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Are climate and poverty reduction the main goals of Norwegian aid?

POVERTY / Norwegian Development Cooperation's weak urban efforts over 60 years – an average of five per cent of the annual aid budget – is difficult to understand. Because it is in the cities that the "billion at the bottom" live. Many are calling for measures in areas such as forests and climate, plastic and marine litter, transport, energy, food safety and regional planning.

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

The people here account for 70 percent of climate emissions, consume 70 percent of the energy and create 70 percent of the country's gross domestic product. In addition, two thirds of the world's wars and conflicts take place in connection with cities. 90 percent of all population growth in this century occurs in cities in the South, according to Scanteam (2007) and "The world of cities" (2020). It is in poor urban communities in Africa and Asia (especially in the east and south-east) that the "cascades" of climate attacks will hit particularly hard. There is a strong connection between increased urbanization and climate change.

When senior adviser Heidi B. Bade and director Bård V. Solhjell in Norad conclude in an article in Klassekampen 25.10.21 that "the city is a central arena for poverty reduction, climate reduction and climate adaptation", it is an important recognition. For 60 years, Norwegian aid policy and practice have been characterized by a consistent neglect of urban and regional development. The chronicle is based on the report Aid's contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions: solutions for people, climate and nature. It is one of several Norad reports in the work to investigate new focus areas for Norwegian aid towards 2030.

The reports are becoming numerous and expensive. The question more and more people are asking is: When will the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and development policy management give the green light for follow-up of the reports and a renewal of Norwegian development cooperation? This is badly needed.

A more climate-robust world

The seriousness of the connection between cities, climate and poverty is revealed in the UN Climate Panel's (IPCC) second sub-report in the sixth main report. It states that as many as 3,3-3,6 billion people live in conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to climate change, and that most of these live in cities. With that has IPCC moved into his third main perspective. From first reporting that the world is facing a climate crisis, they have pointed out the importance of drawing nature into the analysis – and then emphasizing the social challenges. A next step will be to investigate more concrete measures that can ensure a transition to a more climate-robust world, since both the city, the climate and poverty are sectors that need integrated action. When will the IPCC come forward with such proposals?

The latest report (especially chapter 6) is based on more comprehensive and thorough research than the previous report, which was limited to health systems, infrastructure and agriculture. Vulnerability challenges in particular appear to be more concrete and thoroughly analysed. At the same time, it also sees the opportunities in the rapid urban growth to plan and build new physical infrastructure. The main conclusion is frightening: The next 10-15 years of rapid urbanization, especially in Africa and Asia, only represent a time-limited opportunity to adapt and reduce emissions. We know how to reduce climate risk and inequality, says the report. But the measures are not put into practice – especially social policy and ecosystem-based adaptations will be able to solve many limitations linked to physical infrastructure with the possibility of a gradual adaptation.

© Eduardo L. Moreno. SDG 11–11.5 Disaster

In the Storting

On 18 March, Andreas S. Unneland (SV) tabled a written question in the Storting to Development Minister Anne B. Tvinnereim about how the government will follow up the Norad report on "aid's contribution" with regard to poverty reduction, climate reduction and adaptation in cities – where the it is proposed to turn several ongoing programs towards cities. This applies to measures within forests and climate, plastic and marine litter, transport, energy, food safety and spatial planning.

"Cities and urban areas are not defined as a separate focus area for Norwegian aid."

  1. On 24 March, Tvinnereim replied to Unneland that "cities and urban areas are not defined as a separate focus area for Norwegian aid". It was pointed out that Norwegian aid to robust and sustainable cities is now ensured by an integrated approach through multilateral development banks. The nexus of cities, climate and poverty, which is proposed in the Norad and IPCC reports, has surprisingly already been operationalised. However, the measures mentioned within land use, planning, taxation, infrastructure and social security do not appear in an integrated, multi-sectoral program context. They are single, separate and occur in different contexts. In the best case, the integration takes place in the development banks' planning work or in their bank accounts in Washington DC. They generally stay there for a long time before being used.

Tvinnereim refers to the Green Development Fund. It is essentially a climate fund that hardly has social development as its goal. So far, local authorities and civil society organizations have been provided with only five percent of the funds. It must be asked: Is poverty
combat still the main goal of Norwegian aid?

Poverty profile

It is crucial how Norwegian funds through the development banks appear as development measures in the recipient countries. Integration is about combining multi-sectoral planning and development processes into coherent services to improve people's lives. What is currently financed through the banks is urban renewal in the modern sector. Medium-sized and smaller cities are neglected, and it is difficult to see a poverty profile. Good measures for most people are most often initiated "from below" under the auspices of their own organisations, such as area development The elder (Nairobi) or Monrovia (Liberia). Since neither the city, the climate nor poverty are sectors, there is a need for integrated action.

Modernization displaced large population groups to the peripheries of the cities.

If we look back a few decades, the World Bank's "Sites and Services" program (1972-90) with 116 projects in 55 countries is an example of how the banking system integrates. The program completely overruled national and local development actors in that international and national NGOs were established and contracted as developers. The homes that were financed were beyond the purchasing power of ordinary people. Modernization displaced large population groups to the city's peripheries with social marginalization as a result.

A recent example is how 20000 residents of Badia East in Lagos had their homes razed through the World Bank-financed "Metropolitan Development Project". Only five percent of the population is adequately compensated.

The city's poorest

The problem with the UN, multilateral development banks and large education and health funds is that they do not reach the poorest in the cities. These increasingly live outside the city limits in informal settlements that are excluded from the authorities' responsibility. People here do not have access to institutions that ensure a minimum of social services and rights. The Covid-19 experiences show that structures that deliver to the poor in informal areas hardly exist.

According to an evaluation panel appointed by Secretary-General António Guterres after the Habitat III conference in 2016, we need a development approach that embraces more than the city, the slums and the informal economy. There is a need for an integrated territorial approach where rural and urban contexts are utilized. Neither the UN's nor the member countries' development policies, including Norway's, reflect such perspectives.

Where international think tanks have time and again emphasized the connection between city and country – "the interaction between leading and lagging places is the key to economic development" (World Development Report, 2009) – Norwegian aid has turned a blind eye.

Anna Malena Giske Skibevaag
Skibevaag is previously employed by UN Habitat and NORCAPS in South Sudan. Board member of Habitat Norway.

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