'We are facing the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. Current estimates indicate that at least 33 000 asylum seekers and refugees will seek protection in Norway in 2016. If these estimates are correct, three times as many people will seek protection in Norway in 2016 as in 2014. The Government is proposing an increase in the aid budget for 2016 of NOK 1.2 billion,' said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.
The proposed aid budget for 2016 is thus NOK 34.8 billion, which is over 1 % of Norway's gross national income (GNI).
In addition, the Government is proposing to reallocate NOK 4.2 billion to cover the costs associated with receiving refugees.
'Next year's historically large humanitarian aid budget, which includes allocations to Syria and its neighbouring countries, will not be affected by this,' said Mr Brende, adding that the war in Syria has resulted in a humanitarian disaster and that the crisis is steadily worsening. More than 7.5 million Syrians are internally displaced, and over 4 million have fled to neighbouring countries. Not since 1945 have so many people in the world been forced to flee their homes.
'In its proposed aid budget for 2016, the Government is giving priority to the areas of education for children and young people, humanitarian assistance, and health in fragile states. It is through our efforts in these areas that we can make the biggest contribution to alleviating need, helping refugees close to conflict areas, preventing new crises from developing and ensuring long-term development in poor countries. These priority areas will be shielded as far as possible from the changes to the aid budget we are now proposing. The same applies to allocations for the Middle East and Africa,' Mr Brende said.
The rules for reporting of official development assistance (ODA) allow countries to use their aid budgets to cover the costs of refugees' basic needs such as food and shelter for the first year of stay in their country of arrival.
'We are now having to take difficult decisions and make changes to the aid budget in order to be able to receive refugees in Norway and ensure that they are treated with dignity. However, the level of spending on other forms of assistance will continue to be very high. The Government plans to spend NOK 27.5 billion on aid in 2016, not counting expenditure associated with receiving refugees in Norway. Norway's total aid budget for 2016 makes us one of the largest aid donors in the world, both in terms of percentage of GNI and not least in terms of aid per capita,' Mr Brende said. The Government proposes reallocating NOK 3.825 billion within the part of the 2016 aid budget that is administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and NOK 378.3 million within the part of the aid budget that is administered by the Ministry of Climate and Environment (i.e. Norway's International Climate and Forest Initiative).