Syria was the largest recipient country of Norwegian development assistance in 2017.

More Norwegian aid for crisis and conflict

Norway provided NOK 34.1 billion in official development aid in 2017. Syria was the main recipient country, and an increased proportion of the aid went to the least developed countries. Lower refugee costs in Norway allowed for more money to be spent in other areas.

The development aid statistics for 2017 are characterised by crises and conflict, with emergency assistance to countries in conflict-ridden regions representing the largest increase.

In 2017, emergency assistance amounted to NOK 4.43 billion, which corresponded to 13 per cent of the total aid. This represents an increase of NOK 653 million compared to 2016.

‘Seven of the largest recipients of Norwegian development assistance are countries affected by war and conflict, and we see an increase in the need for emergency assistance. Man-made crises have a major impact. Some acute crisis and conflict situations persist for such long periods of time that the need arises for more long-term interventions,’ says Jon Lomøy, Director General of Norad.

Syria was the largest recipient country and an increased proportion of development aid went to the least developed countries.

Norwegian development assistance corresponded to approximately 1 per cent (0.99 per cent) of GNI in 2017.

Lower refugee costs

The influx of refugees to Europe and Norway led to high costs for refugees in Norway in 2015 and 2016, and in 2017 there was a marked reduction.

In 2016, a total of NOK 6.7 billion in aid was spent on costs for refugees in Norway, equivalent to 18.3 per cent of development assistance. In 2017, the refugee costs in Norway fell to NOK 1.2 billion, corresponding to 3.6 per cent of development assistance.

The amount of the aid budget spent on refugees in Norway is at its lowest since 2008. If refugee costs in Norway are excluded, Norwegian development assistance has never been higher, measured in Norwegian kroner.

Lower refugee costs in 2017 freed up aid funding for other thematic areas, the largest of which is the increase in emergency assistance. Aid for health and social services is increasing significantly, and investment in education continues.

Greatest increase in emergency assistance

Crises and conflict affect the thematic and geographic structure and organisation of the aid, and the proportion of Norwegian support spent on emergency assistance has increased in recent years. In 2017, emergency assistance amounted to NOK 4.43 billion, which corresponded to 13 per cent of the total aid, an increase of NOK 653 million from 2016.

More than half of the emergency assistance was provided to the Middle East, where Syria (907 million), Lebanon (368 million) and Yemen (265 million) were the main recipient countries. Significant emergency assistance was also given to Africa, where the countries receiving the most assistance were South Sudan (317 million), Somalia (187 million) and Nigeria (174 million).

Multilateral organisations and Norwegian civil society organisations were the main channels for emergency assistance, and the largest partners were the Norwegian Red Cross, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the World Food Programme.

Investment in education still prioritised

Norway gave NOK 5.12 billion in health aid in 2017, an increase of NOK 417 million compared to the previous year. This includes both bilateral and multilateral aid for health. The main agreement partners were Gavi – The Vaccine Alliance, the World Bank Group and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM).
Norway contributed NOK 1.33 billion to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), an increase of NOK 148 million from the previous year. The UN Population Fund, GFATM and the Global Financing Facility were the main agreement partners.

Education continues to be an important priority area in Norwegian development policy. A total of NOK 3.16 billion in bilateral aid went to the education sector in 2017. The countries that received the majority of this aid were Ethiopia (129 million), Malawi (128 million) and Nepal (110 million). UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) were the principal partners in Norwegian aid to the education sector in 2017.

Education is also an important objective for Norwegian humanitarian assistance in crises and conflict. Altogether, NOK 393 million went to emergency assistance interventions with education as a main objective in 2017. Most of this Norwegian support was channelled through UNICEF, and Lebanon, Syria and Jordan were the main recipient countries.

More to least developed countries

Africa and the Middle East received most bilateral aid, and the proportion provided to these regions increased from 2016. Emergency assistance constitutes a significant share of the increase.

The least developed countries (LDCs) received most of the aid distributed by country in 2017, a total of NOK 6.1 billion. After several years with some reduction in the proportion of aid to LDCs, 2017 saw an increase to 50 per cent of aid distributed by country – from 47 per cent in 2016. After years of conflict, Syria, the largest recipient country in 2017, is still categorised as a middle-income country by the World Bank.

Five of the ten largest recipient countries in 2017 were in the LDC category, with Afghanistan, South Sudan and Somalia receiving the most aid.

The five largest recipient countries of aid distributed by country in 2017 were Syria (1 070 million), Afghanistan (621 million), South Sudan (604 million), Palestine (584 million) and Somalia (547 million). The four largest were also among the five largest in 2016. New among the five largest in 2017 is Somalia, which was the thirteenth largest recipient country in 2016.

In 2017, Norway gave NOK 4.37 billion in development assistance to 28 countries that are categorised as severely off-track countries, an increase of NOK 657 million from the previous year. These are countries where the fight against poverty is crucial, based on a report by the Brookings Institution that was commissioned by Norad. Four of the countries – Afghanistan, South Sudan, Somalia and Malawi – were among the ten largest recipient countries in 2017.

Aid for climate change

Norwegian bilateral climate change funding increased from NOK 3.55 billion in 2016 to NOK 3.73 billion in 2017. Of this, NOK 3 billion was allocated for limitation of greenhouse gas emissions, NOK 442 million for climate adaptation and NOK 260 million for activities investing in both. The main agreement partners were the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES).

Norway also contributed climate financing through core funding to multilateral organisations, including the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Norwegian development assistance to Latin America was reduced somewhat in 2017. Brazil, which was the largest recipient of Norwegian aid in the years 2012 to 2015, was the tenth largest recipient country in 2017. This is mainly due to reduced disbursements to the Amazon Fund.

‘This year marks eleven years since Norway took the initiative to undertake an international effort to preserve the rainforest. Our experiences show that this work is complex, but also that it is possible to achieve results. The effort shall contribute to achieving the climate goals, but also enable countries to withstand climate changes that are already taking place, such as through improved flood protection or more robust grain varieties that can better tolerate drought and floods,’ explains Jon Lomøy.


We have seen a fall in the number of partner countries in recent years. In 2013, we provided aid to 107 countries. This excludes support to civil society and emergency assistance. In 2017, the number of partner countries was reduced to 87.

‘The statistics for 2017 show that Norway has succeeded in concentrating its aid on fewer countries,’ says Lomøy.

Multilateral channels

In 2017, 54 per cent of aid was channelled through multilateral organisations, an increase from 43 per cent in 2016. This increase can be attributed to reduced refugee costs in Norway as well as to an increase in the amount channelled through the multilateral system – from NOK 16 billion in 2016 to 18.4 billion in 2017.

The largest increase was seen in the aid provided through the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and the World Food Programme. A total of 51 per cent of the multilateral aid went to UN organisations, 17 per cent through the World Bank Group and 7 per cent to the regional development banks.

The aid provided through Norwegian civil society organisations also increased in 2017 – from NOK 5.0 to NOK 5.2 billion. Of this, 38 per cent went to emergency assistance interventions, and 28 per cent to strengthening good governance in the recipient countries. The main civil society organisations were the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Norwegian Red Cross, Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian People’s Aid and Save the Children Norway.

Development aid stable in 2017 with more sent to poorest countries

In 2017, net official development assistance (ODA) by members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), was USD 146,6 billion.

As a share of gross national income, ODA fell from 0,32 per cent in 2016 to 0,31 per cent in 2017. Preliminary estimates show that net bilateral ODA flows from DAC countries to the group of least developed countries increased by 4 per cent in real terms to about USD 26 billion, thus reversing the declining trend noted in previous years.

Published 09.04.2018
Last updated 09.04.2018