5 Policy and enabling conditions
Photo: The North West / Ole-Martin Sæthermoen
5.1 Key changes/lessons learned
- In 2020, the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation was appointed as a coordinating body for national implementation of the SDGs. This has led to increased cross-sectoral cooperation and a holistic approach to sustainable development.
- To improve the monitoring of progress on the 17 SDGs, Statistics Norway is coordinating the effort to develop a comprehensive set of indicators, adopted to national, regional and local needs.
- In Norway, there is an increasing awareness of regional and local authorities’ crucial role in achieving the SDGs. The report ‘National Expectations to Regional and Local planning’, launched in 2019, emphasised the importance of integrating the SDGs into regional and local strategies and plans.
- Several information campaigns aimed at increasing the Norwegian population’s knowledge of the SDGs have been conducted since 2016.
- Stakeholders from all sectors of society have increasingly integrated the SDGs into their strategies since 2016.
5.2 Creating ownership of the SDGs
5.2.1 Whole-of-government approach
The whole-of-government approach and national architecture are also described in Chapter 5.5 Incorporation of the SDGs in national frameworks and Chapter 5.7 Institutional mechanisms.
The Government has the overall responsibility for implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Norway. Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in 2015, sustainable development has been an integral part of Norwegian policies. The responsibility for implementation and reporting on the individual goals is divided between the ministries, in accordance with their responsibilities. Each ministry reports on the SDGs in budget documents presented to parliament. This ensures that progress on each SDG is reported annually through a well-established political mechanism.
In the period 2016–2019, the Ministry of Finance was responsible for coordinating the report on national implementation of the SDGs, which was presented to parliament in the national budget. In January 2020, Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Government appointed the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation as a coordinating body for national implementation of the SDGs. This has led to increased cross-sectoral cooperation and a holistic approach to sustainable development. The Government will submit Norway’s first national Action Plan for the Implementation of the SDGs to parliament this summer. Moreover, Norway is committed to submitting its Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) every four years.
The Storting (the Norwegian Parliament)
Parliamentary committees monitor 2030 Agenda matters through ordinary committee work. There are 12 standing committees responsible for different areas.
The Office of the Auditor General of Norway (OAG)
The Office of the Auditor General of Norway (OAG) is an important tool for parliament to ensure sufficient follow-up on the SDGs by government. In 2020, the OAG assessed how the Government implemented the 2030 Agenda in the period 2016–2019/2020. The OAG audit is elaborated upon in Chapter 5.5.2 The Norwegian Parliament’s role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Sámediggi (the Sami Parliament)
Sámediggi, the Sami Parliament of Norway, is consulted on matters that may affect Sami interests directly, in relation to the SDGs and otherwise. This procedure for consultation between the central government and the Sámediggi was agreed on 11 May 2005. The consultation procedures were developed in accordance with Article 6 of ILO Convention No. 169; the duty to consult indigenous peoples in decision-making processes that affect their rights. The consultation procedure applies to the Government and its subordinate agencies. In February 2021 the Government submitted to the Storting a proposal to codify rules on consultations in a new chapter of the Sami Act. It is proposed that the duty to consult should apply to authorities at all levels: the national, regional and municipal level.
Local and regional authorities
Local and regional authorities form an integrated component of Norway’s multi-level governance model. In the Norwegian model, welfare for and services to citizens are mostly delivered by local and regional authorities. What should be delivered and to what standard are specified in legal acts and public budgets adopted by parliament. Consultation between tiers of government is a key feature when formulating policy and enacting new legislation. For the past two decades, the Government has systematically consulted local and regional authorities represented by their association in three formal annual meetings on relevant policy, budgets and legislation.
5.2.2 Whole-of-society approach
The Advisory Forum on Policy Coherence
Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s political government platform highlights Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) as a critical success factor for achieving the SDGs. Because the SDGs are tied to multiple policy areas, the Government has made the commitment to embark on a policy coherence reform.
A key element in the reform progress was to establish a Forum on Policy Coherence in 2018. The private sector, civil society organisations, academia and labour organisations are represented in the forum. In the period 2018–2020, the forum was chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the political level. Since 2020 onwards, the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation has been co-chair, and the forum has been renamed the Advisory Forum on Policy Coherence (Innspillsforum for samstemthet). The name change reflects a broader participation and focus going forward.
Civil society engagement
Civil society has a significant role in the planning, implementation and revision of the SDGs, nationally and globally. Civil society contribute to a sustainable world both through their own work and through influencing the political agenda. In Norway, civil society represents numerous interest groups and possesses extensive knowledge and experience. Business, the culture sector, sports associations, congregations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) work towards the achievement of the SDGs. The engagement is particularly relevant for work related to the social and environmental dimensions of the SDGs, to which civil society mobilises substantial resources.
In addition to the wide-ranging mechanisms in place for consultation and cooperation with civil society actors, the Government seeks to facilitate fruitful conditions for civil society stakeholders to utilise their engagement and innovative power. NGOs, trade unions and business organisations continue to manifest their commitment. Actors such as social entrepreneurs, start-ups, clusters and networks are increasingly prevalent. The following cases present a few examples of the diversity of civil society actors and their commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda in Norway.
The Forum for Development and the Environment (ForUM) is an important network of expertise for NGOs and a facilitator of collaboration across organisations. It is an umbrella organisation with 50 members, which represents a large and diverse part of Norway’s population. ForUM is a central member of the Advisory Forum on Policy Coherence and participates in relevant international networks. On behalf of civil society, ForUM coordinated the progress report on each SDG in Chapter 6.2 of this report.
CASE: Young Sustainable Impact
Young Sustainable Impact (YSI) gathers young talent from all around the world to develop impact start-ups, with the 17 SDGs as a framework. YSI do this through a threefold mission. Firstly, by creating youth-driven sustainable business through an online innovation programme. Secondly, YSI has built and is building a youth-led movement focusing on sustainability, called Earthpreneurs. Thirdly, through working to influence established businesses and organisations on sustainability-related challenges.
Ferd is a Norwegian investment company that focuses on value-creating ownership in companies and financial investments. The company has two investment mandates within impact investment: Ferd Social Entrepreneurs (Ferd SE) covers social impact, while Ferd Impact Investing covers environmental impact.
Ferd SE invests in social entrepreneurs who create good social and economic results. Ferd SE contributes capital, expertise and networks in active partnership with the social entrepreneurs, with clear milestones and social ambitions. Ferd SE also helps to strengthen the social entrepreneurship field in Norway by increasing knowledge of social entrepreneurship, business development and how the public sector and others can use innovative, small actors to create social results. Currently, Ferd SE has 10 companies in its active portfolio.
Ferd Impact Investing invests in early-stage companies that have the potential to deliver both a positive effect on the SDGs and a solid risk-adjusted return.
CASE: Norway Unlimited
Norway Unlimited (Norge Unlimited) is a platform and a network with an associated methodology that seeks to support public, private and voluntary actors who want to establish and run a neighbourhood incubator. A neighbourhood incubator is a workplace, a resource centre, and a learning community for residents with ideas on how to solve complex local challenges through social entrepreneurship. The main idea is that experience with the current challenges can contribute to good solutions, which with a little support can create transformative change in the neighbourhood and have a ripple effect far beyond this. So far, Norway has three neighbourhood incubators: in Tøyen (Oslo), Storhaug (Stavanger) and Fjell (Drammen).
CASE: The Children’s Panel on Climate Change
The Children’s Panel on Climate Change was established by the Eco-Agents (Miljøagentene) in 2015. It is renewed with new members every year. The purpose of the panel is to give children a bigger voice, by communicating their opinions to decision-makers and influence their ability to define their own future. For example, the panel has met with representatives of parliament and the Government to express children’s views on environmental issues. A report is handed over to decision-makers at home and abroad every year. Representatives of the panel have participated in UN climate change conferences in Paris, Marrakech, Bonn and Katowice. In the long term, the ambition is to create an international climate change panel for children, consisting of children from all UN member states. This way, children’s views on environmental issues can be made visible and have greater political significance.
The importance of the private sector
The private sector plays a key role in realising the 2030 Agenda. Through their investments, the private sector mobilises financing for the creation of vigorous businesses that contribute innovation, technology, knowledge and experience that can solve our societal challenges. Norway has a competent and well-organised private sector with fruitful conditions for contributing to the achievement of the SDGs and for utilising the value creation potential that the 2030 Agenda represents.
Several Norwegian companies base their work on the SDGs, and are well on their way to integrating sustainable development into their strategies and adapting their products, services and business models. Collaboration has also been established between companies in areas that span across industries and sectors. One such example is the action platforms that UN Global Compact (UNGC) Norway facilitates. An action platform is a planned process based on an area that runs across several industries and sectors. The purpose is to develop concrete solutions through four phases: pre-project, idea phase, discussion phase and implementation. UNGC has launched national action platforms on issues such as sustainable business in the Arctic region and sustainable ocean business. Furthermore, through participating in the organisation, companies undertake to comply with principles for responsible business in their operations and report on them annually. More than 200 companies are members of UNGC Norway. On behalf of the private sector, UNGC Norway has coordinated a text about the private sector’s perspective on the Government’s implementation of the SDGs, in Chapter 4.
Individual companies, but also organisations such as the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), are important drivers for sustainable transformation in Norway. NHO is Norway’s largest organisation for employers and the leading business lobbyist. The confederation aims to create and sustain conditions that safeguard the competitiveness and profitability of business and industry in Norway. In 2020, NHO launched a comprehensive report, Next step – roadmap for the future of business (Neste trekk – Veikart for fremtidensnæringsliv), which sets out Norway’s way out of the COVID-19 crisis and into a digital, global and greener future.
Trade union membership and tripartite cooperation are well-established mechanisms in the Norwegian welfare system. NHO, together with the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) has provided a comment on tripartite cooperation in Norway in Chapter 5.7.2.
CASE: Innovation Norway
Innovation Norway (IN) is the Norwegian Government’s most important instrument for innovation and development in relation to Norwegian enterprises and industry. A key goal in IN’s strategy is to help develop a more versatile and sustainable Norwegian business community that is able to solve major common societal challenges. Therefore, since 2015, in addition to assessing the value creation potential of a project, IN also assesses the effect that projects will have on society and the environment. The projects are assessed according to predetermined criteria for environmental and social impact and provide a good basis for monitoring the portfolio. In 2020, IN triggered environmental projects worth more than NOK 6 billion; double that of previous years. The large increase in 2020 relates to the additional grants provided in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All IN’s work is in line with SDGs 8 (Decent work and economic growth) and 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure). However, the established system for measuring the environmental and social impact also makes it possible for the agency to see which SDGs are being met by the projects they finance. IN is working to improve the indicators for both the environmental and the social impact, which will be assessed in accordance with the EU’s taxonomy.
5.3 The SDGs in Norwegian counties and municipalities
Regional and local authorities are instrumental in implementing and following up on the SGDs in Norway for three main reasons. Firstly, they are responsible for deciding political priorities at the regional and local level. Secondly, the counties and municipalities are familiar with the opportunities and challenges of individuals, local organisations, and businesses. Lastly, they are responsible for most of the social and physical infrastructure that influences people’s lives and local development possibilities. Regional and local authorities are community developers, property owners and employers. It is also worth mentioning that many Norwegian counties and municipalities participate in national and international networks dedicated to the regional and local implementation of the SDGs.
Since Norway presented its first VNR report, considerable progress has been made towards the SDGs and targets in counties and municipalities. To highlight their efforts, the work on the SDGs in Norwegian counties and municipalities is the main focus of this VNR report. The timing is particularly good as the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) is conducting a Voluntary Subnational Review (VSR). A detailed account of the VSR, as well as more information on the work and progress on the SDGs in Norwegian municipalities and regions can be found in Chapter 7.
5.4 Dissemination and communication
If the SDGs are to be achieved, they must be known to the public. According to a recent study by polling company Opinion, 69 per cent of the Norwegian population is familiar with the 2030 Agenda and 8 out of 10 Norwegian consumers want to contribute to sustainable development through the business they support and choices they make. The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) has been instructed by the Government, through a mandate by parliament to carry out an information campaign to raise awareness of the SDGs in the Norwegian population. Since 2016, Norad has carried out several information campaigns. Read about their campaigns in the case box below.
Since 2016, several initiatives have been implemented to raise awareness and increase knowledge about the 2030 Agenda. Translating the SDGs to the three official Norwegian languages (Bokmål, Nynorsk and Sami) has been a priority. The translations are used in official communications, educational material and municipal strategies.
In 2020, the Government established a website that functions as a two-way communication channel in the development of the National Action Plan for Sustainable Development. The main purpose of the website is to provide knowledge about the SDGs in a national context and engage stakeholders and the public in the development of the Action Plan. The Government will improve the quality of information about Norway’s follow-up of the 2030 Agenda, both globally and nationally.
In June 2021, the Government arranged a digital conference on sustainable development in connection with the action plan. The conference gathered stakeholders from civil society and the private and public sector to shed light on the possibilities and challenges that the SDGs present in a national context. Before the conference, the Government also co-hosted several webinars focusing on different aspects of sustainability.
Prime Minister Solberg has for many years been actively engaged in the follow-up of the 2030 Agenda. Since 2016, Prime Minister Solberg has co-chaired the UN Secretary General’s SDG Advocacy Group, together with the President of Ghana, Mr Akufo-Addo. And, as of 2018, Prime Minister Solberg co-chairs the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) for building momentum for a sustainable ocean economy, together with the President of Palau, Surangel Whipps Jr. In November 2020, Prime Minister Solberg launched the social media campaign #Taketheball, encouraging people around the world to take action towards the SDGs. The Minister of Local Government and Modernisation, Nikolai Astrup, later launched the campaign in Norway (#Taballen), encouraging key stakeholders in Norway to take action.
Civil society plays an important role in providing information about the 2030 Agenda, both through campaigns and participation in the public debate. With financial support from Norad, NGOs raise awareness about the SDGs and about Norway’s planning and implementation of the SDGs, as well as the reporting and revision processes. Civil society plays a particularly important role in highlighting the perspectives of marginalised groups.
One example is the United Nations Association of Norway (UNA Norway), which hosts seminars and debates across the country and offer lectures to schools and organisations. In cooperation with teachers and students, the organisation has developed interdisciplinary learning resources about the SDGs that are free of charge and available online. UNA Norway also hosts a dynamic and up-to-date website that provides the Norwegian population with information about the SDGs. The pages about the SDGs are the most read, with 1.1 million views in 2020. The organisation is run independently without any political affiliations and has 48 member organisations across Norway. More than 750 schools and kindergartens are currently members of the UNA Regional Offices network.
UngDebatt (Young Debate) is a toolkit developed by YGlobal in partnership with YWCA-YMCA of Norway to create an inclusive, safe space on the local level for the youth to speak their minds on issues related to the SDGs. The debates are hosted by young people, and decision-makers are invited to come and listen to the youth and their perspectives on issues related to the SDGs.
CASE: The world’s most important goals
Text by Norad
Since 2016, Norad has carried out campaigns to spread knowledge about the SDGs. The main concept has been the SDG Night Treks and Festivals. Norad has arranged SDG Night Treks and Festivals throughout the country, in eight different towns and cities. Over 70,000 trekkers have walked for the SDGs on a mountain top. Even more people have engaged in the costal clean-ups, school quizzes, debates and seminars in the SDG Festivals. The Night Treks and Festivals have led to spectacular moments in the focus on the SDGs, which have also been filmed and distributed in traditional and social media. The clips have been viewed 13 million times.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Night Treks and Festivals have been discontinued, but in the autumn of 2020, Norad carried out a new and different digital campaign, disseminated in social media. In The World’s Most Important Goals campaign, Norad invited the population to test which SDGs were closest to their own interests. About 50 partners, from some of the largest private companies in Norway to big civil society actors, and municipalities, distributed the test in their own networks. Over 110,000 people took the test. The test will be used in schools to educate youths about the SDGs in the years ahead. An introductory film about the campaign can found here.
In 2016, 35 per cent of the Norwegian population had some knowledge of the SDGs. The corresponding figure in 2020 was 69 per cent.
The SDGs will form the framework for Norad’s work and communication in the years ahead.
CASE: MISSION IMPACT
In 2019, the Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM) launched the online series, MISSION IMPACT, to raise awareness about the SDGs. The series follows three young Norwegians in their mission to fight climate change, arms trade and tax havens as they learn about three of our greatest challenges: climate change, war and poverty. The series was an initiative to engage youths with limited knowledge of the SDGs, and each video had a reach of at least 200,000 on Facebook. In addition to the videos published online, the series has been adapted for use in schools, with assignments and activities linked to MISSION IMPACT.
5.5 Incorporation of the SDGs in national frameworks
5.5.1 Key changes/lessons learned
- The Norwegian Government decided in 2016 that the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs shall provide the main direction for Norwegian national and international policy,
- The SDGs are incorporated into all policy documents, including budgets, strategies and action plans, but ensuring policy coherence and a cross-sectoral approach is a challenge.
- In 2020, the Office of the Audit General (OAG) audited the national implementation of the SDGs from 2016–2019/2020. Based on the audit report, parliament requested the Government to present a progress report and an action plan on the SDGs. In response, Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Government will present a progress report and Norway’s first national action plan on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda to parliament in 2021.
- The SDGs are integrated into education policy on all levels.
- All state agencies will report on the implementations of the SDGs in their annual reports.
- Regional and local authorities use the SDGs in their regional and local planning.
5.5.2 The Norwegian Parliament’s role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda
The Government is responsible for reporting on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs to parliament. Since 2016, the Government has reported to parliament on the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs through the annual budget proposals and the National Budget Report. A regular report on policy coherence has also been delivered.
The Norwegian Parliament represents the people. It governs the country, introduces legislation, authorises public spending, imposes taxes, and supervises and regulates the work of the Government and public administration. Government proposals are discussed in the relevant committee. After reaching a conclusion, the committee presents its recommendations to parliament, which then votes on the recommendations. Parliament can obtain more information on certain issues through questions and interpellations.
The Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs reviews and makes recommendations on matters concerning supervision of the Government. The OAG is the most important supervisory body, examining the activities of the national administration to ensure that the state assets are utilised and managed according to sound financial principle and in keeping with parliament’s decisions and intentions.
In 2020, the OAG provided parliament with an audit of the national follow-up on the SDGs in the period 2016 to 2019/2020. The OAG had the following four recommendations:
- Better coordination of the national implementation to secure a more holistic approach, coherence and progress.
- Develop a national plan for the 2030 Agenda, with national targets and priorities.
- Develop national indicators and statistics as important tools for the implementation.
- The report to parliament should have more focus on challenges and progress and a holistic and cross- sectoral approach.
Based on the audit report, the Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs formally requested the Government to present a progress report and an action plan on the SDGs. In response, the Government will present a White Paper and an action plan to parliament by the summer of 2021. The Government has also taken steps to increase effective implementation and reporting on the SDGs (see Chapter 5.2.1 for more information).
5.5.3 The Government’s policy priorities 2016–2021
The implementation of the 2030 Agenda started during the first term of Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Government, in the period 2013–2017. The main priority during this time was development policy.
During Prime Minister Solberg’s second and current government term (2017–2021) the political platform states that the 2030 Agenda shall constitute the political superstructure of the Government’s work both nationally and internationally. Throughout this government term, eight projects have been given priority, which largely coincides with the SDGs. The Government’s eight priority projects are:
- Equal access to welfare
- A society where everyone can participate
- Work in more sustainable ways
- Sustainable communities and local communities
- A carbon-neutral society
- Good utilisation of resources in the economy
- A lifestyle that considers the capacity of nature
- Decision-making with respect for nature
This indicates an accelerated focus on implementing the 2030 Agenda in national policy. The shift was made explicit in the report National Expectations regarding Regional and Local planning in 2019.
5.5.4 Incorporation of the SDGs into ministries’ strategies and programmes
The SDGs have been an integral part of Norwegian policy for many years. The existing policy and legislative framework, as well as the commitment to international agreements and strategies, provide a strong basis for the national implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
An assessment of the Government’s policy since 2016 shows that present strategies and policy objectives underpin and affect all the 17 SDGs. In Chapter 6.2, the ministries provide a more detailed list of the strategies that have been implemented in connection with the goals.
The OAG’s audit of the management and review of the national follow-up of the SDGs found that Norway is lacking a comprehensive plan for implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. When the Government now submits its second White Paper and action plan to parliament, the focus is on providing a comprehensive plan for the national implementation of the 2030 Agenda (Read about the action plan in Chapter 5.5.5). The Government first submitted a White Paper on the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in 2017. The White Paper was submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and focused on Norwegian development policy and Norway’s international responsibility for the follow-up of the 2030 Agenda.
In 2020, the Government decided on two important measures that will increase the integration of the SDGs into sectorial policies and strategies towards 2030. The first measure is that all strategies, action plans and white papers provided by the ministries must review the SDGs when relevant. The second measure is that all ministries include the SDGs in their guidance and performance agreements (letter of appropriation) with their state agencies and institutions.
5.5.5 The National Action Plan for SDGs
In 2020, the Government decided to develop a national action plan for the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. The National Action Plan will be presented to the Norwegian Parliament, by summer 2021 as a White Paper. The action plan sets the SDGs in a national context and proposes national targets for each goal. The plan describes existing national policy and suggest new policy needed to achieve the goals by 2030.
The action plan will establish measures to secure better coordination between government sectors and levels, and strengthen cooperation across regional and local administration, the private sector and civil society.
The Government emphasises the importance of research and science and of developing tools for a knowledge-based approach, particularly technological tools.
5.5.6 The SDGs in national planning and budgeting processes
The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are included in the White Paper, Long-term Perspectives on the Norwegian Economy 2021, the National Transport Plan 2022–2033 and several other long-term sectoral plans. The goals are also integrated into ordinary policy documents and in the budget process on a national level.
Consideration of the SDGs is a main component of social and land-use planning. The planning system is regulated by law in the Norwegian Planning and Building Act. The purpose of the law is to promote the SDGs and to coordinate public interests in all sectors and levels. Every four years, the Government maps out its expectations for strategies and plans at the regional and municipal level, in an effort to promote the SDGs across the entire country. This requirement is stated in Section 6-1 of the Planning and Building Act. The national expectations must be considered by county and municipal authorities when they develop their strategies and plans. The latest edition of the National expectations regarding regional and municipal planning, emphasised the important role of the regional and local level in achieving the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, and encouraged regional and local authorities to make the SDGs the foundation of their planning process.
5.5.7 Incorporation of the 2030 Agenda into the education system at all levels
Norway has 10 years of compulsory primary and lower secondary education that is publicly funded. In 2020, the Government introduced sustainable development as an interdisciplinary topic in primary and lower secondary school curriculums. The aim is to spread knowledge about sustainable development and give pupils an understanding of some of the dilemmas related to this topic. The two other interdisciplinary topics (health and life skills, democracy and citizenship), will also provide pupils with the competence to understand where we can find solutions through knowledge and collaboration, and they must learn about the relationship between actions and consequences.
In 2015, the Government launched a 10-year plan for research and higher education. The plan sets the course for policy development and investments in research and higher education and is revised every four years to accommodate changes in the political and societal landscape. Several measures in the current long-term plan (2019–2028) are relevant to the SDGs, including:
- encourage increased research and development in the private and public sectors in order to promote restructuring towards a greener economy, enhance competitiveness and strengthen innovation capacity;
- facilitate new, research-based business activities and better interaction between academia and the private and public sectors;
- lay the foundation for increased digitalisation and use of new technology.
Moreover, several universities and colleges in Norway have developed their own strategies for sustainable development or integrated the SDGs into existing strategies. For example, the new strategy of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) highlights specific education, research and innovation activities that are targeted at the 17 SDGs. This helps new students to choose a study programme based on the goals they consider to be most important.
After the inaugural SDG Conference Bergen in February 2018, the University of Bergen took the initiative to establish the National Committee for the 2030 Agenda in the university sector. The National Committee consists of members from the five major Norwegian universities, Universities Norway (UHR) and the National Union of Students in Norway (NSO). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education and Research, The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) also act as observers in the committee. The aim of the committee is to strengthen the universities’ role as a relevant player in the global debate on the societal challenges that the 2030 Agenda focuses on, both nationally and internationally. The committee, chaired by the University of Bergen, also hosts the annual high-level SDG Conference Bergen – a meeting point, bringing together the university sector with stakeholders from politics, government, civil society and industry, as well as diplomats and UN officials to critically engage with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.
CASE: Sustainability portal for researchers and students
In collaboration with the National Committee for the 2030 Agenda, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) is in the process of creating a platform for the sharing of best practice in higher education. The platform will serve as an interactive ‘meeting place’ for researchers and students working with the same or related sustainability dilemmas, and welcomes interdisciplinary collaboration, preferably with a focus on a specific complex challenge. A pilot project for the sustainability portal was initiated in November 2019 with two portals, one focusing on research and another on education. The knowledge that can be extracted from these portals can be used to define targeted research programmes supported by the Research Council of Norway and to make knowledge-based decisions regarding the SDGs. This will be the first national platform of its kind, underlining the strong engagement with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in Norway’s university sector.
CASE: No sustainable development without health, equality and education
In 2018, Sex og Politikk – IPPF Norway, launched new teaching material for upper secondary schools on the SDGs related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The purpose is to help pupils understand their rights in an international perspective, and the connections between their own and others’ rights.
The material consists of a free to use booklet for teachers and an exercise booklet for pupils. It is intended to be a practical and comprehensive tool for building knowledge, insight, reflection and engagement in schools on issues related to SDGs 3, 4 and 5. It touches upon topics like sexual rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, gender equality, abortion, HIV and AIDS and contraception. The material has proved to be very popular among teachers. By April 2021, more than 2,200 teachers had registered that they would use the material, covering a total of 140,000 pupils. The material is financed through the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).
5.5.8 Incorporation of the 2030 Agenda into development, foreign and security and trade policy
The 2030 Agenda also establishes an agenda for Norway’s development, foreign, security and trade policy. Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s co-chair role in the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group is a clear testimony to this commitment.
The Government’s main goal in its development policy is to fight poverty and promote economic development and welfare in low-income countries within the framework of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. The MFA White Paper ‘Common Responsibility for Common Future – The Sustainable Development Goals and Norwegian Development Policy’ describes Norway’s global efforts in more detail, as does Chapter 8.3 in this report.
The SDGs are also an important basis for Norway’s relationship with bilateral development partners. Many of these partnerships are evolving, from a traditional cooperation based on development assistance to a more comprehensive and mutual partnership based on common interests and enhanced cooperation on multilateral issues, trade, investments, culture and research.
Multilateral cooperation and a rule-based multilateral order are key Norwegian foreign policy interests. A key goal for Norwegian foreign policy in the coming years is therefore to support binding international cooperation and safeguard this system. This includes ensuring that the 2030 Agenda is pursued and acted upon globally, and even more so in a time of a pandemic crisis.
The Government’s global leadership on oceans policy illustrates Norway’s multilateral outlook on the SDGs. Norway has world-leading expertise on the marine environment and sustainable management of marine resources, supporting common political commitments to ensure a sustainable ocean economy. Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s initiative to set up the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy is a key example. Another example is our efforts related to COVID-19, where Norway has taken steps to bring the issue of equal access to vaccines to developing countries to the forefront on the multilateral agenda. In a pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe.
Norwegian foreign- and development policies are based on a conviction that respect for individual rights and freedoms and democratic rules of the game are prerequisites for sustainable development. By strengthening the rule of law at both national and international levels, we contribute both to creating more predictable conditions for development, and to more inclusive, just, and peaceful communities locally.
Cooperation with the rest of Europe, both the EU and other European countries, is another cornerstone of our foreign policy. Even if not a member of the EU, Norway pursues and enjoys very close relations with the EU – most importantly through the European Economic Area Agreement (EEA Agreement). Besides guaranteeing access to the single market, the EEA Agreement covers cooperation in other important areas such as research and development, education, social policy, the environment, consumer protection, tourism and culture. Fighting climate change and promoting climate neutral growth is a defining task of Norway’s cooperation with the EU. Norway shares the European Commission’s vision for a European Green Deal. Norway will actively participate in policy and regulatory development under the European Green Deal in line with Norwegian interests. Large parts of the EU’s policy development will be of relevance to the EEA Agreement.
Policy rooted in the SDGs is also relevant for security policy. Climate change can multiply factors that may create or intensify conflicts. Although Norway significantly contributes to peace and reconciliation in many conflict areas today, systematic work against such risk-multipliers is important to the Norwegian Government. Realising the importance of the need for sustainable development, NATO has therefore put the threat of climate change high on the agenda. It is expected that this year’s NATO summit will launch a process to revise NATO’s strategic concept so that it considers future security policy challenges. Norway supports this process. For Norway, NATO membership is our primary security guarantee. But security is also a question of cooperative security with partner countries. Since 2007, Norway has been actively involved and is one of the leading nations in strengthening institutions through integrity building and anti-corruption work. This contributes to partner countries being able to achieve the SDGs more easily.
As for Norwegian trade policy, integration into the global economy has proved to be a prerequisite for sustainable economic growth over the past decades. Our belief is that participation in the rules-based multilateral trading system, including implementation of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rights and obligations, enhances foreign investment, business development and competitiveness. Norway’s top trade policy priority is preserving and strengthening the WTO. Development must be at the heart of WTO and the ongoing reform discussions. As a donor, we contribute to technical assistance and capacity-building within trade since these are important components of an enabling approach for developing members. Norway also negotiates free trade agreements mainly through the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). In all current and future free trade agreements, we strive to include comprehensive chapters on trade and sustainable development.
5.5.9 Linkages to the work of the EEA, the Nordic Council of Ministers, Arctic Council, Barents Sea Cooperation and Council of the Baltic Sea States
Norway regards regional cooperation as an integral part of its effective realisation of the 2030 Agenda. As members of the EEA Agreement, Norway and the EU have a close climate partnership. Norway and the EU also have an agreement from 2019 to cooperate to meet 2030 climate targets. Norway contributes by cutting emissions through our participation in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) and joint fulfilment of emission reductions in sectors outside the ETS. The EEA and Norwegian grants for the period 2014–2021 amount to EUR 2.8 billion, which was paid to 15 of the EU’s less prosperous member states, ending in 2025. The grants support the SDGs and in particular the development of a green, competitive and inclusive Europe. In 2021, the budget approved by parliament is approximately EUR 600 million. The support of the European Green Deal is an important part of this budget.
Besides the cooperation with the EU, Norway is also part of a large and comprehensive cooperation framework with neighbours in northern Europe, from the Arctic in the north to the Baltic and North Sea shores in the south, from the western Atlantic to the Russian taiga in the east. The framework rests on strong bilateral relations, but particularly also on regional cooperation formats and strategies focusing on the exchange of best practices and coordinated and harmonious implementation of the environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainable development.
The Nordic countries work closely together in the follow-up of the SDGs. This work was intensified when, in August 2019, the Nordic prime ministers decided to strengthen the joint work on sustainability. In the new Nordic vision for 2030, the Nordic countries agree that ‘the Nordic region will be the world’s most sustainable and integrated region’. The action plan for 2021–2024 includes increased efforts and new impetus in the co-operation for a sustainable Nordic region along three strategic priorities: 1) A green Nordic region, 2) A competitive Nordic region, and 3) A socially sustainable Nordic region. These priorities are followed up in the action plan for 2021–2024.
A recent report from the Nordic research institution Nordregio indicates that increasing attention has been dedicated to how local and regional levels are working with the 2030 Agenda across the Nordic countries, and that there is a great deal of potential to amplify shared Nordic ambitions.
Norway is a founding partner and member of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and holds its presidency 2021–22. In 2016, the eleven member countries agreed to create an action plan for cooperative and synergetic work to advance the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in the Baltic Sea Region. The following year, the Baltic 2030 Action Plan was adopted, with six focus areas: partnerships; transition to a sustainable economy; climate, equality and social wellbeing; sustainable and resilient cities; quality education and lifelong learning. Six corresponding ‘activation processes’ have been agreed in the action plan to coordinate implementation under the guidance of the rotating CBSS presidency and the permanent secretariat in Stockholm.
The Barents cooperation has been a cornerstone of regional cooperation in the Arctic since 1993, and Norway is chairing the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) in 2019–2021. One of the priorities of the Norwegian chairmanship is knowledge and sustainable development of the region. The report ‘Barents 2050 – Impacts, opportunities, and risks of climate change and climate change mitigation‘ underlines the importance of innovation and the implementation of low-carbon technologies in the Barents region. The Barents Action Plan on Climate Change is currently being updated by the BEAC working group on environment. Through continued efforts on climate, sustainable forestry, low-emission transport and infrastructure, biodiversity, education, and innovation, in addition to a focus on indigenous peoples and youth, the BEAC aims to build a more sustainable and resilient Barents region in line with the 2030 Agenda.
The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States and Arctic indigenous communities on common Arctic issues, in particular on sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. The work is primarily carried out in six working groups, all working to advance the 2030 Agenda, ranging from reducing emissions of pollutants, monitoring the Arctic environment, ecosystems and human populations, biodiversity and the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources, the protection of the Arctic marine environment, sustainable growth and the blue bioeconomy. The Arctic Council provides scientific advice to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other international organisations and governments on global mitigations of emissions of greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs).
5.6 Leaving no one behind (LNOB)
5.6.1 Key changes/lessons learned
- Efforts aimed at those who are furthest away from achieving the goals are given priority, at home and abroad.
- In the national context, the welfare society is the backbone of the Norwegian LNOB policy.
- Securing employment for all is challenging, especially considering the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Lack of knowledge, competence and education, in addition to discrimination, are the most important single factors that can result in being left behind.
- The White Paper National Minorities in Norway. A Comprehensive Policy, outlines plans to strengthen the minorities’ languages, culture and position in the Norwegian society. The White Paper concludes that the formal rights of the minorities are essentially met in Norway, but that implementing the rights can still be challenging in some areas.
- The principle of leaving no one behind is a central premise for Norwegian foreign policy and development policy.
5.6.2 Upholding the LNOB principle nationally
For the Norwegian Government, leaving no one behind is a central premise for political, social and economic development. A strong focus on equality and non-discrimination is key to ensuring that no one is left behind in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. In Norway’s previous VNR report from 2016, the principle Leave No One Behind (LNOB) was primarily addressed in the context of development cooperation. The principle resonates well with Norwegian domestic and international policy, where supporting and protecting vulnerable and marginalised groups is a key priority. While LNOB remain at the heart of our development cooperation, this review will complement the previous review by giving special attention to non-discrimination, social policies and labour policies in a national context.
Norwegian policy is consistent with the principles and obligations set out in human rights conventions ratified by Norway. All people must have the same opportunities, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, age, race, religion or belief, indigenous identity, sexual orientation or disability.
The Norwegian welfare society is key to ensuring that no one is left behind, by securing opportunities for income, providing education and health services for everyone. The welfare society depends on a strong national economy and well-functioning distribution mechanisms. Continuous improvement to the Norwegian welfare society is crucial for the national implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
In Norway, our labour market has been heavily disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It makes providing good jobs for everyone an even more challenging task. Many of the unemployed face complex living conditions and other challenges, such as mental health problems. Mental health problems are also a major cause of sick leave and for claiming disability benefit. Participation in the labour market is vital to ensuring equality in society, by decreasing income differences and contributing to societal inclusion, social mobility, better mental and physical health and learning. Meeting the target of full and productive employment for all, including young people (SDG target 8.5), has proven to be a challenge.
The Introduction Programme aims to provide refugees and their family members with basic proficiency in the Norwegian language and to prepare them for employment or further education as well as participation in Norwegian society. On 1 January 2021, a new act on integration through education, training and work (the Integration Act) was implemented. One of the objectives of the new act is for more refugees to obtain a formal education through the Introduction Programme. Ensuring easier access to the labour market for immigrant groups is a priority in Norwegian labour policy, because many immigrant groups currently have low labour force participation.
Vulnerable children and youth are at a high risk of being excluded from important social arenas. Several efforts have been launched by the Government to promote equal opportunities for children and youth. In the autumn of 2020, the Government presented a strategy that focuses on increased participation for children, young people and parents in low-income families in kindergarten, school, after-school programmes and leisure activities. Increased participation in these arenas could prevent low income and societal exclusion from being passed on to the next generation.
People with disabilities face challenges when it comes to access to the labour market and good-quality education. The Government aims to empower people with disabilities to pursue education and participate in the Norwegian labour market in the same manner as those without disabilities.
Among the senior population many can meet ageist attitudes and invisible and visible barriers for participation in the working life and in the society. With the increased digitalisation of public and private services, many older people find it difficult to use them. With population ageing, the Government has appointed the first independent Ombud for older people, with a mandate to speak on behalf of older people on all areas of society.
Racism and discrimination are democratic challenges that exclude people from many arenas and prevent them from participating fully in society. The Government aims to fight racism, religious discrimination, anti-Semitism and prejudice based on ethnicity. The Government is currently seeking to implement measures to combat discrimination in the labour and housing markets. The new Action Plan Against Racism and Discrimination on the Grounds of Ethnicity and Religion 2020–2023, set out a renewed and intensified effort to fight racism and discrimination.
5.6.3 Five national minorities
The five national minorities in Norway are Kven/Norwegian Finns, Forest Finns, Roma, Tater/Romani people and Jews.
In December 2020, the Norwegian Government presented a White Paper to the parliament, National Minorities in Norway. A Comprehensive Policy. The White Paper reviews the policy aimed at the national minorities over the last 20 years and outlines how the Government plans to strengthen the minorities’ languages, culture and position in Norwegian society in the years ahead. The White Paper underlines how the formal rights of the minorities are essentially met in Norway today, but that implementing the rights can still be challenging in some areas.
The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (the Framework Convention) in 1994. The Framework Convention entered into force in 1998 and was ratified by Norway in 1999.
A fundamental principle of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities is that the groups in question should be involved in the work on issues that affect them. This principle is also consistent with SDG target 16.7 to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.
To enable the national minorities to participate in implementing the Framework Convention, a separate grant scheme for national minorities was established in 2000. The grant scheme has been increased considerably over the last eight years.
The Norwegian Government aims to develop a comprehensive policy in consultation with the national minority organisations. The national minority organisations participate in the annual Contact Forum between the national minorities and state authorities. In addition, ministries and directorates initiate dialogue meetings with national minorities whenever relevant, and the minorities are entitled to give input at public hearings on an equal footing with other parties.
Another important measure in the policy aimed at the national minorities is to ensure that the minorities have an equal right to education, both at primary and secondary level, that leads to relevant and beneficial learning outcomes.
The pursuit of an active and comprehensive policy against all forms of racism and discrimination is vital. In 2014, a new chapter on human rights was incorporated into the Norwegian Constitution, thereby establishing by constitutional principle the right of equality under the law and the prohibition of discrimination in Article 98 of the Norwegian Constitution. In recent years, the Norwegian Government has presented and implemented plans against racism and discrimination, antisemitism and hate speech.
5.6.4 Promotion of the LNOB principle in foreign and development policy
The principle of leaving no one behind is a central premise for development. Human rights and gender equality are cross cutting issues in Norway’s foreign and development policy, along with anti-corruption and climate and environment. By mainstreaming human rights and gender equality in all development cooperation, we help to reduce inequalities and discrimination and promote inclusion. By applying a long-term perspective, we contribute to raising awareness, building competent institutions, inclusive and representative decision processes, strengthening the rule of law and combatting corruption to increase impartiality.
The figure below shows that gender equality was an important objective in more than 40 per cent of the bilateral development assistance in 2020.
Figure 5.1 Gender equality in bilateral aid
In 2020, the most vulnerable were hit particularly hard by COVID-19. In international fora, Norway has worked to limit this negative effect by emphasising that the response to the pandemic must be non-discriminatory and inclusive, based on human rights, and by applying a gender perspective.
Support for national human rights institutions and for ensuring independent and competent judiciaries, is vital in ensuring that the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups are not left behind. This includes, but is not limited to, religious minorities, the LGBTI community, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples. Civil society has managed to reach target groups that would otherwise be difficult to reach. Norway provides financial and political support for an independent, vibrant and pluralistic civil society, which contributes significantly to the objective of leaving no one behind through inclusive and peaceful participation and realisation of human rights. Results related to our efforts in preventing normative backsliding, supporting human rights defenders and protecting the existing international human rights instruments and institutions are also highly relevant, as these instruments, institutions and organisations have equality and non-discrimination at the core.
Norway is preparing a strategy on disability inclusion, providing guidelines for future Norwegian involvement and efforts to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in our development cooperation. This is especially important in the present difficult situation – where results achieved are reversed due to COVID-19.
The risk of becoming a victim of modern slavery is thought to have increased considerably during the pandemic. Norway has strengthened its efforts to combat modern slavery in its development cooperation. A development programme was launched in 2020, and a new strategy is being developed.
5.6.5 LNOB in national follow-up and disaggregation of data
Statistics Norway and numerous other public agencies produce official data and statistics about the Norwegian population. The National Population Register is key in the production of statistics and is used in combination with other administrative registers and traditional statistical surveys and georeferenced data. Using a range of statistical variables, such as age, sex, nationality, migratory status and geographical location, Norway is well placed to cover the whole population with timely statistics as well as providing researchers with data to develop appropriate analyses about the Norwegian population. Statistical products disseminated by Statistics Norway and other producers of official statistics are published with relevant disaggregation. Some statistical products are also broken down by, for example, disability category when this information is collected through surveys.
In the 2030 Agenda, ethnicity are also desired disaggregation variables. Norway’s indigenous population, the Sami, have their traditional territories in the northern parts of the country that are part of Sápmi, an area which also stretches over northern Sweden and Finland as well as the Kola Peninsula in Russia. There are no official statistics that cover the entire Sami population. Thus, no basis is available for producing individual-based statistics on people with Sami ethnicity.
Norwegian official statistics include products describing the Norwegian parts of Sápmi, which means that statistics about the Sami produced by Statistics Norway are limited to certain geographical areas. Groups with a long-standing attachment to the country are defined as national minorities. The five national minorities (see Chapter 5.6.3 for more information) make up only a small part of the Norwegian population. Ethnic identification is based on the principle of self-identification. There is no official registration of ethnicity in the National Population Register.
The global indicators for the SDGs are presented by Statistics Norway at national level. In the future, this national reporting platform will include more disaggregated data for relevant indicators in order to meet national and sub-national user needs. In cases where certain variables, such as ethnicity, are not included in official statistics or in other sources for SDG monitoring indicators, this information should be sought in consultation with specific groups and through relevant research.
5.6.6 LNOB online – web accessibility
A key factor for success in leaving no one behind is ensuring equal access to digital platforms and arenas used by the population in their everyday life. Universal design of the built environment has been on the agenda for a long time. However, as society becomes more and more digitalised, the need for universal design of the digital environment has become a priority.
Norway is a highly digitalised society. The population has to cope with several digital solutions for filling out and sending applications and forms. Digital solutions are used for banking, public services, shopping, education, work, buying tickets, accessing news and media content, socialising etc. Without universal design of these ICT solutions, a large group of the population will either be denied access to essential services or be dependent on others. The issue is not necessarily the digital services themselves, because digitalisation can also make society more accessible. For example, a paper form is not accessible for a blind person, but a blind person can use a digital form if it is coded correctly. Universal design of ICT solutions is essential for achieving several of the SDGs (e.g. 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 16).
Norway has for many years had one of the world’s most progressive regulations on universal design of ICT, applicable to both the public and private sector. The regulations ensure universal design of websites, mobile applications and self-service terminals. Laws on technical requirements are just the first step to ensuring equal access to ICT. The next step is enforcing these laws. The Norwegian Authority for Universal Design of ICT audits providers of websites, mobile applications and self-service terminals, and has the power to issue fines when requirements are not met. Moreover, the Norwegian Anti-discrimination Tribunal handles complaints and appeals regarding universal access to ICT. The two administrative bodies have been crucial for putting universal design of ICT on the agenda in Norway.
Despite having a legal framework and executive bodies in place, there is still some way to go before the legal requirements are in place to ensure equal access to all aspects of society, such as the labour market. The lack of requirements on universal design of ICT within the labour market excludes many individuals from partaking in perhaps the most important social arena for adults in Norway. This is challenging both for individuals who are not able to practice their professions and for employers who are unable to benefit from the full potential of the labour force.
While there is still some way to go, the potential for inclusion in the digital era has never been greater.
5.7 Institutional mechanisms
5.7.1 Key changes/lessons learned
- The SDGs can only be achieved through enhanced cooperation across sectors, and the Government is considering several initiatives to facilitate this.
- From 2021 onwards, all government agencies are required to report on the status of their work on the SDGs in their annual reports to the Government.
- Since 2020, all line ministries are now represented in a State Secretaries’ committee for the the SDGs goals.
- Tripartite cooperation has a long history in Norway and contributes to a competitive labour market and a high unionisation rate.
- Short-term economic and political considerations displace long-term strategic policies and initiatives, which represent a challenge to achieving the 2030 Agenda.
- The structural issues that were present in Norway before the COVID-19 pandemic have become more prominent.
5.7.2 Governmental mechanisms
The SDGs can only be achieved through enhanced cooperation across sectors, and increased cooperation within the Government’s organisational structure.
Figure 5.2 Governmental organisation
Source: Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation
In Norway, the different ministries are assigned responsibility for separate SDGs. Following the reorganisation of the national follow-up of the SDGs in 2020, the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation is responsible for coordinating the national follow-up, whilst the Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains overall responsible for the international follow-up. All line ministries with responsibility for one or more SDG are represented in a State Secretaries’ committee for the the SDGs. The committee, which is led by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, is responsible for coordinating reports and activities and ensuring a holistic approach to sustainable development in Norway. The ministries are required to consider the effects of proposed measures on the SDGs and describe the effects in official reports, strategies and propositions. Collaboration and involvement of stakeholders outside the public sector are maintained through the Advisory Forum on Policy Coherence. The forum seeks to involve a wide range of actors and organisations and is co-chaired by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Government will, in the National Action Plan, consider different mechanisms to ensure dialogue and coherent follow-up, for instance establishing an expert panel and a National Forum for the 2030 Agenda. The National Action Plan will be presented to parliament this summer.
Most government agencies perform tasks that directly contribute to achieving one or more of the SDGs. From 2021 onwards, all government agencies are required to report on the status of their work on the SDGs in their annual reports to the Government. The reports should describe which SDGs their work has contributed to, what challenges were identified, and how their work can be aligned even more closely with SDGs in the future. These reports will provide valuable input to the Government’s annual report on the SDGs to parliament, and to future VNR processes.
In Norway, tripartite cooperation has a long history. Our system of wage formation with centralised collective bargaining between a few strong organisations on the workers’ and employers’ side is an important part of the model. A key feature of the model is what often is referred to as the ‘frontrunner model’ or the ‘pace setting model’ (frontfagsmodellen). According to this model, the sectors most exposed to foreign competition are the first to negotiate. The pay increase that the parties agree on for these sectors sets the norm for the other sectors, which subsequently start their bargaining.
The organisations can consider the impact that wage increases have on the level of unemployment, given their size and representativity. The centralised aspect of the negotiations also facilitates a relatively equal distribution of income. Combined with a well-functioning insurance system for the unemployed and strong institutions, the Norwegian model has contributed to a flexible labour market.
Of great importance is also the model’s system for avoiding conflicts and conflict-solving measures when a conflict has arisen. The National Mediator and the Labour Court are both vitally important institutions that both parties trust. As long as a collective agreement is in force, no industrial action (strike or lockout) can take place. This secures predictability and industrial peace for long periods, and makes the system work well. Social dialogue, in particular collective bargaining, has secured influence for the social partners, and it plays an important role in securing decent work for all employees. The Norwegian model has proven its strength in challenging times when the economy has been under pressure. The model has also paved the way for reforms in the welfare system such as the pension system.
5.7.3 Structural issues
Achieving the SDGs by 2030 is a formidable challenge. The obstacles are well known. Short-term economic and political considerations displace long-term strategic policies and initiatives. Achieving the SDGs requires cooperation between policy areas, levels of government and between the public, private and voluntary sectors. Public budgets are adapted to the sector division, which makes this type of cooperation difficult, but not impossible.
A study by the OECD showed that the biggest challenge the countries experienced was coordinating the efforts between the ministries. The report points out that effective coordination requires a cultural shift, more so than changes in technical solutions and routines. These are recognisable challenges in the Norwegian context. The societal challenges in the sustainability agenda are complex, and joint efforts are required across sectors and levels of government. Different goals, values, activities and resources must be seen in context, and be prioritised, weighed and adapted to each other.
The challenges lie in the complex issues that cannot be solved separately in sectors or by single actors. Tools and instruments such as innovation, research and planning regionally and locally need to be implemented to be successful.
5.7.4 Structural issues in the context of COVID-19
The structural issues that were present in Norway before the COVID-19 pandemic have become more prominent. The pandemic has deepened socioeconomic inequalities. For many vulnerable individuals and groups, the pandemic has led to a worsening of their situation. However, the pandemic has also accelerated ongoing processes such as the digitalisation of society. The recovery from the pandemic represents both challenges and opportunities for change. For the recovery to support the achievement of the SDGs, decisive action is needed.
As a direct effect of the pandemic, the living situation for many vulnerable people has been aggravated. People with a permanent illness have been harder hit than healthy people, low-income employees have to a greater extent lost their jobs, the shutdown of society has been harder to tackle for people living in small flats. People have also been hit by the economic effects of the pandemic.
The national economy was negatively impacted by the pandemic. The Gross National Product for mainland Norway fell 2.5 per cent from 2019 to 2020, and there was a dramatic rise in unemployment in this period. Most employees who lost their jobs (temporarily or permanently) belonged to low-income, low-education groups. Customer services (tourism, accommodation, catering, transport and culture) were severely impacted. The employees in these sectors are mainly young and unskilled workers. There is a risk that some individuals will be excluded from the labour market permanently. Individuals who are out of work for a long period of time may lose competence and attractiveness as employees.
The use of digital tools and technology during the lockdown period helped to reduce some of the negative effects. A prolonged lockdown period starting in March 2020 led to a sharp increase in the number of individuals teleworking. In March and April 2020, the proportion of employees working from home on a regular basis was estimated at 60 per cent. It is recently estimated that more than 40 per cent of Norwegian employees could perform their work from home in the future.
Both the private and public sector have made use of digital tools and technology. A public-private partnership developed a digital solution for the compensation scheme for businesses and industries hardest hit by the pandemic. The digitalisation of society may have positive effects on the climate and the environment going forward, for example if some business meetings and seminars can be held online. This may reduce the need for investments in transport infrastructure and office buildings. On the other hand, the demand for new digital infrastructure will increase, for example broadband coverage.
The pandemic has made progress towards meeting SDG target 5.2 more challenging. Preliminary reports suggest that domestic violence has increased during the pandemic, while other types of crimes have decreased. Furthermore, we face challenges related to SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth. Measures must be taken to prevent people being permanently locked out of the labour market, and to prevent inefficient dismantling of existing production facilities. However, measures to preserve existing jobs could delay the green transformation, cf. SDG 12 Responsible consumption and production. As a result of the crisis, the trend towards digitalisation has accelerated. This transformation has immediate positive effects on SDG 13 Climate action, and more long-lasting effects due to, among other things, less commuting to work, innovation and development of climate and environmentally friendly products.
The value of effective multi-level governance has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Municipalities and regions are key partners of national governments for the restoration of the economy, social life and normal democratic functioning at the local and regional level after the COVID-19 pandemic. As partners in multi-level governance, they must be involved in setting up mechanisms and procedures to tackle future emergency situations. In Norway, local and regional authorities have been instrumental in maintaining a low infection rate, by implementing local measures and undertaking contact tracing and testing, as well as vaccination, and ensuring that citizens are informed. The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) has acted as the contact point and coordinator for the local government sector and national authorities.
The Government was faced with many dilemmas when deciding which policies to implement to curb the spread of the virus. For instance, the decision to shut down large parts of the society in March 2020 affected the economy and the labour market. Difficult prioritisations between groups of people continuously had to be made, for example with respect to who should be prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine. The Government appointed an independent commission to exam and evaluate of the Government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission’s first report from April 2021 concluded that the Government handled the situation well overall, despite flaws in the Government’s emergency preparedness.
5.7.5 Monitoring and review mechanisms – development of national indicators
Monitoring progress is an important part of the SDGs, and the Government will submit a Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the UN every four years. The VNRs will be developed in cooperation with civil society, the private sector and local and regional authorities.
An important part of the work will be to develop a more comprehensive set of indicators. The National Action Plan proposes a set of national targets and indicators that needs to be developed further. Statistics Norway will, together with different government agencies, organisations and regional and local authorities, develop indicators for different monitoring and reviewing purposes. The indicators will, where possible, be based on existing national statistics and indicators. The statistics will be published on the official website.
5.7.6 Institutional mechanisms for involving civil society
There is broad political consensus in Norway on the importance of involving civil society in decision-making processes. Civil society organisations function as watchdogs over national, regional and local authorities and are a cornerstone of the Norwegian democracy. Civil society highlights important issues such as good governance and respect for human rights, and provides channels of influence and participation through a community-based, bottom-up approach.
Civil society organisations and other stakeholders are important consultative bodies to the Government. An issue is put out to consultation when a ministry wants to consult affected parties on a suggested bill or act. Consultations are used to allow the public, organisations and the business community to state their opinion, and to control how the public administration works and performs its tasks.
Among the issues put out to consultation are suggested laws and regulations to regulate people’s right and duties, suggested changes in how the public administration is organised (for instance relocation), jurisdiction changes, as well as reports.
Participation of stakeholders in regional and local policy processes is regulated by law. According to the Local Government Act, local authorities have to establish a council for senior citizens, a council for persons with disabilities and a youth council or other representative bodies for young people, to secure their interests.
The Planning and Building Act requires all planning proposals to be put out to consultation to all relevant stakeholders, including private organisations and institutions. Local authorities have a special obligation to secure active participation by vulnerable groups, especially children and youth.
The Government has a consultation scheme with the municipal sector on state framework conditions and goal achievements within the sector. The main theme for the consultation is the economic framework in the state budget. The Government also has a consultation agreement with the Sami Parliament, described in Chapter 5.2.1.
In addition to what is required by law, it is also tradition to cooperate closely with relevant stakeholders and establish arenas for knowledge sharing on specific issues, such as conferences and workshops. Networks such as the Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM) and the Norwegian Children and Youth Council (LNU) are important mechanisms for coordinating input from their member organisation on several topics related to the SDGs. Additionally, ForUM participate in the Norwegian delegation to the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) and LNU appoints youth delegates to UN forums on several topics related to the SDGs and provides a grant scheme that supports projects promoting one or more of the SDGs for children and youth organisations.
The Government want to strengthen the cooperation with civil society on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and is considering the establishment of a National Forum for the 2030 Agenda and an expert panel in relation to the government decision on the national action plan.