Knowledge for Development

Oslo , 6 June 2016

Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende's address at the Norhed Conference at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences - in Oslo 6 June 2016.

Classrooms and universities are where people are being formed – and societies shaped.

In the years to come, research and education will be absolutely key in meeting the challenges facing us in a world that is becoming ever more complex and gripped by crises.

Crises involving our security, our climate and our economic well-being.

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Our main goal is to eradicate extreme poverty.

Since 1990, the proportion of those living in extreme poverty has been cut in half.

This is impressive – but the job is only half done.

As we mobilise our forces to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 – it is hard to conceive of a more effective tool than education.

This is an ambitious goal, but with your contribution, it can be done.

For the first time in history, eradication of extreme poverty is within reach.

This is a unique opportunity for our generation, and a huge responsibility for the leaders of the world.

If we are to reach this goal, we must sharpen the tools that have proven to work the most.

Norwegian development aid will remain at a high level, but we also need to canalise our resources where they have the most effect, and in such a way that our resources mobilize other resources.

Strengthening the ability of developing countries to create sustainable growth themselves must be goal number one.

That is why we increase our focus on job creation and good government.

That is also why this government has put education first in our development policy, and why we are in the process of increasing our budget for education by one hundred percent.

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You cannot create growth without creating jobs, and among the major pathways to job creation, you find knowledge, research and innovation.

Schools and universities are where young people prepare for a meaningful future; where they enable themselves to take up a job and care for their families, and perhaps even start businesses and create jobs for others.

Education also makes young people more resistant to the perverted teachings of extremism.

Taliban's attacks against schools – and the brutal excesses of Boko Haram – demonstrate how far these forces are willing to go to stop girls and boys being educated.

Let us fight them with education – and show them what a formidable weapon knowledge can be.

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Since the Millennium Development Goals were set, enrolment in primary education has increased from 83 to 91 percent.

With the new Sustainable Development Goals, the goals and targets are far more ambitious, and quality education and innovation play an even more important role.

These goals cannot be met without the knowledge and skills developed by universities and other academic institutions around the world.

As nations and communities are becoming increasingly inter-connected, our academic institutions have a lot to gain through joining forces.

The Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development (Norhed) is designed for exactly this purpose – involving 24 countries and more than 60 universities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

These institutions collaborate in areas that are critical to the development of any country:

Education, health, energy, law, media and governance.

Norway is about to increase its annual support to the Norhed Programme by 20 million kroner, so that our total support will be more than 20 million dollars.

Research and higher education are crucial for developing quality primary and secondary education.

Higher education institutions educate teachers for primary and secondary schools, they develop the curriculum and textbooks, and they provide policymakers with the evidence needed to make strategic decisions.

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We cannot meet current and future challenges to our health, security, economy and climate without the new and innovative ideas produced at universities and research institutions.

But good ideas are often not enough.

Too many new solutions remain on the drawing board or inside researchers' brains.

If a good idea is to become good health, or good school, we must improve the way in which resources find each other.

One year ago, I launched a new funding mechanism for innovation in health and education, as a follow-up to the Vision 2030 Conference in Trondheim.

Since then, the Norwegian Research Council, Innovation Norway and Norad have collaborated on establishing this mechanism of more than 17 million dollars.

Today, the main calls for proposals will be published – and the competition can begin.

The aim is to improve international academic collaboration, in partnership with stakeholders and investors from the private sector and non-governmental organisations.

It is all about coupling our brighest brains together – and about coupling the brightest brains of our time to the greatest challenges of our time.

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Even though knowledge is a global common good, knowledge production is still dominated by a few countries.

In spite of progress, Africa still produces only 1% of the world's research.

This does not reflect the social and economic growth that is taking place in Africa.

A strong base of knowledge and research in Africa, Asia and Latin America would benefit not only these regions, but also the rest of the world and the global economy.

When university colleagues from Vietnam and Tromsø work together on fishery management, and when partners from Ethiopia and Ås work together on forestry management, Norhed is taking small, but important steps in correcting such imbalances.

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To turn poverty around, all countries need to invest in their children and young people.

And, let me emphasise:

Investing in girls' education and empowering women is the most effective tool for development.

In academic institutions with which Norway cooperates, I am happy to learn that the uptake of female students at master's level have gone up from 30 to 52 percent in less than ten years.

At PhD level, 46 percent of the supported students are women.

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Dear friends,

I encourage you to keep up the good work – and continue to promote higher education and development – together and at your work places.

What you do is important.

Achieving the goal of universal access to quality education – and of eradicating poverty – will cost.

But the cost of inaction is far greater.

As former president of Harvard University, Derek Bok, has put it:

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."

Thank you.