Welcome remarks: "Building the Path to Universal Health Coverage: Innovative financing in access to medicine"

Oslo, 9 September 2015

State Secretary Tone Skogen's welcome remarks at a roundtable organized by Unitaid, the Norwegian Church Aid and the Medicines Patent Pool.

Distinguished guests,

I am honoured to be opening this roundtable on such a vital topic. I would like to pay particular tribute to His Excellency Philippe Douste-Blazy for his unwavering commitment to global health, for his energy in pursuing this agenda and for organising this important meeting in Oslo. You have put together an exciting programme, which provides an excellent opportunity to share ideas and learn.

This meeting on how to use innovative financing to improve access to medicines comes at an opportune time. We stand on the threshold of the new development era. The Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa is just behind us. In a couple of weeks, we will adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals. These goals will guide international development discourse and decisions over the next 15 years.

Most of us will be involved in determining how we can support the new sustainable development agenda and achieve its ambitious aims. There is no doubt that this will be challenging. We must build on the achievements already made under the Millennium Development Goals. I want to commend the organisers, Mr Douste-Blazy, the Medicine Patent Pool and, the Norwegian Church Aid, for not wasting any time in engaging us in how to improve access to medicines and ensure better health for the least privileged.

I can assure you that Norway will maintain its commitment to improving global health. Access to education, particularly for young girls, is another major priority for us. Our investments in global health are at an all-time high, and we will double our investments in education in the period 2014–2017. We will be seeking to capitalise on the synergies between health and education. Healthier and better educated young women will clearly be a valuable resource when it comes to building more resilient national health workforces.

The Every Woman Every Child global strategyhas guided Norway's investments in global health. The focus has been on finding the most effective ways of delivering better health services to women and children. The consolidation of global effort to put the strategy into action has become a global movement in support of the 'continuum of care' approach. Public and private partners, NGOs, businesses and governments have worked together to achieve effective and lasting results.

This is an inspiration to us all. We look forward to the launch of the revised Every Woman Every Child global strategy for 2016–2030 on 26 September in New York. The new strategy builds on this cooperative mode. It will be an important tool in the efforts to meet the new sustainable health goal (SDG 3) and its associated targets. It will also tie in with other SDG goals, looking at other factors that affect health, such as access to education, access to clean water and sanitation, and nutrition.

Part of the EWEC strategy has focused on innovations. More research and more widespread application of technologies - like mHealth - can save more women and children. Data collection and statistics are part of this important work. The Innovation Working Group, set up under EWEC, has fronted this agenda. Norway has also actively supported the recommendations of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children to provide better, faster and cheaper access to life-saving commodities and medicines. We will continue to support UNITAID and the work of the Medicines Patent Pool to provide effective and cheaper medicines. Innovations, however, are needed not only in relation to products and process, but also in how we finance health.

Three major efforts

Norway's investments in global health have been consolidated around three major efforts:

  1. To support vaccination through GAVI,
  2. To fight communicable diseases through The Global Fund (The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria), and
  3. To support the Global Financing Facility (GFF) in support of the revised global strategy for Every Woman Every Child.

The launch of The Global Financing Facility (GFF) in support of Every Woman Every Child in Addis Ababa in July was inspirational, not least because of the support elicited by the President of the World Bank and UN Secretary-General Ki-moon, as well as from front-runner countries, like Kenya and Tanzania. They will be testing out the GFF-model together with Ethiopia and DR Congo.

The GFF, hosted by the World Bank, is an innovative financing model to support increased investments in health, with a particular focus on women, adolescents and children, in developing countries in the post-2015 era.
Norway is a founding contributor to GFF, and we will be using our experience in global health to help to make it work.

The outcome document from the Financing for Development conference states that development financing increasingly will come from domestic resources and the private sector. Hence, ODA (official development assistance) will gradually become less important for developing countries and those transitioning to low, middle-income status. We should then use ODA in a more strategic and catalytic way. The GFF is set up to work in conjunction with IDA credits or IBRD loans and vice versa.

A country is eligible for GFF grants if it gives priority to using IDA or IBRD credits to increase investments in health for women, children and adolescents over national budgets. The GFF can also be used to support results-based financing projects, on both the supply and demand side. We will also be looking into how to attract global private capital investment in the health sector in developing countries, and how to link these investments to support from the GFF.

We need to be bold in our pursuit of new innovative financing models for the new development agenda. We can achieve more at larger scale if the various financing streams come together. I believe the GFF has the potential to support enhanced investments and development in the health sector, and thus save more lives. It could also lead the way to financing development in other sectors.

Over the course of today, you will have the opportunity to discuss how innovative financing can be used to increase access to medicine. I am sure that we can agree that we need several models to support investments in health in a diverse and complex world, and I wish you every success in your deliberations on the way forward to improve access to medicines.