OECD on Norwegian foreign aid: Less countries, more focus

Børge Brende, Norway's foreign minister helps lift a sack of grains for sowing to help farmers with their livelihood in post-Haiyan Philippines. A peer review published by the the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has recommendations on how the country can improve its foreign aid. Photo by: Astrid Sehl / Ministry of Foreign Affairs / CC BY-NC-ND

Norway, one of the most generous donor countries in the world in per capita terms, is implementing a generally positive foreign aid policy, but there is room for improvement on effectiveness and focusing on results.

That’s the assessment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which on Monday published a peer review that suggested Norway cut down on the number of countries it gives official development assistance to and focus on issues — for instance, peace building, climate change and global health — that are truly relevant to those countries, not in general.

The report also called for better management of projects and disbursement of money, as well as for Norway to pursue a trade policy that allow developing countries to compete fairly with Norwegian business, rather than just produce cheap goods and import manufactured items from Norway.

After the peer review was launched, the Norwegian government acknowledged it can do better on foreign aid, and vowed to do so in the future.

“We appreciate the positive feedback, but the most important thing is that we take note of the recommended areas for improvement, and make constructive use of the OECD’s recommendations,” said foreign minister Børge Brende.

Brende also agreed that despite Norway being the OECD-DAC’s third-most generous donor in per capita terms behind only Luxembourg and Sweden, giving out a lot of money to poor nations and development projects is not enough.

“It is not just the volume of aid that counts; it is also the effect of the aid and the results it gives. We must become more adept at clearly specifying expected results, and at carrying out systematic evaluations and learning lessons afterwards. If we are to achieve the best possible results, it is essential that we follow up the aid we give properly,” he noted in a statement.

Prior to the release of the OECD peer review, the new conservative government elected in Sept. 2013 already decided to streamline programs, reduce from over 100 to somewhere between 20 and 40 the number of countries it gives aid to — concentrating most of its development efforts in Africa — and like Canada or Australia integrate the foreign aid portfolio into the foreign affairs ministry headed by Brende.

It’s worth mentioning that Erik Soldheim, a former Norwegian development minister under the now opposition Socialist Party, is now a senior official at the OECD, but did not take part in the latest peer review.

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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.