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The aid organizations want course delivery

The aid environment places with cautious optimism and clear demands on the new government's foreign and development policy. The most important requirements are new courses in aid policy, stronger focus on children, the environment, peace, trade and indigenous peoples – and better cooperation between the various ministers.


- The government declaration adjusts current policy in a direction we largely agree on. The obligation to work for an international debt court and to cancel illegitimate debt is important, as well as that there are no requirements for privatization and liberalization as a prerequisite for debt relief and loans , says Secretary General Atle Sommerfeldt of Norwegian Church Aid.

The aid community is following the new government with an arguing eye. Ny Tid has spoken to representatives of 15 of the Norwegian organizations. The trend is clear: They believe that the appointments of Erik Solheim as Minister of Development and Jonas Gahr Støre as Minister of Foreign Affairs form a good basis for a critical dialogue in the future. Several praise Hilde Frafjord Johnsen for her commitment, but believe that the new ministers can stand for better cooperation within the ministry and in the government. They believe the Soria Moria Declaration bodes well, especially with regard to the marked change of course in aid policy, where the government will focus on and give more to the UN and UN organizations, and less to aid through the World Bank. The organizations place special emphasis on seeing developments in relation to Norwegian interests and how we behave in the WTO. And the different organizations are calling for different initiatives; on women, children, trade, indigenous peoples, environment and peace.

Popular Ministers

The immediate response to the very appointment of the ministers is very good from the aid environment.

- Our contact with the government is primarily through the Minister for Development Aid, says general manager Ole Bjørn Ileby in the organization Friendship North / South.

- We have experienced the collaboration with the resigned Minister of Development very positively and have no reason to believe that collaboration with Erik Solheim in this position will be different.

The Red Cross has lost what they refer to as a dedicated, dedicated and creative leader.

- At the same time, we are pleased that Norway will have a Minister of Foreign Affairs who has in-depth knowledge of the humanitarian needs both at home and abroad and of international humanitarian law. We are proud that he comes from the Red Cross, says President Thorvald Stoltenberg in a press release.

Secretary-General Øistein Garcia de Presno of the National Power Foundation says it will be tough to match Hilde Frafjord Johnson's formidable efforts.

- But precisely the fact that such an experienced and heavy politician as Erik Solheim becomes Minister of Development, shows respect for what this field represents in terms of political challenges. Solheim's experiences from within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in recent years should also prevent unfortunate shifts between foreign policy and development policy leadership in the ministry.

Project manager Vigdis-Merete Rønning in Global Info, the Free Church Council's Global Information is somewhat more uncertain at Solheim.

- Solheim is an experienced politician, albeit somewhat more "controversial" than Gahr Støre. I hope and believe that he will do a good job, and continue the good cooperation with the many different aid organizations that are in action.

Sandro Parmeggiani in Plan Norway is particularly positive about the combination of the two ministers:

- It testifies to a strong commitment to the cause of the poor. I think there will be an even stronger focus on democratization processes, peace work / conflict management, and environmental assistance. Also expects an even stronger focus on the poorest of the poor, and hopes for a special focus on measures for children.

The organizations believe that an effective development policy depends on better cooperation between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development than has been the tradition in Norway in recent years, especially in the last government.

- I am afraid that "peace and reconciliation", which has become a central and independent part of Norwegian foreign policy, will be subject to the Minister for Development Aid. In order for this field to have sufficient weight, it must have the Foreign Minister's attention. Much will now depend on the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development's ability to work well together, says director Stein Tønnesson at the peace research institute PRIO to Ny Tid.

A strong statement

The government statement has already been read among committed volunteers around the country. They are very positive to the main lines. Criticism of the previous government's development policy focused on Norway's channeling of aid through organizations such as the World Bank, and the lack of link between Norway's behavior in trade policy in organizations such as the WTO and concrete developments, which depend on more factors than just aid.

- Although it is important to increase the rich countries' aid, this is not an alpha and omega. Much of the traditional aid has yielded modest results. An international innovation is needed around development cooperation, and Norwegian development cooperation should be developed in Asia, so that experiences from an area where there is rapid growth can be drawn into cooperation with those countries that have a negative development – both for better and worse, says Stein Tønnesson .

The Development Fund's Aksel Nærstad expects the new government to follow up on what it writes in its platform to increasingly shift aid from the World Bank to the UN system, by reducing allocations to the World Bank, and rather increase corresponding allocations to organizations and institutions working directly with the poor.

Conditional cheers

But even though the organizations are largely satisfied with the declaration itself, there is no unconditional jubilation that meets Gahr Støre and Solheim when they now have to face everyday life in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The various organizations have found various shortcomings in the declaration, and they are critically hesitant to see what will actually be implemented. The organization that is the recipient of Sunday's TV campaign, FOKUS (Forum for Women and Development Questions / Forum for Women and Development), would like a stronger focus on the women's perspective in the development work:

- We welcome a pronounced focus on reproductive health and the fight against abuse, but can not see concrete measures that are about raising these issues, where the women's perspective is not specified either, says information manager Sidsel E. Aas.

Christoffer Grønstad, leader of the National Council for Norway's Children and Youth Organizations, misses a stronger focus on children and young people:

- The authorities have created expectations among children and young people both in the South and in the North by adopting such a strategy with a focus on children's and young people's rights, and we expect it to be followed up. We therefore find it disappointing that the Soria Moria Declaration does not mention the rights of children and young people at all.

Magnus Bjørnsen, political deputy leader, The Joint Council for Africa points out that the government's development policy already faces one of its biggest challenges in the first week at work, with the main council meeting of the WTO. Trade in relation to development is Bjørnsen's heart's desire. He wants a strong increase in imports from Africa.

- The government has said that they want to increase import quotas from poor countries and not just those that are defined as developing countries, that is good. But they have a problem in relation to the Center Party's central role in the government. Here is a real level of conflict in relation to taking care of Norwegian agriculture, at least as it is now, and increasing imports from Africa.

Deputy leader Øygunn Sundsbø Brynildsen in SAIH, the Students 'and Academics' International Aid Fund, wants a stronger focus on education and indigenous peoples in the development work:

- SAIH is here particularly concerned that the work for primary school education for all should not go beyond the building of good higher education systems and that indigenous peoples, a group that is invisible in UN documents to achieve the millennium goals, should be made visible. The government declaration is comprehensive when it comes to development policy, but indigenous peoples are not mentioned as a target group. Norway has prepared good guidelines for "Norwegian efforts to strengthen the work with indigenous peoples in development cooperation". Now the government's task is to be responsible for the implementation of these and ensure that the guidelines are followed at all levels in Norwegian development and foreign policy. SAIH will also demand an increased investment in assistance to higher education.

Atle Sommerfeldt of Norwegian Church Aid will initially monitor that the government actually follows the obligations they have now set themselves.

- The first test will be whether they in their state budget will make sure to reach 1 percent of GNI by allocating another 900 million to the new disaster fund in the UN. Secondly, we would expect that the more critical attitude towards the financial institutions (the World Bank and the IMF) will lead to a greater connection between what Norway has as development policy goals and the policy in these organizations, especially in the IMF. Here it becomes crucial that the Minister for Development Aid and the Minister of Finance are more in line than in the previous government. We also expect that Norway will become an active player in the new UN peacebuilding council. Within development assistance more narrowly, we would expect water to be given higher priority and that support for building sustainable agriculture with both local food security and export capacity as a goal be raised.

New requirements

Ketil Fred Hansen from Idegruppen nord / sør appreciates the new government's focus on more environment in development assistance is very good.

- A small but important step to show that the government believes seriously should be to ban the import of tropical timber immediately, he says.

- If Norway is to become world champion in environmental assistance as the new government wants, we must show that we act the way we want others to act;

deforestation destroys livelihoods for large indigenous groups and

damages the global eco-balance.

Secretary General Øistein Garcia de Presno of the Strømmestiftelsen wants the government to take seriously that nothing puts the poor back more than lack of education, lack of access to capital and absence of their own organizations.

- These three give voice and tools to the poor so they can take up the fight against poverty themselves. Norwegian development policy and development assistance must be there for the poorest. In this sense, it is also a great challenge to see coherence in all the policies that Norway pursues internationally. We can not give with one to then bring with us the other. Solheim understands this. He knows that although aid is important, far more tools are needed at the checkout for a proper development policy.

FORUT's general secretary Morten Lønstad also emphasizes that the government has signaled increased support and confidence in the UN system.

- We hope it also sees the value of and wants to continue investing in the development cooperation that the Norwegian organizations represent. We are particularly pleased that Solheim, on his first day as Minister for Development Aid, expressed that he would listen to organizations and environments that worked with aid and peace work, he concludes hopefully.

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