This article addresses the basic mecha-
nisms of Norway’s current Development
Assistance policy. The author analyses the
strengthening of the financial policy and
principal mechanisms for justifying Nor-
way’s participation in the ODA as well as
the country’s foreign policy objectives at-
tained through assistance. The article exa-
mines specific features of Norway’s de-
velopment policy, which are crucial to un-
derstand contemporary international aid
practices. The country’s development poli-
cy implemented bilaterally and multilate-
rally is an effective mechanism of promot-
ing Norway’s economic and political inter-
ests. It is also an important subject for re-
search. The author analyses the evolution
of the ODA objectives, its institutions and
their international expertise. Special atten-
tion is devoted to the current shift of the
ODA policy to the issues of its effective-
ness. The recent shift to social cooperation
development by involving NGOs and pri-
vate businesses and investing in the social
sphere is also examined. The article analy-
ses Norway’s official position on humani-
tarian assistance in crises and armed con-
flicts. The author examines a number of
cases of Norway’s International Develop-
ment Assistance policy.
Key words: ODA, donor, recipient, NO-
RAD, Oil for Development
From its inception until the end of
World War II, the Official Development
Assistance (ODA) policy was aimed at
developing and promoting foundations
of the liberal order in periphery regions
of the world. Its goal was the gradual
convergence of developing states with
the western models of political gover-
nance and economic development. The
ODA policy was developed to promote
the interests of world economic leaders
and to contribute to national security
[1, p. 79]. Current foreign policy strate-
gies of developed states view ODA as
an important tool to promote the inter-
IN THE CURRENT
* North-West Institute of Management
the Russian Presidential Academy
of National Economy
and Public Administration
57/43 Sredny prospect V. O.,
Saint Petersburg, 199178, Russia.
Submitted on February 20, 2016.
© Bulanakova M., 2016
altiс region. 2016. Vol. 8, № 2. P. 45—56.
ests of donor states in the least developed regions of the world and as a sig-
nificant resource for donor states’ progress. When addressing students of the
University of Virginia, the US Secretary of State John Kerry called ODA a
long-term ‘investment in a strong America in a free world’ [22, р. 41].
Traditionally, ODA includes loans, technical assistance, and financial
support for national budgets of developing countries to secure economic
growth and establish democracy in the periphery space. Motivation of donor
countries encompasses numerous objectives. As C. Neal and S. Markova
emphasise, most motives fall into one of the three categories: 1) moral and
development values; 2) economic and commercial interests; 3) national secu-
rity [2, p. 66].
For a long time, ODA developed under the influence of colonial interests
of donor states and their geopolitical ambitions, being guided by the altruis-
tic logic of the international community [6, р. 1388]. Today, as ODA is be-
coming a foreign policy tool in the service of rapidly developing states, new
approaches to understanding assistance emerge. An important international
aspect of this phenomenon is the appearance of new mechanisms translating
non-Western models of international process regulation to the global level
[25, р. 1, 9]. Rapidly growing economies — China, India, Brazil — eagerly
take advantage of ODA opportunities in the world.
Moreover, ODA principles and criteria, which developed throughout half
a century of the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s operation, are
partly renounced and partly blurred by such ‘new donors’, as they embark on
economic expansion into the least developed regions of the world. Tradi-
tional donors interpreted growing competition from non-Western players as a
signal for modernising ODA tools.
An important impetus for modernising development assistance practices
was the changes caused by a significant increase in the macroeconomic per-
formance of developing countries. In 2014, growth rates of developed
economies hovered around 2 %, whereas developing economies grew at a
rate of 4.8 %. According to the World Bank, this trend will continue. In
2010, the contribution of non-OECD member states into the world GDP ex-
ceeded that of member states for the first time [26, р. 10].
The increasing influence of developing economies urges traditional do-
nors to draw up a new agenda. This includes introducing international crite-
ria of assistance efficiency into the foreign policies of developed states, en-
gaging new ODA agents through recruiting civil society, NGOs, and private
business, widening the scope of humanitarian programmes (increased financ-
ing of educational, healthcare, and human development policy), strengthen-
ing ODA through developing the multilateral component, etc.
A more tangible contribution to the development of the poorest states is
made through foreign direct investment (FDI) and private funds. Usually,
recipients view development and economic growth as their central objective.
An important stimulus is the interrelated processes of economic integration,
international trade, and foreign investment in the economy of weaker coun-
tries. In the 21st century, ODA is no longer the only source of growth for
most recipient countries. The significance of ODA in regulating international
process is decreasing. ODA accounted for 63 % of all investment in develop-
ing countries in 1990 and 21 % in 2013.
At the same time, ODA is often perceived as a major financial flow,
alongside commerce, domestic and foreign investment, international lending,
etc. However, it is premature to say that recipient countries can do without
the support provided within ODA.
An ardent advocate for strengthening ODA is Norway. Being a classical
donor and a member of the Development Assistance Committee, the Nordic
state actively supported the idea of reforming the established ODA model.
This study focuses on ODA justification and motivation in the context of
Norway’s foreign policy. It strives to examine the key areas of Norway’s
activities in international development assistance and to analyse how the
country promotes its development and participates in ODA reforming using
the relevant policy.
The country’s ODA performance is so remarkable that Norway is often
labelled as one of the most efficient participants in international cooperation
between developed and developing economies. The amount of Norway’s
ODA has accounted for 0.93 % of its GDP in recent years.
Norway’s 2016 ODA budget is unprecedented, reaching NOK 33.6 bil-
lion, which accounts for 1 % of the country’s expected GDP. Norway is one
of the three OECD member states that has attained such a high level of ODA
financing, the other two being Sweden and Luxembourg .
Norway’s high amounts of aid provided to African, Asian, and Latin
American countries require justification and legitimisation in the context of
foreign policy. Recently, Erna Solberg’s government developed and submit-
ted to the Parliament principal documents setting the strategic goals and
identifying the priority areas of Norway’s ODA policy. These documents
include ‘Education for development (2013—2014)’ , ‘Opportunities for
All: Human Rights in Norway’s Foreign Policy and Development Coopera-
tion’ (2014—2015) , and ‘Working Together: Private Sector Develop-
ment in Norwegian Development Cooperation’ (2014—2015) white papers.
They acquired strategic significance and became a foundation for evaluating,
revising, and developing political strategies for Norway’s participation in
development processes and assistance to the least development states and
regions. The revisions of Norway’s ODA policy partly contributed to an in-
crease in foreign policy spending in general and ODA amount in particular.
The official justification of a budget increase is based on several argu-
ments. Firstly, it is the special role of ODA in Norway’s foreign policy. The
ambition to remain a competitive player in systemic international processes
amid globalisation urges this Nordic state to employ traditional tools of
Western politics. These tools include ensuring national security in the con-
text of North-Atlantic relations, supporting Western values and European
identity within international organisations, strengthening the international
development assistance policy through increased funding, reforming ODA
tools, and stimulating the convergence of potentials of bilateral assistance
and global development strategies.
Secondly, when analysing the motivation of Norway’s development as-
sistance policy, specialists often mention the ‘humanitarian internationalism’
factor [3, p. 144], which suggests high moral responsibility accepted by
Norway as a developed state rendering assistance to less developed coun-
tries. The ‘humanitarian internationalism’ factor is one of the most distinc-
tive characteristics of Norway’s ODA policy, which emphasises the excep-
tional priority of social development objectives in Norway’s foreign policy.
Norway’s position on international development and its active ODA pol-
icy are also affected by the need to coordinate foreign policy initiatives with
the Nordic countries in both the European North and the European region in
general. This is the third, less important, motive behind the increased ODA
financing. Moreover, Norway participates in numerous European partner-
ships striving for better coordination of development policies and promoting
national interests in development assistance. Such stable associations include
the Nordic Plus group comprising Nordic countries committed to common
approaches to cooperation in development assistance. Another group is the
EnDev partnership bringing together six European countries coordinating
cooperation with recipient countries’ energy companies. The Association of
European Development Finance Institutions consists of 15 financial institu-
tions supporting private companies in developing countries [12, р. 16—18].
The institutional structure of Norway’s ODA is undergoing significant
transformations. It is flexible and capable to adapt to current challenges. The
assistance policy is coordinated by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The
Ministry is responsible for strategy decisions regarding Norway’s cooperation in
assistance development. Norway’s foreign policy and development assistance are
closely connected and they form a single political phenomenon.
The assistance policy is the responsibility of the Minister of Foreign Af-
fairs. Before Erna Solberg assumed office in October 2013, there had been a
position of a minister of international development in the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and up to 70 % of ODA had been supervised by the said minister [19,
Norway’s development assistance policy is supported by three major
agencies — NORAD, FK Norway, and Norfund. They are completely fun-
ded by the state and they promote public interests in development assistance.
The leading agency and partner of the Ministry is NORAD — the Nor-
wegian Agency for Development Cooperation founded in 1962. It employed
230 people in 2015. It is difficult to overestimate NORAD’s contribution to
the development assistance. In 2014, 17 % of Norway’s aid (NOK 31.7 bil-
lion) was provided via NORAD .
An important component of NORAD’s operations is assisting the Minis-
try of Foreign Affairs in analysing the results and possible variants of coop-
eration within ODA. According to Eva Margareth Bratholm, Director of
NORAD’s Department of Communication, NORAD’s principal objectives
are controlling expenditure on and efficiency of the development assistance
policy. The organisation also contributes to the analysis of development pol-
icy and independent evaluation of projects receiving public funding1.
1 Eva Margareth Bratholm, Leader of Department for Communication. An interview
of 30.09.2015 (Oslo, NORAD).
The Agency also plays an integrating role in the country’s development
policy. NORAD coordinates development assistance initiatives launched by
different ministries. One of NORAD’s key achievements is Norway’s Inter-
national Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI). In the course of the project’s
implementation, NORAD was directly accountable to the Ministry of Cli-
mate and Environment.
At the same time, NORAD launched several projects in the key areas of
Norway’s ODA policy — post-conflict regulation and social development,
primary and secondary education, higher education and research, human
rights and gender equality, good governance and fight against corruption, oil
and development, energy industry, support for civil society, etc.
Alongside special problems solved by NORAD in the framework of
thematic programmes, the agency coordinates the interests of the Norwegian
state and society. To attaint this, it explains the legitimacy and reasonable-
ness of Norway’s policy emphasising the moral significance of ODA for the
country’s political image, ensuring an integrated perception of Norway’s
foreign and domestic policy and a close connection between ODA objectives
and the national development targets.
Norway’s assistance has a broad geographical scope. The priority areas
are sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, and Southeast Asia. The country’s
presence in Latin America is rather limited. Top ten recipients of Norwegian
aid are African states (Tanzania, South Sudan, Mozambique, Uganda, So-
mali, Zambia, and Malawi), Afghanistan (top recipient of bilateral aid in
2014 — NOK 757.8 million), Pakistan, and structures supporting the Pales-
tinian Autonomy (ranked 2nd, receiving NOK 740 million) .
The list of Norway’s long-term priority classes 12 countries in the ex-
tremely low development level category and three countries are classed as
slightly above extremely low level2. Moreover, by 2011, more than half of
bilateral help (59 %) was allocated for countries with extremely low and low
development levels [19, р. 49—50].
Deeply committed to bilateral ODA cooperation, Norway strives to
strengthen the multilateral component of official development assistance. In
2011, Norway’s contribution to multilateral development assistance organi-
sations accounted for 25 % of the total amount of aid. Norway allocates
funds for UN and WB structures and other regional development banks. In
2012, Norway was top donor of the UN Development programme [19,
Norway’s 2012 foreign policy white paper paid special attention to the
problem of institutional partnership with the UN in development assistance.
The document entitled ‘Norway and the United Nations’ specifies Norway’s
responsibilities for improving assistance development in strategic and practi-
cal cooperation with multilateral ODA institutions [19, р. 37]. Normative
functions of the UN suggest that this organisation plays a key role in sup-
2 Norway’s long-term partners include 15 states: Afghanistan, East Timor, Ethiopia,
Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Zambia,
Tanzania, Pakistan, Nepal, and the territory of Palestine.
porting and strengthening international legal norms, which serves as a basis
for peace and humanism. The UN is an important political platform for
Norway. Ideas promoted by the organisation lie at the foundation of national
and international politics. The UN is Norway’s major partner in develop-
ment, state-building, and governance .
Support for the multilateral vector of development policy is an important
component of reforming Norway’s ODA in line with the need for a new in-
ternational development agenda for the period after 2015. Norway considers
forwarding the UN Millennium Development Goals and supporting Rio+20
solutions as ODA priorities.
A vast list of initiatives to attain these social development goals covers
gender equality and women’s rights, global health (including women’s re-
productive health, children’s health, and protection of disabled persons),
universal education (including universal primary education and development
of educational technologies), etc. [20, р. 93].
An increase in expenditure on social sectors is an obvious trend in the
evolution of ODA politics in the modern world. Leading donors recognise
the persistency and urgency of solving developing countries’ problems relat-
ing to an efficient social policy. On average, aid to social sectors increased
from USD 2 billion per year in the 1960s to USD 50 billion in the 2000s [4,
р. 1352, 1362]. At the same time, according to OECD, aid to healthcare in-
creased fivefold in 1990—2011, aid to education by 360 % in 1995—2010,
and to basic education by 630 % [10, р. 1423]. The turn to social sphere,
which was not a priority for many ODA participants, seems to be the main-
A special component of Norway’s ODA policy is education policy as
part of global agenda and an important element of Millennium Development
Goals. Norway considers this area as a priority tool of influence in the world,
which also marks a new stage in the development of Norway’s ODA policy.
2012 OECD reports emphasise the country’s considerable contribution
to bilateral aid to education. Germany is the world leader in assistance to
education development accounting for 21 % of global aid to education. Japan
ranks fourth with 10 % and the US fifth with 7 %, followed by Norway with
3.2 %. At the same time, Norway’s assistance to healthcare and education
comprises 20 % of the total ODA [14, р. 21].
Norway is a consistent advocate of the Millennium Development Goals
in education. Norway’s contribution to solving the problems of primary,
secondary, vocational, and higher education was stressed at the ‘Education
for Development’ global summit held in Oslo in July 2015. At the summit,
Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende signed an agreement
with a UNICEF representative Anthony Lake on the additional NOK 1.3 bil-
lion financing of educational programmes in 2015—2016. In the recent
years, Norway has been one of the major UNICEF partners in education
across the world .
The country consistently attains objectives of ensuring universal access
to education for all school-age children, equality of boys and girls in educa-
tion, access for disabled children, high-quality education of all levels, etc.
Minister Børge Brende, when analysing the significance of education devel-
opment across the world, emphasised, ‘This is a major challenge for our
global community. The Government is giving high priority to education in
its aid budget’ .
The ‘Education for Development’ summit was a convincing proof of
Norway’s increasing role in ODA educational policy. The Summit’s primary
goal was ‘to establish a joint platform based on agreed principles and con-
crete recommendations as to how education in crises and conflicts can be
supported in a more coordinated and effective way’ .
For Norway, cooperation in global education is an important tool to
strengthen its positions in strategic areas of international cooperation with
developing countries. Just as the other donor countries, Norway is looking
for new resources for developing this cooperation, primarily, through attract-
ing a wide range of participants from business and the private sector.
An important component of the general metamorphoses of Norway’s
ODA policy in the 2010s is the country’s competitive advantages in devel-
opment supported by business. Foreign direct investment and private capital
is starting to play a more significant role in rendering aid to the least devel-
oped states than public monetary financing does. ‘Support for private sector
development is an important component of Norwegian aid. In 2014, Norway
provided a total of NOK 3.6 billion to the most relevant sectors and areas for
private sector development’ [26, р. 8].
Considerable interest in the opportunities of private business in the con-
text of development policy relates to the remarkable ability of private com-
panies to penetrate markets of developing states. According to the World
Bank, private sector accounts for nine out of ten jobs in third world coun-
tries. Norwegian companies have created 250,000 jobs abroad. As the Nor-
wegian minister of EEA and EU Affairs Vidar Helgesen3 stressed, ‘Business
is a key partner for achieving development objectives’ .
Through strengthening the private segment of development policy, the
Norwegian government identifies a number of partners and cooperation ar-
eas. A logical territory for business to contribute to development policy is
the countries traditionally considered as Norway’s partners — Ethiopia, Ma-
lawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, etc. At the same time, Norway tries to focus
its aid on concrete recipients, in particular North African states. Moreover,
the most important intention of the government is reducing the total number
of recipients to 85 [26, р. 14].
However, reducing the number of recipients requires a new approach to
the development policy, namely, promoting the ‘private area’ through opti-
mising the regional level of cooperation between states, supporting regional
infrastructure and intergovernmental commercial institutions, etc. The prior-
ity areas of private sector development include energy, information and
communications technology, agriculture, fishery and marine resources [26,
3 On 16.11.2015, Vidar Helgesen assumed the office of Minister of Climate and En-
vironment and Elisabeth Aspaker of Minister of EEA and EU Affairs.
For Norway, strengthening the private sector development is crucial,
since the growing influence of private business and opening new markets for
Norwegian companies contributes to the development of the non-extractive
sectors of Norwegian economy. Moreover, the increasing role of public-
private partnership in infrastructure development projects provides addi-
tional resources for coordinating the interests of private and public players in
the economic policy [26, р. 15—16].
For the Norwegian government, cooperation with business is significant,
since the state, through investing in the private sectors of developing coun-
tries, is becoming a stable and reliable partner for businesses both at the lo-
cal level and in monitoring the efficiency of Norwegian investment. In the
countries where Norway’s investment presence is the strongest, development
assistance projects are implemented in the framework of public-private part-
Such understanding of the role of private business in activating and
strengthening development policy requires a revision of the whole structure
of aid financing. In this connection, the position of Norwegian Investment
Fund for Developing Countries — a major channel for private sector devel-
opment — will be strengthened in the near future. The funding structure
based on application-based grant distribution will be replaced by a competi-
tive scheme stimulating private business [26, р. 21—22].
The priorities of Norway’s development assistance policy also include
thematic project initiatives. Many of these initiatives are global. The coun-
try’s ‘niche’ in the international development policy is programmes imple-
mented in the framework of ODA — Oil for Development, Taxes for Devel-
opment, etc. The 2014 annual NORAD report on ‘Oil for Development’
identifies this programme as an advanced cooperation model of assistance
development policy [13, р. 4].
The central element of ‘Oil for Development’ is disseminating the Nor-
wegian practices of extractive industry regulation and developing a reference
system for respective national models. The Programme aims to create a safe
space for development and resource consumption for future generations
through introducing universal principles of effective management — trans-
parency, accountability, and anti-corruption efforts.
The Programme opens up considerable opportunities for NGOs in devel-
oping public control mechanisms and ensuring transparency in distributing
revenues from extractive industries. In 2014, NOK 30 billion was allocated
within the Programme for support for six Norwegian and four international
NGOs, including Friends of the Earth Norway, Norwegian People’s Aid,
Norwegian Church Aid, and others [13, р. 4].
Involving NGOs and international NGOs in Programme activities, Nor-
way attaches major social significance to this policy due to both the diversity
of actors and the transformations in the social policies of recipient countries.
The Programme leads to more considerable transformations than industry
development would, since ‘well-functioning institutions in this sector alone
are not enough; they need to be supported by strong institutions and good
governance in society at large’ .
The central feature of the Programme is a combination of two major ar-
eas of the development policy — the so-called development with a capital D
and development with a lowercase d. The D concept interprets development
policy as a targeted project activity, which is not aimed at basic changes in
social institutions. On the contrary, the d concept views development as a
permanent process leading to considerable changes in social relations, econ-
omy, and politics [5, р. 8].
In the framework of ‘Oil for Development’, the Norwegian government
combines vast social opportunities of NGOs (d) and public interests in the
process of development cooperation (D).
In the Norwegian government, the Programme is supervised by four
ministries — the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Finances, Environment, and
Petroleum and Energy, which emphasises the comprehensive governmental
approach to international aid. The Programme was launched in 2005. In
2011, ‘Oil for Development’ included 22 states, 11 of them classed as unsta-
ble by the OECD [18, р. 124—128].
Active participants are developing countries, rich in natural resources.
Fourteen African states — Ghana, Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania,
Mozambique, Angola, and others — are Norway’s leading partners within
the Programme. In 2006—2014, the Programme’s budget increased almost
fourfold — from NOK 60 to 242 million [20, р. 34].
Within the Programme, Norway cooperates with international institu-
tions — WB, IMF, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI),
Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), African Centre for Eco-
nomic Transformation, etc. The Programme also suggests cooperation in en-
vironment. For instance, Norway cooperates with the International Associa-
tion for Impact Assessment.
In October 2015, at the celebration of the Programme’s 10th anniversary,
State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tone Skogen stressed that
Norway’s international cooperation within the Programme is one of the best
partnerships in the context of development policy .
The efficiency of such programmes for donors largely depends on the
stability of political and military development of the recipient country, na-
tional level of education, and many other socioeconomic characteristics of
states. All these factors created a solid foundation for an increase in the
funding in 2016. Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende, when comment-
ing on the governmental position on increasing the amount of aid, empha-
sised Norway’s commitment to regulating current conflicts, primarily, those
in Syria and Ukraine. ‘Norwegian investments in education, healthcare and
job creation play a part in stabilising countries where the central government
is not able to meet people’s basic needs’ . Since 2011, Norway has been
one of the key donors in Syria. In 2016, the Norwegian government plans to
allocate NOK 1.5 billion for assistance to the population of Syria and
neighbouring countries, including Iraq. Moreover, according to Børge
Brende, Norway is committed to increasing relevant budgets. The humani-
tarian component of Norwegian aid is increasing; a large proportion will be
allocated for the projects of UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the
World Food Programme.
Justifying the increase in humanitarian aid, the Norwegian government is
emphasising the country’s responsibility for supporting peaceful develop-
ment in crisis regions and ensuring protection of human rights. Norway iden-
tifies protection of human rights as a necessary condition for receiving do-
nor’s help [21, р. 17]. Norway places special emphasis on human rights
when providing assistance to the unstable states with weak political regimes
incapable of controlling their territory .
An obvious indicator of the legitimacy of Norway’s participation in the
development of a recipient country is the dependence of assistance provision
on the observation of human rights. Human rights policy can be interpreted
as Norway’s efforts in the civil sector aimed at establishing non-
governmental institutions and civic organisations, raising awareness in hu-
man rights protection, financing human rights projects targeted at minorities
and gender equality, etc. Alongside the positive tool, Norway uses negative
mechanisms of affecting the authorities in recipient countries, such as open
criticism, international condemnation, limitation and termination of funding,
sanctions, etc. .
Therefore, the idea of international legitimacy of donor’s participation in
the development of a recipient country in the framework of ODA is based on
emphasising the exclusive priority of human rights in international relations.
Of course, this is an indication of the foreign policy goals of donor countries,
i. e. securing additional controlling resources in recipient countries through
It is important to stress that an increase in the amount of Norwegian aid
and pronounced specialisation of ODA are indicative of a tendency towards
increasing the role of the state in global and regional processes. Increasing
the ODA budget, Norway strives to participate in resolving international cri-
ses and looks for additional resources to promote the interests of Norwegian
business in cooperation with developing countries.
To increase the efficiency of its development policy, Norway dissemi-
nates its practices through implementing sustainable and effective develop-
ment programmes, such as ‘Oil for Development’. At the current stage,
Norway’s ODA is assuming considerable social significance in recipient
countries, primarily, through expanding the range of participants and involv-
ing non-governmental institutions in ODA processes.
For Norway, this policy opens up opportunities for economic growth,
emphasises the country’s western identity through stressing the universality
of human rights and active financing of multilateral structures in ODA, and
secures its presence in the markets and infrastructural project of developing
This is very important, since Norway does not have a historical experi-
ence of political and economic influence on remote territories. It was neither
an empire nor a political or economic leader. International development as-
sistance policy is a crucial tool used by the Nordic state for expanding its
presence and participating in the development of recipient countries.
Norway develops its identity as a sovereign actor and as a petrostate. At
the same time, it strives to increase its presence in non-extractive sectors of
economy through exporting technology, governance models, social stan-
dards, knowledge, and educational and research practices. For Norway, it is
an important change necessary to strengthen its position in current interna-
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