Norway - Gender equality
At a glance
Gender is a cross-cutting issue for Norway, for both development and humanitarian assistance
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) gender equality policy marker, Norway spent US$995 million on development activities that targeted gender equality either as a principal or significant goal. This represented 35% of its bilateral allocable ODA. Gender-focused funding increased by 18% between 2017 and 2018, largely driven by a spike in funding for gender equality within humanitarian assistance which almost doubled, going from US$123 million to US$217 million.
While Norway’s funding for gender equality steeply increased in 2018, it remained well below the 44% average among members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC). In its latest OECD DAC statistical peer review (2020), Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Development Agency (Norad) raise concerns about their government’s stricter interpretation of the gender policy marker, in comparison with other DAC donors. They argue that this more stringent interpretation of the marker could explain Norway’s relatively lower levels of gender-related funding compared to other DAC donors. Nonetheless, Norway recently introduced a target for 50% of its development projects to address gender equality as a significant or principal objective. This suggests there will be growth in gender-focused funding in the coming years.
Gender policy marker: Projects which “advance gender equality and women’s empowerment or reduce discrimination and inequalities based on sex” are tagged in the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database.
Recent research by Oxfam found that around 25% of projects self-reported by donors using the gender equality marker were mismarked. This has implications for the validity of funding figures.
The marker rates projects based on three possible scores:
1) Principal, meaning that gender equality is the main objective of the project or program,
2) Significant, for projects in which gender equality is an important and deliberate goal but not the main objective, or
3) Not targeted, used in cases where programs do not target gender equality.
Not all projects are screened against the gender marker; this funding falls into the ‘not screened’ category.
Beyond mainstreaming gender issues across its portfolio, the Norwegian budget comprises an ‘Equality’ budget line that funds specific projects for women’s rights and gender equality. In 2020, it was set at NOK1.4 billion (US$175 million, up from US$123 million budgeted in 2019).
Gender equality is one of four cross-cutting objectives of Norway’s ODA policy. Efforts are anchored in the ‘Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Foreign Affairs and Development Policy 2016-2020’, which defines five thematic priorities: 1) The right of girls to education, 2) women’s political rights and empowerment, 3) women’s economic rights and empowerment, 4) a life free of violence and harmful practices, and 5) sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). In 2019, the government published its 2019-2023 ‘International Strategy to Eliminate Harmful Practices’, setting out efforts to support this area, with a focus on child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation. In the context of its overall foreign policy (including within development cooperation), the Norwegian government published its ‘Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security’ (2019-2022), focusing on women’s participation and rights both in initial, informal peace talks and informal peace negotiation.
In addition, gender is a key component of Norway’s humanitarian responses. Its 2019 humanitarian strategy states that the gender perspective is to be integrated into all humanitarian efforts, with a special focus on women’s rights (including protection against sexual and gender-based violence) and participation.
Norway’s ODA disbursements reflect these priorities: In 2018, projects in the field of education received more than a quarter of gender-focused funding (27%). It was followed by projects in humanitarian aid (22%), government and civil society (19%), health and population (14%), and conflict, peace and security (7%).
As for the rest of its ODA, Norway channels large shares of its contributions for gender equality through multilateral organizations. Norway is one of the largest donors to United Nations (UN) Women (US$10 million in core contributions in 2018, US$16 million as earmarked funding) and the United Nations’ Populations Fund (UNFPA; US$64 million in core contributions in 2018, US$29 million earmarked funding). In addition, the government sees its support to Global Financing Facility (GFF) as key in promoting universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR; see sector: ‘Global health’).
Funding for projects with gender as their significant objective drove funding increases
Of the US$995 million spent on gender-related activities in 2018, US$148 million targeted gender equality as a its principal goal. This represents 5% of Norway’s bilateral allocable ODA, slightly below the DAC average of 6%. Funding for projects with gender equality as the principal objective has decreased since 2014 and 2015 when it stood at around US$240 million (9% of bilateral ODA).
This means that the increases in overall gender-focused funding have been largely driven by funding for projects targeting gender equality as a ‘significant’ objective (see box for more information). Such funding stood at US$847 million in 2018 (29% of total bilateral ODA). This was up from around US$640 million in 2014 and 2015 when it made up 23-24% of bilateral ODA.
The remainder of Norway’s bilateral ODA (US$1.9 billion or 65%) was spent on projects that did not target gender at all. Norway screens all of its bilateral allocable ODA against the gender marker (and has done so since at least 2014), a practice that not all DAC donors follow: on average, DAC donors screen 89% of their bilateral ODA.
MFA and Norad share responsibility for gender equality within international cooperation
The MFA is in charge of overall foreign policy. Under its leadership, the Minister for International Development is responsible for development cooperation, including on gender. Within the MFA, the section for Human Rights, Democracy and Gender Equality (within the Department for Multilateral Cooperation) is in charge of gender equality and it is also included in the work that the Section for Global Health, Education and Inclusion. Within Norad, the department for economic development, gender, and governance is the most relevant.