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Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has expressed disappointment with United States’ absence from the COVAX Facility, an international initiative which contributes to the development a COVID-19 vaccine and funding for low- and middle-income countries. The Trump administration has refused to participate due to the World Health Organization's status as a co-leader.
Solberg acknowledges that although the US is not actively participating, it does provide financial support to several of the implementation partners including Gavi. However, Solberg says, the US's lack of participation weakens COVAX's work.
More than 170 countries are in the process of joining the COVAX Facility program. Among those who support it are several of the US's historic allies, including Japan, Germany, and the European Commission. Norway has also joined.
The European Commission has appointed Norway and South Africa as co-leaders of the ACT Accelerator. The Access to Covid-19 Tools-Accelerator is a global coalition of states, foundations, research institutions, and health organizations. The coalition members have a common goal of fighting COVID-19 and ensuring the fair distribution of vaccines, test equipment, medicine, and other healthcare services.
Norway's main task will be to continue efforts on mobilization, as well as to advise and support the work under the group's four pillars: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and health system strengthening. The newly appointed co-leads will also define an agenda for further work and contribute to efficient coordination between the various stakeholders. Norway will focus on the potential need for political clarifications that may emerge in future in the efforts to combat the pandemic.
The European Commission and the World Health Organization will continue to host the collaborative framework.
After several weeks of negotiations, Norway has joined the international vaccine collaboration, the COVAX Facility. The collaboration will ensure low- and middle-income countries can access any newly developed COVID-19 vaccine.
The COVAX Facility is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a collaboration led by the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The idea is for all countries to receive vaccine doses at the same time so that they can distribute them to the hardest hit population groups.
Norway's Minister of Development, Dag Inge Ulstein, says that Norway, together with Germany, has worked with the EU Commission and Gavi to foster better cooperation between the EU and COVAX.
In a recently published opinion piece, Norway's Minister of Development, Dag Inge Ulstein, reflects on the ongoing debate on vaccine nationalism. Ulstein argues that it is the Norwegian government's job to ensure that any newly developed COVID-19 vaccine is available to the Norwegian population, and in addition, it is Norway's responsibility to ensure fair distribution of the vaccine. Ulstein presents three reasons why Norway should fight for a fair distribution of vaccines:
- The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated a number of existing development challenges. Equitable vaccine distribution is key to protecting the world's most vulnerable populations from the compounding impacts of the pandemic.
- The COVID-19 crisis is global in scale, and therefore, solutions must be global in scope. Norway should continue is strong support for key players in the global response to the pandemic, including the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI has already entered into an agreement with a company (AstraZeneca) for the production of three hundred million doses of any new COVID-19 vaccine, which are to be made available to low-income countries. Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also engaged a global health ambassador to strengthen Norway's work in this field.
- As long as there are active COVID-19 cases anywhere in the world, no country is safe, therefore, even if Norway were to adopt a 'Norway first' approach, the solution would be a fair distribution. Cross-border trade, tourism, and community demand that the pandemic is stopped.
Sylvi Listhaug, an influential politician from the Progress Party, warns that there is likely to be a tough battle on development assistance allocations in the national budget for 2021. Listhaug and her party hope to institute sharp cuts in Norway's development assistance budget for next year. She says cuts are necessary given the sharp decline in gross national income (GNI) as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Norway's ODA has, in recent years, been set at 1% of the country's GNI.
The government's proposal for the state budget will be presented on October 7, 2020. The Progress Party will present their alternative budget before the negotiations with the coalition government parties.
In response to a written question to Parliament, Norway's Minister of Finance, Jan Tore Sanner, reported that Norway's gross national income (GNI) in 2020 is estimated at NOK3.5 trillion (US$376 billion). Based on the GNI estimate from the national budget, Norway generally allocates 1% of its GNI to development assistance. Because the GNI estimate presented by Sanner is lower than previously projected, using it as the starting point for the 2020 development assistance budget would entail a NOK4.5 billion (US$413 million) decrease in funding for development.
In his response, Sanner emphasized that there is an unusually high level of uncertainty surrounding GNI estimates in 2020. In early October the government will present its 2021 national budget, which will include official new estimates for Norway's GNI in 2020 and 2021.
The Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has initiated international collaboration to ensure fair distribution of the eventual COVID-19 vaccine. The cooperation program between CEPI, WHO, and Gavi, the vaccine alliance is called Covax. Where CEPI finances the development and production of the vaccines, WHO and GAVI will ensure a fair distribution to poor countries.
CEPI has pre-ordered 300 million doses of the Oxford vaccine by AstraZeneca with the goal of delivering two billion doses by the end of 2021 together with WHO and Gavi.
Assistant Research Director Paul Kristiansen is optimistic but emphasizes the need for more and stable funding. To reach the goal, US$18 billion is needed for research and development. Norway supports CEPI with NOK3 billion (US$323 million) and several other countries also contribute. So far, CEPI has committed to distributing US$895 million for the development of COVID-19 vaccines. The prerequisite for the support is that the companies deliver affordable vaccines back to CEPI for fair distribution through GAVI and WHO.
Kristiansen also argues that there is a need for more than one vaccine due to lack of production capacity, geographical spread due to different storage temperatures, and transport logistics. There are also advantages to having several different manufactures in different countries. CEPI currently supports nine companies and manufacturers in China, Europe, the US, Australia, and Hong Kong.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has appointed John-Arne Røttingen as Norway’s global health ambassador from December 1, 2020. This position will consist of following up the global health efforts and Norwegian participation in international cooperation to combat COVID-19. He will work closely with both the Minister of Development and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Røttingen comes from the position of CEO at the Research Council of Norway as a doctor and epidemiologist. He was central in the work to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa where he led the study in which a new Ebola vaccine was tested in Guinea. Most recently, he has been featured in the news in connection with leading the global steering group for a worldwide study of treatment methods and vaccines against COVID-19.
An important part of the work of Norway's new global health ambassador will be to use their extensive network to try to put in place fair distribution mechanisms so that the poorest countries do not fall far behind in the vaccine queue. The pandemic is a global problem that hits vulnerable groups particularly hard. Therefore, the solution must also be global and reach everyone. Through the government’s strong commitment to establishing and supporting the vaccine coalition CEPI, and through its contribution to the vaccine alliance Gavi, Norway has positioned itself as a key driver for fair global access to vaccines.
During Arendalsuka, an annual weeklong political gathering, a debate among Norwegian party leaders on the topic of the COVID-19 response was marked by several heated discussions.
Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, leader of the Center Party, was asked his opinion on how Norway should approach a possible COVID-19 vaccine. Vedum argued that the most important task of a Norweigian elected official is to ensure the security of the Norwegian population’s food supply and health status. Norway should secure vaccines for the young, the old, and key national personnel, he said.
The Christian Democrats and the Green Party both voiced concerns about Vedum’s statements during the debate, emphasizing the need for international cooperation in the face of a global pandemic.
Following the debate, parliamentary representative and foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Democrats, Geir Toskedal, criticized Vedum's statements. Securing a vaccine for the world’s poorest will be extremely important, he said, and will save an enormous number of lives.
The Center Party's parliamentary leader later noted that the Center Party is not, in fact, against international vaccine cooperation, and that they support the international vaccine alliance Covax.
Norway will support Lebanon with an additional NOK45 million (US$5 million) in the aftermath of the explosions on August 4, 2020. Increasing its financial contribution to meet the new humanitarian needs in Lebanon, Norway's total contribution to Lebanon amounts to NOK70 million (US$8 million).
In recent years, Norway has given significant funding to Lebanon and for 2020, funding was planned at around NOK470 million (US$51 million). The contribution is targeted at the need for continued political and economic reform in Lebanon, including the fight against corruption but will now also include medical assistance for those injured in the explosion, as well as food and shelter for the many who have lost their homes.
Norway will also provide 40 tons of medical equipment and is in the process of entering an agreement with the World Food Program to provide NOK40 million (US$4 million) to ensure the necessary food support to the people affected. The government has also raised the possibility of using the flexible funds through established partnerships with Norwegian voluntary organizations, such as the Norwegian Church Aid and Save the Children.
Join the Donor Tracker this Thursday, August 6, 2020, from 16:00-17:00 (CEST), for a webinar addressing the pressing need for international climate finance in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
In 2015, the latest in a series of global climate change agreements was signed in Paris. The Paris Agreement includes a pledge made by donor countries to mobilize US$100 billion a year by 2020 for climate action in LMICs. This upcoming Donor Tracker webinar will examine the role that ODA can and should play in funding for climate action, including the US$100 billion target. It will include an overview of trends in ODA-related climate funding and policies by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) donors.
This webinar, and our recently published report on climate finance and ODA, complements the recent addition of ‘Climate’ as a sector of analysis across the Donor Tracker Donor Profiles. Climate was added this year in recognition of the importance of climate action to the future of global development efforts.
The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) published a report, entitled 'Development assistance in the aftermath of the corona pandemic', in which Norad experts outline the current situation and highlight their concerns.
Documenting increased inequality, food shortages, and violence against women and children, the report indicates that the COVID-19 crisis has led to greater challenges for the very poor. Furthermore, it suggests that the pandemic has increased opportunities for corruption in many countries. Despite these increased development challenges, Norad director, Bård Vegar Solhjell, fears that many rich countries will cut development assistance as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Join Donor Tracker this Friday, July 24 from 15:00-16:00 (CEST) for a webinar exploring donor financing for women’s economic empowerment, featuring analysis from the Donor Tracker team and our partner, the ONE Campaign.
Gender equality, including women's financial inclusion and economic empowerment, has gained increasing attention from the international donor community in recent years; but to what extent can donors' rhetorical commitment to the issue be seen reflected in data on donors' financing for women's economic empowerment? In this Donor Tracker webinar, Kalila Jaeger and Isabela Vera from the Donor Tracker and Ebba Henningsson from ONE will guide participants through an introduction to the OECD’s gender equality policy marker, discuss the current state of donor finance for gender-related development programming, and explore trends in donor countries' spending on economic empowerment initiatives for women.
In a recent Op-ed, Norway's Labour Party leader and former Executive Director of the World Health Organization (WHO), Jonas Gahr Støre, argues that global health challenges cannot be handled by the health system alone. He calls on the United Nations (UN), development banks, and other key institutions to put pandemic preparedness on the top of their agenda. He also argues that the WHO should be protected — but not protected from change — and urges countries to honor their global health commitments.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norwegian Church Aid have signed an agreement to strengthen farmers and agricultural innovation in Malawi. Among the partners are the Development Fund, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), and several Malawian partners.
The project aims to invest in farmers in Malawi, to contribute to innovation in the agricultural sector and to strengthen the country’s local food system. The farmers will receive training on growing vegetables, increasing their yield, and accessing the market. Norway has committed for a four-year period and will start with a contribution of US$7 million (NOK70 million), but the intention is to provide similar support annually for the rest of the period.
News article – Bistandsaktuelt (in Norwegian)
The Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Norway is committed to and has earmarked funding for the following initiatives:
- Education Cannot Wait: US$55 million (NOK520 million) has been earmarked in the period of 2021-2025.
- The Global Partnership for Education: The last planned contractual payment is in 2020, and Norway has earmarked US$209,800 (NOK2 million) for the period of 2018-2020. In line with the revised national budget from the Storting for 2020, US$11 million (NOK100 million) of the commitment can be withheld and paid out in 2021 to prioritize other measures in 2020.
- UNICEF Sahel: US$5 million (NOK50 million) was committed as a part of the Charlevoix Declaration by Norway’s Prime Minister during the UN General Assembly in 2018.
- UNESCO sex-education: Announced during the 25th anniversary of the action program for the Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) were US$1.5 billion (NOK10.4 billion) for 2020-2025. The funding is linked to commitments to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- Vocational education: US$18 million (NOK173 million) per year is planned to maintain the escalation plan that covers the period of 2018-2021.
- Higher education: The capacity development program in higher education, Norhed II, will receive more than US$105 million (NOK1 billion) for the period 2021-2026. US$20 million (NOK190 million) is allocated annually for this. Agreements into specific projects will be agreed on in the fall of 2020. A university collaboration with the Pacific Islands receives US$3 million (NOK25 million) from 2021-2024. Following the delegation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' and the Ministry of Education's decision in May 2017, the Norpart program is earmarked with a total of US$3 million (NOK25 million) per year. As announced by the Minister for Development in 2019, US$2 million (NOK15 million) has been set aside per year in funds to Norpart.
- Bilateral efforts: Educational measures in Nepal, Malawi, Nigeria, Haiti, Niger, and Ethiopia received the largest commitments in 2021.
Save the Children has expressed fears about the future of schooling after the COVID-19 crisis. Nearly ten million children are at risk of never returning to school after the corona crisis, according to one of the organization's recent reports. Save the Children is calling for US$35 billion from the World Bank for increased funding for education.
The report estimates that the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis will lead to an education funding deficit of US$77 billion to US$92 billion in some of the world’s poorest countries including Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and several countries in West and Central Africa. The fear is that the combination of COVID-19 and sharply reduced investments in education could be a setback for millions of children, already among the most vulnerable in society. This may ultimately increase the number of children subjected to child labor, gender-based violence, child marriage, and teenage pregnancy; the risk is predicted to increase the longer the children are out of school.
The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) has issued a grant scheme targeting countries in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, with Norway pledging NOK 190 million (US$19 million) for the period 2020/2021 to 2023. The call for proposals, titled “Combating Modern Slavery Through Civil Society”, is a component of Norway’s development program to end modern slavery, including forced labor, trafficking, and child labor.
The primary focus of the grant will be on engaging civil society at the country-level, allocating funding to UN organizations, research institutions, and Norwegian Civil Society Organizations.
The Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment has allocated NOK530 million (US$52 million) for payments to Indonesia for demonstrating strong results in a domestic carbon emissions reduction program that seeks to mitigate deforestation, forest degradation, and peatland conversion. The program is part of a partnership from 2010 between Indonesia and Norway, which consists of results-based payments of a total of NOK6.0 billion (US$595 million).
The partnership aims to protect the third largest rainforest in the world, located in Indonesia. Verification from an independent third party shows that the country successfully reduced emissions measuring approximately 17 million tons of CO2, in the period of 2016-2017. This is equivalent to one-third of all annual emissions from Norway.
Indonesia is still working on finishing the establishment of the government’s Environment Fund which is to function as Indonesia’s official channel for receiving results-based payments. Indonesia and Norway are in talks to continue the collaboration from 2020 more extensively into the Paris agreement period.
Press release – Norwegian Government