve legal security a reform on free legal aid was initiated in 2018.

The Equality and Anti-discrimination Act 2018 prohibits discrimination against several identified groups.

Main challenges: The homicide rate in Norway is approximately 0.6 per 100,000 inhabitants per year, a relatively low figure globally. However, in 2018, 25 per cent of homicides in Norway were intimate partner homicides. Domestic violence remains a challenge. Another priority for the Government is combating violence and sexual abuse of children. Abuse, trafficking and violence against children is relatively low, but there is reason to believe that digital arenas conceal problems.

The Government is concerned about criminal activity among children and adolescents, including gang crime. In addition, the Government has placed the challenge off radicalisation and violent extremism high on the agenda.

Global responsibility: Norway contributes to building inclusive, transparent and accountable societies based on a broad democracy concept, underpinned by human rights and rule of law. Norway is engaged in international efforts to prevent and combat tax evasion, corruption and illicit financial flows. This has a considerable potential to increase the mobilisation of resources for sustainable development. Technical assistance to support competence and capacity building in public bodies is offered in areas such as resource management, tax, and anti-corruption. Norway is a partner in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, including the implementation of the Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021
  • New Public Administration Act (2015–ongoing).
  • The Escalation Plan against Violence and Abuse (2017–2021).
  • The Norwegian Government established a commission on intimate partner homicide (2018).
  • The new Equality and Antidiscrimination Act (2018).
  • New law against laundering of proceeds of crime (2018).
  • Reform of free legal aid (2018–).
  • Law on beneficial ownership (2019–2021).
  • Reform of the court system (2019–2021).
  • The Government’s new strategy to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (2020).

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM), the United Nations Association of Norway, UNICEF Norway, Norwegian People’s Aid, Save the Children, Digni, the Norwegian Guide and Scout Association, Changemaker, CISV, Oslove Noereh, the Norwegian Medical Students’ Association, the Norwegian Forum of Disabled Peoples’ Organizations SAFO and the Norwegian Children and Youth Council.

Trend: Stagnant

Norway has succeeded in building a viable, egalitarian and democratic society. The civil society comprises a diverse community of actors organised across sectors within different interests. There is robust cooperation between the Government and non-governmental actors on many levels.

Internationally, Norway has a long history of facilitating peace and reconciliation processes to end conflicts around the world. Norway has contributed to nation-building programmes through the UN system and through development aid. Strengthening civil society is a development goal.

Norway’s challenge is preventing discrimination and reducing hate speech, racism and polarisation. Violence and abuse of children has gone up, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. There has also been an increase in violence against women and in the number of female murder victims over the last couple of years. In addition, there have been cases of human rights violations in Norway. In 2019, for example, the European Court of Human Rights found the Norwegian Child Welfare Services guilty of violating the UN Convention on Rights of the Child. There have also been complaints about issues related to the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, on investments made by the Government Pension Fund Global, and on the treatment of psychiatric patients. It is worth pointing out that Norway does not have a clear definition of statelessness in its legislation, nor a procedure for granting stateless persons a residence permit, which violates the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Norway faces challenges related to international organised crime. In 2018, approximately 9,000 victims of human trafficking were living in Norway under conditions that could be described as modern-day slavery. Norwegian banks are often the target of foreign and domestic white-washing schemes and illicit financial activities. Norwegian police have singled out tax evasion as one of the biggest threats to the Norwegian welfare state.

Norway’s reputation as a champion for peace is under pressure because of its involvement in the weapons industry and military operations abroad. Ten years after the 2011 military intervention, the humanitarian crisis in Libya is worse than ever. The income of the Norwegian arms industry increased by almost 50 per cent from 2019 to 2020.

Norway must:
  • implement the UNSCR 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security;
  • increase support to democratic institutions through the Norwegian Development Cooperation programmes, and increase funding of civil society organisations in countries where human rights are under pressure;
  • be an advocate for the rights of civil society actors; promote increased political space for trade unions and women’s organisations, and active engagement of children and youth in civic actions everywhere;
  • universally defend fundamental human rights like freedom of speech, freedom of religion or belief, and the rights of women and the LGBTQ community;
  • condemn laws that limit democratic rights and impede participation in civic duties, including restrictions on NGOs and the use of anti-terrorism laws to stifle civil society;
  • adopt independent Norwegian legislation for sanctions against individuals responsible for human rights violations;
  • legislate for stateless persons’ right to social services and necessary health care;
  • substitute the current Guardianship Act with a law on decision support;
  • sign the UN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons;
  • increase the participation of civil society, academia, professionals and the private sector in the 2030 Agenda and in the national action plan as well as its future revisions.

17 Partnership for the goals

Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

Government assessment


Norway met the target of doubling official development assistance (ODA) to support domestic resource mobilisation in low-income countries in 2019, c.f. the Addis Tax Initiative (2015). 2020 was difficult due to COVID-19, but we hope to get back to fulfilling the goal in 2021.


The Norwegian Government stands by its commitment to provide 1 per cent of GNI as official development assistance (ODA), and to meet the UN target of providing a minimum of 0.20 per cent of its GNI as ODA to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Norway supports the G20/Paris Club Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and the Common Framework for debt restructuring for countries in immediate debt distress, as well as efforts by the World Bank and the IMF to support debt relief under the Common Framework and beyond (in LDCs).


Norway supports the technology mechanism under the Paris Agreement and the Climate Change Convention, co-leads the Digital Public Goods Alliance and supports several digital public goods that are available for education, health and businesses.


Norway offers technical cooperation, upon demand, to support competence and capacity building in public bodies in areas such as resource management, taxation, anti-corruption, statistics, digitalisation and gender equality.


Norway is actively engaged in the development dimension of the WTO and in the cooperation for increasing exports from low-income countries. LDCs and other low-income countries have free access to the Norwegian market without customs duties or quotas.


Political commitment, a whole-of-government approach and multi-stakeholder engagement are in place to foster policy coherence for sustainable development.


Statistics Norway plays an active role in the national as well as the international work to develop indicators for the SDG targets. The institution also has a long-standing commitment to support statistical capacity building in developing countries.


General status: Norway is a proactive member of the global community and a firm supporter of the multilateral system. National policy as well as development cooperation are based on the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

Figure 6.14 Net official development assistance (ODA) to SIDS, LDCs, LLDC and total ODA as a percentage of GNI

Source: OECD, Norwegian Agency for Development

Main challenges: Norway faces dilemmas in balancing the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, including between national and international aspects and between current and future generations. Procedures have been developed for policy coherence, but difficult decisions still have to be made.

Main achievements: The level of the development budget at 1 per cent of GNI has been maintained for several years and enjoys broad political and public support. The Knowledge Bank was established in 2018 with the mandate to strengthen and coordinate a range of technical cooperation programmes. Norway promotes multilateral cooperation in relation to enhanced norms, standards and operative measures to prevent and combat corruption, tax evasion and illicit financial flows. This has considerable potential for increased mobilisation of resources for sustainable development. Norway has a long tradition of inter-ministerial coordination and cooperation with civil society, the private sector, academia and other stakeholders.

Main policy initiatives 2016–2021
  • White Paper, Meld. St. 24 (2016–2017) Joint Responsibility for a Common Future. The 2030 Agenda and Norway’s development cooperation policy.
  • Evaluation of Norway’s Anti-corruption Efforts as part of its Development Policy and Assistance, Report no. 5/2020.
  • Norway has spearheaded the inclusion of ‘large-scale corruption’ and ‘illicit financial flows’ on the international agenda.
  • The president of ECOSOC (Norway) and the president of the UN General Assembly (Nigeria) launched the UN High Level Panel on financial accountability, transparency and integrity (the FACTI Panel) in 2020. The Panel’s final report, launched in 2021, calls for a Global Pact on financial integrity for sustainable development.

Civil society assessment

The following organisations have participated in this assessment: the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM), Debt Justice Norway, Save the Children, the Norwegian Children and Youth Council (LNU), the Rainforest Foundation Norway, the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations, CISV, the Norwegian Federation of Cultural Heritage Organisations, the United Nations Association of Norway, Sustainable Living Norway, Norwegian Church Aid (member of ACT Alliance) and Norwegian People’s Aid.

Trend: Stagnant

Norway has succeeded in achieving a high level of trust between citizens, organisations and authorities, and there is a strong voluntary sector. Norway has maintained a high level of development aid and has strengthened programmes to help increase national resource mobilisation in developing countries. The forthcoming National Action Plan for Implementation of the 2030 Agenda is a sign of the improved efforts to achieve the SDGs.

Norway’s challenges include weak coordination between different ministries. There is a need to integrate policies across sectors to achieve policy coherence for sustainable development. The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation of the management and review of the national follow-up of the SDGs shows that the progress has been insufficient and that coordination between different policy areas is weak. The lack of a comprehensive plan for implementation of the SDGs has also slowed down the progress to achieve the SDGs, across several levels and sectors. Norway has not satisfactorily involved Statistics Norway to work with the SDGs. On the national level, there is too little funding for and access to useful exchanges of knowledge between civil society, academia, business and authorities.

All over the world, we are now seeing that progress towards achieving the UN’s SDGs is slowing down. In all probability, we are now on the cusp of a long-term economic downturn that will particularly impact on the most vulnerable. It is not time to lower our ambitions for development policy and we hope the Government will continue its high level of Norwegian development assistance. There is also a need for more investment in developing countries.

Norway’s engagement in meeting target 17.4 has lost headway. There is still a need to strengthen the global systems in order to ensure responsible sovereign lending and borrowing and the orderly, equitable and efficient resolution of sovereign debt crises.

Norway must:
  • maintain 1 per cent of the gross national income (GNI) as aid for developing countries;
  • ensure policy coherence for sustainable development on all levels of government, as well as harmonise all laws with the SDGs;
  • place the overall responsibility for coordinating the implementation of the SDGs at the Prime Minister’s office;
  • share and communicate public data relevant to work on the SDGs more efficiently with organisations and citizens;
  • support developing countries’ institutional capacity and improve tax systems, including continuing to build the Tax for Development programme, in order to strengthen systems for education, health and social safety nets. Norway should work for the establishment of an intergovernmental tax body in the UN;
  • introduce extended country-by-country reporting legislation to help disclose illicit capital flight and increase domestic resource mobilisation;
  • re-engage in UN discussions on how to strengthen global debt architecture to secure sovereign debt sustainability and show leadership in the process towards global consensus on responsible lending and borrowing;
  • strengthen the partnership between the public, private and civil society in Norway and enhance global partnership on all levels abroad, especially within the UN framework.

6.3 Norway’s performance 2016–2020 according to the SDG-Index and Dashboard

The Nordic countries and several other Western countries score high on the SDG-index and Norway is ranked number 6. Norway scores high on no poverty (SDG 1), god health and well-being (SDG 3), gender equality (SDG 5), affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), reduced inequalities (SDG 10) and partnership for the goals (SDG 17).

Norwegians have also a high level of material consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, which gives Norway a low score on responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) and climate action (SDG 13). The index also shows that Norway and other Western countries scores lower on the spillover indicators. Norway scores 54.1 on the spillover score. This is due to the negative impact on climate and environment embodied in Norwegian imports, as well as export of weapons.

Figure 6.15 SDG Index

Graph showing Norway's spillover score on the SDG index.

Source: Sachs, J., Schmidt-Traub, G., Kroll, C., Lafortune, G., Fuller, G., Woelm, F. 2020. The Sustainable Development Goals and COVID-19. Sustainable Development Report 2020. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Visualisation: Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, Norway

6.4 Policy coherence for the 2030 Agenda

Norwegian development policy is based on the long-standing vision of sustainable development through a balanced interface between the economic, social and environmental dimensions. The concept of sustainable development was established by the Brundtland Commission in the ground-breaking ‘Our Common Future’ report from 1987, and has been an enduring policy principle for all Norwegian governments.

Norway’s ambition for policy coherence means that Norwegian policies should contribute to global development, in accordance with the SDGs. As a minimum, Norwegian policies should not impact negatively on goal achievement for developing countries. This ambition holds true for all policy areas, including trade, agriculture, human rights, migration, investment, climate, environment, energy, security and foreign policy.

The Government’s policy platform from 2019 states that the Government will ‘pursue a development policy where the SDGs are used as a basis and where various initiatives to the greatest possible extent pull in the same direction‘. Likewise, working for better policy coherence for development also requires awareness of the possible negative consequences that Norwegian national policy in various areas may have for the development policy area.

Within the framework of our OECD collaboration, we work with other members to implement the OECD Recommendation on Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development, including peer learning and exchanging best practices.

In order to address such issues, nine reports on policy coherence have been prepared by the Government as part of the annual budget proposal to parliament: ‘Global Common Goods’ (2011), ‘Investments in the Energy Sector’ (2012), ‘Distribution and Economic Growth’ (2013), ‘Norway and the new Sustainable Development Goals’ (2014), ‘Peace, Security and development’ (2015), ‘Sustainable Development Goal 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies with well-functioning legal systems and responsible institutions at all levels’ (2016) and ‘Sustainable Development Target 16.5 on combating corruption’ (2017) and on the ‘Policy Coherence Reform’ (2018) and ‘Climate and Environment’ (2019). The reports have been prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with other ministries.

In addition, Norwegian civil society organisations have played an active role in monitoring the area of policy coherence for development, compiling their own reports and performing their own assessments, such as the Norwegian Church Aid 2020 report. The input from civil society is important for holding the Government to account and ensures a continued public focus on policy coherence issues.

All governments face multiple difficult dilemmas in their policy coherence work. Political decisions must be made in cases where the optimal balance between economic, social and environmental factors may be hard to find, and cases where different groups and political parties may have differing views.

Democracy itself is designed to stimulate discussion and take different perspectives into account, including the global effects of any policy and the interests of future generations. Regular routines for policy formulation, planning and safeguarding policy coherence are put in place in the Norwegian Government, with extensive rounds of external consultation with relevant stakeholders. There are also rule-bound inter-ministerial processes for government decision-making. For the most part, both the inclusive democratic processes and the inter-ministerial processes are working well – also in terms of safeguarding policy coherence for development.

However, developing country representatives and future generations are not at the table to take part in policy-making in Norway. Intrinsically, there is a potential risk that all relevant perspectives on policy coherence are not taken sufficiently into account. Thus, there is a need for special attention to the area of policy coherence for development, and Norway has tried using various models to improve.

Since 2018, the work on policy coherence has been gradually reformed to be more targeted. In 2020, the Government replaced the deliberative ‘Policy coherence forum’ (‘Samstemthetsforum’), established in 2018, with the Advisory Forum on Policy Coherence (‘Innspillsforum for samstemthet’) (see Chapter 5.2.2).

The participants come from the business community, academia, civil society, the business associations and labour organisations to represent civic life in Norway in the broad sense. The advisory forum deliberates general issues and concerns related to policy coherence and voices its views directly to the Government.

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