Speech/article, 01.07.2014

By: Prime Minister Erna Solberg

PMNCH Partner Forum

Johannesburg, 1 July 2014

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Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

We are meeting here in Johannesburg for a common purpose. Together we are part of a global drive to prevent the deaths of millions of people every year, and to lay the foundation for meaningful lives for all. 

It is truly inspiring for me to be here in Johannesburg to address this PMNCH Partner Forum, which gathers more than 500 doers, movers and shakers who are helping to bring about vital progress on the Millennium Development Goals. I would particularly like to acknowledge the Partnership’s contribution to reduce child mortality (MDG 4) and improve maternal health (MDG 5).

We have seen remarkable gains in global health over the past decades. Now we need to sustain these achievements and move forward smartly, swiftly and jointly. I congratulate the chair of PMNCH board, Mrs Graca Machel, and the PMNCH Forum with the global launch of the New-born Action Plan here yesterday. This plan will draw global attention to the survival of the most vulnerable.


As an immediate response to this Action Plan, my Government has decided to support the public–private partnership Helping 100 000 Babies Survive and Thrive. 


With less than 550 days to meet the Millennium Development Goals, we have to pick up speed if we are to provide schooling for those 57 million children not yet in school and save the lives of more children and their mothers.

My Government’s top development priority is education. I never miss an opportunity to quote Nelson Mandela’s wise words about the centrality of education. I quote: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

I see education as the prime mover for long-term, home-grown, sustainable development. Access to quality education – as well as health – is essential for human development.

Last month my Government presented a white paper on global education, which paves the way for a substantial scaling-up of support to education in the coming years. As a first step, we will double the Norwegian contribution to the Global Partnership for Education over the next three years, bringing it up to almost USD 100 million per year in 2017.

I am also very pleased to announce that fellow MDG Advocate Mrs Machel and I agreed today to work together to identify and exploit synergies between education and health to accelerate progress in these areas, particularly for girls.

In our partnership, we will build on the most important lessons learned.

  • We will explore innovative measures, such as results-based financing, to keep girls in school while at the same time improving their health and health awareness.
  • We know that complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. Clearly one of the most effective ways of preventing such deaths is to keep girls in school.
  • We know that enhancing health awareness among teens through education can have life-saving and life-changing consequences.
  • We also know that girls who stay in school longer are more likely to marry later, are more likely to control the timing of their pregnancies, are less likely to die giving birth, and are less prone to HIV infection.

Equally important, education also provides girls with greater economic opportunities and the ability to make their own choices in life. This means that the likelihood of becoming a victim of sexual or gender-based violence or early marriage is diminished.

There is strong evidence that education consistently improves the chances of a healthy life by enabling people to make informed choices.

Estimates suggest that the lives of 2.1 million children under five were saved between 1990 and 2009 because of improvements in the education of women of reproductive age.

This progress has been sustained and broadened because these mothers are teaching their children – both girls and boys – how to lead healthier lives.

Let me give you two lifesaving facts:

  • If all women completed primary education, the under-five mortality rate would fall by 15 % in low- and lower middle-income countries, saving the lives of almost a million children every year.

  • If all women completed secondary education, we would achieve a 49 % reduction in child deaths, which would mean preventing 2.8 million child deaths.

The numbers tell us that girls’ education is the most consistent and important driver of development. Secondary education for girls is especially transformative – both for the girls themselves and for the societies they live in. Education empowers individuals and breathes new life into families, communities and societies. When you educate a girl, you educate a nation.

However, education in itself is not enough; it is essential to ensure good quality education. Where education is of poor quality or irrelevant, there is a greater chance that girls will drop out of school and get married at a young age. High quality education and schools that are safe for girls must be key goals. We should therefor also concentrate our efforts on educating teachers who can provide high quality education.

I will highlight the importance of exploiting these synergies for driving progress on the MDGs at the MDG Advocacy Group meeting in Kigali later this week.

Meanwhile, let me assure you that my Government is strongly committed to the Millennium Development Goals. We are determined to achieve results. As MDG Advocacy Group co-chair, together with President Paul Kagame, I am inspired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s consistent focus on his “Every Woman Every Child” initiative and his unwavering support for the MDGs.

Looking ahead, the world community must unite in a shared vision of healthy women and children at the heart of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. I have had the privilege of seeing the draft communique from this very important conference. That vision is expressed in the Communiqué, which will be issued at the close of this meeting today. I want to share with you some of the highlights of this Communiqué.

The forum Communiqué endorsed strong, ambitious and measurable global targets to save lives. On child mortality, there should be 25 or fewer deaths per thousand live births and newborn mortality should be reduced dramatically to 12 or fewer deaths per thousand live births. On maternal mortality we must strive to ensure that there are no more than 70 deaths per hundred thousand and a minimum 75 percent of demand for contraceptives must be met by modern methods. 

In closing, let us join ranks with the millions who deplore the abduction of school girls in Nigeria. This and similar crimes elsewhere are examples of violations that the world community has agreed to put on the trash heaps of history. In a letter to the parents of these girls, Mrs Machel wrote, and I quote: “I am a parent and so I stand amongst you holding your hands, in pain and anguish; in solidarity.”

I think we all could have signed that letter – but no one could have put it better.

Thank you.

Office of the Prime Minister