Denmark's development policy embodies an expansive global vision with the aim of establishing a world characterized by augmented security, freedom, prosperity, sustainability, and justice. Central to this vision is the empowerment of individuals to lead self-sufficient lives and provide for their well-being. Denmark exhibits a steadfast commitment to proactive development cooperation as a means to realize this vision. The primary objective of its development cooperation is to combat poverty and promote egalitarian opportunities, thereby alleviating social and economic disparities. Furthermore, it strives to engender enduring outcomes in developing nations1.

Denmark's development cooperation is guided by the International Development Cooperation Act, which establishes a strategic framework for effective implementation. This legislation ensures that development initiatives align with international principles, addressing poverty, human rights, democracy, sustainable development, peace, and stability. By recognizing the interconnected nature of policy domains, development cooperation plays a central role in advancing Denmark's interests in a more peaceful and equitable global order.2 These interests encompass safeguarding the efficient operation of international structures, promoting and upholding the principles of the rule of law and human rights, making contributions towards global development and stability, and fostering sustainable growth to alleviate poverty, mitigate violent conflicts, counter radicalization, address issues related to irregular migration and refugee crises, as well as confront the multifaceted challenges presented by climate change.3 Consequently, Denmark's development policy is formulated based on four strategic objectives that are aligned with these identified interests:

  1. Security and development: supports peace, stability, and protection in developing countries, aiding internally displaced persons, refugees, and crisis-affected communities. Efforts include enhancing protection measures, improving livelihoods, and expanding education and employment opportunities.
  2. Migration and development: addresses irregular economic migration by cooperating with partner nations on return policies, facilitating individuals to build a future in their home countries.
  3. Inclusive, sustainable growth: promotes inclusive and sustainable growth in developing countries, focusing on energy, water, agriculture, and food sectors. The aim is to create societies with economic freedom, ample opportunities, and increased employment prospects.
  4. Freedom and development: investing in democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and gender equality. The aim is to establish a secure and inclusive society, prioritizing the health and rights of women while combating discrimination based on gender identity.

The strategic objectives adopted align with the SDGs. However, the process of prioritization is acknowledged as imperative, taking into account Denmark's interests, capacity for partnership formation, and ability to achieve tangible outcomes. This prioritization does not entail disregarding the remaining SDGs but rather recognizing specific competencies and experiences that enhance progress within certain areas, either in a particular country context or in global cooperation addressing overarching challenges and public goods. Of particular significance within Danish development policy are SDG 16, which centers on peace, justice, and strong institutions, and SDG 17, which emphasizes partnerships. Moreover, Denmark identified five SDGs as key priorities within its global development policy, actively pursuing them in international negotiations and global cooperation. These key priorities encompass SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 7 (sustainable energy), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 16 (peace, justice, and institutions), and SDG 17 (partnerships). In addition, Denmark acknowledges the importance of involving young individuals in shaping the future of society and recognizes the value of collaborating with youth-focused organizations. As a demonstration of Denmark's commitment to youth in the context of development cooperation, an informal goal, referred to as goal no. 18, has been introduced.4 In this regard, Denmark strives to strengthen partnerships with relevant organizations and stakeholders to effectively tackle global youth-related issues.

Denmark adopts a geographically differentiated development policy to guide its engagement with countries and regions. The approach involves categorization into three distinct spheres of interest. This serves the purpose of addressing the evolving global context surrounding poverty alleviation, security promotion, and sustainable development while also aligning with Denmark's interests and approach to engagement in specific countries or regions:

  1. Poor, fragile countries and regions: Denmark targets countries like Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Palestine, and Somalia, addressing challenges such as political instability and weak governance. Efforts go beyond humanitarian aid and encompass comprehensive approaches combining aid, development initiatives, and stabilization efforts. The Sahel and Horn of Africa are priority regions, with a focus on poverty reduction, security, and sustainable development.
  2. Poor, stable countries: Countries like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Myanmar, Tanzania, and Uganda are relatively stable but face vulnerabilities from conflicts and refugee inflows. Failure to address these challenges can lead to a regression into fragility. Denmark supports these countries to prevent spillover effects and promote socioeconomic advancement.
  3. Transition and growth economies: Denmark engages with middle-income countries like Ghana, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, Ukraine, Georgia, Vietnam, Egypt, Brazil, Colombia, China, Mexico, and Turkey. Through diplomatic missions and collaborations, it promotes economic advancement and improves living conditions in these countries.

Denmark complements these efforts with a new Strategy for Development Cooperation, entitled "The World We Share," which articulates a visionary perspective for the global landscape characterized by security, sustainability, and the eradication of poverty, as depicted by the following figure:

Figure 1. The vision for Denmark's development cooperation.

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Danida (2021), The world we share: Denmark’s Strategy for Development Cooperation, The Ministry of External Affairs, Copenhagen, Denmark, page 6.

The strategy is rooted in fundamental principles of international cooperation, justice, and societal resilience. To guide and align its efforts, Denmark adheres to the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, which serve as illuminating pillars for the country's endeavors in shaping a more favorable and inclusive world. This vision is underpinned by Denmark's commitment to assisting individuals in the most vulnerable and endangered regions, as well as taking a leading role in combating climate change. These initiatives are firmly grounded in democratic values and the protection of human rights, serving as the bedrock of Denmark's approach to development cooperation. By focusing on assisting individuals in the most endangered places, Denmark aims to address the immediate needs and challenges faced by marginalized communities. This includes providing humanitarian aid, promoting social welfare, and supporting sustainable development initiatives. In addition, Denmark recognizes the urgent need to combat climate change, a global challenge that threatens the sustainability and well-being of societies worldwide. By taking a leadership role in this fight, Denmark aims to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and promote environmentally sustainable practices. This includes investing in renewable energy, promoting climate resilience, and advocating for global climate action.5

The vision for development cooperation encompasses a set of principles aimed at guiding the attainment of strategic objectives. These principles encompass the following:6

  1. Prioritize poverty and inequality reduction, democracy promotion, sustainable development, peace, and stability within the framework of international agreements and conventions.
  2. Integrate development cooperation with foreign policy and economic diplomacy strategies.
  3. Commit to meeting the United Nations target of allocating a minimum of 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) for development assistance.
  4. Emphasize prevention, long-term cooperation, and the creation of opportunities to address displacement and irregular migration challenges.
  5. Implement the Paris Agreement and contribute to sustainable development efforts, with a particular focus on the needs of the world's poorest populations.
  6. Fulfill international climate commitments, including providing necessary climate finance.
  7. Allocate significant funding to regions and areas with the most pressing needs, even in complex operational contexts.
  8. Maintain a zero-tolerance policy for corruption and ensure accountability for the misuse of funds.
  9. Uphold and adhere to international humanitarian and refugee law, prioritizing the principles of humanitarian assistance.
  10. Focus on promoting and protecting universal human rights, with special attention given to women, girls, and marginalized groups.
  11. Foster effective partnerships with organizations and countries to drive development and bring about meaningful change, while emphasizing local involvement and ownership.
  12. Pursue partnerships based on mutual obligations and reciprocity, with a readiness to disengage if fundamental values and principles are not respected.
  13. Refrain from providing long-term development assistance to states that refuse to repatriate their citizens.
  14. Recognize the significance of collaboration within the Nordic countries, the European Union, the United Nations, and the multilateral system for achieving development goals.
  15. Harness the potential of collaboration between the public sector, private companies, foundations, and civil society to develop innovative solutions.
  16. Mobilize funding for sustainable development from diverse sources, including the private sector and public-private partnerships, as development assistance alone is insufficient.
  17. Engage the entire Danish society through partnerships with educational institutions, civil society organizations, companies, and media outlets to foster widespread involvement in development cooperation and effectively work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

By integrating development cooperation with foreign policy and economic diplomacy, Denmark leverages economic resources and fosters partnerships to drive global development efforts. Demonstrating its dedication, it commits to allocating 0.7% of GNI for development assistance. Through a focus on prevention, long-term cooperation, and creating opportunities, Denmark addresses displacement and irregular migration. Moreover, Denmark's implementation of the Paris Agreement emphasizes sustainable development and climate considerations. Transparency, accountability, and adherence to legal frameworks combat corruption and ensure efficient resource utilization. Prioritizing human rights, particularly for marginalized groups, fosters equitable and just societies. Furthermore, effective partnerships enable the leveraging of diverse expertise and resources for sustainable outcomes. In addition, involving Danish society in development cooperation cultivates shared responsibility and ownership, reflecting a commitment to democratic values. This integrated approach to development cooperation is represented in a diagram showcasing the interconnections between the SDGs and Denmark's strategic priorities.

Figure 2. Denmark's integrated approach to development cooperation.

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Source: Danida (2021), The world we share: Denmark’s Strategy for Development Cooperation, The Ministry of External Affairs, Copenhagen, Denmark, page 10.

In this context, Denmark's Strategy for Development Cooperation assumes a constructive role in advancing the SDGs. Sustainable Development Goal 17, which centers on forging partnerships, assumes particular significance within Denmark's strategy. This goal acknowledges the importance of collaborative endeavors involving governments, civil society, private sector entities, and other stakeholders to realize sustainable development. Partnerships are indispensable for the sharing of knowledge, expertise, and resources, as well as for nurturing innovation and effecting meaningful change. The diagram therefore illustrates how different goals and objectives intersect and mutually reinforce each other in the pursuit of sustainable development. The inclusion of partnerships is a fundamental constituent within the integrated approach, which aims to provide assistance to the most vulnerable communities while concurrently addressing the imperative of mitigating climate change. These objectives are mutually reinforcing, leading to the realization of a secure and sustainable global environment devoid of poverty, thereby promoting a just and resilient society.

Denmark's policy framework for sustainable development demonstrates a comprehensive and forward-thinking strategy, guided by international principles and frameworks. It is dedicated to addressing poverty, promoting equality, and fostering positive impacts in developing countries. The strategic objectives align with the SDGs, emphasizing security, inclusive and sustainable growth, freedom, and development. By integrating development cooperation with foreign policy, Denmark effectively harnesses collaboration to drive sustainable development and address global challenges. Evidently, Denmark's policy framework exemplifies a holistic and principled approach to establishing a more secure, equitable, and sustainable global order.


1 Danida (2017), The World 2030: Denmark’s strategy for development cooperation and humanitarian action, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark.
2 The Folketing (2012), The International Development Cooperation Act, the Folketing, Copenhagen, Denmark.
3 Danida (2017), The World 2030: Denmark’s strategy for development cooperation and humanitarian action, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark.
4 The Ministry of Finance (2017), Report for the Voluntary National Review, The Danish Government, Copenhagen, Denmark.
5 Danida (2021), The world we share: Denmark’s Strategy for Development Cooperation, The Ministry of External Affairs, Copenhagen, Denmark.
6 Danida (2017), The World 2030:Denmark’s strategy for development cooperation and humanitarian action, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark, page 8.