Norad towards 2030 – partnership with civil society

Norad’s main task is to invest strategically in cooperation with our partners in, including civil society. Norad’s new strategy will facilitate the further development of this relationship.

In the spring of 2020, Norad launched a new strategy towards 2030, which describes how Norad will live up to the social mission handed to us by political authorities. Following the development aid reform in 2019, Norad’s role changed, and the agency now manages about half of the Norwegian government’s development aid budget.


The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) constitute the framework for Norad’s work. One of the goals in the strategy is for Norad to be a key partner in sustainable development bringing together various stakeholders to achieve the SDGs.

Norad’s Director General, Bård Vegar Solhjell, emphasises that Norad always work with partners, and that civil society plays a key role.

As part of the new strategy, a major reorganisation process is underway in Norad. This will be completed in the autumn of 2021. Departments and sections will be organised according to the SDGs, and support from multilateral systems, civil society and other stakeholders will be assembled to collectively make up thematic portfolios.

A department will be established to focus on partnerships. Its work will include managing agreements that do not fall within a thematic portfolio. Another key task for this department will be to identify ways to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with - and between - different types of partners.

Principles for support to civil society

Norad’s principles for supporting civil society continue to serve as the bedrock of Norad’s work. Partnerships with civil society relate to their role as actors of influence and of change, as well as how they contribute to achieving the SDGs.

Areas that continue to be important are the legitimacy of civil society partners, different partnership models, the degree of decision-making power local partners have, as well as other relevant matters layed out in Norad’s principles for support to civil society. These will be the subject of future discussions with civil society.

Local ownership

Shrinking space for civil society is a key challenge. We are seeing that the situation for civil society is becoming more dangerous. This could impact on future efforts, based on the experiences of civil society. In some cases, activist networks can be useful, and in other cases it is important to shed light on their work. Security, including information security, will be an important part of the ongoing discourse.

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of well-established local organisations, many of which have managed to carry out planned activities and projects under difficult conditions. We must all bear this in mind, and should advocate for Norwegian organisations to look more closely at their partnerships with local organisations.

Norad’s new strategy places an emphasis on learning. The aim is for Norad to continuously develop competence and working methods, and to stimulate the sharing of knowledge both internally and with partners. This can relate to relevant research from our partner countries, for example, but also knowledge generated by organisations and other partners. Collaborative networks via the Research Council of Norway and other research communities are also an important source of knowledge, according to Solhjell, who emphasised the importance of knowledge stemming from a wide range of sources.

Greater flexibility

Many civil society stakeholders have called for better strategic dialogue and greater flexibility in the cooperation with Norad. According to Bård Vegar Solhjell, Norad is working to ensure that we thoroughly assess partners prior to entering into agreements, but that agreements should allow for flexibility, as in the case of the increased flexibility afforded by Norad to civil society partners in 2021 as a result of the pandemic.

Solhjell also wants to improve the dialogue, with the main focus on improving and creating best practice, as opposed to administrative details. However, he is also clear that controls and reporting will continue to be important. According to Solhjell, we can further develop our working methods by, for example, examining how we work with established partners and making a clearer distinction between different risk levels than is currently the case.

Norad is consulting civil society on various processes as we are currently working on to improve our administration. Strengthened cooperation and dialogue with civil society will continue to be a high priority.

All of Norad’s grant announcements are published on and Norad encourages organisations to contact the relevant executive officer in Norad if they have further questions.

This article is a brief summary of a dialogue meeting with civil society in Norway held on Monday 26 April. The Minister of International Development, Dag-Inge Ulstein, also participated. For further reading in Norwegian and recording of the meeting, go to this article: Norad mot 2030: Partnerskap med sivilt samfunn.

Published 30.04.2021
Last updated 30.04.2021