This is how Norwegian development aid funds are spent

In 2019, Norway gave a record NOK 37.8 billion to development aid. Syria was the largest recipient country for the fourth consecutive year. Brazil, which for many years received by far the largest sums, is no longer on the list of the ten largest recipient countries, while Mozambique has entered the list.

The conflict in Syria, which is now in its tenth year, has given rise to one of the largest humanitarian crises of our time. Syria therefore remains the largest recipient of Norwegian aid. Last year, Norway gave NOK 1.2 billion to Syria, primarily in the form of emergency assistance. Total emergency assistance increased to NOK 5.9 billion.

Ethiopia is the largest recipient of long-term development aid. The aid to Ethiopia increased from 2018 by NOK 178 million to a total of NOK 689 million as the result of a significant increase in the support for climate-related measures. In other respects, nine of the ten largest recipient countries are the same as in 2018 and 2017. Brazil is no longer on the list, while Mozambique has been added.

The figures for Norwegian aid for 2019 were published on Tuesday 19 May.

‘The coronavirus crisis has made it abundantly clear how closely interwoven the world has become. Global challenges call for Global solutions,’ Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister of International Development, emphasises.

He noted that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals provide a shared roadmap for all countries of the world and a guideline for Norwegian development policy.

A stable partner

‘In light of these figures and trends over many years, Norway stands out as a stable partner to our partner countries, multilateral organisations and civil society. The distribution by sectors – such as education, health, climate and forest, emergency assistance and good governance – has also remained stable,’ says Bård Vegar Solhjell, Director General of Norad.

Norway is considered a key supporter of the UN system and other multilateral organisations that engage in efforts to achieve the SDGs and alleviate poverty. Norwegian aid through such organisations increased by NOK 2.3 billion from 2018 to 2019, and accounted for 57 per cent of total Norwegian aid last year.

Norway’s single largest partner is the World Bank Group, which in 2019 received NOK 4.1 billion from Norway. The United Nations Development Programme received NOK 2.55 billion. Both these organisations are considered key partners in the efforts to achieve the SDGs, because they encompass all the developing countries.

More funding for civil society

In 2019, altogether 22 per cent of Norwegian government aid was granted to civil society partners. This proportion has remained quite stable in the last ten years, but the actual amount granted to civil society organisations has increased by nearly NOK 3 billion since 2010 – from NOK 5.6 billion to NOK 8.5 billion.

Dag-Inge Ulstein explains why Norway gives civil society such high priority.

‘We know that aid which is channelled through civil society organisations largely goes to the poorest countries and the most vulnerable people. They do vital work in education and health. Moreover, civil society can reach places that are inaccessible to authorities. They hold the authorities to account. And, when the borders close and everybody else leaves, they are still there,’ Ulstein says.

The largest civil society partners are the Norwegian Refugee Council (NOK 1 084 million), the Norwegian Red Cross (NOK 1 015 million), Norwegian Church Aid (NOK 543 million), Norwegian People’s Aid (NOK 423 million) and Save the Children Norway (NOK 359 million).

More to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)

The amount of aid earmarked for health has remained relatively stable since 2017 at approximately NOK 2.1 billion. If an estimated proportion of health-related aid of the core funding granted to multilateral organisations is included, this figure reaches a total of NOK 5.2 billion in aid to health in 2019. This is approximately NOK 100 million more than in 2018.

A total of NOK 1.6 billion was granted to sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) in 2019. The UN Population Fund was the single largest partner for this support (more than 40 per cent). Norway has committed to a cumulative increase in support for SRHR of NOK 700 million in the period 2017–2020 when compared to the 2016 level. This target was reached in 2019 – one year ahead of schedule.

The Climate and Forest Initiative: Zero for the Amazon Fund

Norwegian climate related aid goes to measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to climate adaptation in developing countries. This assistance fell from 2015 to 2016, but has increased to almost NOK 6.3 billion in 2019. The climate and forest initiative is an important component of Norwegian climate related aid.

Last year, NOK 3.1 billion was disbursed through the Climate and Forest Initiative, an increase of NOK 250 million from 2018.

For many years, Brazil was the dominant recipient country under the government’s Climate and Forest Initiative, as well as of Norwegian aid in general. Of the NOK 27.9 billion that has been granted to this initiative since its launch in 2008, Brazil has received 58 per cent of the funds granted to individual countries.

In recent years, deforestation has increased again in Brazil. After a change in policy in 2018 and with a new president who has a completely different agenda when it comes to forest preservation, Brazil received altogether only NOK 128 million from Norway in 2019 (NOK 105 million of these were through the forest initiative). These funds were granted to civil society organisations and efforts at the level of individual states. Nothing was disbursed to the Amazon Fund.

‘We hear much disheartening news from Brazil. However, we should not forget that during the period of cooperation with Norway, they have cut emissions from deforestation equivalent to more than 70 years of Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions,’ says Sveinung Rotevatn, Minister of Climate and Environment.

He refers further to Norwegian forest initiatives in other countries in South America, Asia and Africa, such as Guyana, Indonesia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

‘Our efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo have included helping to provide alternative livelihoods to villages, so that they no longer need to burn down the forest to grow crops. In the rainforests of Africa, Asia and South America we have helped preserve the habitats of countless animals and plants. The Norwegian Rainforest Initiative is our most important climate programme internationally,’ says Cabinet Minister Rotevatn.

‘International development cooperation more important than ever’

Even though Norway and several other donor countries are facing economic hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Norwegian government proposes to maintain the aid budget for 2020 – amounting to a total of NOK 39.4 billion – without any cuts. This may mean that in 2020, we will far surpass the target of one percent of GNI.

‘Maintaining a high level of international aid is absolutely necessary to overcome the COVID-19 crisis,’ says the Norwegian minister of Development, Dag-Inge Ulstein.

‘Right now, the focus is on life and health, but it is important that we gradually help set the wheels in motion again in more economies than our own. International development cooperation and aid are more important than ever,’ the minister emphasises.

Why are these statistics important?

In 2019, Norwegian development aid amounted to 1.02 per cent of gross national income (GNI). We thus reached the target of one per cent of GNI by a good margin. As in previous years, we were above the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNI. In recent years, the DAC average has remained at around 0.3 per cent of GNI.

In 2019, Norway was one of five countries that achieved the UN target, along with Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg and the UK.

Aid statistics form an important basis for decisions regarding the further design of Norwegian development aid. Statistics also make it possible to trace the funding and see what results have been achieved. And aid statistics help provide transparency about streams of official development aid to developing countries.

Norwegian aid statistics comply with the reporting directives defined by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC). As a result, we can compare development assistance efforts across countries – we report identically and can therefore maintain an overview and coordinate international efforts.

Published 19.05.2020
Last updated 19.05.2020