A key element of development policy

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The present Government has intensified efforts to promote women’s rights and gender equality. This is in line with its policy platform, which identifies women’s rights and gender equality as a key element of development policy. This is a cross-cutting field that spans all areas for which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible, not just development policy.

The present Government has intensified efforts to promote women’s rights and gender equality.  This is in line with its policy platform, which identifies women’s rights and gender equality as a key element of development policy. This is a cross-cutting field that spans all areas for which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible, not just development policy.

On 8 March 2006, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre launched the Norwegian Government’s Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security.

On 8 March 2007, Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim launched the Government’s Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Development Cooperation 2007–2009. This is a political document with a broad scope, straddling development policy and foreign policy. It supplements other policy documents on related themes such as women, peace and security, combating female genital mutilation, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and children and young people. 

This action plan identifies four thematic priority areas: women’s political empowerment, women’s economic empowerment, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and violence against women. It describes how the gender perspective is to be mainstreamed into all aspects of development policy, particularly those relating to other high-priority policy areas. 

The 2007 action plan was drawn up in response to criticism of implementation of Norway’s earlier strategy for women and gender equality in development cooperation. An evaluation report by the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research identified various weaknesses, particularly relating to gender mainstreaming. It found that accountability systems were weak and that the special grants for projects on women’s rights had been phased out. Moreover, the provision of gender expertise and measures specifically targeting women’s rights and gender equality were being given lower priority. According to the strategy, Norway’s goal was to move gender equality issues from the sideline to the mainstream of development policy, but the report concluded that in practice, accountability and expertise had been undermined, and that gender equality had generally been given low priority. 

The Government has placed particular emphasis on the following when attempting to improve Norway’s performance in this area:

  • A strong leadership that demands results
  • Resources in the form of money, personnel and expertise
  • A rights-based approach 
  • Radicalisation of Norway’s policy: Norway will play a proactive and supporting role in the fight against all forms of gender discrimination, including efforts to ensure safe abortion on demand and recognition of sexual minorities
  • Alignment with partner countries’ own goals, plans and expertise in the areas of women’s rights and gender equality
  • Helping women to organise, and supporting agents of change in civil society, the national authorities and at multilateral level
  • Promoting awareness of women’s rights and gender equality, and how these factors can stimulate economic growth and contribute to sustainable development.

Read the Action plan here.  

In 2008, the Government published the white paper On Equal Terms: Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in International Development Policy (Report No. 11 (2007–2008) to the Storting). While the Action Plan is a document with a limited lifespan, the white paper is likely to endure beyond the term of the current government, due to cross-party support for its main points. The white paper highlights the following general principles:

  • Women and men should be able to participate on equal terms in political processes.
  • Women and men should be able to participate on equal terms in economic processes.
  • Women and men should have equal access to education.
  • Women have a right to adequate health services and to have control over their own bodies and sexuality.
  • Women have a right to a life free of violence.
  • Women should have an equal role in peace and reconciliation efforts.
  • Women and men should participate on equal terms in efforts to combat climate change, environmental degradation and humanitarian crises.


Efforts to promote women’s rights and gender equality are not to be confined to these principles, but must be reflected in all aspects of Norway’s development policy. The Government also states that the aim is to see a steady increase in the percentage of development funding that is allocated to efforts to promote women’s rights and gender equality. The entire public administration is responsible for ensuring that this happens. Progress is described in the annual budget proposals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Read the white paper here.