Norad, the Norwegian agency for administering foreign aid, has a new leader and she’s not the traditional social anthropologist. Villa Kulild recently won government confirmation to lead an agency that pays out more than USD 4 billion a year of Norwegian taxpayers’ money to help improve conditions in developing countries.
Last year Norad spent NOK 26 billion (USD 4.4 billion) on a wide spectrum of projects ranging from health, education and petroleum to institutions that promote, peace, equality and democracy.
When asked by Norad’s own magazine, Bistandsaktuelt, what she wants to do, she says she plans to build on existing policies. She is described as down-to-earth and states that Norwegians want to know what their money has been used for, and how it has brought change to people living in developing countries.
“This job has a lot to do with managing large resources,” Kulild, who spent 20 years in Norway’s oil and energy ministry, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) over the weekend. She has experience dealing with capital flow and markets, climate issues and sees how foreign policy and aid policy hang together.
“It wasn’t as if I was making a big choice in terms of values, that I suddenly decided to quit working with the oil industry and start with foreign aid,” said Kulild, age 46. “But I did get an opportunity to reflect a bit over what I wanted to do with my life.”
She quit her top job at the oil ministry two years ago, after DN reported that she had become a major investor herself, though a family company. She hadn’t broken any government rules, but even the suggestion of any conflict of interest prompted her to give up her post of her own free will.
Her boss, development minister Erik Solheim, describes Kulild as tough and courageous, not least for her decision to leave the ministry when she didn’t have to do so. She started at Norad a year ago and Solheim values her knowledge of energy issues and systems for taxation in developing countries.
“She also understands the competition between ministries and how the Norwegian state functions,” Solheim told DN. “And she knows our politics in and out.”