By Engel Nawatiseb OSLO (Norway) The Political Adviser to Jonas Gare StÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¸re, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Norway recently appealed to Norwegian municipalities and their partners to ensure they are aware of other actors in local service delivery so that structures are not duplicated and efforts uncoordinated. Gry Larsen made the remarks at the opening of a recent five-day international conference in Oslo that was attended by various International Municipal Cooperation partners with Norway. She stressed that cooperation and integration of programmes should be the main focus in development cooperation because it (harmonization) is all about putting efforts of the South/North partners together. “There has been a lot of attention on harmonization on the national level and there is also a need to draw attention to harmonization on local levels where often a large number of NGOs are active particularly in service delivery,” she said at the gathering. According to her, the drive for results may sometimes lead partners to place emphasis on quick results like physical infrastructure. Larsen pointed out that the natural partners such as municipalities have an advantage compared to more aid-driven organizations through their common challenges and because of their foundation in their respective municipalities. “Therefore we have a common challenge to focus on results of development cooperation, hence our efforts should lead to less poverty,” said the official. Larsen further said she was satisfied with the pace of success marked by the twinning partnership between Tsumeb and its Norwegian partner, Elverum. “I have also had the chance to experience how the communities of Elverum and different NGOs based in Elverum have worked with partners in Namibia for several years. Luckily I had to experience this cooperation closely some years ago since my mother worked for in Namibia and I lived in Windhoek for a year with her,” delegates were informed at the meeting that took place in Oslo. Meanwhile, Walvis Bay Mayor, Derek Klazen, told New Era in Oslo that the twinning project with Kristiansand (Norway) has identified new areas of cooperation to be pursued between 2006 and 2008. The municipality is scheduled to dispatch a 30-person strong choir to participate in the international week in Kristiansand later this year. “As the twinning agreement covers exchanges on social, cultural, artistic, educational and youth/gender fields, it is always appropriate with new partnerships to add value and show goodwill and friendship to both communities,” said Klazen. The Norwegian Government’s ‘Soria Moria declaration’ stresses that the objective of Norwegian development aid is to contribute to economic and sustainable development as well as to the promotion of good governance. “The link between these is important. Good governance on any level is important if we are to reach our goals. Good governance and capacity-building on a local level is therefore very essential in this aspect”. The Norwegian government, through its Minister of International Development, Erik Solheim, has identified energy, women and gender equality as well as peace and reconciliation as important areas of future development policies. “As an oil and gas producing country, we have knowledge and experience in this sector especially when it comes to how we have tried to make sure that the wealth we receive from this sector is well distributed in the Norwegian society and is under democratic control”. Norway is reportedly engaged in many peace and reconciliation processes around the world and maintains a clear link between environmant and poverty. “We want to strengthen our partners’ capacity and knowledge in areas like biological diversity, water, climate change and chemicals. It is also our belief that we will not meet the millenium goals if we do not make sure we get women involved in the many mechanisms that will ensure development”. Larsen added that her government would also analyse every project it supports on how women and equality are promoted. The country also supports a number of other countries bilaterally in peace-building and better governance, according to Larzen. The partnerships are based on the needs and strategies identified by the partner countries themselves. The conference was attended by mayors and officials from countries such as Namibia, South Africa, Madagascar, Malawi and Zambia, amongst others.