Norway - Gender equality




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$1.2 billion on development activities that targeted gender equality either as a principal or significant goal. This represented 43% of its bilateral allocable official development assistance (ODA). Gender-focused funding has increased by 78% since 2016, largely driven by a spike in funding for gender equality within humanitarian assistance, which more than doubled from US$127 million in 2016 to US$339 million in 2020.  

Norway’s funding for gender equality has largely increased between 2019 and 2020, jumping from 36% to 43% of its total bilateral allocable ODA, close to the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 45%. In its latest OECD DAC statistical peer review (2020), Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Development Agency (Norad) raised 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 2022, it was set at NOK873 million (US$93 million).  

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 in formal 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 2020, humanitarian aid accounted for almost a third (28%) of gender-focused funding. It was followed by projects in the field of education (22%), government and civil society (17%), health and population (13%), and conflict, peace, and security (6%). As for the rest of its ODA, Norway channels large shares of its contributions to gender equality through multilateral organizations.  

Funding for projects with gender as their significant objective drove funding increases 

Of the US$1.2 billion spent on gender-related activities in 2020, US$167 million targeted gender equality as its principal goal. This represents 6% of Norway’s bilateral allocable ODA, slightly below the DAC average of 7%. Funding for projects with gender equality as the principal objective has been increasing steadily since a low of US$116 million (5% of bilateral ODA) in 2017.  

Overall, increases in gender-related funding have been largely driven by funding for projects targeting gender equality as a ‘significant’ objective (see box for more information). This funding stood at US$1.1 billion in 2020 (37% of total bilateral ODA), which was up from around US$816 million in 2019, when it made up 30% of bilateral ODA. 

The remainder of Norway’s bilateral allocable ODA (US$1.6 billion, or 57%) was spent on projects that did not target gender at all. Norway screens all 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 93% of their bilateral ODA.  

MFA and Norad share responsibility for gender equality within international cooperation 

Under MFA 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. Additional gender equality work also falls under the jurisdiction the ‘Section for Global Health, Education and Inclusion.’ Within Norad, the Department for Economic Development, Gender and Governance is the most focused on gender equality.