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Source: Government of Norway

‘The Covid-19 pandemic and the measures implemented to combat it have dramatic ramifications for developing countries, and are leading to increased  economic decline, poverty, unemployment and hunger. Groups that are already vulnerable are particularly hard hit. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of investing in the health sector, particularly in countries with weak health systems. The Government has therefore proposed an increase in funding for global health efforts of NOK 500 million in the budget for 2021. The total allocation for global health will be close to NOK 4 billion,’ said Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein.

The aid budget has been restructured in the budget proposal for 2021, and NOK 230 million has been moved to the regional allocations budget item for use to support continued health efforts in partner countries.

‘The Government has given high priority to global health in Norway’s development cooperation for many years. In the fight against Covid-19, we are seeking to ensure that all countries have equal access to vaccines, treatments and tests. At the same time, Norway is working to improve health systems and to prevent efforts to deal with other diseases and combat hunger from derailing as a result of the pandemic. We will help those who are most in need, work towards the Sustainable Development Goals, and seek to leave no one behind,’ Mr Ulstein said.

Norway is one of the largest donors to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which works to improve access to vaccines and strengthen vaccination programmes and health systems in low-income countries. In the budget proposal for 2021, the Government has proposed entering into an agreement with Gavi on the provision of NOK 10.25 billion in funding, to be disbursed in the period 2021–2030.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) has delivered promising results in its work to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. Norway has allocated NOK 1.6 billion to Cepi for the period 2017–2025. In addition, Norway has earmarked NOK 2 billion for Covid-19-related efforts for the period 2021–2030.

‘Supporting the development of an effective vaccine and ensuring that everyone, regardless of their level of income, has access to it are the Government’s top priorities. Until we have a vaccine, the most important health measures we can take to combat the pandemic are infection control measures in local communities, and testing, tracing and isolation of individuals. These measures have major social, economic and health-related impacts, particularly for vulnerable groups, such as women and children, and the poorest people. Our global health efforts are therefore also an important part of the fight against increasing poverty,’ Mr Ulstein said.

The Government is seeking to increase the focus on non-communicable diseases, which account for 70 % of the disease burden and premature deaths worldwide.

‘Non-communicable diseases are a major cause of chronic poverty. Norway was the first country in the world to present a strategy on combating non-communicable diseases in the context of national development policy, and this work  will continue to be a priority in 2021,’ Mr Ulstein said.

Norway’s efforts in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights have improved access to contraception for women, and have helped to ensure that fewer women die in childbirth or as result of unsafe abortions. The Covid-19 crisis has reduced access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and has led to an increase in child marriages and teenage pregnancies. The Government will continue to give priority to efforts in this area.

‘A lot of money and attention are now being directed towards the Covid-19 response, but our efforts in key priority areas of our development policy – education, climate change and food security, for example – will be maintained. The fight against corruption and illicit financial flows is as important as ever. I consider it particularly important to take action to help the world’s poorest people. That is why we have given priority to improving the social safety net for the most vulnerable groups, for example by providing support for school meals and promoting the use of cash-based assistance. We will also maintain our allocation of NOK 1 billion in support of women’s rights and gender equality and will prevent cutbacks in funding for civil society,’ Mr Ulstein said.

The Government’s proposed aid budget for 2021 amounts to just over NOK 38.1 billion. This is 1 % of Norway’s estimated gross national income (GNI) for 2021.

‘This budget reflects the challenges confronting the Norwegian economy. Because of the decline in Norway’s estimated GNI, we have to make tough choices in our development efforts. The pandemic is affecting everyone, but it is the poorest and most vulnerable who are being hit the hardest. That is why it is important for the Government to fulfil the commitment made in its political platform to allocate 1 % of Norway’s gross national income to official development assistance. This is essential at a time when we are seeing the first rise in global poverty since 1998. We know that aid will be more important in the period ahead because trade, investments and remittances are in sharp decline in developing countries,’ Mr Ulstein said.             

Restructuring of the aid budget

The aid budget in the budget proposal for 2021 has been restructured in a number of ways. This is to reflect the fact that following the Reform 2019 project, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) administers a larger part of the aid budget that the Minister of International Development is responsible for, with the exception of funding for Norfund (the Norwegian Investment Fund for developing countries) and the Norwegian Agency for Exchange Cooperation (Norec).

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