Chapter 1. Norway’s global efforts for sustainable development

This chapter examines Norway’s approach to global sustainable development, including its response to global challenges, action to ensure coherence between domestic policies and global sustainable development objectives, and efforts to raise awareness of global development issues at home. Norway is a strong advocate for global issues such as education, climate and environment, working actively through a range of channels to strengthen global goods, promote and protect human rights, and uphold peace and security. Norway could deepen its efforts to address global challenges, such as illicit financial flows. The new Policy Coherence Forum provides an opportunity to identify and address inconsistencies between Norway’s domestic policies and its stated global sustainable development objectives, in particular with regard to oil and gas exports, agricultural subsidies and production of weapons. In the context of ongoing organisational reforms, Norway will need to ensure that its strong approach to communications and global awareness-raising is maintained.


Efforts to support global sustainable development

Peer review indicator: The member plays an active role in contributing to global norms, frameworks and public goods that benefit developing countries

Norway actively and consistently advocates for its priority issues in international and multilateral fora. In doing so, it frequently leads in the launch of multi-stakeholder initiatives on global issues such as education, climate and environment. Norway demonstrates a committed approach to multilateral co-operation and upholding and strengthening global governance and norms. It also continues to position itself as a leader in promoting and protecting human rights, peace and reconciliation processes, and the linkages between security and sustainable development. Norway actively addresses global challenges that are important for domestic resource mobilisation and has scaled-up efforts on taxation, anti-corruption and combating illicit financial flows. Norway is well-placed to deepen its efforts in these areas, particularly in high-risk sectors and fragile and conflict-affected situations.

Norway uses its voice to be a consistent and global leader

Norway continues to play an ambitious and wide-reaching advocacy role at the international level. It actively seeks to promote development agendas particularly through multi-stakeholder initiatives in its priority policy areas (e.g. health, education and gender, and climate change and environment). Using its perceived neutrality, it also prioritises foreign policy efforts in support of peace and reconciliation processes, most recently in Colombia, and in upholding an international rules-based order, notably around human rights. Norway’s contributions to international peacekeeping efforts and its willingness to stand for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for 2021-22 – to be voted on by the General Assembly in June 2020 – are a demonstration of this commitment (Government of Norway, 2018a). Reflecting its prioritisation of and support for the links between security and development, Norway advocates strongly for women, peace and security – a key pillar of its UNSC campaign – and recently resumed the presidency of the Mine Ban Treaty.

Having influenced negotiations in the lead-up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Norway has developed a compelling narrative on the 2030 Agenda’s relevance and endeavours to shape its engagement accordingly. Assigning each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to a co-ordinating ministry in Oslo has fostered cross-government awareness, while tying reporting to the annual budget process provides a clear, whole-of-government mechanism for follow-up.1 In line with the government’s plan for national follow-up of the SDGs, Norway presented its first Voluntary National Review to the United Nations High Level Political Forum in 2016 (Government of Norway, 2016a). In doing so, it further articulated efforts to integrate the SDGs into domestic and international policies and demonstrated an internalised shift towards the global action embodied in the 2030 Agenda. In 2016, the UN Secretary General appointed Prime Minister Erna Solberg as Co-Chair of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocates.

Norway was an effective co-facilitator of preparatory processes for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development and played a constructive role in the launch of the Addis Tax Initiative, in which countries declared their commitment to action towards raising domestic public revenue, and to improving the fairness, transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness of domestic tax systems (Addis Tax Initiative, 2015). Norway is a member of the Forum on Tax Administration, which is developing a work stream on capacity building (OECD, 2018a), and is the current chair. Norway also supports the OECD Task Force on Tax and Development and upholds the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Inclusive Framework domestically (Government of Norway, 2016a). Additionally, it frequently uses its strong voice in taxation fora to raise issues that benefit or affect developing countries.

Global and thematic priorities reflect Norway’s strategic interests and strengths

As a small country of just 5.3 million people, Norway relies on partnerships with like-minded countries and increasingly prioritises working through multilateral channels to pursue its global agenda. Norway’s global and thematic priorities in advancing global public goods and responding to global challenges are in line with the SDGs. They are also underpinned by political engagement and clear directives, wherein strategic priority is given to the global public goods and challenges that affect Norway’s national interests. The 2016-17 white paper on the place of the oceans in Norway’s foreign and development policy, for example, outlines the government’s aim for Norway to be at the forefront of international efforts to protect and uphold international law around oceans (Government of Norway, 2017a). In early 2018, Prime Minister Solberg launched a new High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, co-chaired by the President of the Republic of Palau, and subsequently launched a programme to combat marine litter, allocating NOK 150 million to this in 2018. These initiatives aim to safeguard Norway’s ocean security and economic interests while upholding a rules-based international order and working to achieve the SDGs.

Norway complements this global advocacy by encouraging its partners to contribute more resources and secure the long-term sustainability of the global initiatives it promotes. There is, however, room for improvement in this area to enhance Norway’s ability to convince like-minded countries to offer support, particularly when new initiatives risks contributing to further fragmenting the multilateral system (Chapter 2).

In addition to efforts to address and protect global public goods such as oceans, Norway is increasingly focusing on global challenges important for domestic resource mobilisation, including the challenges and priorities arising from tax evasion, illicit financial flows and corruption. It plays an active role in contributing to international norms, including by forging alliances across traditional groups in the UN, and provides technical assistance in these areas. Norway is encouraged to deepen these efforts, particularly in those areas – such as conflict and fragility, natural-resource management, and domestic resource mobilisation – that might hinder progress in its development priorities and its strategic efforts to further development in partner countries. With regard to anti-corruption, Norway is committed to implementing the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the OECD Council Recommendation for Development Co-operation Actors on Managing Risks of Corruption (OECD, 2018b), and is an important member of initiatives addressing illicit financial flows and anti-corruption, such as the Corruption Hunters Network, the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre2, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR).3

Stricter asylum policies since 2015 are being met by fewer refugees

Thanks to its wealth, robust labour market, commitment to humanitarian protection, and because it has accepted many refugees from different crisis areas, Norway is seen as an attractive and generous destination for migrants and refugees. Although public attitudes towards immigrants and immigration remain positive,4 like other Nordic governments, Norway has aimed in recent years to reduce its attractiveness as a destination for migrants. In 2015, legislative amendments included stricter reunification policies, less financial support, and swifter return of those not granted asylum (Government of Norway, 2016b; Government of Norway, 2017b). Since peaking in 2015, the number of refugee and asylum seekers has sharply decreased,5 reducing Norway’s in-donor refugee expenditures, which the Government claims has allowed a corresponding increase in humanitarian assistance (Chapter 3).6 More recently, the government has also stated its intention to use Norway’s position (e.g. as a donor) to secure return agreements with more countries (Office of the Prime Minister, 2018).

Policy coherence for sustainable development

Peer review indicator: Domestic policies support or do not harm developing countries

Norway demonstrates a commitment to policy coherence for sustainable development, but struggles to achieve it in practice. The recently established Policy Coherence Forum is a step in the right direction, serving as a potential mechanism to systematically identify and discuss areas of incoherence. Ensuring that the Forum takes a broad whole-of-society approach and that a mandate is in place to establish and monitor cross-governmental objectives, will be important for addressing particularly difficult issues.

Norway recognises that policy coherence for sustainable development is a precondition for achieving the SDGs

The newly established whole-of-government Policy Coherence Forum, led by the Deputy Minister for Development Co-operation, signals a welcome strengthening of Norway’s approach to policy coherence for sustainable development (Government of Norway, 2017c). The Forum’s whole-of-society approach including academia, civil society and the private sector, will help to stimulate broad-based discussion. A mandate enabling the Forum to establish, systematically analyse and monitor a set of identified cross-governmental objectives related to policy coherence for development, including all relevant ministries and levels of government, might cement this progress and further facilitate change. Including specific indicators or targets, along with a time-bound plan for implementation would also strengthen this approach, as would including a focus on cross-cutting policy priorities such as anti-corruption, gender and human rights.

Norway faces a number of enduring dilemmas or inconsistencies between its domestic policies and its stated global sustainable development objectives. Most notable are the export of oil and gas and global efforts to address climate change, agricultural subsidies and trade policy, responsible business conduct of Norwegian businesses and engagement on human rights issues, and potential conflicts between upholding Norwegian security and economic interests, including the export of weapons, and promoting peace and security and human rights (Norad 2018).7 Both the 2008 and 2013 peer reviews recommended that Norway develop more effective systems or instruments to address the coherence of Norwegian policies with global sustainable development, in accordance with the OECD Ministerial Declaration on Policy Coherence for Development (OECD, 2008) and the recommendation of the OECD Council (OECD, 2010). The annual reports on policy coherence presented to the Storting since 2011, Norway’s primary instrument for addressing policy incoherence issues, are ineffective. They lack measurable indicators to track progress and there is little evidence that the reports have resulted in actual policy changes (Norad, 2018). Strengthening this reporting mechanism to include measureable indicators would also help improve policy coherence for sustainable development.

As noted in the 2013 review, greater policy coherence could also be achieved if the Government Pension Fund Global, the world’s second-largest sovereign wealth fund, reviewed the value chains of some investments in accordance with its own policies. Norway is taking steps to shift its own growth model – marked by sustained economic growth closely linked to its petroleum resources – away from fossil fuels towards a greener economy (Government of Norway, 2017a). This is in line with the global consensus on the need to transition global economic growth away from fossil fuels, as signalled by the 2030 Agenda and the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. While initiated by the Fund’s governance, the move to divest Norway’s sovereign wealth fund from fossil fuels provides a clear opportunity to align Norway’s domestic policy priorities with global sustainable development, signalling climate and the environment among others as key priorities.

Global awareness

Peer review indicator: The member promotes whole-of-society contributions to sustainable development

A number of Norad initiatives reflect an innovative and wide-reaching approach to awareness-raising and global citizenship. In the context of the ongoing organisational reforms of Norad and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it will be important for Norway to ensure a targeted and coherent communications strategy in support of awareness- raising and global citizenship, and the freedom, resources and expertise to communicate with all stakeholders.

Norway takes an innovative and wide-reaching approach to awareness raising

Raising awareness of global sustainable development and communicating Norwegian development co-operation efforts are currently the institutional responsibility of Norad. Several Norad initiatives demonstrate an innovative approach to awareness-raising and global citizenship and benefit from endorsement at a high political level. To date, three mountain treks to raise awareness of the SDGs have mobilised over 20 000 hikers.8 Supported by the Prime Minister of Norway, they are a particularly notable example of high-level engagement in an effective communications strategy, designed to improve learning around global issues and development (Government of Norway, 2018b).

Other innovative programmes involving the private sector and civil society have also begun targeting younger Norwegians, an issue raised in the 2013 peer review. For example through “Save Tropical House”, a campaign launched by Norad to increase understanding of the links between protecting tropical forests and addressing climate change.9 Furthermore, Norad’s efforts to measure the impact of communications on public awareness and understanding, before and after each intervention, reflects its intention not only to broadcast messages, but to achieve a change in thinking. This is good practice.

Norway also utilises a number of tools to communicate the volumes and outcomes of its development co-operation: the Norwegian Aid Statistics portal, managed by Norad (Norad, n.d.); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Grants Portal, launched in mid-2013; and publications such as the Norad-funded magazine, Bistandsaktuelt, published ten times a year (Government of Norway, 2018b). The magazine covers the entire field of development co-operation and aid and aims to stimulate debate among the Norwegian population.

The pending institutional reforms to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norad are likely to impact Norway’s approach to communications and awareness-raising. Maintaining the freedom, resources and expertise to communicate with citizens currently held within Norad will be important to ensure the continued effectiveness of Norway’s approach to awareness-raising. Similarly, it will be important to preserve institutional knowledge and ensure that communications and awareness-raising strategies remain well-targeted and coherent should the responsibility for implementing these strategies be outsourced.

Norwegians support official development assistance (ODA) but lack knowledge about development issues and partner countries

As in previous years, annual surveys by Statistics Norway show public support for ODA to be high (Statistics Norway, 2018). The 2017 survey results indicated that 87% of Norwegians support aid for Asia, Africa and Latin-America, and 64% support aid to eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, a slight decrease from 2013 (Statistics Norway, 2018). Norwegians, however, continue to lack knowledge about development issues, including familiarity with Norwegian partner countries. The Surveys also revealed that while Norwegians are committed to ODA, they are less convinced that ODA is effective and appear to lack knowledge about how sustainable development is achieved.

A planned Results Portal may help stimulate public debate about how Norwegian ODA is spent. By creating a broader public stake through increased debate, it may also promote support for ODA and Norway’s global engagement over the long term. Although such portals may enhance accountability and transparency, an effective communications strategy must also be endowed with the resources and expertise to communicate proactively and coherently to a range of stakeholders including citizens, the private sector, local authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This will help the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and/or Norad to promote and educate all the relevant actors on whole-of-society contributions to global public goods and sustainable development.

Development education and global awareness-raising are progressing

In light of the Statistics Norway results, Norway could do more to address development education and global awareness-raising among its population and key stakeholders. Under current organisational arrangements, Norad is responsible for communications and global awareness-raising among the Norwegian population; both Norad and the Ministry are involved in providing funding to civil society for development education and awareness-raising. According to the OECD Creditor Reporting System, reported funding for development awareness has declined in recent years, from USD 20 million in 2009, to USD 12 million in 2017 (constant 2016 prices) (Global Education Network Europe, 2017).

The Ministry of Education undertook a curriculum revision in 2015, and in 2016 the Storting approved a white paper on education, which confirmed that democracy and citizenship, sustainable development, and health and life skills should be included as cross-cutting issues in curricula (Global Education Network Europe, 2017). Norwegian universities, which receive government funding, are also shaping their curricula to the SDGs and promoting awareness and understanding of the 2030 Agenda.10 These efforts signal a move in the right direction, and continuing strong support for civil society, such as through the RORG-Network – comprising NGOs dedicated to development education – is encouraged.11


Government sources

Government of Norway (2018a), “Norway seeking seat on UN Security Council in 2021-2022”, web article,

Government of Norway (2018b), “OECD DAC Peer Review of Norway’s Aid Programme: Memorandum of Norway”, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo.

Government of Norway (2017a), “The place of the oceans in Norway’s foreign and development policy”, Meld. St. 22, Recommendation of 24 March 2017 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, approved in the Council of State the same day (Solberg Government), Government of Norway, Oslo,

Government of Norway (2017b), “Immigration and Integration 2016–2017”, Report for Norway, Government of Norway, Oslo,

Government of Norway (2017c), “Common Responsibility for Common Future: The Sustainable Development Goals and Norway's Development Policy – Report to the Storting (white paper)”, Meld. St. 24, English summary, Government of Norway, Oslo,

Government of Norway (2016a), “Norway’s follow-up of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals”, Government of Norway, Oslo, departementene/ud/vedlegg/utvikling/sdg_rapport_full_en.pdf.

Government of Norway (2016b), “From reception centre to the labour market – an effective integration policy”, Meld. St. 30, Recommendations of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security of 11 May 2016, approved by the Council of State on the same day (Solberg Government), Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, Oslo,

Norad (n.d.), Norwegian Aid Statistics (database), (accessed on 8 November 2018).

Norad (2018), Evaluation of Norwegian Efforts to Ensure Policy Coherence for Development, Evaluation Department, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Oslo,

Norad (2017), “More Norwegian aid for crisis and conflict,”, (accessed on 12 October 2018).

Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) (2018), Statistics and Analysis: Statistics on Immigration, Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, Oslo, (accessed on 18 December 2018).

Office of the Prime Minister (2018), “The Jeløya-platform”,

Statistics Norway (2018), Attitudes towards Norwegian development aid, 2017, Report 2018/6, Government of Norway, Oslo, (in Norwegian).

Other sources

Addis Tax Initiative Declaration (2015), Financing for Development Conference: The Addis Tax Initiative – Declaration, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,

Center for Global Development (2018), Commitment to Development Index 2018 (database),

Global Education Network Europe (2017), The State of Global Education in Europe 2017, Global Education Network Europe,

OECD (2018a), “Forum on Tax Administration”, webpage, (accessed on 18 December 2018).

OECD (2018b), “Implementing the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention Phase 4 Report: Norway”, OECD Working Group on Bribery, Paris,

OECD (2017), “Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets: An assessment of where OECD countries stand, June 2017”, OECD, Paris,

OECD (2016), “Recommendation of the Council on Development Co-operation Actors for Managing Risks of Corruption,” OECD, Paris,

OECD (2010), “Recommendation of the Council on Good Institutional Practices in Promoting Policy Coherence for Development”, OECD Council, 29 April 2010, Paris.

OECD (2008), “OECD, Declaration on Policy Coherence for Development, OECD/LEGAL/0364”,


← 1. Following the adoption of the SDGs in September 2015, the Norwegian Government developed a plan for national follow-up of the SDGs in Norway, linked to the budget process. Responsibility for each of the 17 SDGs is assigned to a co-ordinating ministry, and each ministry is required to report on the status of follow-up on its respective goal(s) in its budget proposal. The national budget white paper, which is presented to the Storting annually, summarises these responses (Government of Norway, 2016a).

← 2. The U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre works to reduce the harmful impact of corruption on society. It shares research and evidence to help international development actors get sustainable results. See

← 3. For information about the Centre see

← 4. For example, a growing number of Norwegians (from 20% in 2008 to 25% in 2016) disagree that most immigrants are a cause of insecurity in society (Statistics Norway, 2018).

← 5. In 2015, 31 150 persons applied for asylum in Norway, up from 11 480 in 2014. This figure dropped to 3 460 in 2016, 3 560 in 2017 and 2 655 in 2018 (Norwegian Directorate of Immigration [UDI] (2018).

← 6. Regarding the 2017 budget year, see Norad (2017), “More Norwegian aid for crisis and conflict”, (accessed on 12 October 2018).

← 7. The Norad Evaluation Department’s 2018 review (Norad, 2018) highlighted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not equipped with any formal power over other ministries' policies or activities, and recommended greater stakeholder engagement and cross-ministerial dialogue. In particular, the review highlighted the dilemma between development policy and other policy objectives, with specific reference to trade and agriculture. It also voiced concerns about Norway’s engagement in Myanmar and balancing the issues of responsible business conduct, economic and security interests, and engagement on human-rights issues. The OECD study, “Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets” (OECD, 2017) notes that relative to the OECD average, Norway outperforms on most goals except food and sustainable production (Goals 2 and 12), where performance is below the OECD average. See also Center for Global Development (2018).

← 8. The SDGs Hikes event held by Norad in October 2018 mobilised 12 000 hikers. See also:

← 9. A campaign initiated by Norad, and involving the Ministry of Climate and Environment, aimed to increase the number of young Norwegians who consider protection of tropical rainforests as important to reducing climate change. The campaign tapped into the popularity of House music among young Norwegians, and engaged well-known public figures and influencers. The online music campaign relied on social media and led to the release of a music video, which has received over 1.3 million views. For more information, see:

← 10. The University of Oslo aims to actively contribute to the 2030 Agenda and the 17 SDGs, including by establishing the “Oslo SDG Initiative” and incorporating SDG-awareness raising into annual events. For more information, see: SDG Bergen is a University of Bergen strategic initiative to engage with the Sustainable Development Goals. The initiative also includes science diplomacy and scientific advice to government and international organisations. See:

← 11. Established in the early 1990s as a joint initiative of Norad and civil society organisations, RORG-network is a network of Norwegian NGOs engaged in development education and awareness-raising in Norway. It communicates with the Norwegian public on issues including globalisation, debt, development co-operation, poverty eradication, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and issues relating to trade. See also:

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