Criticizing government aid cuts

When the government submitted a proposal for a revised national budget, it drew a lot of attention that it wanted to cut a lot of support for several UN organizations, including UNICEF and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Conservative leader Erna Solberg was critical of the government’s decision, calling it a “failed development policy.”

– Cutting education aid, in my opinion, is a development policy that failed miserably. It just means that we have to help crisis after crisis instead of ensuring that children and youth get the education they need to help their own country out of crisis, he told TV2.

CRITICAL: Erna Solberg believes government cuts are a misjudgment. Here he is pictured during the opening of the UN General Assembly last year. Photo: Pontus Hook

Development Assistance Minister Anne Beathe Tvinnereim met her predecessor Dag Inge Ulstein of KrF to debate the cuts, but was first allowed to respond to criticism from the former Prime Minister.

– I completely disagree with that. “We are in the middle of a war on our own continent which has created a greater need to prioritize hard,” said Tvinnereim.

According to the Minister of Development Assistance, the war in Ukraine has caused three urgent needs. We must step up humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, welcome refugees to Norway, and ensure that war does not lead to worldwide famine.

– Therefore, we had to make some major re-priorities. This is demanding, but at the same time we are still the world’s largest donor to the UN on a per capita basis, said Tvinnereim.

He pointed out that another UN organization, the World Food Programme, is receiving increased support from governments. Tvinnerheim was in New York last week where government cuts were a major issue during his meetings with various UN leaders.

Surprise

Conservative leader Erna Solberg also held meetings with UNDP and UNICEF in New York. Both organizations could have their core support from Norway cut by 95 and 72 percent, respectively. Solberg’s impression was that both organizations were “a little surprised” by the message Norway would cut.

– This means that they have less flexibility and less chance of getting into a crisis quickly, says Solberg.

He said he was impressed to hear how UNDP already had staff in Ukraine when the war broke out, and that it laid the groundwork for much of the work that aid organizations have done.

– We wouldn’t have that if other countries did the same as Norway and cut that type of service, he said.

Norway’s Reputation

Last week, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had a telephone conversation about the cuts. A spokesman for the secretary-general told TV2 that the UN was “concerned”.

PRIORITIES: Development Minister Anne Beathe Tvinnereim said the government had to make some difficult priorities because of the war in Ukraine.  Photo: Mathias Ask / TV2

PRIORITIES: Development Minister Anne Beathe Tvinnereim said the government had to make some difficult priorities because of the war in Ukraine. Photo: Mathias Ask / TV2

Aid organizations have warned that Norway’s reputation as one of the United Nations’ most important backers could be jeopardized. Solberg agrees because Norwegian support often requires the United Nations to demand respect for human rights from the authorities in the countries where they do their work.

“I think many will be disappointed, and many will believe that we are not following our own principles,” said Solberg.

Now the Conservatives are not the government’s most natural partner on budget matters. Did you tell UNICEF and UNDP that maybe they should call Audun Lysbakken?

– Yes, I said very honestly that the government has a financial partnership with SV, but I said that we will of course discuss this issue with the government and SV. “I thought it was a short-term priority and was very wrong,” he said.

Lance Heptinstall

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