Speech/statement | Date: 29/10/2020
By Former State Secretary Marianne Hagen (Oslo, 29 October)
Statement by State secretary Marianne Hagen at the launch of: Evaluation of Norway’s engagement in Somalia 2012 – 2018.
Chair, colleagues and friends
First, let me congratulate the Tana/CMI consulting team for an interesting report, which I hope, will assist us in improving our interventions in fragile and conflict-affected areas. Thanks also to the Evaluation Department in Norad for organizing this seminar.
Norwegian engagement in fragile contexts is solidly anchored in the parliament, inter alia through white papers no 24 [Felles ansvar for felles fremtid — Bærekraftsmålene og norsk utviklingspolitikk] and 36 [Veivalg i norsk utenriks- og sikkerhetspolitikk] (2016- 2017). Policies are further elaborated in our “Strategic Framework for Norway’s engagement in conflict prevention, stabilisation and resilience building” from 2017.
The objectives are:
- Contribute to conflict prevention
- Contribute to security and political stability
- Build resilience and provide basis for inclusive socioeconomic and political development.
In practice this means that we are willing to work in places with high risks, based on a methodological framework and together with partners that understand the local context.
We are therefore content to note that the evaluation’s assessment is that our engagement in Somalia has taken risks, that we are working with competent partners and that we are able to respond with flexibility to emerging needs.
The evaluation report provides us with valuable knowledge which again will add to our continuous learning and hopefully make us better prepared for risk-taking.
The evaluation’s recommendations
Countries like Somalia face almost all the challenges you could think of; poverty, humanitarian crisis, violence both domestically and politically, ethnic strife, corruption, internal wars, natural disasters, consequences of climate changes, rapidly changing political agendas… I could go on. How then to ensure that you do good and not harm? We spend a lot of time considering this key question, which affects the daily engagement in many countries. However, without taking risks you will not achieve much in fragile contexts.
Therefore, the evaluation’s first recommendation of to continue to use our ability to take the first step in a fragile setting, is very welcome. We will continue this practice and are ready to provide flexible funding in fragile and conflict-affected areas. Like in Somalia, where we established the stabilisation fund early on to assist the government in delivering services to the population.
We have embarked on more comprehensive country strategies for fragile partner countries, which will be launched soon. These strategies will include a long-term perspective and the totality of our engagement, and present some of the challenges and dilemmas we will have to face.
Let me use the strategy for our interventions in Sahel as an example.
The complexity of the challenges facing this region calls for a comprehensive approach including political dialogue, peace and reconciliation efforts, security sector and humanitarian interventions together with development assistance.
At the same time it is important to keep in mind that a too detailed and prescribed framework could impede our ability to act flexibly and rapidly when the context changes. Time is often a critical factor and action sometimes needs to be taken with limited access to information.
We acknowledge that our foreign service does not have the capacity to carry out comprehensive conflict assessments on all interventions. We have therefore chosen to channel the majority of our assistance to fragile and conflict affected areas through NGOs and the UN system. Like we are doing in Somalia where we are working with the Norwegian Refugee Council and Nordic International Support (NIS) amongst others.
These organisations have people on the ground and work hard - sometimes with huge personal risks - to align activities to complex realities. We have great respect and admiration for the work they do. We will continue to rely on these organisations and institutions in our engagement. At the same time, we agree that our experiences and assessments of conflict sensitive engagements need to be better documented.
The evaluation suggest that we develop a comprehensive communication and dissemination plan. We agree that this is important both in order to create trust and transparency. The Ministry is continuously trying to improve on external communication to explain the complexity of our engagements. This is more challenging in a fragile context where different stakeholders might even have agendas of discrediting international interventions.
Through open debates like this, we hope to create a better understanding. We have also encouraged our embassies to use social media, acknowledging the limitations related to explaining complex rationales by a few tabloid words.
In order to facilitate strategic alignment, we are trying to enhance dialogue and coordination between Norwegian embassies, the Ministry and Norad. The country strategies and the country teams we have established across sections in the Ministry are helpful in this regard.
Despite our efforts, we are fully aware that a variety of funding mechanisms and actors involved sometimes results in difficulties in coordination. I hope, the recent reforms in the Norwegian aid administration will lead to clearer roles and responsibilities and subsequently improve alignment.
The evaluation shows that when engaging in fragile contexts, we need to pay equal attention to “how we do things” as to what we do. We aim to have a long-term perspective based on a solid understanding of the context, combined with a willingness to take risks and flexibility to adapt.