The struggle against climate change coupled with work for humanitarian causes, human rights and good governance, are important areas for Norway’s partnership with Ethiopia. 

Facts about Ethiopia

The flag for Ethiopia
Life expectancy
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GNI pr capita
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Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
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The flag for Ethiopia

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Norway has a long history in Ethiopia through politics, development aid and missionary work.

Strong ties were formed between Emperor Haile Selassie and the Norwegian royal family in London during WW2. This led to reciprocal state visits: the Emperor visited Norway in 1958 and King Olav visited Ethiopia in 1966.

Despite these long traditions, it was not until 1995 that Norway signed an agreement for bilateral cooperation with Ethiopia.

The government coalition party Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) still has absolute power, which has been the case since it came to power in 1991. The opposition are divided and have limited freedom of action. They have few economic resources for engaging in political activities while their attempts to mobilize are hindered by the many obstacles the government party puts in their way.

The debate on human rights was also characterized by great differences in 2014. On the one hand, Ethiopia has made major strides with regard to economic and social rights. The country has made considerable progress in recent years and is one of the few countries on the African continent that may attain the UN millenium development goal for combating extreme poverty.

At the same time there is a strong consensus among the international community, particularly in western countries, that political and civil rights are subject to extreme pressure. Several human rights organizations are of the opinion that the conditions for both freedom of expression and freedom of association have become much harder.

In May 2014, the UN Human Rights Council held a hearing on Ethiopia, which was of great interest to UN member states. The main concerns were related to political and civil rights, including the difficult conditions for civil society, the opposition and the media.

Ethiopia has experienced strong economic growth for almost a decade. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) growth has exceeded seven per cent on average. In the period 2004−2012 social welfare measures resulted in a doubling of GDP per capita and a reduction in poverty from 39 per cent in 2005 to 30 per cent in 2011.

According to the UN's Human Development Index which ranks Ethiopia at 173 out of 187 countries, economic growth has led to a higher standard of living for the population. Economic growth has also helped to reduce urban unemployment. Of the sub-Saharan countries, Ethiopia has the most even distribution of income among the population. The country's ambition is to become a middle-income country by 2015, and it is hoped to accomplish this without increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Development cooperation with Ethiopia

Food security and sustainable development are important goals in Ethiopia's development plans. Norway's development cooperation with Ethiopia also targets democracy and human rights.

Food security

The Sustainable Land Management Programme (SLMP) has significantly increased agricultural productivity, while erosion and land degradation have been reversed in areas where the programme has been implemented.

An evaluation shows that the programme has promoted an increase in productivity of up to 40 per cent in large areas, and in some cases the increase has been 80 per cent. Norway is providing NOK 305 million to support the programme over a five-year period.

More efficient water use and land management among smallholders have resulted in greater crop yields. Feeding cattle, sheep and goats, and poultry has created many new jobs in a large number of local communities. Harvesting and storage of fodder used to be relatively unknown in Ethiopia but as a result of the programme, many farmers have starting doing this.

In addition, the sale of forage to other areas has given many smallholders a new source of income. Farmers who have taken part in the programme have increased their investment in production and are now able to send their children to school.

The nutritional status of households who take part in SLMP has been enhanced, mainly because of the introduction of legumes in grain production, as well as fruit trees to protect plant nurseries and vegetable plots and to contribute to gully rehabilitation following water or soil erosion. The ability of local communities to adapt to local climate change has improved substantially and many environmentally-damaged areas have been rehabilitated.

Surveying and the certification of user rights are among the measures that have particularly activated women and improved their position as the person responsible for the household. Studies show that this has reduced the number of court cases related to boundary disputes, lowered the divorce rates and given a heightened sense of ownership to both men and women.

Investment in production systems has increased considerably, and has prompted several long-term measures for safeguarding the soil and improving its fertility by planting perennial crops such as coffee, fruit trees and other crops that are favourable for the climate locally in both the short and the long term.

The second phase of the programme will cover the next five years and has the goal of improving income opportunities and food security for approximately two million people.

University cooperation

Cooperation between Hawassa and Mekelle in Ethiopia and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences at Ås has given many doctoral candidates a sound education in agriculture and natural resources management at a high academic level.

These graduates in their turn have trained many others in public administration as well as many farmers both directly and indirectly. Climate-smart measures in the shape of various income-generating activities and women-focused rural development interventions have improved the situation for many households. The Norwegian Embassy in Addis Ababa has supported this programme since 1996.

Sustainable development

Climate and green growth

In 2011 Ethiopia launched a green development plan based on climate-robust green growth. Norway and the UK are among the countries that have committed to substantial, long-term investments, including via Norway's forestry programme and the UN's REDD+ rainforest initiative.

The Ethiopian authorities share Norway's ambitions to put in place a new international climate treaty in which all countries participate, including developing countries. The forestry programme and REDD+ in Ethiopia focus primarily on the causes of deforestation and degradation of biological mass and diversity across the agricultural, forestry and energy sectors.

Through the energy programme Energy+, Norway and other partners have helped to fund the manufacture and sale of approximately 1.5 million energy effective cooking stoves. A household survey conducted by the Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI) indicates that the use of these stoves reduces household emission of CO2 by approximately 0.75 tonnes per year.

Moreover, Norway has funded an action plan for gender equality in the energy sector as part of institution-building in the sector.

A consultation meeting with contractors and company executives was arranged with Norwegian support to promote increased private sector involvement in the development of renewable energy. This resulted in the identification of obstacles to investment and of the need to revise framework conditions. The authorities were informed of the findings of the consultation, including the need to simplify the regulations and improve access to long-term funding and risk-mitigating instruments.

The development of renewable energy is a high priority focus area for Ethiopia. In 2013 a proposed master plan for the power sector was presented. It calls for extensive development of hydropower, wind power and geothermal power production. The investment requirements are estimated at approximately USD 50 billion for the coming 25 years.

Climate partnership

The climate partnership with Ethiopia has resulted in closer cooperation on climate policy. Norway and Ethiopia worked together to mobilize other African countries to back the ambitious declaration on forests adopted at the Climate Summit in New York in September 2014.

Ethiopia is central in the group of leading developing countries with an ambitious national and international climate policy based on a vision that helping to solve these problems is also in the interests of countries that are not instrumental in creating them.

A core issue in the climate negotiations and one of the reasons for the lack of progress is the unwillingness of many developing countries to take on commitments. Ethiopia's constructive policy was further acknowledged at the climate summit in Lima at which the climate partnership was reinforced by the inclusion of four new countries.

More countries are expected to join in connection with the global conference on development funding in Addis Ababa in July 2015.

Climate cooperation is at an early stage. There has been commendable progress in the forestry and agriculture initiatives, and the results so far, primarily in terms of policy formulation and capacity building, are in keeping with the goals. On this basis the implementation of several large national programmes is planned for 2015, and concrete reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are anticipated in 2016/17.

The combination of the clear threat posed by ongoing climate change to Ethiopia's efforts to lift itself from poverty and the prospects of receiving climate funding resulted in Ethiopia formulating a national strategy for a climate-resilient green economy (CRGE).

Norway contributes to the implementation of this strategy which may yield reductions of four to five times Norway's total annual greenhouse gas emissions. By the same token, the implementation of the strategy helps to protect large natural areas with a considerable diversity of species of crucial importance to national food security.

The forestry partnership (REDD+) of 2013 has been followed up by the Ethiopian authorities, and has promoted the establishment of a national REDD+ strategy, a national REDD secretariat and the planning of a large regional pilot project in part of Oromia, with a focus on forest preservation and on drivers of deforestation such as agriculture and energy. The pilot project has received Norwegian support. The work on new forestry legislation is well in hand and a review of the forestry sector is in its final phase. In 2014 this work triggered the first results-based payments of NOK 60 million.

Democracy and human rights

In 2014 the Norwegian Embassy continued the three-year agreement with the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Addis Ababa to promote access to free legal aid for impoverished people. Priority was given to women and to strengthening the Centre's academic capacity. In 2014 results included:

  • Cooperation agreements were signed with law courts in order to help poor people facing a trial or other kind of legal dispute

  • A number of free legal aid centres were established in and around Addis Ababa. Nineteen such centres have now been established

  • Based on cooperation with the Federal Supreme Court Child Justice Project, Ethiopian Christian Lawyers Fellowship and Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association, the project has trained and assigned paralegals and has assisted in the provision of legal aid to over 3 000 women and children who applied for legal assistance at the Supreme Court Child Justice Legal Aid Centres.

  • By making use of radio programmes, advertisements, stickers and leaflets, the public have been informed of the location of and services offered by the free legal aid centres. This has resulted in a considerable increase in the number of people receiving free legal aid.

The Norwegian Embassy in Addis Ababa supports civil society in Ethiopia through a joint funding scheme together with Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands, the UK and Sweden. The Civil Society Support Programme (CSSP) focuses in particular on reaching civil society organizations in the districts, and has prioritized support for marginalized groups in inaccessible areas.

CSSP supports over 500 Ethiopian civil society organizations. A review of results from October 2014 confirms that CSSP has achieved good progress, for example the increased impact of educational support for young pastoral women in the Borana region, economic activity for women in Assosa and waste management in Hawassa.

Gender equality and women and children's rights

Norway supports efforts to combat female genital mutilation (FGM) through a project under the auspices of Save the Children Norway and Norwegian Church Aid. Results for 2014 are as follows:

  • A change in attitudes to genital mutilation in local communities:
    • In the Somali Region and Harari, some 116 793 (61 526 women) people have declared that they are opposed to the practice of genital mutilation. Altogether 112 000 girls were registered as having been protected against genital mutilation and other harmful practices. Almost a thousand uncircumcised teenage girls in the southern region and Oromia have publicly condemned genital mutilation.
    • People who previously worked as circumcisers have been offered the opportunity to engage in alternative income-providing activities.
  • Gender mutilation was high on the agenda for religious leaders throughout 2014, and the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs has confirmed that Ethiopia's goal is to eradicate the practice by 2025.
  • In 2014, some 192 cases of genital mutilation and other harmful practices were reported through the reporting mechanisms established in the local communities where the project has been implemented. Altogether 116 cases resulted in decisions to punish the perpetrators.

Norway is one of the donors to the UN's Joint Programme on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. The following results were achieved in 2014:

  • Women were given greater access to financial and business development services through:
    • Capacity building in Basic Business Skills for 60 experts selected from government offices for Micro and Small Enterprise Development and Women, Children and Youth Affairs in the Oromia region
    • Over 3400 women were helped in various ways in order to strengthen producer and market links
  • Increased opportunities for women and girls within education, management and decision-making processes through the provision of financial support to eight universities. Roughly 200 economically disadvantaged girls benefited from this scheme in 2014.

A new agreement was signed with UNICEF and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for the completion of the second phase of the project A Rights-Based Approach to Adolescent and Youth Development. The programme aims to promote and protect sexual and reproductive health rights for adolescents and young people in Ethiopia.


Ethiopia is a target country for Norwegian educational interventions. An analysis of the educational sector will provide the basis for a new cooperation agreement that will be signed by the end of 2015. Support is currently provided partly through Norwegian civil society organizations and their cooperation with Ethiopian organizations and state authorities.

Save the Children runs an extensive educational programme in Ethiopia, and funding for the period 2015-2018 is NOK 51 million. One of the projects focuses on improving the quality of education by boosting teaching practice for teachers. Experience shows that enhancing the competence of teachers promotes better learning outcomes, improvement of the teacher-pupil relationship and less physical punishment.

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Approximately NOK 80 million was granted in support to Norwegian NGOs in Ethiopia in 2014. The main actors are Save the Children, the Development Fund, Norwegian People's Aid, Norwegian Church Aid and Digni. The Norwegian organizations have local partners whose work concerns such issues as children's rights to education and protection against gender mutilation, improved food security, readier access to water and sanitary facilities, and greater democratic participation in civil society groups. Digni's local partners cooperate with religious leaders and also help to reduce the stigmatization of HIV-infected people.

Fewer women in Ethiopia die when giving birth

Norad supports the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in efforts to ensure that more women receive help from health personnel and have access to life-saving medication when they give birth. This initiative is one of several in the programme to improve maternal and child health in Ethiopia. Funding amounts to NOK 29 million for the period 2014 to 2015.

Improved access to equipment that can stabilize haemorrhaging occurring during the transport of women in labour has been instrumental in reducing deaths attributed to this by over 30 per cent in the areas covered by the programme. An SMS-based system that monitors the women before and after the birth has meant that 60 per cent more women in the areas where the system has been introduced choose to give birth at a clinic with access to health personnel and equipment rather than giving birth at home.

Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 02.10.2015