Virke is challenging the new minister of international development to collaborate on trade


Our new minister for international development is being clear on collaboration and wants a new initiative in the development policy.

Textile worker with sewing machine
Norwegian retailers are well aware of their responsibility, and are working daily in their supply chains to ensure more ethical production and trade.

By: Cathrine G. Jahnsen, Executive Programme Manager at Virke.

«We need a strong priority on UN's sustainable development goals, better coordination of the development policies and we have to mobilize private sector in the fight against poverty» said the new minister for international development, Nikolai Astrup, in his first essay in Dagsavisen upon accession. This is highly welcome by Virke – we have been a driving force in mobilizing the private sector and we are looking forward to being a partner in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Job creation in trade and service sector

In Norway, the trade sector is the largest private sector employer, with more than 370000 employees and increasing. In development countries, 9 out of 10 jobs are being established in the private sector. The importance of trade for job creation is evident: Since the market reform in 1978, China has lifted more than 800 million out of poverty, and has by the end of 2015 achieved all the millennium goals.

According to the World Bank, Vietnam is a development success. After political and economic reforms from 1986, Vietnam has developed from being one of the least developed in the world, with an average income of approx. 100 US$, to an emerging economy with an average income of approx. 2100 US$. Vietnam has proven that this is possible within only a quarter of a century. Cambodia has, according to the UN, become a world champion in poverty reduction, the share of poor has been reduced from 53% to 18% since 2004. In the same period, the number of people who finish elementary school has increased with an amazing 40 percent, according to UNESCO.

We now see new possible manufacturing countries like Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya, only to mention a few, emerging. Ethiopia has with the development of industrial parks, facilitated for sustainable production with clear demands for high level of environmental protection, they are using "Zero-Liquid Discharge" technology to promote protection of the environment. Hawassa industrial park is the first Sustainable Textile and Apparel Industrial park in Africa, and with that being part of setting the standard for future parks. It's a great starting point for sustainable production.

Business Opportunities and Sustainable Development Goals

On February 1st, the fourth Global Opportunity Report was launched by the UN Global Compact, Sustainia and DNVGL. The report takes into account the four SDGs that according to their «Future of Spaceship Earth» study, are most likely to miss their 2030 targets and turn it from risk to opportunity: searching for business opportunities.

In this years report, the following SDGs are included: Goal 10 #Reduce inequality", Goal 12 "Responsible Consumption and Production", Goal 13 "Climate Action" and Goal 14 "Life Below Water". All the goals are important, and it's a recognition that that all goals must be met to achieve the world we want. Goal 12 «Responsible Consumption and Production" is unfortunately not among the goals the government includes in their letter of allocation to Norad, and this is very unfortunate due to the large risk of not achieving the goal.

Competence and impact

Norway is a small country with an open economy, and we have achieved great gains through trading with the world. In the White Paper «Verda som marknad», sustainable products and services are in focus. The Norwegian consumer is becoming more and more environmentally conscious and is looking for more sustainable products.

Norwegian retailers are well aware of their responsibility, and are working daily in their supply chains to ensure more ethical production and trade. It is very positive that Norway will contribute in sectors where we have high competence, e.g. renewable energy, marine technology, oil and gas. However, Virke would like to challenge our new minister of international development to also partner with the trade and service sectors, in particular to include the important goal 12, where Norwegian business has high competence and may be a driving force for development.