Historical archive

Speeches and statements by the former Minister of International Development Nikolai Astrup

Address on Norway's international development policy 26 April

Historical archive

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Minister of International Development Nikolai Astrup's address to the Storting on Norway's international development policy, 26 April.

Mr President,

Never before has there been such great progress, and never before have so many benefited from this progress, as in recent decades.

Minister of International Development Nikolai Astrup gives his address to the Storting. Credit: From stortinget.no
Minister of International Development Nikolai Astrup gives his address to the Storting. Credit: From stortinget.no

Every year, every week, every day and every second, the world is becoming a bit better.

  • The proportion of people living in poverty is falling.
  • The number of people living in extreme poverty has been halved since 2000.
  • More children go to school.
  • Polio will soon be eradicated, the number of people affected by hiv/aids has been reduced by a third, and more children than ever before reach the age of five.
  • And, over the last few decades, many countries have taken major steps towards becoming free democracies that respect human rights.

But the path towards a world without poverty is not without challenges.

  • There are many serious and protracted humanitarian crises in the world.
  • Climate change is destroying livelihoods and driving people from their homes.
  • There are many examples of freedom of expression and freedom of the press coming under pressure.
  • Women's sexual and reproductive health and rights are being threatened by forces seeking to reverse the progress made in this field in recent years.
  • Shifts in the global economic power balance are creating uncertainty and encouraging protectionist, isolationist and nationalist tendencies, which could threaten economic development, security and stability.

At the same time, we know that population growth will be highest in some of the world's poorest countries.

Africa's population is expected to double by 2050, reaching two billion people. Most of them will be under 30, and they will have one thing in common: the dream of a better life – freedom, security and the opportunity to be able to support themselves and their families.

Mr President,

For the last 50 years, Western countries have sought to help people to realise this dream by means of aid. This has not produced the results we hoped for.

What we have to ask ourselves is how we can do better in the future. We should not be naive. There are no simple solutions to complex development challenges.

However, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which world leaders adopted in 2015, provides us with a better starting point than we have ever had before.

Through strategic partnerships, the countries of the world will work to:

  • eradicate poverty, malnutrition and hunger,
  • ensure good health and quality education for all, and
  • combat climate change and reduce global inequality.

The SDGs represent a new approach to development. They apply to all countries and affect all parts of society. The SDGs mark a break with the traditional view that development is primarily a matter of providing aid. Achieving the SDGs will require national efforts and national resources. The 2030 Agenda has grown out of the important recognition that, if the world is to achieve sustainable development, all countries need to take ownership of the challenges they face, and they need to set priorities and allocate their resources accordingly.

Because, Mr President:

  • Aid alone cannot create growth and prosperity.
  • Aid alone cannot prevent wars, conflicts and migration.
  • But aid is one of several instruments that can be used to promote long-term capacity building and domestic resource mobilisation.

The 2030 Agenda has blurred the dividing line between developing and developed countries. We no longer talk about donors and recipients, but rather about mutually beneficial cooperation and real partnerships. We have a common responsibility to address global challenges, and all the world's countries have an individual responsibility to contribute to sustainable development. And that includes Norway.

  • We know that wars and conflicts far away have consequences for us in Norway; they lead to huge flows of refugees.
  • We know that marginalisation can create a breeding ground for radicalisation and extremism, and this is increasing the threat of terrorism – for us too.
  • We know that climate change and environmental problems do not stop at national borders.
  • We know that diminished respect for the international legal order can have ramifications for Norway.
  • And we know that it is cheaper, easier and more effective to prevent a crisis, than it is to address a crisis once it has erupted.

The proactive role Norway is playing in international efforts to achieve the SDGs is not, therefore, just a matter of solidarity; it is in our own interests.


My first visit abroad as Minister of International Development was to Senegal. There I had the pleasure of announcing that Norway will provide more than NOK 2 billion to the Global Partnership for Education over the next three years.

However, as was recognised at the donor conference in Senegal, if we are to achieve the goal of quality education for all, it is not enough for donor countries to increase their contributions.

Developing countries also need to mobilise domestic resources in order to bring about development, whether in the field of education, health, climate change or job creation.

The President of Ghana was one of several who spoke of this, describing his clear vision of 'a Ghana beyond aid'. And, Mr President, this is precisely the aim of the Government's international development policy: to enable developing countries to become independent of aid in the future.

This will take time. But our aim must be for all countries to have a system of government and independent sources of revenue that enable them to finance welfare provision, infrastructure and security for their own citizens in a sustainable way.

Coordination between different sectors and between different approaches and tools – both here in Norway and in the developing countries themselves – is essential.

The private sector, the authorities, academia and civil society must all work together to enable our partner countries to plan for a future without aid. A future where public expenditure is financed by a country's own tax revenues and where these revenues are used to create a good environment for investment, trade, job creation, quality education and reliable health services.

Mr President,

Before a country can invest in, for example, education, health or security, it must first generate tax revenues. Today, the average tax-to-GDP ratio in OECD countries is around 35 %. In 30 of the world's poorest countries, it is under 15 %. Developing countries are missing out on valuable tax revenues that could be used in their work to achieve the SDGs, and that could be invested in schools, hospitals and job creation initiatives.

Aid alone will only be small part of the solution. In African countries, tax revenues – even at today's low level – amount to 10 times more than the aid they receive. However, if we are to succeed in enhancing domestic resource mobilisation, the fight against corruption and illicit financial flows must be high up on the agenda. And economic growth must also increase.

Mr President,

The 17 SDGs are each important in their own right, but it is by viewing them together as parts of a coherent whole that we can really make a difference. The goals are mutually interdependent, and efforts are needed in all the areas they cover.

  • For example, we will never be able to ensure good health for all if we do not also achieve the targets on clean water and clean air.
  • It will be difficult to achieve global economic growth if we do not educate the workers the world will need in the future.
  • And quality education for all will only be possible if the authorities in each individual country build up strong institutions and combat corruption and illicit financial flows.

Mr President,

With the Prime Minister co-chairing the SDG Advocates, Norway has gained a leading role at the global level. This gives us a unique opportunity to spearhead the collective international effort, and work to ensure that the solutions found to the world's challenges are sustainable, in economic, environmental and social terms. There should therefore be no doubt: the SDGs are, and will continue to be, at the heart of the Government's international development policy.

Mr President,

The Government's political platform agreed at Jeløya sets out that we will retain the goal of allocating 1 % of Norway's gross national income (GNI) to development aid in the years ahead. There are varying views in this chamber as to precisely what this figure should be. However, given that this goal has already been agreed on, it is my hope that the debate on international development policy will, in the time ahead, be less about the amount of money being spent and more about our priorities.

In order to ensure that Norwegian aid is used effectively to promote the achievement of the SDGs, we must take a strategic approach and set clear priorities. If we spread our aid too thinly, our efforts will be less targeted and less focused. This is why the Government has already taken steps to concentrate our aid efforts. We have identified a number of key thematic priority areas and have reduced the number of recipient countries, partners, projects and agreements.

At the same time, it will be important to grasp the opportunities offered by digital technology to reach more people in a more effective way. I have therefore initiated work on a digitisation strategy to identify ways of using new technology to achieve better results in our development efforts.

In recent years, we have chosen to concentrate international development efforts on five priority areas:

Education,Health,Climate change, the environment and renewable energy,Job creation and business development, andHumanitarian aid.

These priorities are important for achieving the SDGs, and are therefore fixed. Clear priorities make it easier to mobilise the efforts, funding and expertise needed to achieve even better results.


Mr President,

Education is the foundation for all other development. It is the key to finding employment and to being able to lead an independent life with different options and opportunities.

All children have the right to an education. Despite this, more than 260 million children worldwide are currently out of school. Many of them are girls. Many of them are living in extreme poverty. And many of them have had to flee from war and conflict.

But, it is not enough to give children the opportunity to go to school.

When I was in Nepal last month, I met some courageous girls, who explained – in front of teachers, fellow pupils, parents and politicians -- that although they have the opportunity to go to school, they do not feel confident to do so every day.

One of the reasons for this is the lack of adequate sanitation facilities. Mr President, we cannot even begin to imagine what it is like for a teenage girl who has got her period to go to school knowing that there are no safe and clean toilets. The result is that far too many girls stay home. And missing school means that they cannot take their exams. And when they cannot take their exams, they cannot complete their schooling. Simply focusing on education alone is not enough; we must make sure that pupils feel confident to go to school every day.

During the previous parliamentary period, the Government doubled its allocation to education. The funding Norway has provided has produced results:

  • Between 2013 and 2016, 3.1 million children received support for education each year, many of them in areas affected by fragility and conflict.
  • 11 million pupils have received learning materials.
  • 140 000 teachers have received professional training.
  • We have helped build or upgrade more than 5 400 classrooms in fragile areas.
  • And we have developed the game-based learning app, EduApp4Syria, which is helping Syrian children who have fled their homes to learn to read.

But there are still too many children who do not have the opportunity to go to school, and even more who go to school but do not learn basic skills.

The findings of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey in Norway 18 years ago, what has become known as the 'PISA shock', taught us that just spending more money does not necessarily lead to better results. Despite record high school budgets, pupils in Norway did worse than expected and many children lacked basic skills. A robust school system, good teachers, forward-looking teaching methods and the ability to identify and help those who are falling behind are all vital if pupils are to acquire the knowledge and skills they need.

In Norway, as in the rest of the world, the gap between the skills pupils learn at school and the skills needed in the workplace is growing. In the decades ahead, up to half of today's jobs are at risk of disappearing as a result of automation. Unfortunately, school systems are currently not prepared for these changes.

Later this year, the Government will present a plan for stepping up its efforts to promote vocational training in developing countries. The aim is to help to meet the need for skilled labour. We must cooperate closely with the business sector and ensure that the training provided is relevant and meets their needs.

Supporting education systems is an investment in economic and social development in the countries concerned, and can improve the lives of millions of people.

It is encouraging that more and more developing countries are willing to make the necessary investments and implement reforms in the education sector. And, Mr President, when a developing country shows a willingness to make an effort to improve education, Norway intends to be there as a reliable and predictable partner.


Mr President,

Our other main priority is global health.

Promoting universal health coverage is vital for achieving the SDGs, and is a high priority for Norway and for the World Health Organization (WHO). Norway has a long history of providing public health services to all, and can therefore play an important role in international efforts to promote universal health coverage.

Norway has promoted sexual and reproductive health and rights for many years, and our efforts in this area have helped reduce maternal mortality rates, particularly the number of deaths connected with childbirth and unsafe abortions. But access to sexual and reproductive health services is still poor, particularly in areas affected by crisis and conflict. That is why we are increasing our aid to this field by NOK 700 million for the period 2017-2020.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is aiming to vaccinate 300 million children in its current four-year period, thus preventing 5-6 million deaths. Norway is providing funding to enable 30 million children to be vaccinated, which will prevent between 500 000 and 600 000 deaths.

After the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Norway was one of the partners behind the establishment of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). Its aim is to develop vaccines to prevent and contain epidemics as quickly as possible.

Improving women's, children's and adolescents' health is vital if we are to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

The Government will therefore promote:

  • Increased access to medicines, contraception and health services,
  • More robust health systems,
  • And the training of more health workers.

But we must not see the health sector in isolation from other sectors. Studies show that education, women's empowerment, reduced fertility rates, and access to water and sanitation facilities also have a major impact on women's and children's health. Cooperation across sectors is therefore crucial if we are to meet the health-related SDGs. This is one of the key messages of the 2030 Agenda.


Mr President,

The impacts of climate change and environmental problems represent some of the greatest threats to sustainable development.

At the same time, access to clean energy is crucial for reaching almost all the SDGs. Having access to electricity means that children can do their homework after dark, hospitals can receive women in labour, and other patients, during the night, and street lighting enhances safety and security. Moreover, access to energy is vital for developing a modern economy that promotes value creation, growth and jobs.

We therefore have every reason to welcome the Paris Agreement, under which developing countries for the first time have international climate commitments. Our aid efforts must support the countries' own plans for adaptation and low-emission development.

Norway's International Climate and Forest Initiative is our most important tool for reducing deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Over the last 10 years, Brazil has reduced greenhouse gas emissions from tropical deforestation by over 5 billion tonnes of CO2 – more than 100 times Norway's annual emissions.

The aim is for half of the investment portfolio of Norfund (the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries) to be in the renewable energy sector in due course. Work began recently on the construction of a large-scale solar power plant near Mocuba in Mozambique. The project is a partnership between Scatec Solar, KLP and Norfund. When it is completed, the plant will be able to produce 77 GWh of electricity per year. This will provide electricity for around 175 000 families.

For many years, we have provided support for increasing production of, and access to, renewable energy in developing countries, often in partnership with the private sector. For example, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) helped 53 million people, in 53 countries, gain better access to energy in the period 2014-2016. But it is not enough to produce energy, it must also be delivered to the users and it must be managed responsibly. We have therefore shared our extensive experience of developing legislation, introducing reforms and building institutions and capacity with partner countries. In the budget for 2018, we have allocated NOK 570 million to renewable energy.

Norway is an energy nation, and we want our knowledge to benefit others as well.


Mr President,

There is growing pressure on the marine environment and marine resources in various parts of the world.

  • Most developing countries do not have adequate management systems for their marine resources.
  • Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing leads to overfishing.
  • Marine litter, including plastics and microplastics, is threatening to destroy the enormous potential that lies in the oceans.

When I was visiting Ghana at the end of March, I met a fisherman who told me that he now catches significantly fewer fish than he used to. For him, this is not just an observation. This situation is threatening his livelihood and his ability to provide for himself and his family.

Norway is not only an energy nation; we are also a maritime nation. We have vital national interests relating to the seas and oceans. We know what the seas and oceans mean for jobs, food, energy, minerals and transport, and for settlement patterns, culture and identity.

The Norwegian business sector has the knowledge and skills to provide the world with healthy food, cleaner energy solutions and climate-friendly transport. Our expertise is sought after by our partner countries.

  • Through the Fish for Development programme, we have a broad-based engagement in a range of areas relating to the oceans and the management of marine resources in developing countries.
  • We have supported African countries in their efforts to formally establish the outer limits of their continental shelf.
  • And the research vessel RV Dr Fridtjof Nansen is helping countries map their marine resources as a first step towards sustainable marine management. The vessel has been welcomed at ports of call along the coast of both Africa and Asia.

The Government will seek to raise international awareness of the economic importance of the oceans, and of the need to promote sustainable use of marine resources and to maintain good environmental status as a basis for value creation.

In January, the Prime Minister launched the High-level Panel on Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The Prime Minister will chair the panel, which will be made up of heads of state and government from a broad range of coastal states, including developing countries. The panel will work closely with the UN and will engage with other international initiatives in this field

We are now launching a new development programme to combat marine litter. If we are to succeed in cleaning up the oceans, we cannot simply focus on the oceans themselves. What is happening – or not happening – on land is just as important. Some 80-90 % of marine plastics come from land-based sources.

Poor waste management systems are perhaps the single most important reason why our rivers and oceans are being filled with plastics and other waste. According to the World Economic Forum, if we continue as we are now, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050, and the consequences for marine ecosystems and the human food chain could be catastrophic.

Promoting effective waste management will therefore be a key component of the new programme. We must encourage a similar development in our partner countries to the one we have seen in Norway, where waste is becoming a resource in a circular economy and is increasingly a commodity that can be traded on the international market. We will only succeed in this if our cooperation with developing countries enables them to develop profitable value chains for waste. Waste is a resource that is currently ending up in the wrong place. We must also reduce waste through awareness-raising and clean-up initiatives.

This will require innovation, technology and capital from the private sector, and transfer of expertise from the public sector, as well as the financial instruments of the multilateral development banks and partnerships involving both donor countries and developing countries.

Clean and healthy oceans are vital to our future.

That is why Norway is taking on a global leadership role in this area. We will use our experience and expertise to promote sustainable use of the world's oceans.


Mr President,

A profitable and responsible private sector that provides jobs and salaries to individuals and generates tax revenues for the public purse is vital for building a sustainable society – both here in Norway and in developing countries.

In developing countries, as in Norway, we need to create new jobs in order to promote development, growth and welfare. This is why private sector investment in poor countries is a crucial element of the Government's international development policy.

The private sector is already playing an important role by generating considerable tax revenues for developing countries. Statoil alone pays more in tax to Angola than Norway provides in aid to the whole of Africa. Statoil is thus not just creating jobs through its investments, it is also helping to mobilise national resources that can be used to finance schools and hospitals.

Africa is a growing market with major opportunities. More and more companies are becoming aware of the value of investing in developing countries, because it is here that growth will take place.

And let me be quite clear: there need not be any conflict between a company's commercial goals and our international development goals. On the contrary. Something that is a serious problem for some people may offer an exciting business opportunity to others.

  • Litter and other forms of waste create opportunities for the waste management industry.
  • Poor harvests may offer opportunities for fertiliser producers.
  • Inadequate access to education can mean opportunities for digital innovators, to mention just a few examples.

Norway will take a dual approach to promoting job creation and its associated positive development effects:

  • We will help to make it safer and more attractive for both local and international enterprises to invest in developing countries – through cooperation with the authorities in the countries concerned on the development of legislation, rules and framework conditions that safeguard both the country's and the investors' interests effectively.
  • And we will make use of our development policy instruments to maximise the development impact of the investments companies make.

Unfortunately, we are seeing that many companies are reluctant to invest in developing countries due to a high level of risk, a lack of borrowing opportunities, and unstable framework conditions.

In the time ahead, I will consider whether the government's various schemes to promote public sector investment in developing countries can be even better targeted towards the achievement of the goals we have set. One interesting model is provided by Norway's International Climate and Forest Initiative, which is working to reduce the risks for investors in deforestation-free agriculture.

The world will not be able to achieve the SDGs without the private sector on board. And this in turn will depend on poor countries having market access. This is why the Government's political platform sets out that the Government will promote a fair global trade regime under the WTO that reduces trade barriers and provides equal opportunities for development. The claim made by some people at the beginning of the millennium that globalisation is the cause of poverty in developing countries is not true. The reason they are poor is that they only have very limited opportunities to participate in globalisation.

Mr President,

Globalisation cannot be stopped. On the contrary, individuals, companies and countries will interact more and more with one another in the future. New businesses need new markets in which to grow. As Tony Blair said at the Labour Party Conference in 2001: 'The issue is not how to stop globalisation. The issue is how we use the power of community to combine it with justice.'

In Norway, we have managed this quite well. There is a high degree of trust between people, a low level of social inequality, and our society offers people good opportunities to realise their ambitions. The Norwegian model has enabled us to get the best out of globalisation, and to better protect ourselves from the more negative aspects than most other European countries.

The alternative to globalisation is protectionism, an approach based on the view that we can all manage better on our own than we can together. History has taught us that this is not true. Countries that are open to international trade have higher rates of employment and enjoy stronger economic growth that those that pursue a protectionist policy. Take Kenya and South Korea for example. In the 1960s, Kenya's GDP was the same as South Korea's. Today, South Korea's GDP is at least 22 times higher than Kenya's. One of the reasons for this is that South Korea opened itself up to the world and to the opportunities of international trade at an early stage, while Kenya tried to hold back, to keep the rest of the world out, and to protect itself against global developments. Protectionism has often gone hand-in-hand with poverty, low levels of growth and, in the worst cases, wars and conflicts.

We need international trade to safeguard jobs and growth.

Many of the world's poorest countries already have tariff-free access to both Norway and the EU for all goods. However, their exports to European markets are limited, because producers in many poor countries find it difficult to meet European quality requirements and standards.

This is why aid for trade in the form of simplifying border and customs procedures and implementing measures for testing, quality assurance, and improving standards and reliability of supply, is so important.

The view of the World Bank is that developing agriculture is one of the most effective ways of fighting extreme poverty. Increasing productivity and profitability in the agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture sectors can create jobs higher up the value chain, in connection with the production and processing of foods – both for domestic consumption and for export.

The Government is currently establishing a development programme on nutrition, and in the revised budget we will launch a plan to intensify efforts to enhance food security and climate-resilient agriculture, which will also include the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. This work will be linked to our efforts in the fields of health and climate change, and not least to our efforts to promote business development and job creation.

The plan will form part of the Government's long-term action plan to promote sustainable food systems, which will be launched later this year.

Mr President,

One of our most important instruments for increasing investment in developing countries, and thus promoting job creation, is our development finance institution Norfund. Norfund currently has investments worth more than NOK 20 billion in developing countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. At the end of 2016, 270 000 people were employed directly or indirectly by companies in Norfund's portfolio. And in 2016 alone, Norfund's investments generated nearly NOK 11 billion in tax revenues for countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Moreover, we know that most of the companies that Norfund has withdrawn from are still in operation and are still paying tax.

One example is Hattha Kaksekar Ltd, a microfinance institution in Cambodia. Access to capital is a major challenge in developing countries. With the help of Norfund's investments, Hattha Kaksekar has been able to offer loans to micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises in Cambodia. Norfund withdrew in 2016. By this stage, its engagement had already helped the microfinance institution to expand, enabling it to reach customers in every province in the country through a network of branches and ATMs. These customers, who had largely been overlooked by the commercial banks, now have access to loan services.

As stated in Norfund's recently revised guidelines, Norfund will further increase its focus on sectors where there is great potential for job creation. In this parliamentary period, the Government will increase the capital allocation to Norfund by 50 % compared with the 2017 level, thus providing a more long-term and predictable framework for managing our development finance institution.

It is the Government's aim to promote the creation of decent jobs and to safeguard workers' fundamental rights. But it is not just more investment that is needed. We must also use the instruments at our disposal to ensure that the investments that are made benefit the population in the countries concerned in the best possible way.

In 2016, we launched an initiative to develop strategic partnerships with this in view. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) signed a letter of intent on increasing the development effects of commercial activities in poor countries and encouraging greater sustainability. Strategic partnerships of this kind also tie in with our intensified efforts to strengthen vocational training.

We have already established several strong strategic partnerships, through which the business sector, civil society and the public sector all cooperate on concrete projects.

For example, Yara is investing in a mining project in Ethiopia. They probably would have done so anyway, but what makes this investment particularly important is the fact that the Norwegian authorities, Yara and the Development Fund Norway are cooperating on the establishment of a vocational college linked to the project. Instead of flying in qualified workers from elsewhere, Yara will be able to employ local people who have been trained to work in the mining project.

This will mean that several hundred local people will have a job to go to, an income to support them, and skills and knowledge that will be useful for the rest of their lives, whether they continue to work for Yara or take other jobs.

In the time ahead, the Government will further develop this approach with a view to achieving even better results in cooperation with the business sector.


Mr President,

In recent years, we have seen greater humanitarian need than ever before. The UN estimates that this year alone, 136 million people in 26 countries will be in need of protection and humanitarian assistance. Some 65 million have fled their homes. Two-thirds of these are internally displaced. In response to the huge humanitarian challenges, Norway has increased its humanitarian budget by more than 50 % since 2013.

Many of the humanitarian crises are protracted. Many internally displaced people stay in camps for longer than the duration of a development programme.

This situation makes it necessary to take a coherent approach to humanitarian efforts and long-term development. For example, we are investing in education for children in crisis situations, because this contributes to long-term development in the aftermath of a crisis.

In August, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and I will present a new humanitarian strategy.

Mr President,

In addition to our five priority areas, there are also four cross-cutting issues in Norwegian development policy:

Human rights,Women's rights and gender equalityClimate change and environment, andAnti-corruption.

These cross-cutting issues are to be taken into consideration in all projects and programmes. If we fail to take these issues into account, our development efforts will be less effective.

For example, promoting business development and creating jobs will not contribute to development if the companies concerned are corrupt, their operations pollute the environment, or they violate fundamental human rights or undermine the rights of women.

All projects and programmes are therefore required to consider whether any of these issues may be negatively affected by the planned activities. The importance of considering the four cross-cutting issues is communicated to all Norway's partners, whether they are authorities, civil society organisations or businesses. Much of Norway's development aid is channelled through multilateral organisations like the UN and the World Bank. It is particularly important to encourage these organisations to adopt effective guidelines and systems that safeguard the cross-cutting issues.

When I met the President of the World Bank earlier this spring, I made one thing very clear: Norway expects a major actor like the World Bank to invest more in gender equality and women's rights, without this depending on earmarked funding from Norway and other donor countries.


Mr President,

We have a wide range of options available to us when it comes to managing our aid budget.

We provide funding through many different channels and are engaged in several thousand agreements, projects and programmes. In order for our development policy to be successful, we must choose the channels and programmes that are most effective and most specifically targeted towards what we are seeking to achieve. It is therefore important that we make strategic use of the various funding channels we choose to use.

In some cases, for example where Norway has expertise in a particular area and a long history of cooperation with the country concerned, government-to-government cooperation may be the best approach. This applies particularly to the transfer of expertise through the Knowledge Bank.

Civil society organisations are also important partners – whether they have a local presence themselves or work through local actors. A diverse and dynamic civil society plays an important role in supplementing the work of the authorities and multilateral development actors, and in pointing out and compensating for their shortfalls. In many countries, these organisations not only provide a channel for participation, they also provide services in areas where the authorities are not managing to do so.

The UN, the World Bank and the regional development banks are present in almost all developing countries. They are thus able to assist many countries in finding solutions that are tailored to the specific national context. Moreover, the development banks are at the forefront when it comes to promoting cooperation with, and mobilising, the private sector.

Together with a number of other donors, Norway helps to ensure that the UN system, the World Bank and the regional development banks can put their weight behind our common global goals, particularly in countries and sectors where no single country has the capacity to address the challenges alone.

The EU is also a major actor in international development. Norway and the EU are present in many of the same countries, and we are working towards the same goals. At a time when there is greater uncertainty surrounding the commitment of certain major international development actors, it is important to strengthen our cooperation with like-minded partners. I therefore intend to enter into dialogue with our European partners on how we can cooperate more effectively in the future.

Providing support via global funds has become an increasingly important part of Norwegian development policy, particularly in the areas of health and education. In the time ahead, global funds will play an important role in financing climate measures and efforts to combat marine litter.

Mr President,

Global public goods and common challenges do not stop at national borders. The UN is a unique arena for developing binding international norms and rules. At the UN, all member states have a voice and a vote, and by working together, we have managed to find solutions to some of the greatest challenges we have faced. We will continue to do so in the future.

Five months after he took over as Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan was asked by TIME magazine why he had not yet managed to reform the UN. After all, God had managed to create the world in seven days. Kofi Annan replied that 'The Lord had the wonderful advantage of being able to work alone'. Even though the UN is a unique arena for cooperation, it is also an organisation based on consensus. This means that it is often those who are least interested in progress who decide the most.

There is an enormous need to reform the UN and make it more effective. The UN's legitimacy depends on this. And the world depends on a UN that enjoys legitimacy. The international community cannot afford to fail in its efforts to reform the UN.

One of Secretary-General Guterres's aims is to get the UN's many country teams to work more closely together and to deliver results in a more integrated and effective way. The Government supports the Secretary-General's vision for reforming the UN development system, and we will work to ensure that the resident coordinators are given greater independence and authority at country level.

Global cooperation and UN reform are important for Norway's development efforts. The multilateral system, in which right prevails over might, has served Norway well since it was established after the Second World War.

But at a time when the world is rapidly changing, the multilateral system is clearly under pressure. During the spring of 2019, the Government will present a white paper on Norway's role in the multilateral system. This will describe Norway's interests and room for manoeuvre in the international arena. We will also look at the part we can play in efforts to reform the multilateral organisations and make them more effective.


Mr President,

When it comes to our engagement in individual countries, it is better to make a significant effort in certain countries or areas, rather than doing a bit here and a bit there in many. Our aim is to achieve better results by concentrating on fewer countries and sectors, and to make sure that we make a real difference in the countries we choose to cooperate with. By giving priority to a limited number of countries, we can focus our efforts on those where we have the best chances of success.

The Government first proposed concentrating aid on a limited number of partner countries in the white paper on the Sustainable Development Goals and Norwegian development policy, Common Responsibility for Common Future (Meld. St. 24 (2016–2017). Norway's partner countries will be carefully chosen and these countries will be given priority. We will maintain a broad-based and long-term perspective in this work.

I have initiated work on a white paper on our partner country initiative, which will be a strategic tool for our cooperation with our partner countries. It will set out what being a partner country involves, the criteria for choosing partner countries, and not least which partner countries we envisage cooperating with in the years ahead. I consider it important to ensure that our cooperation with our partner countries is mutually beneficial, makes use of a wide range of development policy instruments, and takes a long-term perspective. I look forward to inviting the Storting to discuss the partner country initiative later this year.


Mr President,

Security policy, foreign policy and development policy increasingly overlap – and our development efforts are obviously affected by what is going on in the world. Similarly, our policy affects developments at the global level, including those relating to climate change, trade, investments, tax havens, security, health and education. This is true not only of our development policy, but also of our work in other policy areas.

It is therefore vital that we ensure policy coherence across all areas of government, so that we can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs as effectively as possible. This means that we have to work together, across disciplines and fields. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains a close dialogue with the other ministries on the impact of our various national policies in developing countries.

In connection with the work on the budget, the Government will, as in previous years, draw up an annual report on policy coherence for development, as requested by the Storting. There are close links and synergies between different areas of policy, and it is therefore important that Norway's policies are consistent. It is also positive that the Storting supports the goal of increasing policy coherence.


Mr President,

Effective, knowledge-based aid management is essential given the size of our aid budget. I am impressed by the competence and diligence of the employees who work in this area, both abroad and here in Norway. But, if we are to achieve the SDGs by 2030, and if donor generosity and aid levels are to remain high, we must ensure that we get the most out of the NOK 35 billion we spend on international development. We must ask ourselves: can we – or should we – organise our development cooperation differently to achieve better results in the future?

The Foreign Minister and I have been given a clear task by the Government. The Government's political platform states that we are to reform the way Norwegian development cooperation is organised. I have already made considerable progress in identifying what is working and what is not. I will be able to say more about my thoughts on the way this work is organised and the division of responsibilities in due course.

For me, the most important question is how we as a whole – that is the Ministry, Norad and other relevant actors – can work together to maximise the effect of our aid efforts on the ground.


Mr President,

Even if we ensure policy coherence, organise our work effectively and focus our development efforts on carefully selected issues, channels and areas, not all projects and programmes will produce the desired results.

Sometimes a project has several objectives, and it is not possible to achieve them all. Some aspects of a project may be successful, whereas others are not. It is, after all, the recipient country's level of development, resources and system of governance that are the most important factors for aid effectiveness. When we engage in unstable countries that have limited capacity to receive assistance, we will often be taking major risks. But if we stopped doing so, we would not be able to help the people who need our help most. Being prepared to take risks means that you also have to be prepared for the fact that things can sometimes go wrong.

We must accept the possibility that some projects may not produce the results we had hoped for. At the same time, we must ensure that we learn from our mistakes, put the experience we have gained to good use, and terminate projects that are clearly not going to work. It is precisely by having the confidence to discontinue unsuccessful activities that we can free up time and resources to focus on activities that are producing better results.

Norad's Evaluation Department recently published its Evaluation of the Norwegian Aid Administration's Practice of Results-Based Management. And I'll be quite honest here and say that we did not come out of it very well.

I am absolutely certain that everyone working in the field of international development – whether they are at the Ministry, Norad or in a civil society organisation – wants to achieve good results. And there are many examples of how we have drawn useful lessons from activities that have not turned out as we had hoped. But that does not mean that we cannot – and should not – strive to improve.

Results-based management has been part of our development policy for many years now. But if this approach is to be effective, we must make active use of evaluations when developing our overall political objectives and strategies. They must influence our choice of programmes, channels and thematic priority areas. And the evaluations of these activities must in turn influence what we decide to focus on in the future.

To put it simply: when something does not work, we must stop doing it. When something is working well, we must do more of it. We must ensure that we do not throw good money after bad.

Transparency about results is the first step. Did the project go as planned? What was successful? Why did we not achieve the results we had hoped for?

Making results easily accessible is step two. We need more debate about the substance of our development policy. The Ministry's grants portal provides a lot of information about how much money Norway spends and where. What is conspicuous by its absence is information about the results of this work. If we are to encourage debate about how Norway spends NOK 35 billion of Norwegian taxpayers' money, we must make sure that the results are transparent and easily accessible.

I have therefore initiated work on establishing an electronic results portal. Digital systems make it possible to collate information about results more effectively and efficiently, and in a completely different way from manual systems. We must make full use of the opportunities offered by digitisation. In the results portal, anyone who is interested will be able to gain access to information about projects and their results. I think the portal will be an innovative tool that, in time, could have a major impact on both the debate and our overarching strategic approach to international development.

Step three is to put in place a system that ensures that we make use of lessons learned from previous projects when new projects and initiatives are launched. Evaluations are to be used actively so that we can get even more out of every krone of aid we spend.

Measuring the effectiveness of aid is a difficult task, and is obviously no miracle cure. But that does not mean that we should not do it at all.


Mr President,

I started this address by saying that the world has become a better place, even though we still face major challenges that we will do our part to tackle. The progress we have made should motivate us all to continue our work to create good education systems, safe health services and more jobs, to produce more renewable energy, to alleviate suffering and to stand up for democracy and human rights – with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs guiding our efforts.

We will do so because it is the only right thing to do. Out of solidarity for our fellow human beings. And because it is in our own interests.

Thank you.