Prime Minister Erna Solberg is visiting South Africa, Malawi and Rwanda this week to promote the right of children to education and healthcare, and to help to intensify efforts to meet the UN Millennium Development Goal on poverty reduction.
‘Giving children and young people a good education and access to healthcare are two of the most important things we can do to raise the standard of living in poor countries. Population growth in Africa is high. The large numbers of children and young people are these countries’ most important resource when it comes to future social and economic development,’ Ms Solberg said.
Erna Solberg co-chairs the UN Secretary-General’s MDG Advocacy Group with President of Rwanda Paul Kagame. Together with other members of the MDG Advocacy Group, Ms Solberg will visit three African countries to discuss what can be done to achieve the MDGs and to encourage both the authorities and other national and international actors to seek out new partnerships and develop innovative solutions in order to step up efforts to reduce poverty. There are just under 550 days remaining before the 2015 deadline for achieving the eight MDGs on education, health, gender equality and sustainable development.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende will also take part in the visit to South Africa and Malawi.
‘Many countries in Africa have seen substantial economic growth and development in the past decade. This has provided great opportunities for creating jobs and reducing poverty and inequality. A greater focus on education, not least for girls and other vulnerable groups, is a crucial part of this work, and an area that Norway is now giving particular priority to,’ Mr Brende said.
On Tuesday 1 July, Prime Minister Solberg will meet Graca Machel in South Africa. Ms Machel is Nelson Mandela’s widow, and like her deceased husband, is an active champion of democracy and human rights. Ms Solberg will participate in the 2014 Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Partners’ Forum in Johannesburg, which will be chaired by Ms Machel. In South Africa, Ms Solberg and Mr Brende will also meet two of the veterans of the struggle against apartheid.
‘Nelson Mandela and the ANC’s fight against apartheid have been a huge source of inspiration to the global fight for freedom, democracy and human rights. Leaders all over the world have a responsibility to move these efforts forward,’ Ms Solberg said.
On 1–2 July, Ms Solberg, Mr Brende and members of the MDG Advocacy Group will visit Malawi to look more closely at the support Norway is providing to education, with its focus on education for girls and health workers. Mr Solberg and Mr Brende will meet Malawi’s newly elected President, Peter Mutharika, and representatives of Norwegian NGOs.
On 3 July, Ms Solberg and President of Rwanda Paul Kagame will chair the Advocacy Group’s first meeting in Africa. Ms Solberg will also visit the Rwandan parliament to participate in an international conference for women parliamentarians.
‘Rwanda holds the world record when it comes to the participation of women in parliament. The country has been praised for the gender equality in politics and in primary schools that it has achieved during the last 20 years since the genocide in 1994. I look forward to learning more both about what Rwanda has achieved and about what Rwanda can do to meet the challenges it is facing in terms of human rights and democracy,’ Ms Solberg said.
In Rwanda, Ms Solberg will lay a wreath in memory of those killed in the genocide in 1994. She will conclude her visit by opening the first large-scale solar power plant in East Africa. The plant was built by the Norwegian company Scatec Solar in partnership with the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries (Norfund), among others.