Opening Remarks at International Health Conference

The Minister based his speech on the following points
(check against delivery)

Honorable Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • As Norway’s foreign minister, it is my privilege to welcome you to Oslo and to this global health conference.
  • Health is indeed a foreign policy matter. My predecessor Jonas Gahr Støre said, in his speech to the World Health Assembly less than a year ago, that in order to achieve our global health ambitions, we need to remind presidents, prime ministers and finance ministers – and even foreign ministers – that they too are health ministers. Some months later he actually became Norway’s health minister. Without suggesting any similar ambitions of my own, I fully agree that health needs to be integrated into our global thinking and policies.
  • Health is a basic prerequisite for achieving growth, development, equity and stability throughout the world.
  • Through the Foreign Policy and Global Health Initiative, Norway and our six partner countries (Brazil, France, Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa and Senegal) have been committed to heightening the focus on global health on the international agenda. We are also committed to promoting foreign policies that address the various challenges of global health.
  • Since 2007, our network has tabled yearly resolutions at the UN General Assembly. In 2012, our resolution was about Universal Health Coverage. UHC is a prime example of how health is linked to issues of human rights, equity and poverty reduction, sexual and reproductive rights and development.
  • We all agree that health needs to have a central place on the post-2015 development agenda. We are pleased that this meeting will contribute to the work of Sweden and Botswana, which are leading the consultations on health in the post-2015 agenda.
  • However, we still have some time before we reach 2015 and we need to focus on achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The health-related MDGs had a slow start. However, thanks to a number of initiatives over the past few years, many of them led by people and organisations present here today, tremendous progress is being made towards the health related MDGs. Nevertheless, we have an unfinished agenda. This is why we are here today.
  • One of these initiatives that I would like to highlight today is the Global Campaign on the Health MDGs that was launched in 2007 by Prime Minister Stoltenberg. Today I have the pleasure of presenting the 2013 report of the Global Campaign. The report – which I’m sure most of you are familiar with, in fact several of you have contributed to it - explores innovative and cutting edge findings on how to accelerate progress in saving women’s and children’s lives in the coming decade. And it is for exactly this reason that we are here today, to get results.
  • Collective initiatives, especially the Millennium Development Goals, have played an essential role in the progress that has been made. In this context, I would also like to acknowledge the increasingly important role played by individual countries. We now see a changing world order where national leadership and commitments are taking a leading role and becoming more important than global initiatives in driving progress.
  • This is the case, not least, in the field of global health. More and more, international contributors and stakeholders are adapting their support to national plans, instead of the other way around. This has made it easier to integrate aid into specific national contexts and spurred the progress achieved through aid.
  • Examples are President Banda’s plan for Safe Motherhood in Malawi or President Jonathan’s plan Saving One Million Lives in Nigeria; both countries are represented here today by their health ministers Catherine Gotani Hara and Mohammed Pate.
  • Another shift we’ve seen in global health over the last years is that we’ve gone from focusing on plans to focusing on results. One great example is “results based financing” that actually incentivizes producing results, not planning them. I believe this is a step in the right direction to achieving what we’ve set out to do: Saving Women’s and Children’s Lives. This is why we are here today.
  • This meeting arose from the opportunity created by the fact that Bill Gates accepted an invitation to visit Norway from Prime Minister Stoltenberg. Thus it is a joint endeavor between the Gates Foundation and Norway. It is therefore a great pleasure for me to give the floor to the President for Global Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Dr. Chris Elias.

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