State Secretary Sandkjær’s address to ambassadors

Address at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for ambassadors to Norway, 16 May 2023.


It is a great pleasure – and honor – to meet you all. A special welcome to those of you who have joined us from other capitals.  

Let me first convey warm greetings from Minister Tvinnereim. She very much regrets not being able to attend this year’s meeting with you.

Allow me also to thank you for the work you do – everyday – for strengthening the bonds between our nations. Internationally we are going through some rough times and international contact and dialogue is more important than ever.

As my minister said last year; We have gone from crisis to crisis. As soon as we thought we were seeing the beginning of the end of the pandemic, we were struck again. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine represents a geopolitical watershed with global ramifications.

Ukraine is now the key issue in Norwegian foreign policy. It will remain so in years to come. It affects all aspect of our efforts – also our development assistance.

A week ago our Development agency, Norad, presented the statistics for 2022. Last year’s budget was the largest in history; 49,7 billion kroner. Ukraine is now the largest – by far – recipient of Norwegian ODA.

We fully see and understand the frustration of leaders in the south who now see aid and political attention being directed towards Ukraine on a scale rarely seen in connection with the multiple crisis hitting countries in the south, over and over again. But – and this is important to us – in the extreme situation Europe is finding itself, we have been able to maintain the high aid level to other parts of the world.

Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo said last year that “the bombs falling over Ukraine are also hitting us”. He was right. They hit countries in the south in the form of energy and food prices going through the roof. And this came in the aftermath of a pandemic that had caused the strongest global economic contraction in a century. A looming debt crisis in many low-income countries adds to the burden.

When our parliament in February decided on a 75 billion kroner five-year plan for Ukraine, it also adopted a 5 billion kroner package for “alleviating the indirect consequences of the Ukraine-war in the south”. The funds will be directed towards humanitarian aid and increased food security. This is our message to President Addo and other leaders of the south: Yes, we see you, we hear you, we are still with you.

Allow me to reiterate some of the key elements of our development policy. Our approach is rights based; human rights and international law are the foundation for our efforts. What we are aiming at is not charity, but contributing to more prosperous, democratic, sustainable and equal societies. There are six key priorities:

  • Climate
  • Food security
  • Women’s right to autonomy over their bodies.
  • To continue Norway’s strong humanitarian engagement.
  • Play a leading role in global health.

Food security is without doubt our main priority. Hunger has been on the rise for years. The situation has been exacerbated, first by the pandemic then by price hikes following the war in Ukraine.

The resilience of national food systems in many countries has been undermined by several factors; climate change, conflict, lack of investment, and the competition from cheaper imports are just some of these factors.

In November we launched our new strategy for promoting food security in our developing policy. This strategy is intended to help achieve the following:

  • An increase in local climate-resilient food production.
  • An increase in local value creation and incomes for food producers.
  • A reduction in malnutrition and undernutrition
  • A reduction in the scale of hunger crisis.

We are now consolidating our efforts and we will expand our political dialogue and cooperation with relevant national authorities in several countries.

Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time. It poses challenges on so many levels. Not only is it a threat to our very existence, it also undermines our past and future development achievements.

At COP26 in Glasgow, Norway committed to double our contributions to climate finance by 2026. Through our rain forest program Norway has for many years been an important contributor to global emission cuts. These efforts are extremely important and will continue. Cutting emissions is however of little help to the many countries that are already struggling with the consequences of climate change. This is why we in Glasgow - within the doubling of our climate finance – committed to triple our contributions to adaptation and prevention. We are well on our way to deliver on both.

Democracy and human rights are under pressure around the world. Sexual minorities and women are among the groups experiencing that their rights and the freedom to live their lives as they want are under increasing pressure.

Civil society organisations play a vital role in any democracy. In many countries these organisations find it more and more difficult to carry out their important work.

This is of great concern to us, particularly because we increasingly see these tendencies in our own corner of the world. Pushing back these push backs will remain a key priority to us.

As I said initially, we seem to be going from crisis to crisis. One of our key challenges as development actors is to strike the right balance between humanitarian aid and development efforts. This is the so-called Nexus-debate.

Many crisis – be they man-made or nature related – either go on for years or decades or are repeated over and over. To put it very simply; in stead of delivering water with trucks to victims of protracted crisis, we must start digging wells. Last week the responsibility for humanitarian aid was transferred from the Foreign Minister to the Minister of International Development. With these organizational adjustments we believe that we will better prepared to deal with the nexus-challenges.

We are now preparing for the fourth Financing for Development Conference in 2025. In many ways the conference will be a make or break moment for the SDGs.  We will do what we can to make the conference a success. In order to achieve that, we must mobilize both political will and financial resources.

Furthermore, we will not reach our goals unless we dramatically increase global tax revenues. Which also means stopping illicit financial flows and tax evasion that siphon money away from sustainable development. We will therefore continue our dedicated efforts in these field.

2030 is fast approaching. The world is not on track to reach the SDGs. The financing gap is huge. We must start thinking differently about financing. Despite reaching an all-time high last year, global ODA represents just a fraction of what is needed. The private sector is key. To reach our goals, we must use ODA catalytically to unleash the necessary private investments. One example is the climate investment fund Norfund – our investment fund for developing countries – launched last year.

But we have to rethink our whole approach to development financing. Poverty reduction has stalled, inequality is on the rise, and the number of violent conflicts is increasing. Then there is climate change, which requires immediate action. The international response to these crises is underwhelming: Not only is there a huge financing gap, the resources being mobilized are not used as effectively as they should.

Aware of the challenges faced by our partners in the global South, Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim appointed an external Expert Group in December to make recommendations on ways to finance developing countries’ needs and efforts to reach the SDGs. The expert group’s report was launched yesterday here in Oslo.

In short, the expert group outlines a new framework for development policy organized around an overarching principle of "Investment in sustainable development". This means moving away from seeing aid as gift to seeing it as an investment in a common future. This implies foregrounding mutual partnerships rather than “donor” and “recipient.” It also means clearer goals and a focus on results.

The experts have also given us advise on how to mobilize private investments more efficiently through de-risking and innovative financial instruments. There are also other recommendations, but I suggest you read the report – it is useful and interesting reading.

What will happen next from our side, is that we will study the recommendations carefully for our own planning purposes. In addition, we will bring them into our dialogue with you, and with partners on global arenas.

Thank you.