Foreign Minister Børge Brende seems to have won some international support for his conservative government’s plans for disbursement of foreign aid. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is urging a new course for Norwegian foreign aid programs that Norway’s new government has already staked out.
In a new report delivered to Brende on Monday, the OECD has evaluated Norwegian aid and found it to be generous, long-term and important. The OECD is urging, however, that Norway share its wealth with developing countries in a more results-oriented, efficient and determined manner.
Norway was said to be “high up on the aid donor table,” after donating the equivalent of USD 4.8 billion in “official development assistance” last year, equal to nearly 1 percent of Norway’s gross national income. That made Norway the third-most generous member of the OECD, and the OECD commended Norway for “punching above its weight on the global stage” and “leading the way … in critical and challenging areas.”
The OECD suggested Norway could, though, improve its allocation of resources as it focuses on global issues “that are important for the country and the international role it plays” within, for example, peace-building, climate change and global health.
Attention on improvements
“We acknowledge the positive feedback,” Brende said in a prepared statement after officially receiving the report, “but the most important is that we also pay attention to the points where we can improve, and use them constructively.”
The OECD evaluation, conducted every four or five years, is the latest report to criticize some aspects of Norwegian foreign aid. Brende has already announced that the country will streamline its aid programs and reduce the number of countries now receiving aid, in an effort to better concentrating aid resources on others. Norway currently donates aid to more than 100 countries, while Børge’s Conservative Party wants to cut that to somewhere between 20 and 40, concentrating the aid in Africa.
The new government already has consolidated its foreign aid operations within Brende’s ministry, doing away with the separate ministry that formerly handled aid programs. One of the most recent Norwegian government ministers in charge of foreign aid, Erik Solheim of the Socialist Left party (SV), now works for the OECD as its chief for development aid, but newspaper Aftenposten reported on Monday that he declared a conflict of interest and didn’t participate in the OECD’s evaluation of Norwegian aid, to avoid investigating his own earlier work.
Brende is overseeing a new approach to foreign aid, promising that Norway will continue to donate “considerable development aid” but in a more targeted fashion. He claimed the OECD report, conducted by its Development Assistance Committee in Paris, “provides a basis and inspiration to strengthen Norwegian development policies with more efficient and goal-oriented aid.”
The OECD report urged a stronger focus on results of Norwegian aid, and better management of the policies Norway has and the money it hands out for development projects. Brende agreed with the need for improvements.
“Foreign aid isn’t only a question of volume, it’s also a question of effects and results,” Brende said. “We must get better at making our expectations clear in advance, and in conducting systematic evaluations and learning afterwards. Good follow-up is necessary to secure the best possible results from the aid we give.”
The OECD also stressed the importance of more open, fair and free trade policies as an important factor in creating economic development. Norway has been criticized for its protectionist policies that can keep cheaper items produced in developing countries out of the Norwegian market, to protect Norwegian farmers, for example. Brende and other members of the new conservative government are also advocating a reduction in Norwegian protectionism.
For a more detailed look at the OECD’s evaluation of Norway’s foreign aid, click here (external link to the OECD’s website).