FLN Profile: Norway

Last updated: February 23, 2024


ODA for Education

According to OECD data, in 2021, Norway contributed US$390 million to the education sector as ODA. This makes Norway the 7th-largest contributor to education among DAC donors, in absolute numbers. In relative terms, Norway is the 12th-largest contributor to global education, amounting to 8% of its total ODA, slightly below the DAC average of 9%.

92%, or US$359 million, of Norway’s educational ODA is disbursed bilaterally. A major portion of the bilateral education ODA included earmarked funding to multilaterals, which accounts for US$211 million, or 54% of overall educational ODA. Key multilateral recipients include UNICEF, GPE, the International Development Association, and UNRWA.

Within Norway’s bilateral ODA for education, primary education received the largest funding, amounting to US$228 million, or 63% of educational bilateral ODA in 2021. Bilateral ODA to EPAM received US$43 million, or 12%, of educational bilateral ODA.

ODA funding benefitting FLN

In 2021, Norway’s bilateral ODA to the education sector amounted to US$360 million. Of this amount, 63%, or US$228 million, was channeled to the primary education sub-sector.

Analyzing project-level information to identify projects with a component focused on FLN using a keyword search methodology based on OECD data, 2%, or US$8 million, of Norway’s total bilateral funding to the education sector was identified as targeting programs with FLN outcomes.

As a bilateral DAC donor, Norway is the fifth-largest contributor to projects containing an FLN component in primary education programs in 2021, in absolute numbers.

Norway’s bilateral funding to projects with FLN components varied over the duration of 2017-2021. 2020 had the largest share of FLN projects as a percentage of educational ODA, reaching 2% in relative terms, or US$9 million in absolute terms.

Looking forward, FLN interventions may be increasingly funded through multilateral channels given Norway's long-term policy interest in using multilateral institutions as a more prominent channel in disbursing ODA. Norway has a long-standing interest in financing UN-based institutions such as UNICEF, which received US$224 million in 2021, followed by GPE who received US$393 million as part of its 2021-2025 replenishment.

Norway is also one of the founding members of ECW, which plays an active role in financing access to education interventions in humanitarian and conflict contexts. Multilateral institutions play a role in financing projects aimed at improving numeracy and literacy outcomes. However, a lack of data limits understanding of the extent of Norway's FLN financing through multilaterals.

Funding channels

In 2021, 97% of Norway’s bilateral funding to FLN was channeled as project-type interventions. 3% was channeled as core support to NGOs, other private bodies, PPPs, and research institutes.

Financing type

All bilateral ODA to FLN was channeled in the form of grants.

Key recipients

Results from the keyword search methodology developed to assess donor financing for FLN indicate that the majority of Norway’s bilateral funding in 2021 was provided to countries in the SSA and the MENA regions. Ethiopia received US$1.7 million, the South of Sahara receiving US$1.2 million, followed by Haiti and Mali receiving approximately US$1 million each and Lebanon receiving US$940,000.

The keyword search methodology provides insights into FLN projects that have been carried out by Norway. These include literacy improvement programs among lower primary school children, particularly aimed at girls and children with disabilities, as well as programs focusing on technologies for improving primary school children’s literacy and numeracy skills.

Policy priorities

Education sector

Norway is one of the key OECD DAC donors to education assistance. Norway’s total ODA to education in 2021 was US$390 million, making it the seventh-largest donor to global education in absolute terms. It ranks 12th in relative terms, as educational ODA accounts for 8% of Norway’s total ODA. Norway remains committed to educational assistance, despite absolute and relative decreases in funding to education since 2016.

Poverty reduction through programs focused on economic development, democratization, human rights, and good governance is a priority within Norway’s development policies. Norway leverages its development commitments to education, humanitarian assistance, health and vaccination, private sector development, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and human rights as a means of advancing its priority of poverty reduction.

Education has remained a top development priority for Norway and is reflected in the doubling of education ODA between 2013-2017, across successive governments. The Norwegian government has continued to fund education ODA at high levels in recent years, standing at US$390 million in 2021.

The guiding document for Norway’s educational developmental priorities is the 2014 white paper, Education for Development, published by the Norwegian MFA. The white paper outlines funding priorities for education, including:

  • All children have the same opportunity to access and complete their education;
  • All children and youth learn basic skills to equip them for adulthood; and
  • As many children and youth as possible develop skills that enable them to find gainful employment, which will help to improve economic growth and sustainable development in the broadest sense.

Norway’s rationale for prioritizing these educational development goals positions education as a fundamental right, a prerequisite for economic growth, and a catalyst for human development at a societal level.

Overall, the approaches and methods used to achieve Norway’s educational developmental goals focus primarily on results-based financing, accountability and sustainability, innovation, building knowledge, and measuring results.

In the 2023 State Budget, the government outlined its priorities within education for 2023. Overall, Norwegian funding will prioritize:

  • Education must help combat social bias and promote equality. Regarding education cooperation, the government will emphasize access to good public education and equal educational opportunities for all;
  • Education in crisis and conflict situations, including in crises caused by climate change. Effective coordination between humanitarian efforts and long-term development will be central to helping children and young people who are affected by crisis and conflict access education; and
  • Measures that give girls and boys equal opportunities to complete, free, and high-quality primary and secondary education.

The current government met with criticism from the previous government and Norwegian CSOs after a decision to reduce funding to the education budget line in the 2023 budget. The opposition, with the Conservative and Christian Democratic parties, stated their disappointment in seeing education deprioritized, noting that it is one of the most important measures for combating poverty, building lasting growth, and securing girls' freedom.

Role of multilateral agencies in the delivery of Norway’s Education ODA

Norway’s foreign policy outlines international cooperation as the ideal approach for solving global development challenges. It acknowledges that any single state cannot solve the world’s most pressing problems and that delivering ODA through multilateral mechanisms is an effective approach to international development. This approach is a key component of Norwegian foreign policy and is reflected in the white paper, Norway’s Role and Interests in Multilateral Cooperation. The paper explains how states are currently less inclined to use multilateral institutions in their development work and advocates for an increased share of multilateral involvement in development aims. This policy direction is difficult to advocate for among other DAC countries, where a majority of ODA is directed bilaterally.

Norway’s emphasis on multilateral funding is particularly apparent through its financing of educational development programs. In 2021, Norway disbursed US$212 million, or 59%, of total ODA to education through earmarked funding to multilaterals institutions.

In spite of its emphasis on multilateral spending, The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation of information on the results of education aid, a report published in 2018 covered findings from an investigation conducted by the Office of the Auditor General of Norway into education ODA disbursed by Norway’s MFA and Norad, found that bilateral projects could more effectively measure ODA decision-making and performance evaluation, relative to multilateral projects. The report also contained commentary on how funding disbursed to UNICEF and GPE lacked a results framework to assess funding performance.

FLN intervention areas

Education is one of Norad’s thematic areas. Within education, Norad identifies specific priority areas:

  • Right to education;
  • Quality in education;
  • Girls’ education;
  • Access to education in war, emergencies, and fragile situations;
  • Innovation in education;
  • Vocational training and entrepreneurship; and
  • Education results reporting systems.

Within these priority areas, basic literacy and numeracy skills are categorized under ‘Quality in education.’ The ‘Quality in education’ priority area focuses on how high-quality education is a prerequisite for development, which has historically not been fully addressed in development policies. Literacy and numeracy skills, along with teacher training and a supportive learning environment, are considered a basic building block for delivering high-quality education.

Impact and Outlook

In Norway’s current educational development policies, there are no explicit mentions of FLN. Given the broad interest in quality education, FLN will likely be an issue of concern, but not to a great extent. Within the education field, current development priorities focus on broader thematic areas such as ‘Education for all,’ with specific emphasis on ‘Access to education’ and ‘Education in situations of conflict and crisis.’

Additionally, a strategy brief from Norad titled NORAD’s strategy towards 2030 indicates a shift in prioritization towards broader themes outside of education, such as strategic investment, key partnerships in sustainable development, contributing to a greener world, innovation within development, and the sharing of knowledge within Norad

Decision Makers

The key agencies and decision makers that play a major role in developing Norway’s Global Education ODA financing and policy are the MFA along with Norad. Additionally, the Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defense conducts evaluations of government policy and prepare recommendations on draft legislation.

  • The MFA is the largest ministry in the Norwegian government and plays a central role in contributing to Norway’s global developmental efforts in education. The ministry’s core task is to advocate for Norway’s interests internationally. The ministry is both a preparatory body and an executive body, covering matters such as foreign policy, economic foreign policy, and development-related activities. Espen Barth Eide is the current Minister for Foreign Affairs and Anne Beathe Tvinnereim serves as the Minister for International Development. The secretary-general and the two-deputy secretaries-general are the highest senior officials in the ministry and are responsible for general management.
  • Norad is the Norwegian agency for development cooperation, with a primary objective to achieve the UN’s sustainability goals. It is a professional body functioning under the MFA whose work is based on instructions and allocation letters from ministries within Norway. Norad plays a central role in disbursing and managing Norway’s ODA and contributes to strategic themes internationally which are of importance to Norway. Norad’s role involves:
    • Aid advisory services;
    • Quality assurance and monitoring;
    • Grant programs;
    • Communication; and
    • Evaluation.
  • The Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defense scrutinizes government policy and prepares recommendations on draft legislation. It comments and votes on the government’s ‘white papers,’ which outline strategies regarding development and the MFA’s budget. The committee has increased importance now because there is currently a minority government in Norway. As such, the government is dependent on getting support from the parliament to get its policies approved.

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