Ethio-Norwegian ties date back decades, established in 1948 with cooperation spanning in politics, development and missionary work. The Norwegian embassies in Cairo and Nairobi played important roles in the relationship between the countries before the Norwegian Embassy in Addis Ababa was opened in 1991.
Strong bonds between Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie and the Norwegian royal family were established in London during the Second World War. The Emperor visited Norway in 1958 and King Olav V visited Ethiopia in 1966.
The two countries relationship hasn’t been all smooth; in 2007 Ethiopia forced the Norwegian Embassy to reduce the number of its diplomats just to three and that has led to a cancelation of up to six assistance programs while it pre-empted expansion of seven others. Since then however, the two sides seem to be able to see eye to eye with cooperation recovering and new projects being on the pipes.
To follow up with the latest initiatives and further assess new potential partnerships for the two countries Villa Kulild, the director general of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), and other officials paid a visit to Addis Ababa earlier this week. In an interview with Capital’s Kirubel Tadesse, Kulild says the latest trend in the two countries’ cooperation is promising. Excerpts:
Purpose of visit
I am here to visit Ethiopian authorities and colleagues from the donor community like the World Bank, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and other donors.
Very concretely I am here to respond to a request from the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines which has announced that they are very interested in learning from the Norwegian experience on managing natural resources.
Mines; lessons from Norway
There is an interest from the Ethiopian side and we would like to share our experience in natural resource management. Setting up the ownership structure, a tax system, licensing new concessions in the sector are among areas we were discussing.
Involving the local community in such investments and conducting environmental impact studies are also issues which are relevant. We have extended an invitation to Ethiopian authorities to send civil servants and experts to Norway to share experiences and receive training.
This was our first meeting and we look forward to deepen our collaboration on natural resource management issues.
We had a meeting during the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban between Norway, UK and Ethiopia on supporting the Ethiopian green growth strategy.
In that respect Norway announced that it will significantly increase its development assistance to Ethiopia. This trip also has the purpose of further looking into this area and to have a dialogue with Ethiopian authorities on how we embark on strengthening collaboration on climate issues. The partnership is the first in its kind.
Bilateral ties’ trend
I would say the trend is very positive. It has been improving. For the past ten years, the annual amount of Norwegian development support to Ethiopia has been between NOK 200 million and NOK 280 million.
We see Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as a true leader on the global climate scene, we appreciate his contribution. Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg led the UN High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing in developing countries together with Prime Minister Meles in 2010.
Together with our European partners we are working across the board in our relationship covering all areas including human rights and democracy concerns.
The communication in Durban was broader than just the Energy + initiative. It is related to climate resilient agriculture, the Redd + forest initiative from the Norwegian government and also to renewable energy.
In the Energy + initiative we have agreed with Ethiopia to peruse the area of renewable energy and to assist the country in that particular area.
The Energy + is sort of a double initiative which takes both the climate issue and development agenda into one umbrella.
Related to the climate side it is a question on how you can have a baseline so that you can make sure you have a Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) system. This is so that you can report and verify your introduction of renewable energy compared to a baseline. And you can also report on the amount of new access to energy by the population of Ethiopia. It also has an element of capacity building, to strengthen capacity of managing these resources. These among others are areas we are discussing with the Ethiopian Environment Authority, and the Ethiopian Ministry of Water and Energy to see how we can assist Ethiopia in this respect.
Norway has already a long standing relationship with Ethiopia in the energy sector. We have undertaken several feasibility studies on hydro power projects. We are supporting a multi-donor trust fund; it called the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries (SREP) and the World Bank is a trustee. It is considering investing in geothermal energy, wind energy, clean cooking stoves and others.
I have very good impression of your government in the areas we are cooperating in. They really own their development strategy; they define the needs of Ethiopia and it makes it very interesting to be a development partner with your country.