The current Norwegian government is a strong and committed advocate for women’s and children’s health, gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). It has also committed to be particularly vocal about controversial issues such as abortion and LGBT rights. The focus on SRHR has been strengthened during 2012.
The Norwegian ‘red/green’ coalition government is headed by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (Labour Party). The government consists of three parties, the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party, and has held the majority in the Parliament (Stortinget) since 2005. Work to improve women’s and children’s health is one of the main targets in the government’s stated objectives for its international development cooperation in the inaugural declarations from 2005 and 2009.
Norwegian ODA is still 1% of GNP. Support for refugee-related activities within Norway is included in this 1% (according to the OECD DAC guidelines). The ODA budget for 2013 surpassed NOK 30 billion for the first time in history.
In the state budget for 2013 an increase of NOK 650 million was announced for ‘global health initiatives’. Included in this amount is additional NOK 150 million to family planning, and NOK 300 million to the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children.
Most of the Norwegian health ODA is channeled through multilateral organizations (WHO, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF) and global health funds and mechanisms such as GAVI and the Global Fund. Norway is also a rather large contributor when it comes to core funding, both to multilaterals and (I)NGOs.
Funding to Reproductive Health (RH) and Family Planning (FP) 2009 – 2011
In 2009, 0.6 % of Norwegian ODA went to RH, while 0.002% went to FP.
In 2010, 0.6 % of Norwegian ODA went to RH and 0.0023% to FP.
In 2011, 0.6 % of total ODA went to RH, and 0.090 % went to FP.
Both the relative and the absolute amount spent on DAC sector 130 ‘Population Policies/Programmes and Reproductive Health’ has gone down from 2009 to 2011.
In 2009, NOK 507.7 million was spent on DAC sector 130. This equaled 1.98 % of the total ODA, and 22,3 % of the total amount spent on Health and Social Services in Norwegian ODA 2009.
In 2010, NOK 455.1 million was spent on DAC sector 130, which equaled 1.64 % of the total ODA and 26.4 % of the total spent on Health and Social Services in 2010.
In 2011, NOK 434.2 million was spent on DAC sector 130 ‘Population Policies/Programmes and Reproductive Health’. This amount equaled 1.57 % of the total ODA, and 24 % of the total amount spent on Health and Social Services in Norwegian ODA in 2011.
The above numbers do not include core support to UN and multilateral agencies, but they do include project support to both multilaterals and civil society, as well as core support to civil society. However, the numbers do not capture all of the project funding to UNFPA as some of the UNFPA funded projects are listed under other sectors than DAC 130. But the funding to UNFPA has not increased consistently since 2009 (see data on UNFPA). Even though these numbers do not capture all the aspects of Norwegian funding to reproductive health and family planning, they are good proxy indicators and allow us to conclude that even though reproductive health and family planning has received increased attention over the last years, the attention has not been supported by an increase in funding.
All the numbers are based on information from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).
The Millennium Development Goals and the Global Strategy for the Health MDGs
The Millennium Development Goals and the fight to reduce poverty form the foundation for the current Norwegian government’s development cooperation. Thus, the MDG framework also lays the foundation for the government’s policies for health in development cooperation, which is heavily geared toward MDGs 4, 5 and 6. Norway is a big contributor to GAVI, which received NOK 428 600 000 in core support in 2011.
Early 2012 the first white paper on global health, ‘Global health in foreign and development policy’, was launched by the Norwegian government. Mobilizing for women’s and children’s rights and health; reducing the burden of disease with emphasis on prevention; and promoting human security through health are listed as prioritized themes. According to the white paper: ‘Norway will focus more strongly on the right to services and on measures that are particularly important for children, young people, women and vulnerable groups, including sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention’ (2012: 16). Further, it states that: ‘in addition to access to health services in general, family planning and professional midwifery services are critical components in the efforts to improve women’s and children’s health’ (2012: 16).
The Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, has been a strong advocate for increased political support and funding for the health MDGs internationally. ‘The Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health’ is currently regarded a top priority for the Norwegian government when it comes to international health initiatives, and will guide its priorities towards 2015 (Source: Norad). Stoltenberg headed the ‘UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children’ together with President of Nigeria, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan in 2012.
Gender Equality and SRHR
Gender equality is a high priority for the government both domestically and internationally. Gender equality is not only regarded as an aim in itself, but also as a means to achieve poverty alleviation. It is also seen as a field in which Norway holds a comparative advantage, given the high degree of gender equality within Norway compared to many other countries
In the ‘Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Development Cooperation’ (2007–2013), ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ (SRHR) is listed as one of four prioritized areas within the work on gender equality. The three others are economic and political participation and violence against women. The Action Plan states that that ‘Norway will be a fearless champion for sexual and reproductive health and rights’ (2007: 7). Women’s right to control their own bodies, freedom from violence and abuse, the right to sexual education, teenagers’ and adult’s right to contraception and the right to abortion on demand are listed as important themes for the Norwegian government. It is also stated that it will ‘(…) also fight all forms of discrimination and stigmatisation on the grounds of sexual orientation’ (2007:7).