The Securitisation of the Norwegian Global Health Policy
The Norwegian contribution to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation has been framed by Prime Minister Erna Solberg as a contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations’s 2030 development agenda (1).
Traditionally, Norway has approached development from a humanitarian perspective – its aim being to help others. However, these goals paved the way for a new conception of development, more centered on win-win projects, as every country (including the wealthiest ones) is due to report its policies to meet the goals and targets. The coalition is clearly framed as one of these win-win projects. Solberg has justified it by declaring that “protecting the vulnerable is protecting ourselves” (1).
The coalition, meanwhile, frames its contribution as providing the world an insurance against emerging infectious disease outbreaks. Norwegian support for the initiative is thus motivated by multiple concerns: showing solidarity with the most vulnerable, ensuring national security and securing diplomatic gains.
Norway has used global health as a foreign policy tool for a long time, as a way to gain status and diplomatic recognition and to secure a seat at the table (15). It is, however, a relatively new development to include national security considerations in global health – a tendency that extends to other fields of development, as demonstrated, for instance, by the aid provided to Afghanistan. An assessment of the ongoing development of the coalition’s governance principles and underlying promise to promote affordable and available vaccines for everyone will indicate if a balance has been found between these different, and potentially competing, objectives.
Finally, the blurring between security and solidarity in initiatives such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation raises ethical questions about their financing: will they be financed solely with the aid budget? If so, this would signal a securitisation in Norway’s humanitarian policy, meaning that security concerns would be integrated in projects framed as altruistic and humanitarian, potentially trumping the ambition to help the most vulnerable.