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Humanitarian aid, peace-building and human rights are defined as main pillars of humanitarian assistance linked to Norway’s foreign policy and development policy.

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health, education, peace and security
children, refugees, women
3 150 Million NOK (2013 budget), 385 Million Euros which in 2012 was 11,8% of Norway’s total aid budget.

Turning point

The first Gulf War represented a landmark for Norway’s humanitarian assistance when the so-called “Norwegian Model” was developed. The model represents a flexible, but close collaboration between authorities, voluntary organisations and the business community (trade and industry) officialised in the Norwegian Emergency Preparedness System - NOREPS.


Types of stakeholders

NGO in general

Non-governmental humanitarian organisations play a key role in international humanitarian efforts; a large proportion of Norwegian humanitarian aid is channelled through such organisations (ca.30%). The humanitarian organisations range from small development organisations to large global ones such as the Norwegian Refugee Council, Norwegian Red Cross, The Norwegian People’s Aid, Redd Barna (Save the Children), Leger uten grenser (Medecins Sans Frontieres) and the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee.

Faith-based organisations

Faith based organisations are the Norwegian Church Aid, ADRA Norway, Caritas Norway Priorities.

Armed Forces

Armed forces have been involved in humanitarian work, although there is a debate about the relationship between armed forces and humanitarian work in the Norwegian public

Private Sector

Private Sector collaboration takes place among other initiatives through NOREPS (The Norwegian Emergency Preparedness System)

State humanitarianism

Ministries and State Agencies involved

The main State actors are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NORAD (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation). From 1952 to 2004 conflict, peace and humanitarian assistance was the responsibility of the Foreign Ministry while development aid was the responsibility of NORAD. With this division of labour a long tradition of involvement in peace processes and humanitarian work started.

Legal framework

Norway has been involved in developing international legal frameworks relevant for humanitarian work, such as the humanitarian law.

Principles and accountability

Norway has been involved in developing the humanitarian principles. The Norwegian humanitarian policy formulated in 2009 identifies the following priority areas: protection of civilians, refugees, IDPs as well as aid workers; gender adapted humanitarian efforts/need based assistance; distinguishing humanitarian and military space; the search for coherence and humanitarian disarmament; a global humanitarian system; respect for humanitarian principles, and more coherent assistance


“The Norwegian model” is based on close cooperation but clear division of roles between the Norwegian authorities and NGOs. Approximately 30% of the total budget for humanitarian assistance is channelled through the NGO-system.

Specific roles of international organisations

United Nations

Norway is a main contributor to OCHA and to UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund. Approximately half of the official humanitarian assistance is channelled through the multilateral system (excluding the ICRC, Norway provides 17% of its humanitarian assistance budget to the Red Cross movement).


Specific focus

Linking Relief Rehabilitation Development

Focus on long term assistance in countries with protracted or recurring conflicts and crises. Also an emerging emphasis on prevention and preparedness.

Civil Protection

Civil protection is key to Norwegian humanitarian assistance through the support to humanitarian disarmaments (including mine and explosive clearance), protection of civilians in armed conflict, refugees and internally displaced persons.


Long term focus on peace-building and human rights as pillars of humanitarian assistance and foreign policy. Norway’s humanitarian engagement is part of an overall foreign and development programme for peace and sustainable development.

Humanitarian Education

Higher education

At the university level, there are a few programmes directed towards humanitarian assistance alone, however, many masters and some undergraduate programmes do have elements of relevance for humanitarian assistance. In fact, an evaluation of Norwegian humanitarian assistance calls for more competency. A research programme to increase capacity and knowledge on humanitarian assistance in Norway has been established in the Research Council of Norway.

In-house training

NRC and MSF conduct introductory courses as do other humanitarian organisations, many of which recruit globally and also make use of international training.

Additional Points

Based on their long term experience in natural disasters and violent conflict, the humanitarian agencies have identified several key challenges, namely assisting people affected by natural disasters where they are already affected by conflict; identifying the needs of vulnerable groups of people such as women, children and disabled people; the lack of contextual understanding on developmental, humanitarian and military efforts in a complex situation; the lack of coordination between national, international and local humanitarian actors, and the need for more knowledge, expertise and experience in leadership in humanitarian crises.



Furre, B. (1992). Norges historie, 1905 – 1990. Oslo: Den Norske Samlaget.

Kongstad, S. (2013). Innovations from Norway: NOREPS - Norwegian Emergency Preparedness System. Speech /Presentation, Genève, 18. September 2013. Archive – Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2012a). Prop 1 S: Proposisjon til Stortinget (forslag til stortingsvedtak). Oslo (Budget proposal 2013). Oslo: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2009). Report No. 40 (2008–2009) to the Storting: Norway’s Humanitarian Policy. (English translation of the St.meld. nr. 40). Oslo: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nordic Consultancy Group / NORAD (2011). Mid-term review of the Norway’s humanitarian policy. NORAD Report 22/2011. Oslo: NORAD- Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

Utenriksdepartementet. 2013. Norsk humanitær politikk. Årsrapport 2012. Oslo: Utenriksdepartementet.


Cathrine Brun and Chamila T. Attanapola
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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