Speech/statement | Date: 23/11/2019 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide (Oslo, 23 November)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide's statement at the award ceremony - the King's medal of Merit to Tore Godal.
ladies and gentlemen,
Tore Godal’s dream when he was growing up was to become a country doctor, or distriktslege as we say in Norwegian.
Tore was born and grew up in Rauland, a small village in the mountains of Telemark. His plan was to return there, or somewhere else in rural Norway, as the local doctor.
But in 1970, Tore was asked to go to Ethiopia.
He jumped at the opportunity because he was ready for an adventure, and because he wanted to see Africa.
And I think it is fair to say: Tore’s decision to go to Africa not only changed the course of his life, it also changed the entire field of global health in the decades that followed.
Throughout his career, Tore Godal has had a deep understanding of two very different things:
- first, what works to improve and save lives in developing countries,
- second, how to mobilise politicians, business leaders and international organisations to act.
It is this understanding - of both how to save lives and how to mobilise to save lives - that has enabled Tore to have an enormous impact on global health.
Tore understood early on that what needs to be done on the ground to improve public health in developing countries is often pretty basic. Things that don’t necessarily cost a lot of money.
Such as night-time mosquito nets.
Or vaccines for children.
And while Tore achievements are many, it is probably his instrumental role in establishing Gavi that will be remembered the most.
Since 2000, Gavi has contributed to the immunisation of more than 760 million children. This is estimated to have prevented more than 13 million future deaths.
I repeat: prevented 13 million future deaths.
That is more than the combined population of Norway and Denmark.
As we have discussed the Ministry: Tore is probably the Norwegian who have saved the most lives in the world.
If I first start to list Tore’s many achievements, I could speak for a very long time. So let me just briefly mention two other key initiatives.
First, the Roll Back Malaria partnership, which has become the largest global platform for coordinated action towards a world free from malaria.
And more recently, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi), a global alliance to finance and coordinate the development of new vaccines against infectious diseases.
We are grateful that Tore has had a long career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was a special advisor for global health from 2009-2015. Then on so-called pensjonistvilkår for two years until 2017.
And then we found a way of keeping him even longer, as Tore the last two years, until September, was seconded from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health to Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Now he is back at the Institute. After all, he is only 80! I am still not convinced that Tore will ever retire…
The list of people who want to celebrate Tore’s achievements is long – from former and current prime ministers, to former and current Director-Generals of the World Health Organization.
Tore has achieved so much. But there is one thing he did not achieve:
His childhood dream of becoming a country doctor.
I guess even you can’t have it all, Tore.
But it is tempting to say that perhaps you did achieve this after all.
You did not become a country doctor in Norway. But you did became a doctor for rural Ethiopia, northern India, and southern Tanzania.
In short: Tore, you became the world’s district medical doctor, verdens distriktslege.
Those of us in this room today are only a few of those who have a whole lot to thank you for.
Congratulations on being awarded the King’s Medal of Merit.