Speech/statement | Date: 28/05/2019
By Former Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein (Oslo, 28 May)
Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein's remarks at the launch of the Peer Review report on the development cooperation policies and programmes of Norway.
Check against delivery
Chair, representatives of the OECD/DAC secretariat, colleagues and friends
First of all, let me congratulate you, Susanna, on your appointment as DAC Chair. From what I hear, your first 100 days in office have been very productive and you have got off to a very good start.
The DAC plays a unique role in the international development system. It is the custodian of ODA and it has a highly political function, as our discussions and decisions in this forum shape the norms and standards for what we consider to be high-quality, efficient and effective development cooperation policies.
Providing statistics is one of the DAC’s core functions, as is promoting mutual learning through the exchange of experience and best practice. The peer reviews have a particularly important role to play in this regard.
I would also like to congratulate the Peer Review team on a job very well done. The team has produced a balanced report that gives us a lot of recognition and positive feedback, as well as 12 recommendations for improvement. This evaluation by such an experienced group will be of great use to us. Thank you.
I am delighted that the overall conclusion of the Peer Review report is that Norway is a strong partner for development and that Norway uses its voice to be a consistent global leader.
I am pleased to see the recognition the report gives to Norway’s policies and approach.
- The 2030 Agenda with the 17 sustainable development goals forms the basis for our engagement. We have identified a number of thematic and geographical priorities. The report highlights Norway’s engagement in domestic resource mobilisation, technical cooperation, private sector development, human rights, peace and reconciliation, and our support for civil society organisations.
- The report also recognises Norway’s high-profile efforts to promote global governance, norms and frameworks, and global public goods.
- The report states that Norway is making an exemplary contribution to the global humanitarian system.
There is broad-based political support in Norway for maintaining ODA at 1 % of our gross national income (GNI). And I can confirm that Norway’s international development policy is broad and multifaceted, and goes far beyond ODA.
The whole point of the peer review process is to show us how we can do even better, and give us an opportunity to reflect on our policies, our organisation, and our systems and procedures. What are we aiming to achieve? And how well are we set up to achieve our objectives? Where can we make improvements that can take us that extra mile?
We are acutely aware of some of our shortcomings and weaknesses. We have begun a process of organisational reform in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norad, which will help to address some of them.
Now, let’s look at the 12 recommendations in the Peer Review report:
- The first recommendation highlights the need to ensure policy coherence for development, specifically the need to strengthen the institutional responsibility for following up on the Policy Coherence Forum I believe we are on the right track on this point, and that broad participation in the forum will pave the way for improving results and reporting.
- With regard to the second recommendation, I have taken steps to re-establish the position of Deputy Secretary General for International Development in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I believe this will enhance our ability to strengthen strategic oversight in order to ensure that programming decisions are aligned with our overall visions and policies.
- The third recommendation, on the need to adapt our systems, structures and capabilities to the shift we have made in our development model, is a valid one.
The Ministry’s Human Resources Strategy for 2018-2021 highlights the importance of strategic workforce planning. We are now in the process of implementing a new skills management model and a new staffing system for the Foreign Service.
- The report suggests that our increased use of multilateral channels for ODA creates an additional layer between Norway and the partner countries, and that we should consider the consequences of this for development effectiveness, fragmentation and our efforts to ensure that we leave no one behind.
I challenge the view that using multilateral channels undermines development effectiveness. On the contrary, assistance delivered through multilateral channels reduces the transaction costs for the partner government concerned. Using multilateral channels is also a way of mobilising new donors and partnerships for development, and could have a multiplier effect on our efforts. Besides, collective action can yield better results.
The UN and the multilateral development banks are expected to work with national governments, make use of national structures and align their efforts with national development plans. However, we cannot merely take this for granted. As the Peer Review team has quite rightly emphasised, donors need to actively engage with multilateral organisations at board level in order to influence their strategies, plans and actions.
I take note of the comment that Norway should avoid contributing to fragmentation by limiting the creation of new instruments. I am proud of the role we have played in promoting programmes for vaccination, maternal and child health, and education in crisis situations. These efforts have produced impressive results. However, I am fully aware that fragmentation is a challenge, and this is an issue that will be discussed in the forthcoming white paper on Norway’s multilateral engagement.
- I agree with the recommendation that Norway’s planned country strategies for the 16 partner countries should encompass all actors and programmes – including bilateral and multilateral engagement.
- And when it comes to results-based management, I realise that Norway, in spite of recent improvements, still faces some challenges. This is why we are now developing a new digital results portal, which will help ensure a more systematic approach to results management, as well as facilitating transparency and learning.
- It is true, too, that we can do more to integrate anti-corruption into our risk-management approach at the project and programme levels. It seems that our staff and partners are not always sufficiently aware of the threat corruption poses to goal achievement in development cooperation and humanitarian assistance.
- I agree with the eighth recommendation, which states that: ‘Norway should ensure it conducts conflict analysis and risk monitoring consistently and comprehensively throughout its development co-operation in fragile contexts’. This remains a challenge.
- The Peer Review team is right in saying that Norway lacks a formal knowledge-management system and that this limits opportunities for learning and strategic direction across Norway’s development cooperation system. Work is under way to develop the new results portal, which will enable us to capture knowledge gained in projects and programmes and use this knowledge to inform and improve programming and decision-making.
- The Peer Review team recommends that Norway should continue to develop its approach to the four cross-cutting issues of anti-corruption, women’s rights and gender equality, human rights, and climate change and environment. We need to look into the implications of the ‘do-no-harm’ approach and the opportunities to ‘do good’. However, the cross-cutting issues are also priority areas in their own right, and there are thematic chapters devoted to some of them in the ODA budget.
- and 12. With regard to the two final recommendations in the report, the Peer Review has hit the nail on the head when it says that that ‘institutional arrangements have led to overlap and inefficiency’. This is precisely why we are now undergoing a long-overdue organisational reform process. The Government has decided that Norad will be given responsibility for the management of much of Norway’s development assistance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have specific responsibility for policy development, and will represent Norway in important international arenas. The Peer Review report contains a number of observations and recommendations that will be very useful in the reform process.
Finally, I would like to add the following: the Peer Review was conducted before I joined the Government. I intend to promote continuity as well as change. I will continue to give priority to 1) health, 2) education, 3) climate, environment and oceans, 4) domestic resource mobilisation, private sector development, food security and renewable energy, and 5) humanitarian assistance. And, of course, the four cross-cutting issues.
However, as I made clear in my address to the Parliament on Norwegian international development policy last week, from now on our policy will have a stronger ‘pro-poor’ profile. We are substantially strengthening our efforts to enhance climate adaptation, build resilience and fight hunger. We are also increasing our support to vulnerable groups. More attention will be given to people with disabilities and to efforts to combat modern slavery and harmful practices. This is fully in line with the pledge that we, along with 192 other countries, have made to leave no one behind.
In accordance with our stronger pro-poor profile, I can guarantee that Norway’s overall engagement in sub-Saharan Africa will increase. Most of the world’s least-developed countries can be found there. This region faces the biggest challenges in terms of climate change, population growth and governance.
Norway works actively at the international level to promote increased domestic resource mobilisation for sustainable development. Improving tax systems and fighting corruption and illicit financial flows are vital if we are to mobilise the resources needed to implement the sustainable development goals.
Equally important is our active engagement in various forums to influence norms, rules and operational measures, with a view to enhancing the global conditions for sustainable development. This is another area where Norway’s efforts have been recognised by the Peer Review team.