Your Royal Highness,
Ministers, Mayor of Oslo,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a telling sign of changing times that the direct inspiration for this afternoon’s global health event is the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Why, you may ask, have two foreign ministers convened an event on the need to save mothers giving life?
In answer, I’d like to quote Secretary Clinton. She was once asked what HIV/AIDS had to do with foreign policy – and she was as straight as only she can be: Everything!
Yes, health is all encompassing. To fight poverty, support development and create sound and healthy conditions for peace and security, ministers of all brands have to engage.
Society must engage – the world must engage. Secretary Clinton chose an African proverb to title a book about children: “It takes a village to raise a child”. It needs no further explanation - we all get the point.
The American public health pioneer Bill Foege made that message directly relevant for global health efforts when he said, “It takes a world to immunise a child!” What did he mean?
His point was that we all need to mobilise – from the researcher developing the vaccine, through the political decision-makers and the whole value chain from financing to delivery, all the way to the local health system, where a nurse provides the injection, and thereby helps pave the way for a new life of opportunity.
Norway and the United States have been partners in global health for a long time. During the Obama administration and under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, we have taken great leaps forward, deepening our cooperation, rallying our forces to both shape and support global health initiatives. And that is also one of the purposes of this meeting today.
A warm welcome to all of you, and in particular to the panel which has provided us with such a unique and insightful platform for our discussions today.
Alf Rolfsen’s and Henrik Sørensen’s frescoes on the walls around us show human life and work unfolding – from life’s beginning to life’s end. I think we can also see a woman giving birth. We see the difficult years of war and occupation through liberation and on to a path of new development, growth, construction, health, culture and freedom.
This is solid and modern welfare. But the road travelled is fragile, so many pieces of a larger puzzle – and prime among them has been the rights of women.
The reality for women in Norway today is that they can give birth safely, well – as safe as it gets. Mothers and fathers – parents - are safe and secure when the raise a family.
But this is not a global reality, and we must not become complacent. We cannot accept a world where close to a thousand women die every day in connection with childbirth. We cannot accept a world where 20 000 children die every day from preventable causes.
Dealing with this striking inequity is not a matter of high tech. It is low tech. It is about human will, political dedication and the right decisions.
It is doable.
Over the past few years, we have seen great progress in child survival and promising strides in women’s health. This gives grounds for hope for the future.
But we do need to move on and we do need to scale up.
One idea behind forging a stronger partnership – the whole purpose – is to mobilise resolve through the sharing of experiences.
A hundred years ago, Norway was among Europe’s poorest nations. Our transition has several explanations, but prime among them is the mobilisation all our human resources, in particular through the empowerment and participation of women.
Every time our country has enacted a major piece of legislation to empower women – from universal suffrage a century ago, to the universal availability of day care for children, and the requirement for 40 % of corporate boards to be made up of women, to mention but a few examples – every time a long-term benefit to the economy has followed.
Three out of four women are employed in the formal labour market in Norway today, which is one of the highest rates in the world. Since the early 1970s (when we had one of the lowest rates), women have doubled the pool of human resources in the workforce. They have created new jobs, generated tax revenue, enabling us to continue to invest in welfare and opportunities for all.
And if, say, our female participation should be reduced from the current 75 % by 16 percentage points to the OECD average, the value of the loss of production would correspond exactly to our total oil wealth, including the oil and gas that is yet to be produced!
The key political lesson from my own country is this: strengthening women’s empowerment is a high-return investment in better health. Not only for women themselves, but also for their families and for society as a whole.
Another lesson is this: sustainability is increasingly a question of equity, good governance and national priorities that protect all the citizens in a country and provide for their basic needs. Just as the Minister from Sierra Leone (Haja Zainab Bangura) pointed out in her address.
Among such needs, health services rank very highly.
Today, all these issues inspire Norway’s foreign and development policy strategies. Over the years, global health engagement has emerged as a priority and a major emphasis – in terms of both investment and political commitment.
In fact, when looking at it from a distance, the last decade stands out as a great leap forward in global health with remarkable achievements – not the least in methods.
We need to learn from these successes. One is GAVI and the effort to immunise every child: four out of five of the world’s children are now getting a basic set of vaccinations. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is another, as are many other private-public partnerships and examples.
We are witnessing an unprecedented focus on women and children. This has given us a unique platform for further accelerating progress.
Now, we need to be equally creative in finding ways to make these initiatives more interactive and to promote better consolidation. Norway and the United States will work together to make this happen.
Norway welcomes and endorses the Saving Mothers, Giving Life Partnership, under the US Global Health Initiative, led by you, Secretary Clinton.
Saving Mothers, Giving Life is widening the focus of the biggest global health initiative, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which initially focused entirely on HIV/AIDS issues, and now also works to save mothers from dying in childbirth.
I am pleased to announce today that Norway will join the Saving Mothers, Giving Life partnership, and that – subject to the Storting’s consent – we intend to provide an allocation of up to 500 million kroner (that is to say, 80 million dollars) over five years, for developing long-term, sustainable solutions in this important area.
Secretary Clinton, health has been a kind of common denominator for our many encounters.
I attended the meeting between you and Prime Minister Brundtland when you passed through Oslo on your way to the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994.
The topic of your discussion was health sector reform and how to secure equity and equal access to health services. No surprise! I can still recall the commitment you both brought to that conversation. Those of us who were in charge of the Prime Minister’s schedule had to intervene in the end, to bring your discussions to a close.
Four years later, in 1998, I accompanied Dr Brundtland, then Director-General Elect of the World Health Organization, to the White House, where you, as First Lady used your convening power to gather key players in the fight against tuberculosis around the same table. Your ambition, then as now, was to promote new private–public partnerships to scale up efforts to combat this terrible disease of poverty.
And since 2009, I have had the real privilege of working with you as a colleague. We have both been able to appreciate the broad spectrum of common interests that characterises the US–Norwegian relationship, which is deeply rooted in history and culture, inspired by common ideas and motivated by an ambition to make a difference.
Our common agenda covers the whole range of global issues in this interconnected world of ours. And here again, we see health – in the broadest sense – emerge as an issue, a policy area where the right investment, the right approaches and the right partnerships can change the life prospects of millions.
We are constantly reminded that greater numbers of healthy individuals and healthier populations can be a prime strategy for lifting people out of poverty – and thus help pave the way towards security and human development.
Now, I’ll end my speech by mentioning a side event I particularly remember at the UN General Assembly, it must have been in 2009. UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband and I were standing at the back of a conference hall in the UN building, listening to your passionate speech about women and development, the right to health and the need for widespread mobilisation for these causes.
I could see that David was listening carefully to your remarks. After a while, he turned to me and whispered with a shy smile and some astonishment, “Now I understand – Hillary is Norwegian!”
Secretary Clinton – there is no greater compliment for a Norwegian Foreign Minister.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.