International Development Cooperation
Iceland’s international development cooperation has a long history and remains one of the main pillars of Iceland’s foreign policy. By actively participating in development cooperation, Iceland seeks to fulfil its political, legal, and ethical obligations as a responsible nation in the international community.
Iceland‘s development cooperation is guided by the policy for international development cooperation for 2019-2023 and supports the vision of the United Nations‘ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which lead the policy and Iceland‘s efforts in this field.
Policy objectives of Iceland‘s international development cooperation
The overall goal: to reduce poverty and hunger (in line with SDGs 1 and 2)
|Main development goal A:
Enhancing social infrastructure and peace efforts. Enhance basic services and strengthen institutions in order to improve living standards and increase opportunities for those who live in poverty and inequality (in line with SDGs 3, 4, 5, 6, and 16).
|Main development goal B:
The protection of the earth and sustainable use of natural resources. Increase the resilience of societies and enhancing economic growth on the basis of equality and sustainable use of natural resources, in addition to taking measures against climate change (in line with SDGs 7, 8, 13, 14, and 15).
Human rights, gender equality, and the environment are defined as both specific and cross-cutting priorities. They guide all of Iceland’s development cooperation, as they do in other international cooperation. Iceland works together with many different partners for its development efforts and directs its support towards selected partner countries and regional programmes, multilateral organisations, and civil society organisations and projects under their auspices.
Results, efficiency, quality, and professionalism are key factors when allocating funds to development cooperation. Icelandic authorities also emphasise the dissemination of information, promotion and education to increase the understanding of the current global challenges, as well as raise public awareness of development cooperation to increase knowledge and support from the general public.
Implementation and partners
Iceland’s bilateral partner countries are Malawi, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Iceland supports the national development plans of the respective countries through partnerships with their governments, district authorities, international and local organisations, including UN agencies.
In terms of cooperation with multilateral institutions emphasis is placed on the World Bank, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Furthermore, there is close collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on the protection of the earth and sustainable use of natural resources.
Key UN institutions in the field of humanitarian assistance and emergency response are supported, such as the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Collaboration and support to civil society organisations (CSOs) and the private sector in the field of development cooperation and humanitarian assistance is also important. Efforts are made to use Iceland’s expert knowledge, for example, in land restoration, fisheries, geothermal and gender equality through the UNESCO-GRÓ Centre for Capacity Development, Sustainability and Societal Change.
GRÓ operates under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Contributions to international development cooperation
In 2021, contributions to official development assistance (ODA) amounted to 71.9 million USD, or 0.28% of gross national income (GNI). Iceland aims to increase its contributions to reach 0.35% of GNI in 2022. The Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD/DAC) publishes an overview profile of Iceland's development cooperation contributions.
The policy for international development cooperation for 2019-2023 is the overall framework through which all of Iceland‘s development cooperation and humanitarian assistance is carried out. Emphasis is placed upon results and efficiency, transparency, dissemination of information and education, and optimizing synergies within Iceland‘s development cooperation.
There are three cross-cutting priorities: human rights, gender equality, and the environment.
Iceland‘s three bilateral partner countries are: Malawi, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
Iceland has three priority countries: Afghanistan, Mozambique, and Palestine.
The policy stipulates the possibility of forming new partnerships and launching new projects within the policy period during which a formal partnership with Sierra Leone was established, which is a new bilateral partner country.
Main partner institutions in multilateral collaboration are: The World Bank, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Main partner institutions in emergency and humanitarian assistance are: the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The policy emphasises the role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in development cooperation. Collaboration with CSOs has increased in recent years and will continue to do so.
Strong focus continues to be on training and capacity building of individuals as well as strengthening institutional capacity in developing countries through the Gender Equality Studies and Training Programme, the Geothermal Training Programme, the Land Restoration Training Programme, and the Fisheries Training Programme in Iceland. Efforts will be made to increase the synergies of the four training programmes and to integrate their work into Iceland’s wider development cooperation efforts.
A new focus area in the policy is collaboration with the private sector. The Icelandic private sector and institutions are encouraged to be socially responsible and support sustainable development in developing countries in accordance with the SDGs, for instance, by income and employment generating investments and projects that increase prosperity and help people to break the bonds of poverty.
An Action Plan for 2019-2020 (cf. Appendix I of this parliamentary resolution) was submitted with the policy. At the end of the period, in January 2021, an evaluation was made of specific actions, covering 10 focus areas and 42 actions. The overall findings were positive but follow-up is required for actions on human rights and for the climate and environment.
- Iceland´s Policy for International Development Cooperation 2019-2023
- Evaluation Policy 2020-2023
- Code of conduct of the employees of the foreign service of Iceland
- Bilateral strategy
- Civil Society Organization Cooperation Strategy
- Communications & Knowledge Management Strategy
- Gender Equality Strategy
- Humanitarian Assistance Strategy
- Multilateral Development Cooperation Strategy
On October 1st, 2008, the Act on Iceland’s International Development Cooperation (121/2008) entered into force. The older Act on the Icelandic International Development Agency from 1981 then ceased to apply. On December 18, 2015, the Icelandic Parliament approved amendments to the Act.
The objective of the Act on Iceland’s International Development Cooperation is to achieve a holistic vision of the policy area and enable Icelandic authorities to better operate according to international charters and commitments, including the founding charter of the United Nations and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
International development cooperation is ever evolving. International charters and resolutions increasingly demand accountability and reliability of actors working in development. Therefore, the Act stipulates that operational modalities of development cooperation follow best practices, recognized methods, rules and standard procedures of the international community. In the Act, emphasis is placed on:
- Transparency in the dissemination of information and execution of projects
- Evaluation of results
- Regular monitoring and evaluation
- Integrity in spending and managing finances
According to the Act on Iceland’s International Development Cooperation, a Committee on Development Cooperation shall be formed. The Act specifies the advisory capacity of the Committee in policy making decisions pertaining to Iceland‘s international development cooperation as well as follow-up on its execution. The Committee shall, for example, discuss the policy for international development cooperation and its action plans, development cooperation funding allocations, choice of partner countries, Iceland‘s participation in the work of multilateral organisations and results in development cooperation.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs appoints members of the Committee and their substitutes for four-year periods as follows:
- The chairperson of the Committee is appointed without nomination and shall have expert knowledge on development and experience in the field.
- Each Parliamentary party shall nominate one member.
- Five members shall be appointed in consultation with the partnership group of Icelandic non-governmental organisations involved in international humanitarian aid and development cooperation.
- Two members shall be appointed in consultation with the standing committee of the Rectors of Higher Education Institutions.
- Two members shall be appointed in consultation with the private sector.