Guest Post: The NGO known as Norway

March 4, 2014 – This weekend, news broke that Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, a Smaug-sized hoard of $840 billion, has started cutting its investments in mining due to environmental concerns.

Reuters has the story.

“There is environmental damage by definition,” Chief Executive Yngve Slyngstad told the news agency. “It does not mean that we are selling out of the sector. We are concentrating our investments on the companies that we think are continuing this activity in a more sustainable way.”

Very nice. Except for one thing: Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund is in fact Norway’s oil fund, made of earnings from the oil industry, not known for its “environmental sustainability.” So what’s going on here? Is this the nation-state equivalent of spraying pesticides on crops you sell to others, and then appearing environmentally friendly because you serve organic lettuce to your dinner guests? Kind of, except that nobody would be fooled by a bunch of kale, whereas Norway has been extremely successful in becoming “The NGO known as Norway” rather than “Kuwait on the North Sea.”

Say “Norway” to any diplomat, and the association will most likely be recycling, foreign aid, and climate change mitigation. But what’s paying for all those nice things? Oil is. Normally, that paradox doesn’t get too much attention. But when Norway’s Oil Fund announces it’s getting out of certain fossil fuel industries because they’re “bad for the environment,” the inherent contradiction can’t be ignored, making the effect of the statement not quite the intended gilding of Norway’s NGO status. Rather, this announcement makes Norway look hypocritical, like a country telling the world to do as they say, not as they do. Too many of these and that NGO status could come up for review, Norway.

– Julia Grønnevet is a freelance reporter based in Oslo.


Half of Syria’s Chemical Warfare Agents to be destroyed in Norway – Report


update: Oct 25 – In a statement on its website, Norway’s ministry of foreign affairs says it won’t destroy Syria’s chemical warfare agents: “due to time constraints and external factors, such as capacities, regulatory requirements, Norway is not the most suitable location for the destruction of Syrian chemical warfare agents.”

Oct. 20, 2013 – Up to 500 tons of Syria’s stockpile of sarin gas is set to be destroyed in Norway pending agreement by Oslo.

Norwegian state broadcaster NRK reported on Sunday that an internal UN memo it obtained shows that the five permanent members of the Security Council along with Albania and Belgium have been asked to destroy Syria’s chemical warfare agents.

But Norway, home of the Nobel Foundation that last week bestowed its annual peace prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has been asked to destroy up to half of the estimated 1,000 tons of chemical agents thought to be in Syria’s possession. 

A UN Security Council resolution passed on Sept. 27 set mid-2014 as deadline for destruction of Syria’s entire chemical arsenal.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz


$11.8bln Donated to UN Aid Appeals in 2012 – EU, US Top Givers


The UN’s top aid official, Valerie Amos, meets child refugees in Kabul, May 2012 (photo: UN Photo/Fardin Waezi)

Jan. 6, 2013 – Almost $12bln was donated to UN aid appeals last year with the European Union and the United States contributing more than half that amount.

The European Union (European Commission + 27 Member States) was the largest donor providing $4.9bln while the U.S. was the largest individual donor providing $3.1bln to humanitarian aid appeals in 2012.

A breakdown of the EU number shows that the European Commission – the legislative arm of the EU – donated $1.8bln to UN aid appeals last year while member states provided just over $3bln. The biggest member state donors were Britain ($809mln) and Sweden ($684mln).

Non-EU members Norway and Switzerland donated $493mln and $324mln respectively.

Outside of Europe and the US, Japan was the largest provider of aid to the UN, donating $658mln last year, followed by Canada who gave $496mln, and Australia, $296mln.

Among emerging donors, Brazil provided $54mln to UN humanitarian relief in 2012 while the UAE gave $43mln, Russia, $39mln, China $27mln, and Saudi Arabia $27mln. BRICS countries combined contributed $126mln last year with South Africa giving 3.5mln and India $2.7mln..

The Republic of South Sudan ($792mln), Somalia ($676mln), and Sudan ($588mln) were the biggest recipients of UN aid in 2012.

A tally of the top donors is here.

Denis Fitzgerald