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October 11, 2023
On October 6, 2023, the Norwegian government presented its proposed state budget for 2024. With many low-income countries facing the compounding crises of war, climate change, and food insecurity, anticipation for Norway's international development budget has been high.
The proposed 2024 international development budget currently stands at NOK51.7 billion (US$4.7 billion). In Norway, there is a cross-party consensus that the yearly ODA funding should amount to 1% ODA/GNI. However, the 2024 budget presented only corresponds to 0.94% of estimated GNI in 2024.
Even though the 1% ODA/GNI target was not reached, Norwegian Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim underlined that the total budget amounts to an increase of NOK7.5 billion (US$684 million) compared to the balanced 2023 budget, and stands as the second-largest budget for international development to ever be proposed. Tvinnereim asserted that the budget reflects the needs of both low-income partner countries and Ukraine.
CSOs and development advocates, however, have expressed concerns about shrinking ODA/GNI. Following is an analysis of Norway's proposed 2024 budget, as well as its reception by political and civil society.
Several local CSOs have criticized the proposed budget. Common criticism centers around Norway currently being one of the world's richest countries, making it both disappointing and surprising that the government is failing to meet the 1% ODA/GNI target. Secretary General of Norwegian Church Aid Dagfinn Høybråten, speaking for one of the largest development assistance organizations in the country, noted Norway's abundant oil funds and stated that the expectation that the government achieve its 1% ODA/GNI target is reasonable.
Secretary General of Save the Children Birgitte Lange stated that now is not the time to lower ambitions for international solidarity. According to Lange, the proposed budget not only affects Norway's ability to contribute to a fairer world, but also sends a signal to other, less affluent donors to lower their own development assistance ambitions.
The priorities in Norway's 2024 international development budget are to reduce hunger, increase local food and medicine production, and promote equality. The Nansen program for Ukraine continues to be the largest single investment. Funding towards climate adaptation, food security, and local food production also continued to increase.
The government proposed NOK1.9 billion (US$173 million) to food security, fisheries, and agriculture for 2024. This is an increase of NOK246 million (US$22.4 million) compared to the balanced budget for 2023. Funding through civil society was maintained, and the government will continue its support to important UN organizations, tax-related development cooperation, global health, human rights and gender equality.
Norway's development efforts were increasingly influenced by allocations for renewable energy. In the proposed 2024 budget, NOK1 billion (US$91 million) was allocated to renewable energy, which is an increase of NOK203 million (US$19 million) compared to the balanced budget for 2023. In addition, the government proposed a new state guarantee scheme for renewable energy in LICs. NOK5 billion (US$456 million) was allocated to this scheme. Tvinnereim stated that the funding will contribute to greater investments in renewable energy and more results on the ground in LICs.
The war in Ukraine and the Nansen program also continued to affect annual regional allocations. While the budget line for Ukraine and neighboring countries increased, the budget allocations towards Europe and Central Asia, the Middle East, Asia, and Afghanistan underwent regional cuts compared to the balanced budget for 2023. Regional funding for Africa increased.
One of the budget lines facing the largest cut is education, which was a key priority for the previous government. The educational development budget line faces a cut of NOK160 million (US$15 million) compared to the budget for 2022, standing at NOK997 million (US$91 million) in the proposed 2024 budget. The government argued that the cut is a result of shifting prioritization to other development issues.
SV, the supporting coalition party, expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the budget proposal. The opposition Conservative Party and KrF also expressed criticism.
SV politician Ingrid Fiskaa argued that the government must understand the seriousness of the global situation and the signal that the proposed budget sends to partner countries. She stated that Norway should be able to achieve 1% ODA/GNI, particularly now when international solidarity is needed more than ever.
Former Minister of International Development and KrF representative Dag-Inge Ulstein expressed disagreement with what he described as a clear deprioritization of educational funding. Ulstein emphasized previous consensus agreement among the political parties that education, health, job creation, climate, and humanitarian assistance should be the cornerstone of Norwegian ODA.
The Conservative Party did not express as much concern with the 1% ODA/GNI target not being reached. Instead, it expressed concern about the size of the budget, as well as alignment and predictability of ODA.
Discussions and negotiations on the budget will now begin in Parliament. From October to November, Parliament will debate the government’s budget draft. The budget for international development will be debated in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense. Since the current government is a minority government, they must rely on reaching an agreement with coalition partners in the SV. The SV may use its political capital to reduce the government's ODA cuts, similar to what happened during 2023 budget debates.
Additional proposals or adjustments in the proposed budget must be presented by November 10, 2023. Parliament will then officially approve the budget by mid-December 2023. Although the outcome of the budget negotiations is unknown, local CSOs will likely make a strong attempt to mobilize resources to advocate for larger ODA allocations and achieving the 1% ODA/GNI target.
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