Why the World Loves Norway

I have never been to Norway, but I still love the place — and I am not alone. Norway is among the most beloved nations in the international community and for good reason.

Norway has a population about the size of the state of Kentucky. It is the 47th largest economy in the world, putting it between Chile and Romania. Yet, for a country as small as Norway, it is arguably the most generous country in the world.  It allocates a full 1.1% of its Gross National Income to international development activities. This puts Norway on top of all developed world countries in its relative contributions to global poverty reduction. (By comparison, the United States contributes about 0.2% of its GNI to official development assistance–roughly the same percentage as Greece.)

Beyond its official development assistance, Norway is among the most generous countries in the world when it comes to responding to natural and man-made disasters. When tragedy strikes somewhere in the world, the Norwegian government steps up. Last year, it gave $832,585,693 for crises like Haiti, Burma, and Sudan.  Earlier this month, when UN agencies began to warn of a hunger crisis in Somalia, Norway stepped up with a big relief package.

The thing is, unlike the United States or certain European countries with historical ties to recipient countries, Norway does not have deep strategic interests in the places to which it gives aid. This makes it a great donor. People don’t suspect the Norwegians of having ulterior motives.

Norwegians have told me that they do not spend so much on foreign aid out of altruism. Rather, it is a key tenet of their foreign policy. It lets Norway hits above its weight class in international meetings, and gives Oslo a seat at tables typically reserved for bigger powers.

Whatever the case, I sincerely hope that today’s tragedy does not cause a retreat or retrenchment by Norwegians.

The world loves you guys. We grieve with you. And we still need you.