Unclear results of Norwegian aid

Evaluation Director Per Øyvind Bastøe has three suggestions for the Minister of International Development to succeed with the aid administration reform.
Per Øyvind Bastøe is the Evaluation Director in Norad.
The Norwegian Minister of International Development, Dag-Inge Ulstein, would like Norwegian development assistance to be "untied, effective and results oriented". There is nothing wrong with that ambition, but the question is rather what is required to succeed.
Almost all Norwegian development assistance is channeled through UN organisations, development banks, civil society organisations or other parts of the Norwegian government administration. Almost nothing goes directly to the end users at country level. The main message in the Evaluation department’s annual report is that it is almost impossible to draw any conclusions regarding the results of Norwegian development assistance due to the many vague objectives and the uncertainty regarding roles and responsibilities.
The evaluation of the protection of human rights associated with assistance for private sector development is an example of how difficult it is to say anything about results. While Norway played an active role in establishing the UN's Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the evaluation found that the different actors had different interpretations of their responsibilities in following up the principles. It was therefore not possible to answer whether human rights are protected in the various private sector development initiatives.
To succeed with his aid administration reform, at least three steps should be taken by the Development Minister.
Firstly, he must ensure a well organised aid administration, where responsibility for policy development, technical advice and management of funds is clearly defined and placed either in the MFA, in Norad or in other parts of the aid administration. Earlier reform attempts, not least the one that was carried out in 2004, indicates that this is more difficult than one might think.
Secondly, the aid programs must be based on knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, many priority areas have objectives that are vague and over-ambitious. The chances of achieving good results in such complex areas as those targeted by development assistance increase when the objectives are concrete and realistic. In addition, they must be characterized by contextual understanding, predictability and long-term perspective.
Thirdly, all parts of the aid system must strengthen their learning culture and improve their ability to systematise and share experiences. Limited capacity and frequent rotation of employees means that knowledge disappears easily and thus is not used in the follow-up of ongoing work or in similar areas.
The evaluations do not display a crisis for Norwegian assistance, but there are clear warning signals related to ambiguity and uncertainty. Doing something about this ambiguity and uncertainty is precisely what should be at the focus of the Minister's reform.
Published 11.06.2019
Last updated 11.06.2019