Zambian organizations advocated for a people-driven constitution
Civil society has played a central role in the demand for a people-driven constitution process in Zambia

Good results, but too much money and power rest with Norway

Norway grants support to 1000 civil society organizations. Norad’s results report for 2016 shows that this effort has strengths as well as weaknesses.

For ten years, Norad has published a results report on the results of Norwegian development cooperation. The report for 2016 focused on Norwegian support to civil society.

In total, this support accounts for more than one-fifth of the Norwegian development cooperation budget. This proportion of Norwegian development cooperation has remained constant throughout the last ten years. In 2015, NOK 7.1 billion was granted to civil society.

‘This year’s results report shows the diversity of Norwegian civil society, and the key message in the report is simply that civil society contributes to really outstanding results,’ Norad director Jon Lomøy affirms.

These are some of the main conclusions to emerge from Norad’s results report for 2016:

  • Civil society organizations provide vital services.
  • They are physically present in the developing countries and reach out to the world’s poorest and most marginalized groups.
  • Civil society holds the authorities accountable and strengthens transparency and participation in democratic processes.
  • At the same time, the chain between the organizations’ central offices and the poorest groups consists of too many links. Norad will follow up this issue in a systematic review.
  • Moreover, more power and a greater proportion of the funds need to be reallocated to civil society in low and middle-income countries.

Support for fewer organizations

Compared to other countries, Norway devotes a high proportion of its development assistance to civil society. In 2015, Norway provided grants through 992 different civil society organizations, the large majority of which were Norwegian.

‘Assessing and undertaking quality assurance of the development aid provided by all these organizations requires a lot of resources. In the future, Norad will seek to reduce its number of partners,’ says Lomøy.

One key conclusion in the report is that Norway possesses too much power and influence over the work undertaken in the various partner countries.

More power to the local organizations

‘Countries cannot be developed from the outside. Local ownership in partner countries is important, and local voices must be empowered. As the voices from the partner countries sound louder and clearer, the partners from donor countries need to find new roles to fill,’ Jon Lomøy says.

In a debate on the role of civil society in poor countries, Lomøy believes that in its role of development aid provider, Norway needs to learn from its own history.

‘Through the public health associations, the trade union movement and faith-based groups, Norwegian civil society helped develop the Norwegian welfare state,’ Lomøy states.

A report with concrete examples

The results report shows that many specific projects produce good results and are of crucial importance to the individuals concerned. Social development in countries and regions is more difficult to document.

One example that illustrates how relatively small resources can produce good results is a project under the auspices of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Myanmar. Here, young people receive vocational training and knowledge on how to start a business. The incomes earned by these young people provide a considerable supplement to their families’ economy.

‘Some of the examples that we have highlighted may appear small, and their contribution to social development may seem remote. This is one of the dilemmas involved in project support to civil society organizations. This may produce good and important results for many individuals, while the contribution to social development can be difficult to measure,’ says Norad director Jon Lomøy.

In other cases, development cooperation may have failed to achieve its goals, but nevertheless produced important insights. One example of this was when products from poor farmers failed to reach markets in Nicaragua.

This is the tenth year in a row that Norad has published a thematic results report on Norwegian development cooperation. In addition to concrete results, the report contains comprehensive statistics on Norwegian and international development aid to civil society.

Published 13.03.2017
Last updated 13.03.2017