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The story of the year’s Danish development cooperation


A father plays with his son in connection with a women’s project in Zimbabwe. The project involves, among other things, teaching women about women’s oppression, democracy and HIV/AIDS-related issues.
Photo: Mikkel Østergaard

The Government’s development policy initiatives in 2011

In December 2011 the new Government, which took office 3 October 2011, launched four development policy priorities for 2012. These priorities are a natural extension of the focus on poverty in the Government Platform:

  • Improving food security, agricultural development and the population’s general resistance to future crises
  • Green growth and sustainability, including access to sustainable energy
  • Promoting rights, democracy and good governance, including a special focus on the rights of women
  • Intensifying the work on stability and the protection of the people in fragile and conflict-stricken countries

These priorities are reflected in the Government’s Finance Act for 2012, which entails, among other things, an increase in development assistance of DKK 234 million. With the 2012 Finance Act the Government has established two frameworks for Denmark’s development cooperation: One framework for poverty-oriented development cooperation, which will constitute by far the majority of the development assistance; and a global framework, which will comprise the development assistance that is not necessarily specifically poverty-oriented, such as stabilisation initiatives, environment and climate change assistance, and support for democratic and economic reforms in, for example, the Middle East and North Africa. The objective is to ensure openness and clarity as to what the assistance funds are used for.

In December 2011 the Government took the initiative to formulate a new strategy for Denmark’s development cooperation. The goal was to provide an updated strategic framework for Denmark’s development cooperation that better reflected the current Government’s development policy and the rights-based approach to development as well as to re-establish the robust cross-party backing for development cooperation through broad consensus in the Folketing (Danish Parliament).

At the end of 2011 the Government also took the initiative of conducting a thorough service check and modernisation of the Danish Act on International Development Cooperation, which is from 1971. A lot has happened to Denmark’s development cooperation since then.

Denmark’s development assistance is still at a high international level

In 2011 Denmark disbursed a total of DKK 15.98 billion in development assistance. This amounts to a development assistance percentage of 0.85 of the gross national income (GNI), which represents a slight decrease in relation to 2010. The decrease in the Danish assistance percentage is a result of the previous Government’s decision to maintain Denmark’s development assistance at DKK 15.2 billion annually for the period 2011-2013. The decline was therefore to be expected.

As is made clear in the Government Platform from 3 October 2011, the Government’s objective is for Denmark’s development assistance to be increased to 1 per cent of GNI over a number of years. With the Finance Act for 2012 the Government has taken the first step in this direction. As a part of the effort to combat global poverty, development assistance is being increased by DKK 234 million in 2012 and an additional DKK 366 million in 2013.

From an international perspective Danish development assistance continues to be at a high level. Thus, in 2011 Denmark was one of only five countries that contributed more than the international target of 0.7 per cent of GNI in development assistance. Besides Denmark, the other countries were Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. This picture remains unchanged in relation to 2010.

At the meeting the Minister for Development Cooperation had with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in December 2010, the Secretary-General expressed great appreciation for the fact that despite the international financial crisis Denmark had increased its development assistance and assumed a position of international leadership. Unfortunately, it must be admitted that after a long period of increases, international development assistance decreased from 2010 to 2011. The most significant causes for this decline were the financial crisis and global economic stagnation, with their impact on development assistance not being completely felt until 2011.


Bilateral efforts – an increased focus on fewer priority countries

In 2011 Denmark disbursed development assistance to a total of 72 countries. By far the majority of the Danish engagement was, however, focused on a smaller number of priority countries. The priority countries are the countries where Denmark is present with a long-term engagement with political and financial weight. Nicaragua’s status as a Danish priority country came to an end at the end of 2011, and Denmark began 2012 with 25 priority countries, five of which are currently being phased out. By focusing on bilateral assistance, the goal is to have a greater impact within the Government’s development policy priorities in the group of priority countries.

In 2011 it was decided to phase out the assistance to Zambia, Benin and Cambodia. There are, of course, still challenges in these three countries, but Danish development cooperation has helped create results that make it possible for the countries to continue with the positive development, even when the Danish development cooperation comes to an end within a timeframe of 2-3 years. The previous Government’s decision in 2010 regarding a general phase out of the development cooperation with Bolivia will be re-evaluated in the course of 2012. The assessment is that by focusing on poor and vulnerable population groups, Denmark can continue to make a crucial difference in Bolivia.

The majority of Danish development assistance, corresponding to roughly two-thirds of all bilateral assistance, went again to Africa in 2011. This is where the development need is greatest, particularly in fragile states such as South Sudan, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

South Sudan achieved independence 9 July 2011 becoming the newest independent – and fragile – state in Africa. For a great number of years Denmark has been involved in the now independent South Sudan. The partnership will be adjusted to fit the new situation since Danish support is to contribute to a united South Sudan in the future through improved governance, development of security and the rule of law, increased economic development and improved living conditions for the population as a whole. A significant part of the effort will, moreover, focus on helping to improve the humanitarian situation in the country. In 2011 Denmark disbursed DKK 70 million in bilateral support to South Sudan.

In 2011 Denmark had a special focus on launching initiatives that can help ameliorate the complex and unstable situation in Somalia, which must be considered the weakest state in Africa. The stability of Somalia is undermined by widespread piracy and by the conflict between the transitional government and the Islamic al-Shabaab militia. In 2011 Denmark therefore worked together with the UN and the EU to find long-term solutions to Somalia’s problems. The focus will be on good governance, improved living conditions, support for women’s rights and economic opportunities, stabilisation as well as growth and job creation. In 2011 the Danish Government disbursed just under DKK 200 million in bilateral support to Somalia.

In 2011 Denmark strengthened the development effort in Afghanistan. Danish development cooperation with Afghanistan is to contribute to stable development. The objective is for the country to be able to assume responsibility for its own security at the end of 2014. A stable Afghanistan is best ensured through democratic development and support for promoting human rights. In 2011 Denmark disbursed DKK 438 million in assistance to Afghanistan, which made it the third largest recipient of Danish development assistance. Numbers one and two are Tanzania and Mozambique respectively.

In 2011 the development engagement in Afghanistan had a special focus on state building, education, improving living conditions and Regions of Origin Initiative (ROI) support for refugees.


Focus on reforms – the Partnership for Dialogue and Reform

With the aim of supporting the reform and democratisation processes in the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring, in 2011 the Government launched the “Partnership for Dialogue and Reform”, which supports economic development and job creation in the region. These elements are crucial prerequisites for the new democratic governments to be able to ensure popular support in the future. In addition, the Government’s new Partnership for Dialogue and Reform programme focuses on supporting civil society and actors for reform in the region. The focus areas for the activities in 2011 were young people, human rights, women and gender equality along with popular participation. In 2011 DKK 200 million was allocated for the initiative.

As a supplement to the new Partnership for Dialogue and Reform, in 2011 the Government launched the Arab Investment Fund (AIF), which, in partnership with Danish enterprises, is to undertake investments in the private sector in North Africa and the Middle East. The AIF is administered by the Investment Fund for Developing Countries (IFU), which has established a regional AIF office at the Embassy in Cairo.


Multilateral efforts

In 2011 Denmark also provided a significant contribution to multilateral development cooperation. For instance, in 2011 Denmark made a binding commitment regarding Danish participation in the 16th replenishment (IDA 16) of the International Development Association (IDA), which is the part of the World Bank that provides support to the poorest developing countries. Denmark has allocated funds totalling up to DKK 2.1 billion that are to be disbursed in the period 2012-16. IDA 16 focuses on gender equality, climate change, fragile states and crisis response, which are crucial focus areas for Danish development cooperation. In addition, in 2011 Denmark contributed DKK 190 million to a capital increase in the World Bank (IBRD).

In 2011 Denmark also worked closely and constructively with various UN funds and programmes and special organisations, including UNICEF, the UNDP, the UNFPA, UNWOMEN, the UNEP, UNAIDS, WHO etc. Denmark is among the largest donors, including of core contributions that are not earmarked for specific activities. In 2011 Denmark was a member of the executive boards of the UNDP, the UNFPA, UNICEF and UNWOMEN, thus playing an important role in terms of ensuring a Danish fingerprint on the work of these organisations.

In the future the Government will strengthen the multilateral efforts. For one thing, the world needs strong, effective international organisations that can tackle the great development challenges that exist. Over the last ten years, including in 2011, the proportion of Danish development assistance that is channelled through multilateral organisations has decreased. This is a development that the Government wishes to reverse. At the same time, Denmark will increase the use of core contributions, as opposed to the many project contributions, special contributions and initiatives in order to ensure greater responsibility and ownership.


Humanitarian efforts

In 2011 there was again a considerable need for Denmark to provide humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable populations in developing countries. The situation was particularly grave in the Horn of Africa, where in 2011 approximately 13 million people were affected by droughts, starvation and violent conflicts that created a fertile ground for famine and a major need for humanitarian aid. With a total contribution of DKK 354 million, Denmark was among the largest bilateral donors of humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa.

Large parts of Southern and Southeast Asia were also subject to humanitarian situations in 2011, as the region was plagued by extreme flooding that affected more than 23 million people, resulting in both death and major economic losses. The consequences were particularly severe in Pakistan, where between 5 and 9 million people were directly affected by the widespread damage to crops, houses and food supplies. In northern Afghanistan the situation was the reverse, with widespread drought causing starvation and malnutrition. The Government decided therefore in 2011 to provide humanitarian aid to both countries.

Other developing countries in Asia were also affected by humanitarian crises and received Danish-supported humanitarian assistance in 2011. One of these countries was the Philippines, which was hit by Typhoon Washi, leaving behind great swathes of death and destruction as a result of flooding.

In 2011, through the UN and Danish humanitarian assistance organisations Denmark contributed to mitigating the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Libya. Denmark contributed, among other things, funds for the UN’s mine clearance efforts, and in this connection the UN requested that DanChurchAid send mine clearance specialists to Libya.

At the end of the year a humanitarian crisis arose in Sudan and South Sudan as a consequence of armed conflict in three areas: Darfur and the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Denmark provided humanitarian aid in these areas through the UN and the Danish Refugee Council. Unfortunately, this conflict has continued into 2012.


Cross-cutting thematic efforts in 2011

Mentioned below are some of the cross-cutting thematic efforts from 2011.

Human rights

In 2011 a number of initiatives were launched that focused on human rights, democracy and eliminating corruption. In Burkina Faso, Denmark contributed to training and educating roughly 500 employees in the tax authority office in effective tax administration and combating corruption. Additionally, in 2011 Danida established a collaboration with Save the Children Denmark, UNICEF and the UN Global Compact regarding strengthening the business community’s focus on children’s rights. In this connection an international conference was held in Copenhagen on child labour and the social responsibility of the business community.

Gender equality

In 2011 Denmark launched a number of initiatives concerning gender equality. Among other things, support was given to government institutions and civil society organisations that work with gender equality in priority countries. In Kenya support was provided for a programme that promotes access to family planning and modern methods of birth control. In addition, in 2011 on behalf of the Government the Minister for Development Cooperation entered into strategic public-private collaboration with the American investment bank Goldman Sachs and the American Department of State regarding support to female entrepreneurs in developing countries.


On 7 November 2011 Denmark hosted a successful donor conference for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). The conference focus was on primary education in developing countries and concluded with significant pledges from the representatives of the 52 participating countries. The donors thus committed to increasing their support for primary education by DKK 8.1 billion through 2014. The developing countries similarly pledged to increase their own expenditures on primary education by more than DKK 10 billion in the same period. In 2011 Denmark pledged that over the next four years it will provide over DKK 1 billion for primary education under the GPE, thus becoming the third largest contributor.

Growth and employment

The efforts to promote growth and employment were far reaching in 2011. Denmark contributed to enhancing developing countries’ market access and their integration in the global economy through active involvement in the formulation of a new EU initiative regarding trade and development as well as through the launch of a new programme to promote regional economic integration in East Africa.

With an increased focus on value chain approaches that describe all the activities that enterprises, agriculture and workers undertake to take a given product from its conception to its end use, Denmark supported various initiatives in priority countries. These were initiatives that can create added value through increased production, improved processing, and marketing activities for farmers and processing enterprises. For example, in Bolivia 85 projects were launched with small enterprises that have, up until now, created a 17 per cent increase in earnings for roughly 9,000 families in rural districts. In Zimbabwe, Denmark supported the training of the employees of 600 agribusiness enterprises, which will benefit roughly 200,000 small farmers.

In addition, in 2011 Denmark provided economic support to the “Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative” (EITI) in order to increase transparency and openness regarding financial transactions between governments and enterprises within the extractive industries in developing countries.

The environment and climate change

In the Copenhagen Accord, which resulted from COP 15, industrialised countries committed to fast start climate financing totalling USD 30 billion for the period 2010-2012. Denmark’s contribution to this amount is DKK 1.2 billion, which is to be financed through the Climate Pool. The purpose of the Climate Pool is to assist developing countries in launching activities to limit CO2 emissions as well as to assist the poorest and most vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change.

In 2011 the initiatives in the Climate Pool, which totalled DKK 400 million, primarily targeted support for developing countries’ transition to green growth. This involved three new multilateral initiatives: support for island states’ transition to green growth; support for the Global Green Growth Institute (3GI) with the aim of promoting a green transition in developing countries; and contributions to an international investment fund, the Global Climate Partnership Fund (GCPF), which is to mobilise private funds for climate-relevant investments in developing countries. In addition, there was also support for bilateral initiatives in Kenya, the Maldives and Indonesia with a focus on adaptation and mitigation activities as well as on forest administration.

With a view to creating a central international platform for cooperation in the field of climate change, the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) was established in 2011 as a global public-private partnership with the participation of the Danish, Korean and Mexican governments along with a number of multinational enterprises and international organisations. The goal of 3GF is to contribute to an accelerated transition to a greener global economy by focusing on the growth potential and opportunities in the formation of innovative public-private partnerships. From the Government’s perspective, the long-term ambition is to establish 3GF as the most important annual international event for green growth.

The first 3GF took place 11-12 October 2011 in Copenhagen with the participation of, among others, the UN Secretary General, members of government, politicians, business leaders, investors, experts and opinion makers from a large range of countries. The meeting was a great success, resulting in a number of public-private partnerships within such fields as energy, transport, financing and trade being advanced. The next 3GF is to be held 9-10 October 2012 in Copenhagen.

Results and assistance effectiveness

In November 2011, 3,000 participants from 150 countries gathered in Busan, South Korea at a high-level meeting on development policy. At the meeting both the donor and developing countries affirmed the joint rules for effective assistance: In future focus must be on ownership, the use of countries’ own systems and result-oriented development cooperation that ensures openness and promotes human rights. The support of China, India, Brazil and South Africa for the new joint rules for good development cooperation was, at the same time, an important breakthrough. Moreover, it was encouraging that the pressure for getting everyone on board came from the poorest countries. This was a clear signal that the developing countries require development cooperation to contribute to openness and respect for human rights.