Norway's new global development cause

Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås, Norway's minister of international development. Norway has released a white paper indicating it will prioritize countries working to reduce inequality by strengthening tax systems, governance and civil society and to promote sustainable development. Photo by: Holger Motzkau / CC BY-SA

Disparities between rich and poor are growing in many parts of the world, and Norway wants to lead a group of like-minded nations in changing this trend through multilateral initiatives and targeted aid to well-governed nations.

A white paper released last week by the Norwegian Ministry of International Development says Oslo will prioritize partner countries working to reduce inequalities by strengthening tax systems, governance and civil society and promoting development that is sustainable and does not harm the environment.

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation is asking other donor countries to push this agenda at the United Nations and other multilateral fora, especially on issues such as tax evasion.

The white paper recommends focusing on sustainable growth and fair distribution within individual countries, attaching more importance to:

  • Sustainable management of natural resources.

  • Job creation.

  • Human rights.

  • Democracy.

  • Fiscal and financial administration.

  • Transparency.

  • Fighting illicit capital flows and tax havens.

Natural resource development and jobs

Oil-rich Norway, a model for sustainable natural resource development, wants aid-recipient countries to learn from its experience in managing these riches and not be victims of what it calls the “resource curse.” To that end, Norway will continue to assist developing countries in directing their income from petroleum or natural gas extraction to reducing poverty and protecting the environment.

Countries that are willing to take action to ensure their natural resources are managed responsibly should receive more aid, the white paper suggests.

Oslo, which today hosts a high-level meeting on energy and the post-2015 development agenda, will also step up its efforts to fight illegal fishing and logging.

The document also notes that jobs are essential to eradicate poverty, and thus Norway will support unions and other organizations as well as civil society actors.

Democracy and transparency

The white paper states that Norwegian aid will favor recipient countries that are governed democratically. In nations where the trend is “negative,” Norway will support pro-democracy civil society actors rather than government institutions.

To enhance transparency, Norway is considering country-by-country reporting on financial flows of multinational companies. Oslo would like to establish a group of independent experts who can assist developing countries in renegotiating “unfair” agreements with multinational firms.

Taxation and fair distribution

In the white paper, Norway which six months ago announced it would spend $5.3 billion on official development assistance in fiscal year 2013  says it will increase its efforts to help recipient countries collect taxes revenues and combat the leakage of tax revenues to tax havens.

Those efforts will be in line with the Norwegian government’s general policy of effective distribution of resources and establishing a safety net for the poor.

Fair distribution is such a key issue for Norad that Oslo wants to form a group of like-minded governments that will champion the concept in multilateral arenas such as the U.N. and other fora, the document adds.

“Despite many countries experiencing strong economic growth, poverty does not disappear on its own. Instead, the disparities between rich and poor within countries are increasing. This is unfair. The world needs a more fair distribution of power and resources,” Norwegian Minister of Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås said in a statement.

Norway, a member of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is one of only a few donors that have met or exceeded the U.N. target of spending 0.7 percent of gross national income on official development assistance.

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About the author

  • Carlos Santamaria

    Carlos is a former associate editor for breaking news in Devex's Manila-based news team. He joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE ,and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York, and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.